“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ~Life's Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
While fitting fitness into a busy life certainly doesn’t equate to the accomplishments famous historical figures managed to fit into their days, making time for exercise is possible, even under demanding schedules. As coaches in a community in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, we often work with runners who delicately balance the obligations of their families, careers, and commutes, while still finding some time to exercise. How do they do this? They prioritize and commit to a fitness routine.
Use your calendar to plan your exercise schedule each week, and make an appointment with yourself to commit to your health and fitness. Motivate yourself to commit to that appointment by running or training with a friend or running group. Running clubs like the Montgomery County Road Runners Club offer numerous running groups for all levels that meet on different days and at different times to fit your schedule. Trust us, getting out of bed at 5:30 am for a run is much easier if you know someone is waiting for you.
If you prefer to work out on your own but can't seem to find time in your schedule to exercise, get creative-- set up your bike on an indoor trainer and ride when your kids are napping; swap babysitting with another family and take that time to get to the gym; store running clothes at work and get out for a quick run during lunch or before you head home for the day; make sure your hotel has a decent gym before your next business trip. And while it's important to plan out your exercise schedule, be flexible-- don't just ditch your plans to exercise because something unexpected comes up and gets in the way of your good intentions. Improvise and move to Plan B if there is a last minute change that interrupts your planned exercise.
For further motivation to stick to a commitment to keep up a running program, sign up for a race. Once you have invested money and put a concrete goal on your calendar, it is much easier to stay focused and motivated and much more difficult to justify not following through. Work backwards from the date of the race and plan out your training schedule, then write it out on your calendar or a log used just for exercise. Let friends and family know you have signed up; or better yet, recruit some of them to join you. You can find a complete list of local running events on the Washington Running Report's Race Calendar.
It's now easier than ever to log and maintain data on your workouts, which helps measure improvement over time and allows you to see if your schedule is working for you. If you are a gadget person, GPS watches, such as the Garmin, and heart rate monitors allow you to upload data in an instant. Or, just keep a log of your workouts, including time of day, duration, average heart rate (if you are wearing a heart rate monitor), mileage or distance covered, how you felt, weather (if exercising outside), and any other relevant information. You can keep this in a traditional calendar, a computer spreadsheet, on one of the many free web-based exercise/workout logs, such as TrainingPeaks or even an online blog.
Try to set multiple goals, both short- and long-term, so that you recognize and reward your progress and not just the end goal. The long-term goal is often so far in the future that it can be hard to stay motivated during the days, weeks and months necessary to get to that goal. By setting shorter term goals and rewarding yourself when you reach these goals, you can keep yourself motivated while working towards the larger goal. For example, if your ultimate goal is to run a 5K, set and reward shorter term goals like completing 3 workouts of run/walk intervals of a certain duration or running continuously for 15 minutes several workouts in a row.
The Road Runners Club of America offers a complete list of certified running coaches around the country, many of whom train runners virtually. As a certified running coaches, we obviously believe in the value of having a coach or trainer to help you reach your fitness goals. Having someone other than yourself to be accountable to is a great source of motivation. A good coach will help you identify short- and long-term goals, design an appropriate training program, monitor your progress to make sure that you are progressing steadily and without injury, provide important information relevant to your goals, and offer encouragement and support. An investment in professional guidance can start you on your way to making fitness a regular part of your life, and eventually you should be in a position to keep it up on your own.
Finding creative ways to stay motivated can help you make exercise a priority, and when you make it a priority it is amazing how easy it becomes to find the time in a busy schedule to work out. After several weeks of working out on a regular basis, it will become habit and, hopefully, a necessary and automatic part of your weekly schedule. More importantly, you’ll be setting an excellent example of fitness, health and dedication for your friends and family.