Let’s face it: most of us know what we need to do to better our health—whether that be exercising more regularly, cleaning up our diets, getting more sleep, or reducing stress. Everyone has their own unique barriers on the path to health and fitness, but the main objections we hear from our busy professional clients are a lack of time, a lack of energy, and a lack of guidance.
Many of us work over 10 hours per day, carry a ton of stress, and regularly miss out on family time and sleep as is, so the question arises: how will I find the time and energy to invest in a diet and exercise regimen, and how will I use my limited time and energy to yield the best results? Whatever way you slice it, this is a difficult balance. I hope that the tips outlined below will provide a sense of direction.
Set Realistic Goals
The hardest piece of news to hear for many fitness newcomers (and type A personalities) is that all results don’t happen simultaneously. Want to lose weight, and put on muscle, and run faster, and lift heavier, and eliminate sugar cravings forever, and make it to the gym every day, and have endless amounts of energy?
With time (months or years), you may achieve all of these results. Unfortunately, many goals in the fitness realm are mutually exclusive; for example, losing weight and putting on muscle mass are two goals that directly conflict with each other in most cases.
When you are regularly pressed for time, this point becomes magnified. In the short term, you need to prioritize your goals and figure out which one is the most important to you at this point in time. That’s right: pick one. Focus on it, achieve it, maintain it, and then move on.
Focus on Process-Based Goals
Consider making your goals process-based as opposed to results-based. The number one reason most fitness and wellness programs fail is a lack of compliance. Lack of compliance is often a byproduct of a loss of motivation. A loss of motivation is often due to disappointment.
Results-based goals generally have an endpoint that ignores the process and confounding factors involved in reaching these goals, so when we set a results-based goal (a weight loss goal, for example) and we don’t reach that goal in the timeframe we have allotted, even though we may have made progress in other areas in the meantime, we will feel disappointed and lose motivation.
When we are busy with work and family, and often low on sleep and high on stress, results can be more elusive than we’d like them to be, so rather than prioritizing your results, prioritize your process. Instead of setting a weight loss or performance goal, set a goal to build and maintain a regular 3-day per week exercise routine over the next two months and beyond.
Once you are maintaining that goal, set a new goal to eat vegetables at least two meals per day. Once you are regularly maintaining both of those goals, choose an additional one.
Small, cumulative changes are the most sustainable.The more aggressive or results-based goals can come later, but your initial goals should be realistic and reasonable for your lifestyle. Build healthy habits first and foremost.
Create Your Routine
This is the boring part. Building and sticking to a routine takes time and continued effort. Find simple actionable daily steps you can take to make your hectic life easier, such as:
- Meal prep your lunches every Sunday evening.
- Pack your gym clothes every evening before bed.
- Go to the gym straight after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
- Buy a large Hydroflask and fill it up completely with water every morning.
- Find a gym close to your home or workplace and commit to weekly class times.
Small steps can be taken daily to help guide our lives in a healthier direction. Figure out what those steps look like for you, and act on them one at a time.
Have a Daily Plan B
Life gets wonky on us sometimes. As much as we plan, plot, and prepare, sometimes we forget to meal prep or we just don’t have time to make it to the gym. What can you do in these instances?
- Find somewhere close to your work that has healthy lunch and snack options. Starbucks is my regular go-to.
- On a time crunch, YouTube has a number of wonderful channels dedicated to bodyweight workouts you can do from your living room.
- Get up several times throughout the day and move around. Go for a walk around the parking lot with co-workers, stand up at your desk and stretch. Get your body moving and give yourself a mental break.
Sometimes, however, the best thing to do is just to let it go for that day. Fitness and wellness should be enriching to your life, so if you find yourself stressing immensely over the healthy meal you left in the fridge, or wondering how you’re going to possibly muster up the energy to workout at home at the end of your day, just don’t. Be sure that your efforts to pursue your fitness don’t become an unhealthy tax on your mental health. Get through your day, go home, rest, and start fresh the next day with no guilt.
Remember: the first step is motivation, and if you’re here, you’re motivated, so let’s put some of these steps into play to turn your motivation into results.