On Cramming Workouts into a Hectic Life

I have a not-so-secret secret: I deal with stress a million times better when I work out regularly. Even just getting a couple miles in at the gym can instantly change my day for the better.

In an ideal world, we’d all have time to do every single thing we wanted. However, life is chaotic, so we need to arm ourselves with strategies to stay fit. Here are my top suggestions for dragging yourself to the gym (or outside!).

Note: I have a math degree, and am only here to describe what works for me as well as for people I know closely. This is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult a physician before starting a new exercise plan.

1. Make a Goal

What kind of exercise do you like? Is there something on your bucket list, like finishing a triathlon? How many days a week (in the real world, people) do you see yourself making time for workouts? Can you exercise after work, or will family/work commitments mean you have to exercise at lunch or in the morning? Ask yourself these questions and make yourself a workout schedule to accomplish your goals. And remember, you can always add more later.

2. Find a Workout Buddy

Accountability can be the difference between working out or sitting on the couch and ordering pizza. Find a friend, and make a date to run or even just drive to the gym together. Chances are, you’re not comfortable standing someone up, which equals lots of workouts. If you’ve had a long week, grab dinner/drinks afterward, too.

3. Use an Online Fitness Tracker

While we’re on the topic of accountability, remember that you can use social media to motivate yourself. Try logging workouts in an online tool such as MapMyRun, then add some of your friends who use the same tool. I see social fitness tools as having a dual purpose–first, I feel guilty if I don’t log anything, and second, it helps me keep track of how much I’ve been running.

4. Runners–Sign Up for Races

I usually run a couple miles on the weeknights no problem, but when it comes to the longer runs on the weekends, sometimes I’m just not motivated. Signing up for races gives me a reason to get those miles in on the weekends. (Bonus: people within a reasonable drive of the Triangle should check out the Fat Ass run series. They do about 3-4 FREE races per year. Find information about the next one here.)

Here are a few of my favorite races:
City of Oaks
Richmond Marathon, Half, & 10k 
Charlottesville 10 Miler

Some of my upcoming races:
Medoc Meltdown
Richmond Half 
Tar Heel 10 Miler 

5. Get a Real Pair of Athletic Shoes

No matter what type of exercise suits you, you’re going to need real shoes. Consider going to a running store, where the salespeople can analyze your gait and suggest a pair of shoes that complements and/or corrects your stride. I roll my ankles in when I run (technical term: pronating), so I buy motion control shoes.

6. Find a Gym that Works for You

There are all kinds of gyms out there, and finding one that suits your needs is key. If you have children, consider a gym that has child care. Always aim for a gym that is close to your home or work. Nick and I belong to a Planet Fitness that is 1 mile from our home, which consequently eliminates the excuse of “its too far away.” Many gyms offer free passes for a week or two, so play the field and find your gym. Also, don’t be afraid to break up with your current gym if it just isn’t working for you.

7. Set Up Ways to Exercise at Home

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on gym equipment to be able to exercise at home. Youtube has tons of free yoga videos, and pinterest has numerous fitness pins. My favorites:

Bryan Jones Power Yoga
PopSugar’s Dumbbell Blast
Vinyasa Flow Yoga-Intermediate

8. Use your Crockpot

Sometimes, by the time I’ve worked a full day and gone to the gym, I’m exhausted and really freaking hungry. Consider prepping a crockpot dinner before you leave for work if you know you’ll be short on time and energy. Pinterest has tons of good ideas.

9. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Drink lots of water.  Dehydration makes me sluggish and more likely to blow off a workout.  If you work a desk job, buy yourself a plastic tumbler and get up and refill it every time it is empty.

10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Your body needs time to recover after workouts. Give yourself a day off when you need one! On that note, some weeks are just plain crazy and you may not get to the gym as much as you intended. It happens to all of us, but remember that a lifelong commitment to health and fitness is far more important than a few missed workouts.

What are your favorite tips for staying motivated to work out?

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