Most people don’t avoid exercise because they hate it or even because it’s difficult. In fact, most want to move more and feel healthy. The biggest barrier to getting in a few sweat sessions is the perceived lack of time.
It’s what I hear most from my clients as the reason they can’t exercise. When I really dig in and find out what’s going in their life and with their schedule, I’ve found a few common reasons for the time struggle. And, thankfully, there are a few simple strategies to free up some white space on your calendar.
We Make Time for What We Like
As humans, we gravitate to what makes us happy or is enjoyable. When I speak with people about their fitness goals and find out what they’ve tried to make time for, I find many of those who weren’t successful were doing exercises they didn’t like. And, they didn’t really know why they were doing it. Somewhere along the way they heard from a friend or co-worker that spinning/running/rowing/kickboxing (insert any exercise!) was the best workout. Wanting to emulate someone’s results or try something new, people jump on the bandwagon. While it’s great to try new things and challenge your body, if you find running to be something you despise or spinning hurts your butt every time you go, you aren’t going to make time to do it. You’ll skip the treadmill, blow off class, and find other things to fill that time slot.
The fix: Do more of what you like. It’s okay to do simple exercise like walking, swimming, cycling. Any exercise can be intensified/modified to give you the cardio and fat burning benefit you’re seeking. When you do something you like (or can at least tolerate) you will find the time for it on your calendar and you will stick with it.
You’re an “All or Nothing” Kind of Person
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve told someone they DO NOT need to workout an hour a day, 7 days a week to get in good shape. I have had clients say to me, “Well…If I don’t have an hour…why bother?” It’s this kind of thinking that keeps you from getting in consistent workouts. Let me repeat it for the folks in the back…you don’t need 60 minutes a day, 7 days a week to get the benefits from exercise.
The fix: Take what you have and make it work. Ideally, you have at least 30 minutes a day/5 days a week, but that’s not always the case. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently revised their exercise recommendations for Americans and one of the key changes is this…“Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none.” Read that again. Move more, sit less. Some activity is better than none. In addition, their overall recommendations for adults is 150 minutes a week. Divvy that up however you’d like over the week – taking every 15, 20, or 30 minute opportunity to work up a sweat. When you think in those terms, those shorter bouts of exercise become “worth it.”
You’re riding the Commitment Struggle Bus
It’s easy for someone to say, “you just have to commit.” Yeah, no kidding. But what many people fail to realize is that commitment is strengthened by a compelling reason why. When you know why something is important, you will find a way to get it done.
The fix: Do a little soul-searching to find out why you set the goal in the first place and then remind yourself of that “why” every single day. If it’s to be healthier for your kids, or improve a health condition, find ways to visually remind yourself of these reasons. Pictures, post-it notes, whatever it takes to keep those reasons top of mind! If you can’t come up with a good why, then reconsider the goal.
You’re a Yes Woman/Man
When I talk to clients who claim to have “no time” available on their calendar, I challenge them to take a good look at where they devote their precious time and energy. I ask them to consider if they could set better boundaries with those who request so much of their time. Your physical, emotional and mental health improve when you set healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life. Easier said than done, right? Work, family, friends…they’re all priorities. How do we decide what stays and what we say no to?
The fix: We all have the same 24 hours and I treat my time like I treat my money – I spend it on quality activities rather than just “stuff”. Ask yourself…what can I delegate? What commitments can I reassess? Who is taking advantage of my willingness and goodwill? Tough questions but necessary ones to get to the heart of why you don’t have time to exercise and take care of yourself. My other strategy is to always reflect on whether a request or commitment is aligned with my goals, values or something I’m passionate about. It might be a good cause or a worthy event, but if it doesn’t line up with what brings me joy or gets me closer to my goals, I don’t do it.
While saying no seems tough, look for ways to turn the no into an opportunity for someone else. For example, instead of taking on more at work, empower a junior staffer to step up and take on the responsibility. Delegate chores around the house to your kids and reward them for their help. And, when you can’t do those things, a polite “no thank you” is a sufficient response.
You Have no Accountability
Accountability is the glue that binds commitment to results. Without it, there is a higher failure rate when it comes to health and fitness. But it’s not as easy as asking your mom to check in on you once a week to see if you are going to the gym. Accountability must be provided by someone who understands your goals completely, supports you in those goals and is willing to dish out a little tough love when they see you slipping. It’s not an easy role to play but the accountability partner is an essential piece to your success.
The fix: Pick the right partner to help you achieve your goals. To ensure they’re a good fit for your personality, ask yourself these questions:
Do they support my goals? If the person doesn’t see the value in your fitness goal, they are less likely to hold you accountable.
Can they commit? You need consistent check-ins with your accountability coach. Ideally, once per week. Don’t choose someone who cancels on plans or is more booked than you! Find someone who can set and keep a regular check-in appointment with you.
Are they comfortable calling you out? When picking a partner to help you, look for a friend, co-worker or family member who is okay with challenging you when you’re making excuses, skipping workouts or giving up on your goals.
Are they a good problem solver? An accountability partner should be someone willing to help you solve the challenges you face with your goals. They don’t have to have all the answers, but they should be willing to brainstorm with you to figure out how to bust through the barriers you encounter. That’s why hiring a trainer, or a health coach may be a good option as they are paid to be your accountability partner and fitness expert!
Finding time for fitness doesn’t need to be overwhelming or complicated. You simply have to get honest with yourself about what is truly a priority and if you are chasing the right goals. Add in a little bit of boundary setting and accountability and you’ll be on a path to better physical and mental well-being.
If you still can’t see a way to get fit, let’s chat. Set up a free wellness consult here. Or, fill out my wellness assessment and I’ll be in touch with a time to talk. Don’t get frustrated and give up. Ask for the help you need!
Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Workplace Wellness Consultant
412.310.6882 | firstname.lastname@example.org