Fitness is an important part of my life, not only for my physical health, but also for mental clarity. But with a busy schedule, going to the gym may not always seem like a priority. Here is how I stay healthy, and fit everything in without sacrificing sleep.
1) Make it a priority.
There is no doubt that our schedules get busier every year. Between time spent at work and time spent with family, there seems to be little time for me-time. But just as work and family are priorities, your health should be a priority, and a large part of that depends on staying fit. Don’t want to live out your days down the road in a nursing home, or be too frail to run around with your grandchildren? Staying fit can help prevent that.
2) Change it up.
My routine isn’t very routine. I make sure to balance strength exercises with endurance training, and always stretch after my muscles are warm. And I don’t mean touch my toes for ten counts. I mean splits, back bends, and calf stretches against the wall for thirty minutes. Short muscles will make me tight. Cross-training is also important. I regularly run, bike, and do ballet, but I also play tennis, take aerial classes, ballroom dance, and practice Pilates to make sure that I’m using different muscles in different ways and keeping my body alert.
3) Get enough rest.
Sleeping enough at night and allowing your body rest days are just as important as regularly working out. Your body needs time off to prevent injury. Ever go to the gym having only four hours of sleep and with already fatigues muscles? Better make sure your spotter is on his toes. My brother once went to the gym so exhausted that he fell asleep between sets of sit-ups. Your body will tell you what it needs. Listen and oblige.
4) Eat right.
Your body will also tell you what you need nutrition-wise. If you aren’t eating enough carbs, you will feel it. But it will take some time to understand this second type of body language. Only after you start eating right will your body recognize what it’s missing or getting too much of (and I don’t just mean cutting down on the brownies—I mean really knowing how many fruits, vegetables, carbs, fats, proteins, etc. you are consuming, and adjusting it for what you actually need). That doesn’t mean you can never have a brownie, or that you always need to measure your vegetables. Once you adjust to what’s right, any other way will feel unnatural.
5) Have a workout corner.
Do you roll out your muscles while watching TV, but only if the roller is right there? Maybe you always do your ankle exercises with the TheraBand, as long as it’s within reach. But you put your five-pound dumbbells away last spring and haven’t used them since. It’s certainly unsightly to have a pile of exercise equipment anywhere in the house that’s not a gym, but if you need to roll your muscles before bed and will only do it if the roller is right there, there is a solution. Make yourself a little workout corner in whatever room is most practical. If you roll out in front of the TV, put it in the TV room. The equipment will be small—a foam roller, dumbbells, TheraBand, etc. so it won’t be too cumbersome. Place everything in the same corner of the room, and put it back when you are finished using it. Remember when you took toys out of the toy chest in your parents’ living room as a child? Same idea. Everything will be where you need it when you need it, without being unsightly.
6) Don’t buy into the myths.
Carefully consider the beliefs you have about fitness and nutrition. Where do they come from? How do you know they are accurate? If you want to be the master of your own fitness and health, there will be some research to do. Think about things that you might not even think you need to consider. Are you doing push-ups correctly? How did you learn? If you aren’t doing them properly, you aren’t doing much good. Think you can’t be a runner because you’re a ballet dancer? Find out where that idea came from, why, and whether it’s true for your body before you write off running.
It may seem impossible, but getting and staying healthy doesn’t require a lot. Even if you start by working out one day per week, it’s better than doing absolutely nothing. Start small and build up. Soon it will become a regular part of your schedule—and you might find that even though you’re doing more in your day, you’re more focused and productive at work and have more energy for your family.