Life Is Busy: Work Out Anyway

Fitness for the CRAZY BUSY: yeah, it can be done

Busy.  It’s a word that I use often because right now – it absolutely describes my life.  No question about it, this is the busiest I have been since my college days.  I’m definitely not sleeping as much as I wish I could be, and I’m not seeing friends, family or even my cat & fiancé as much as I would like.  I’m working my full time job, I picked up a part time retail gig (a few nights a week, at least one weekend shift as well), I’m still creating my artwork, and somewhere in all of this, I am planning this wedding.  Whoa.  It would be so easy for me to come home at 11 each night, not prep my meals for the next day, skip my morning workout for the sake of an extra hour of sleep, and then wonder why I was gaining weight.  “My bridal body is so not going to be ready!”  I’d cry about it, and say it was stress, or whine that I’m “too busy” to do the things that matter with regards to my fitness progress, but deep down, I know (and you probably do, too) that it’s not about being “too stressed” or “too busy.”  It’s that I didn’t do what I needed to do with the time I do have.  It’s easy to slack off, it’s not as easy to stay on track when life gets busy.

Fitting in fitness when you are crazy busy isn’t always easy, but it is absolutely possible.  If you want to get into better shape, improve your health, burn some of that stress, or – like me – look BOMB for a special occasion, it is your responsibility to make time for what is important.  Trust me, there are nights where all I want to do is get together with my bridesmaids, drink margaritas and watch a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress.  Hell, sometimes that’s exactly what I do.  But giving in every time I “don’t want to” or every time I tell myself “I’m too busy/tired/worn down to do that” won’t get me anywhere.  So I choose to make fitness FIT into this crazy schedule.  It’s not easy, but it’s not as hard as you think if you follow a few (or all) of these tips.

First, SCHEDULE IT.   I preach this over and over, but some of you still aren’t listening!  The fact is, if something is important to you, you will make time for it.  You will block out a time in your day to do that thing.  Hair appointment, doctor visit, kids’ soccer game – you make time for those in your calendar, so why not do the same for 30 minutes of “you time?”  Figure out the time each day where you are LEAST LIKELY to be interrupted (I know, there is no time it’s a guarantee, but you know there’s one time in particular that is your “favorite” because no one is trying to bug you…often.”  For me, it’s early morning – between 5 and 6 am.  So right now, take out your calendar, planner or your phone, and block out that time tomorrow.  That is your workout time.  You are taking 30 minutes for yourself because you need it, you deserve it, and you EARNED IT.

Speaking of 30 minutes…if the thought of driving to the gym, parking, getting changed, working out for an hour, showering and driving home seems like too big of a chunk of time, why not consider an alternative?  Now, I’m not saying “ditch your gym membership because it’s worthless,” but what I am saying is to consider keeping a stash of workout programs at home – and have a few on hand that are 45 minutes or less!  Sometimes 25-30 minutes is all you have, and that’s fine!  Even if you’re not following the program schedule, on those days when you only have 30 minutes to spare, popping in “Dirty 30” from 21 Day Fix is better than skipping the gym because you’re “too busy.”  I know there are others out there, but off hand I know Beachbody offers quite a few of the “30 minutes or less” workouts – Focus:T25, INSANITY MAX:30, 21 Day Fix, 21 Day Fix EXTREME, P90X3, for example.  Get in, get out, get it done.  There is no shame in an at home workout!  Busy people, this sort of thing is IDEAL for you!

Schedule your day from start to finish.  You’ll notice that I said to get out your calendars and block out time.  Well, if you don’t keep a schedule on your calendar, maybe it’s time to start.  For the average person who goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, watches Netflix all night and heads off to bed, maybe a plan isn’t necessary for a typical day.  But you are not the average person.  You are anything BUT average.  Your days are full from sun up to sun down.  You’re lucky if you remember to do everything you need to do.  Here is where a daily plan comes in handy.  Every day, I plan out my day to the hour.  I make a “brain dump” list of all the tasks I have to do that day (and yes, my workout and meal prep time are both on there!) and consider how long each task will take.  I select which tasks are most important, and then the real fun begins.  Hour by hour, based on the time I have decided to start my day, I plan each task.  So by the end of the day, I have a list that looks something like this:  

busy days

Seems a little overly detailed to you?  Trust me, it’s worth it.  This not only allows for me to make sure everything gets done that needs to get done, but it shows me what things really aren’t important when I have leftover items that didn’t make the list.  Do this for a few days and it will become a habit.  Schedule your day.  Plan it out with as much detail as possible.  Make your time tables, and if you need to – set alarms!

Prioritize!  Something to consider when MAKING that list is learning to prioritize all of your tasks.  Certain things are non-negotiable.  Going to your job, picking up the kids from school, washing the dishes when you have no forks left in the house, sleeping, etc.  The things you know you NEED to do every day – the no-brainers – those are obviously priorities.  If bettering your health is a goal, you need to start thinking of your workouts and your meal preparation as a priority.  Is it more important than picking up Sarah from soccer practice?  Probably not.  But is it more important than catching up on the shows you missed last night?  Yeah, I’d say so.  (Pro tip: a lot of workouts can be done while you mindlessly get caught up on that show!)  So when you’re making that daily schedule, no matter how busy you are that day, consider your workout as a priority item.  30 minutes of your day dedicated to bettering your own health can absolutely bump “DVR catch up time” to the next day, next week, whatever.  That’s why we have DVR, people.  No matter how busy you are, you have to make yourself a priority.  Make your fitness a priority.  Not only will it help you reach your own personal goals, but taking time for yourself will make you easier to get along with, less stressed out and – hey, get this – a happier person.

Understand that sometimes “sh*t happens.”  React accordingly.  No matter how much we plan it out, there are going to be some days where the schedule flies right out the window.  Guess what – it’s normal.  That’s life.  We all deal with it.  The key is how you react to it.  Let’s say you planned an hour for a workout at the gym at 2:00 but it’s already 1:50, your oil change appointment is running late and you have to pick up your kids from school at 3:15 so your time schedule is totally off.  You could just scrap your workout and say “damn, not today.”  OR you could react accordingly – decide to hit the gym and get in a more intense 30 minute workout.  Or maybe just head home, get in a quick T25 workout in the basement.  Do whatever workout fits your schedule for that day.  If you’re following a planned schedule, like Core de Force, and you realize that there is no way you can fit in that MMA Power (50 minute) workout, maybe swap it out with MMA Speed (25 minutes) and save yourself the time & stress. Remember any workout is better than no workout at all – especially when you’re busy!

Similarly, if you do miss a day, RELAX!  So everything went wrong today, you had a plan to work out at 5:00 am, but you slept through your alarm.  Work was hell, and your boss had you there late.  You got home, and your son broke his collarbone in his football game, so you had to meet him at the hospital.  Once you finally left, you got home only to realize it is now 9:00 p.m. and none of you have had anything to eat.  You each throw together your own idea of a “random dinner,” and by the time you’ve eaten, it’s 9:45.  You have to get ready for tomorrow, run the dishwasher, fill that coffee pot, get your food together, and go through a few bills that need to go out tomorrow.  Oh yeah, and sleep.  You have to do that, too.  Where the heck are you going to fit in that workout?!  Guess what – you’re not.  And you know what?  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!  Once again, sh*t happens, and sometimes your plan gets screwed.   Wipe your hands of this day, and move forward with the next.  It’s all good as long as you don’t let days like this get you down.  So repeat after me: “no matter how much I plan, some days, sh*t happens, I miss my workout, and that’s OKAY.”

Plan your rest days for the busy days.  Is there one day in particular that you know you’re busier than all the rest?  Do you know that you’re swamped every Wednesday from sunrise to the second your head hits the pillow?  Is the thought of setting an alarm for 3:00 am completely repulsive to you?  (It is to me, so yeah.) If there is one day each week that you know is going to be a BEAR – make that your rest day!  Rest days don’t have to be on the weekend, and they don’t even have to be on the same day every week.  Look at your schedule for the week, and pick your rest day based on your busiest day.  And hey, here’s a tip, you can take more than one!  You don’t need to be getting a workout in 6-7 days a week!  For many of us, 3-5 is more than enough!  Make the most of the time you have, and plan a schedule that works best for you.

On the days you don’t work out, work it out in the kitchen!  If you miss a workout or two…or three…don’t sweat it.  Remember that fitness isn’t just about sweating your butt off in the basement or lifting the heavy weights at the gym.  It’s a whole package that includes balancing your actual workout with your rest, and your food.  On the days you miss a workout, pay better attention to what you put in your mouth.  I’m not saying “skip meals or eat like a bird because I’m too busy to work out today,” I’m saying to be more mindful of your meals.  Just pay attention.  Make good choices based on your needs and goals.  Cook a healthy dinner, order the steamed veggies at the restaurant instead of fries.  Have a light beer instead of a daiquiri.  If you stay on track (or at least “be mindful”) when it comes to your food, even if you miss a few workouts, you won’t get shoved backwards in your progress.  This is life.  You’re doing great as long as you keep trying.

Make your fitness FUN!  And finally, remember that a workout doesn’t automatically mean going to the gym, running 6 miles, doing P90X in the basement or going to that TurboKick class.  A workout can happen ANYWHERE with ANYONE.  Turn some of your social outings into fitness based activities – if you’re having fun, no one will think you “tricked” them into a workout!  Go hiking on a beautiful day.  Grab the family and take a bike ride to catch a Saturday matinee, gather up your friends and go dancing…the options are endless!  Workouts don’t have to be strict or boring – they are FUN!  So if you’re in a rut or the thought of listening to Autumn Calabrese tell you one more time to do a burpee makes you want to scream, change it up!  Do something else that’s going to work your body.  This is your life – enjoy it!