How to Outsmart "I'm Too Busy" and Make Fitness a Habit
What's the most common justification for not working out? A recent U.S. News article outlined the top ten reasons people don't exercise. We can probably all guess the number one excuse, and we've all probably used it at one time or another:
“I'm too busy.”
As coach Jeanne Goodes noted in her discussion of the article, "We are a busy society. We work, raise families, socialize, commute, volunteer, and use social media. But, in the end, we all have the same amount of time - 24 hours." And though that might not always seem like a lot of time, we miss many windows of fitness opportunity that present themselves throughout the day. It all boils down to decision. If you want to make fitness a priority, just do it.
I know. That’s easier said than done sometimes. Here are some commitments you need to make if you don’t want to fall into the “I’m Busy” trap.
There may be no such thing as "later." Just do it now.
1. Sacrifice and Be Consistent
There’s no way to sugar-coat this. If you want to commit to your fitness, it’s going to take time. Some people claim to have found a three- or four-minute solution, but I’m not on board with that. Three or four minutes might be enough to convince yourself you've met your exercise commitment for the day, but it's not enough to actually progress and get better.
I’m going to take the less popular path and side with coach David Cross, who says you’ll need two things if you’re serious about fitness: sacrifice and consistency. David painted a picture of what that looks like in his article, Average Is Crap: The Painful Truth About Making Gains:
On a daily basis I consistently sacrifice, because my health, strength, and mobility is ultimately more important to me than the other fluff with which people seem to fill their lives. I’m not saying that other people are wrong (I am really), but I know which I would rather be doing.
I already miss many hours in the day with my daughter, so I make sure I don’t need to leave for work before she wakes up, and I make sure that I’m home for her bath time. This, for me, is incredibly important, and I won’t let any money, clients, work or training replace this. This for me is a priority.
The idea of sacrificing happy hours might seem daunting at first, but with time it becomes a habit. It doesn't need to be enforced or dreaded any more. But you can't get there unless you just do it.
Got kids? David Cross has a little one at home, too (pictured above). She looks like a great cheerleader!
2. Combine Time Priorities
So you've made the decision to prioritize fitness and cut down on happy hour time. Great! But what happens when that new priority starts to conflict with other important things, like family time? It's bound to happen.
Chet Morjaria discussed how to combine your top priorities in his article, Too Busy To Train? 6 Pieces of Advice for the Average Joe.
You don’t get to the gym because when you’re not working you want to spend time with your spouse or family. And you need to grab that wherever you can. Quite right. But what does this time look like? Watching TV? Maybe sitting in the kitchen, sharing a bottle of wine?
What about spending quality time with each other through shared, challenging, healthy experiences? Get your partner or kids involved in what you do. Instead of excluding them from that part of your life, invite them to join you. Maybe even book them on a starter course.
If those closest to you can stop becoming a reason for you not to go to the gym, and exercise can become an activity that brings you even closer to each other, you’re onto a winner.
This has been the most important lesson I’ve learned in my own fitness journey as a mom of three young children. I work out by myself, but also with my kids. And on our date nights, my husband and I do something active (okay, I'll admit it, we sometimes get a cocktail afterward).
My point is, if you have a family and wait for a long stretch of alone time to do your workouts, you won't train nearly as much as you would if you recruit your loved ones. And the real beauty is by prioritizing fitness for yourself, you're also making it a priority it for your family.
Kids not interested in cheerleading? No problem, they can come with you and work out.
3. Own Your Time
Don’t be a slave to the time card and people at work. Own your time and make your training happen. That means you might have to say, "No" sometimes. Endurance athlete Graeme Turner discussed the importance of limiting your time in the office to allow time for training in his article, Why Your Excuse About Not Having Time Is Just Wrong.
Many people say they are asked to do extra work or work on weekends. Are you being asked because it is expected? Are you the only person that could do the work? Here’s a simple trick: if a peer (maybe not your boss) asks you to do something that is in addition to your normal responsibilities, ask them this question, “If I was on annual leave who would you ask to do this?”
Similarly, a lot of people will claim they couldn’t train as the boss asked them to work on the weekend. I often ask them what they would have said to the manager’s request had that weekend been, for example, the weekend of their wedding? Again it is a question of what priority you choose.
United States Senator Paul Tsongas famously said, after being diagnosed with cancer, “No one on their death bed ever said I wish I had spent more time in the office."
"I wish I could just live in the office," said no one.
4. Seize Every Opportunity You Get
There are opportunities for movement and fitness hidden in every day. It's just a matter of finding them and being decisive. Working out doesn't have to look like running for two hours on the treadmill, but it does have to be consistent if you want results.
Here are some helpful workouts from Breaking Muscle coaches that fit into your day, no matter how busy you are.
No Equipment, No Problem: A 6-minute workout from coach Lauren Brooks's article, Short and Sweet: 4 New 6-Minute Workouts for Busy People. (Do all four together for an extra challenge!)
4 Powerful Daily Mobility Drills: A brief video by coach Eric Cressey that demonstrates four exercises that are especially beneficial for desk workers. As Cressey noted, "Treating mobility work seriously will have you moving, feeling, and lifting better." Read more in the article, 4 Powerful Daily Mobility Drills.
A Short Yoga Flow: This short flow by yoga instructor Sima Tamaddon is intended to help with overhead squat mobility, but it's also great to do on its own or after a long run. Read about the muscles worked in this short flow in Sima's article, A Short Yoga Flow for a Better Overhead Squat.
Laundry Squats: I did this exercise from Josh Vogel's article, Chore Training: How to Move More and Have a Really Clean House and couldn't believe how challenging it was. (Hint: Might want to start with a small load of laundry.) Don't miss the crawling and pistol squat videos in the article.
We're all busy. Let's start seeing that as a reason to take care of ourselves, not an excuse to neglect our health and mental wellbeing.
What are some ways you avoid the "I'm Too Busy" trap? Share in the comments below.
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Photos 1 and 4 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo 2 courtesy of David Cross.
Photo 3 courtesy of Emily Socolinsky at Five x 3 Training.