Making the Time to Exercise: 2 Mindsets and 4 Tips to Overcome this Excuse Forever.

When I talk to people about exercise and fitness, one of the most common excuses I hear is about time.

“I just don’t have time to exercise like I want to.”

“I’m too busy to do that 5k.”

“I’d love to, but I have too much else going on, I can’t fit it in.” 

Later in this article, I’ll give practical tips for how to find (or make) the time in your schedule to exercise. But there’s one thing you have to grasp about time, or none of those tips will make any difference.

I warn you, though — it’s not good news.

Ready?

YOU are the one who made your schedule. And you can re-make it any time you want.

At some point, you chose to do everything you’re doing. You said “Yes” to something, or you signed a contract, or you made a promise, etc.

photo of person s hand with words
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If you didn’t make your schedule, who did?

Once you can be responsible for making your schedule, being the author of it, you have some power to change it. And if you insist that you have no control over your schedule, you’ve given your power away, and nothing else you read here will make any difference.

Now I know some of us are really busy. Like, going nonstop from 6am to 10pm, and passing out in bed busy. And I can relate: a little while ago, I was was a new full-time teacher with a 45-minute commute, while getting my Masters degree in the evenings, volunteering 10-15 hours/week, and raising a young son.

I know what it takes to make a (very) full schedule work, and it can be draining and overwhelming.

But here’s something I learned out of the crucible of those busy days:

There is ALWAYS time to do the things that matter most to you. 

Let’s test that out — do you ever not have time to buy food, and end up not eating for several days? Or do you ever just run out of time to drink water, and end up passing out from dehydration? Probably not! Because food and water are of primary importance to your well being! (Why isn’t your health and fitness this high on your list?)

Here’s another — do you ever run out of time to answer an urgent email from your boss, or complete a project that your job depends on? Probably not, because your livelihood matters to you. It’s important that you make a living and continue paying your mortgage and buying groceries for yourself and your family.

Another way to look at your busy schedule is as a list of the most important things in your life. Your career, your education, making a difference, raising a family, and maintaining your health and vitality. You can have time for each of these things because you aren’t willing to let any of them go.

Getting outdoors with our kids saves us time later — when they go to sleep early!

Here’s the bottom line: it’s YOUR time. (Who else’s is it!?)

You decide what you do with it. And what you spend your time doing is an indication of what is truly important to you. 

So, if fitness and exercise are not that important to you, then just be honest about it and move on!

But if they do matter to you, it’s time to retire this excuse once and for all. 

Here is a list of four strategies you can use to create the time for your fitness and well being:

1. Do a time audit on your life

calendar dates paper schedule
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This is a great reflective process as we are completing 2020 and moving into 2021. Look back at the last few months. If you have a calendar where you keep your schedule (highly recommended!) look at your actual calendar. If not, ask a person you live with to verify your answers; outside perspective will keep you honest!

How many hours per week (on average) have you been spending: 

  • … working for income?
  • … having quality time with friends or family?
  • … doing quality leisure activities or hobbies?
  • … watching television or movies?
  • … playing games or scrolling on social media?

2. Identify what you are giving your time to that doesn’t deserve it.  

Once you complete step 1, take a look at the hours.

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Is doom-scrolling a fulfilling, meaningful activity in your life…?
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What do you notice?

How many hours are you spending on parts of your life that don’t contribute to your well being, satisfaction or fulfillment? Is the amount of time you are devoting consistent with what’s important to you?

Use this frame to make a declaration:

“From now on, I’m spending less time on _________________________, and more time on _____________________________”

3. Find the flex time

Have you heard the analogy of how to fill a jar with rocks, pebbles and sand? The idea is, if you put the small pebbles and sand in first, the big rocks will never fit. But if you put in the big rocks first, the pebbles and sand will fit around them, filling in the spaces.

assorted colors rocks
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Where are the hours in between the major “rocks” (usually your work hours and family time) where you could be going for a walk, putting on a 20 minute yoga video, or getting on that dusty stationary bike?

In our family it’s in the afternoon between school ending and dinner time. We aren’t willing to get up earlier, and morning time is work and school hours. Even a 30-minute chunk right before dinner is a perfect time to fit in a quick HIIT workout.

What were you going to do with that time anyway?

4. Combine important things

A great tactic I used during my busiest times has been merging activities with each other. For example, I would call friends or family on my 45-minute drive to make the time do double-duty for me.

Merge activities with your fitness – take a walk with your kids or your partner. Bring that phone onto the treadmill or exercise bike with you and do your scrolling while you sweat! Make yard-work your workout for the day.

Think how you can accomplish multiple things with the same hour of time, and you’ll be amazed by how much time you suddenly have.

Final Thoughts

Use this time of upheaval as an opportunity – everything is up in the air right now due to Covid. Your work schedule likely doesn’t look the way it used to, and it doesn’t have to look that way ever again. Tell your employer or co-workers what you need with clarity and confidence, and you will likely get it.

“I need to leave work an hour early twice per week” or “I need a 2-hour lunch break to go for a run” may have been unreasonable last year, but are now very possible.

If you say health and fitness matter to you, then put it in your calendar as a top priority. You wouldn’t go days without food, so why go days without caring for your body and mind by walking, running, biking, lifting, or stretching?

If you had 100% control of your time, what would you use it for?

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