We all know the many benefits of exercise—for starters, cardiovascular efficiency, increased productivity, a better mood, and stress relief. But sometimes, just figuring out how to fit in a workout is as hard as the workout itself. Even if your schedule is jam-packed, here are a few ideas to get moving.
01. Schedule your workout.
Literally mark down exercise time on your calendar. If you don’t have an exercise routine yet, hold three 30-minute workouts on your calendar each week. If you already have a routine but want to kick it up a bit, schedule an extra day or make your workout “meeting” time a bit longer.
You should also consider whether morning, midday, or evening sessions make more sense for you. Several of my friends like running together after work, but I can’t do that. I am terrible at exercising at night—I’m tired and hungry. I want nothing more than to plop down on the couch and watch reruns of Friends. Rather than fight it, find a time when you’re actually motivated. For me, this often means setting an alarm for 5:15 a.m.
If you have other schedules to consider (like a spouse or children), that will impact when it’s easiest for you to exercise. If you get off work at 5 p.m. and need to pick the kids up by 6 p.m., it doesn’t make sense to try to get your sweat session in right after work. Set yourself up for success by scheduling your workouts for the most convenient time.
02. Remember that convenience is key.
If you prefer to work out in a gym, find one that is easy to access.
When I moved to a new area a few years ago, I checked out several gyms. Then I picked the one I could walk to. Make exercising as easy as possible; don’t make yourself go out of your way to do it. If it takes twenty minutes each way to get to the gym, your 45-minute workout becomes an hour-and-a-half commitment.
When you plan to work out may influence where you work out, too. If you’re going to work out as soon as you wake up in the morning (like I do), a gym near your home makes sense. If you plan to exercise right after work, a gym near your office might be a smarter choice.
03. Make exercise a social activity.
Wanting (or needing) hangout time with family and friends can keep you from getting in a workout during the day. Why not invite them along? It will knock out two birds—socializing and exercising—with one stone. And it can make the workout less intimidating.
Take a fun class the two of you love at your local gym. Or use this as an opportunity to try out a new one you’ve been eyeing—it’s less daunting if you’re going with another newbie. Many boutique gyms offer a free class for first-timers.
But you don’t need a fancy gym to include friends and family in your workout. Go on a walk after dinner with your family, meet friends for a run, or take a lunchtime walk.
I credit my running group and the friends I’ve made in it for getting me through two marathons. Not only does running with friends make a four-hour race more enjoyable, but the accountability is also right there. You’d better have a good reason for bailing on a friend who’s counting on you!
04. Make everyday activities more fit.
Hitting the gym or going for a run aren’t the only ways to keep your body strong. Choose to make your everyday activities a little more fit: Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to that meeting a mile away. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Ride your bike to knock those errands off your to-do list. These will make your normal daily comings and goings geared toward a healthier lifestyle.
If you want to see the difference being made by these smaller choices, try an activity tracker such as a Fitbit or Nike+ FuelBand. Or you can use one of the many apps such as MyFitnessPal or TrainingPeaks. You can set a goal for how many steps or minutes to walk each day and even make it into a game by trying to beat your previous record when you’re out and about.
Fitting in a little extra activity each week doesn’t need to be difficult. Once you get into the habit, it will seem so easy. Just set your mind to it, and off you go!
Hannah Morrison Shultz is an indoor cycling instructor and dabbles in other group exercise classes. Her legs have carried her through two marathons, seven half marathons, and a few triathlons to boot.