Fitting in Fitness: How do you find the time?!

Sheesh, this keeping fit business is hard work. I know I was all delirious just two weeks ago about how well my running was going, and it’s still going well (Race for Life on Saturday, wish me luck!)… but I can’t say it comes naturally.

Sticking to an exercise ‘regime’ for me requires a conscious effort to plan activities on specific evenings, to have a snack at work in the afternoon so I’m not too hungry when I get home, to find time at the weekend before showering but not too soon after eating… Without proper planning, not to mention discipline in sticking to the plan, a whole week can pass without a single session.

Does it really matter if you miss a few sessions here and there? Maybe not, but after not going for a run all week that 10k at the weekend already feels a lot tougher and my legs will suffer the consequences. And even with regular workouts, it’s not like I’ve become some über-fit muscle machine – I look pretty much the same as far as I can tell and still have “moderate amounts of excess fat” as the chart so politely puts it. So if I’m to build, and maintain, some decent level of fitness and muscle tone, I’m going to have to keep the pressure on. (One of the trainers at the gym said that I had a v-shape when I flex my arms, which is good apparently, but I don’t see no v-shape!)

As children, we loved nothing more than to run around, in the house, in the garden, in the park. Everything was more of an effort, too – just climbing a flight of stairs was more of a workout thanks to the relative size of the steps. And at school, we had netball and hockey and tennis and athletics… Staying fit wasn’t really something we thought about. Today, though, most of us lead sedentary lives with office jobs and lazy evenings on the sofa; exercise needs to be a conscious choice.

Sticking to a plan also isn’t made easier by having an irregular schedule. If you have a routine, you can plug your exercise into a regular slot: do your gym workout on the way to work or run to the office and shower when you get there, go for a swim in the evening once your kids are in bed, join a yoga class on Sunday morning before you meet your friends for brunch. With a freelance lifestyle, you’re bound to have down time between projects when you have lots of flexibility and then you have busy periods when you may be commuting to an office and working long hours. If you don’t make exercise a habit, ideally to the point of becoming as natural as brushing your teeth every morning and night, then you have to waste precious energy on negotiating with yourself each time as to whether or not you’ll go ahead and do it.

When I do manage it, by the time I’ve done the commute home, gone to the gym, and had dinner, voilà, it’s 9pm and bedtime! Well, not quite, but I’m pretty exhausted and manage little more than a bit of TV or a few pages of a book. Can someone tell me how you’re supposed to also see your friends, write for your blog, go on dates, do your laundry, pay the bills, and do all those other things you have to – or want to – do?

Maybe the solution is to combine it all? Do a Tough Mudder with a group of friends, play tennis once a week with your boyfriend, date a personal trainer… (– anyone know any good ones? Mine’s a girl.) Integrate exercise into your life as much as possible, so that you’re running or cycling as part of your commute, taking the stairs up to the fourth floor, meeting friends for physical activities rather than the more common social act of eating…

That was definitely my intention behind choosing “being active” as my theme for 2015: having a year so full of exercise that I would miss it if I stopped, programming my mind and body to want to exercise regularly. Having this theme has definitely helped me to focus: when in doubt as to which of two things to prioritise within the limited time available, I know that I should go for the physically active one. But I’m not a gym bunny or a fitness fiend and although I enjoy sport and want to stay fit I have a lot of other interests and I’m not always going to make the same priority calls.

I’ll be travelling quite a bit over the next few months, which means I’m going to need even more discipline to keep up the good work. Of course, I’ll have all those apps to help me, and I also plan to bring my running shoes everywhere I go; running is a great way to explore when you arrive in a new city. Then with my ambition of running a marathon next year, the bar will be raised even further and the amount of time I’ll need to dedicate to exercise will only increase.

Any tips for integrating exercise into your routine? Fun things to do with friends so you don’t have to give up on your social life in the meantime? Let me know in the comments below!



12 Responses

  1. Hej! Love the post and the spirit! Here’s my 2 cents. I train about 7-9 hours a week. I know it sounds freaky but it’s just 5 regular weekday workouts of 1 hour and a weekend long run which can be anything between 2-4 hours. The weekday workouts are normally twice running, twice classes such as body pump, and once something chill like yoga or Pilates. I can always replace one of the tougher workouts in a rest day if I feel that is needed. Since January 2014 I’ve missed a few trainings here and there on the count of being sick, travelling etc., but never went below 3 times a week – not even before the wedding, during the honeymoon, when I started a new job, or during winter in Sweden. So based on my experience here are a few tips to keep up with a training schedule that comes on top of a hectic life: 1. I plan my trainings in advance, as part of my weekly planning. I factor in weather (to see if I want to run outside), what I have at work that day, social stuff – and I simply make sure there is room for all I want to achieve. In a busy week, this also means I can prioritize my workouts in advance, and make sure the key ones are there. This also means that more often than not I show up to work with my gym bag, because I’ve either trained in the morning, going to train at lunch or will train after work. 2. I find reasons to look forward to the trainings. For me it has been discovering cool podcasts to listen to while running, or going to gym classes like body pump even though I know that heavy lifting at the gym is more effective in building muscle. But I simply get more motivated from a class, with the music and everything, so I choose that even though it’s not the optimal workout. 3. The social thing was important in the beginning – when I signed up for the half marathon last year I did it with 2 friends and we did our long run in the weekend together. It was a great way to combine catching up and working out. Now I need it less because of the awesome podcasts. 4. I make sure to live a lifestyle that accommodates training. I eat well (and a lot – I need the energy for all the training), I sleep well and I make sure I am an “all-around player” – i.e. I don’t just run 100 km a week but I make sure I get strength exercise as well as core and flexibility / mobility. And of course, rest days. This allows me to avoid injury and stay healthy. 5. Since I’m a big nerd, I love also learning a lot about running, health and fitness. I follow lots of blogs and I subscribe to the Swedish Runner’s World (combining language lessons with reading about something I find interesting). This means I often avoid common mistakes of people who just follow trends, and I do things the right way .6. I spend quite a large percent of my “having fun” budget on fitness: clothes, shoes (of course), but also a running watch, water belt, gels, race entries… But being well equipped is part of the fun and it keeps me feeling bad-ass. 😀 7. It is a cliché, but it is also true. Getting the workout done in the morning, before other priorities take over, simply increases the chances of getting it in. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact it’s super hard with the alarm rings at 06:00 in the dark winter, but you feel really good afterwards, and your reward is a huge breakfast at work.

    Having said all of this, I definitely don’t have all the answers, nor am I the fastest runner / strongest person at the gym, but I’ve been getting faster and stronger gradually over the course of this year and also lost 8 kg (which was of course one of the points when I start, not gonna lie – but it’s totally out the window now. I really don’t care), while keeping myself healthy and injury free. Hope this helps. Happy to share more! And go out for runs in Stockholm. 

    1. Wow, amazing Nurit! Thank you for taking the time to write some a thoughtful answer.

      It does sound like a lot to do a workout every day, but I think that a daily habit would actually help me to stick to the routine – as soon as there’s an option not to do it, it’s so easy to get off track. For a while, I was able to do a run or some yoga in the mornings so that I had my evenings completely free but right now I’m getting up at 6am so getting up earlier just doesn’t appeal! I also don’t yet identify myself as the kind of person who brings a gym bag everywhere she goes, but maybe I just need to reconsider my brand identity…!

      Runner’s World purchased in Italian, thanks for that tip!

      Oh and Disney Half-marathon in Paris is confirmed for 23rd-25th September 2016 – for some advance planning if you are interested 🙂

      1. Yes, as you and others wrote, there’s definitely a fair amount of logistics carrying my gym bag around, pre-packed with my outfit for the day (and I meet clients regularly – must be professional and sylish – this is Stockholm after all), hair products and make-up. And by the way, I’ve had my gym bag at client meetings (if I have them in the morning and I chose to start the day working out at the closest gym), after work events, dinners… No one seems to mind and most people are actually impressed by the discipline (they are right to be impressed – as I wrote here it’s not always easy). So actually I’ve found that in terms of brand identity, being perceived as sportyadds quite a bit of value in the professional arena.

        Cool about the Disney half-marathon! More than cool – awesome! I will be running the Stockholm half marathon mid September. But let me know if you need any help with training plans or motivation. 🙂

        1. Yes agree, looking after yourself and having the discipline to train is absolutely a good thing professionally as well!

          I was planning on running the Stockholm half this year but also got tickets for The Globe that weekend – dilemma 😉

  2. Making running part of your commute, and listening to interesting podcasts/audiobooks etc in the meantime are my two best efficiency tips. Of course a bit more difficult with a freelance lifestyle like you point out, but surely still possible.

  3. Anna, thank you so much for another SPOT ON article, you speak my mind!! With an intense work out (3-5 times a week) I also would have no time for a social life because the rest of the week is full with laundry, bills and other stuff. And how is one supposed to nourish and build a relationship if you do not want to live it in the “we-share-a-flat-but-we-almost-never-see-each-other-mode”?!? … speaking of coming home after 9pm and getting up at 6am… and I loooove the comment about the gym bag and the brand identity (makes my ex-P&G heart beat), haha, I feel the same. I work in a representative job, so imagine all the make up and hair stuff I would need to carry on me all the time … not even mentioning the after sweat, permanently walking around with 2 bags. Also, I’ve had a tendinitis in my leg/knee for the past 3 years. So if you can not run, you are basically screwed. Have not found a new routine since then because nothing beats running when it comes to flexibly making it part of your day and when it comes to quick results in endurance. So can’t wait for the day to come when I can just go running like I used to before.

    That said, I found the advice about really planning your workouts like the rest of your week. I will also try to do my workouts in the morning, should also be easier during the summer. So the evenings can be spent outside with others by the lake drinking rosé.

    In any case, if I find the miracle answer I surely will let you know ; )

    1. Ahh good point, don’t even get me started on the hair washing and make-up dilemma! And, yes, unfortunately injuries can put a stop to good intentions as well. It really isn’t easy…

      Good luck with the planning! Let me know how you get on 🙂

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