Making time to exercise

Why do some people always seem to have time to work out while others can’t find even 30 minutes?

Bike silhouette in sunset

In our fast-paced world, it’s no secret that we’re all more time-poor than ever. But to make time to exercise regularly, there are some key strategies to get you started and keep you motivated, says Andrew May, CEO of The Performance Clinic. Hint: it’s not about how busy you are!

"It’s about changing your bad habits, so over time you start to self-regulate," he explains.

Exercise then becomes one of those things you do every day and don’t even think about, like putting pants on or brushing your teeth."

Carving out time to exercise

If you’re the type who can slot exercise in without too much bother, great. The rest of us may need to reverse-engineer our time, says Andrew.

‘There are 168 hours in every week and if you’re training at a higher intensity, you only need to exercise for 3 hours. I often hear people say, “Oh I haven’t got 3 hours” so the reverse engineering part is looking at where you can save or shave 3 hours a week from your schedule.’

Doing that might mean simply spending less time on email, social media, watching TV, or reading trashy magazines.

‘I’m not against all that stuff every now and then, but if it’s for hours and hours every week, you can claw back that time and put it to use in your exercise program.’

4 ways to stick to your guns

  1. Schedule it Treat exercise like a non-negotiable appointment, says Andrew. ‘You have to put it in your agenda, otherwise sleep or TV or coffee takes over. If it’s not in your agenda, there’s a big likelihood it won’t happen.’
  2. Make yourself accountable Either to a friend or family member, or by signing up to play a sport. ‘A personal trainer is another great way – you’re literally paying for that accountability.’
  3. Trick yourself Put yourself in situations where you’re forced to move, so it becomes a habit. ‘Not an exercise nut? Substitute travel time for activity by riding to work, getting off the bus or train 4 to 5 stops earlier, and making sure you get lots of incidental exercise.’
  4. Plan, plan, plan This could be as simple as laying out your workout gear the night before. ‘It’s only a little thing, but as a former athlete and personal trainer, I’ll be honest with you and say if I hadn’t had my gear next to me ready to go this morning I would’ve rolled back into bed!’

Which workout time is ‘best’?

Morning, lunchtime, afternoon or night? A study published in the Journal of Physiology found, because of the impact on our circadian rhythms, exercise is most beneficial at noon or in the afternoon. But research by the University of Chicago found that night-time exercisers may find it easier to keep to a routine.

Research is great, but don’t get too bogged down in the science, warns Andrew.

‘Later in the day you can get higher hormone and testosterone levels and your heart works more efficiently, but the average person is better off exercising in the morning. For corporate people and busy mums and dads, the day fills up and more often, you’ll get to the end of the day without having exercised.’

However, he adds that around 15% to 20% of the population don’t do well with mornings.

‘If that’s you, don’t push against your natural rhythm. Exercise at lunch or in the afternoon. But the majority of people who exercise in the morning find they can tick that box and it’s a great start to the day.’

Ban excuses for good

We all know the best laid plans can be thwarted by our inner saboteurs. Who hasn’t made excuses like ‘It’s too hot’, ‘It’s too cold’, ‘I’m too tired’ to avoid the gym?

May calls this the Too Syndrome, and says beating it is about recognizing the importance of behaviour over mindset.

‘Many people get stuck thinking about exercising and coming up with reasons why they can’t do it. But in the latest study of behaviour, we now know that it’s much easier to behave your way to a different way of thinking, rather than thinking your way to a different way of behaving. Once you get that, you can get over that internal dialogue which throws up all the reasons under the sun. You just go do it, and your thinking catches up.’

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