We all know by now that maintaining an active lifestyle should be one of our top priorities in life. Only by taking care of ourselves do we stand a chance of being the kind of person we strive to be on the job, at home with our loved ones, and in our communities. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Work, in particular, can get in the way of working out—in fact, there is a big paradox going on, and it becomes more obvious the more challenging (and exciting!) a job gets: On one hand, we struggle to find time to work out; on the other, we can’t afford to not exercise because it is integral to sustained success.
My co-author and I sought to get to the heart of this paradox—and figure out how to beat it—when we wrote Winning Without Losing: 66 Strategies for Building a Wildly Successful Business While Living a Happy and Balanced Life. We interviewed 25 high-powered workers from around the world who somehow manage to exemplify healthy work-life balance. Based on these interviews, we've put together six tips for how to fit exercise into your daily routine—no matter how busy you are with work.
How to Stay Fit Despite a Demanding Job
1. Work Out Efficiently
Pick a workout form that you can do almost anywhere, whether you’re traveling or getting home from the office late. Ideally, this will be a form of exercise that doesn’t require much preparation (maybe save the wind surfing for the weekend) and that accomplishes significant physical gains in a short period of time (sorry, golfers). High-intensity interval training, Tabata training, bodyweight exercises, and running are all great choices.
2. Cater to Your Own Likes and Dislikes
By now you might be thinking, “I hate running!” (or Tabata, or what have you)—and that’s okay. We each need to be realistic and to know ourselves. One person’s running is another person’s yoga, weight training, or dance. Flexing your self-discipline muscles is often necessary when it comes to exercise, but make it easier on yourself by choosing a form of exercise that fits your lifestyle, personality, and taste. Not sure what you love to do? Don’t be afraid to experiment with different forms of exercise until you find what works best for you.
3. Use Competitions as Motivation
When it comes to being successful at work, collaboration is key. But when we’re trying to motivate ourselves to exercise on a regular basis (and with enough intensity for it to really matter), competition has its merits. Today, it’s possible to find a competition suitable to your skill level in almost any sport. Whether you’re elite, beginner, or somewhere in between, there’s something for all of us. Sign up, set a goal, and notice what it does to you—odds are good it might be the push you need to keep yourself in the game.
4. Make a Schedule and Commit to It
One of the most cited reasons to skip a workout goes something like this: “I am just too busy at work today; I can’t make my yoga class.” I call BS! If you unexpectedly had to pick up your child from school and had no back-up plan, how would you deal with the situation? Cancel an internal meeting? Take some work home with you? Do some hard prioritizing? The truth is that when we really need to, we get out of the office at the time that is necessary. Make a schedule (write it down if it helps!), stick to it, and remind yourself that working out is a priority worth keeping.
5. Track Your Activity Levels
“If you don’t measure it, it doesn’t exist”. It’s a slight exaggeration, yes, but this old saying really has some truth to it, especially when it comes to exercise. Make a note in your calendar every time you work out, and add up your workout sessions at the end of each week, month, and year so you can monitor your progress and identify areas for improvement. Measuring your activity levels (and ideally keeping notes on your progress) can help you to stay on track and realize when you’re slipping before you’ve completely lost the habit.
6. Choose Something Over Nothing
You don’t need an hour—or even 30 minutes—to get a complete, effective workout. And some exercises is virtually always better than none. Heck, even seven minutes can make a difference! We can always find a few free minutes in our day (yes, we can!). With an effective program, and done frequently enough, short and speedy workouts can do wonders to both the body and mind. Squeeze in fitness wherever you are and no matter how much time you have with bodyweight exercises or with the help of apps with pre-programmed short workouts—you can even do some exercises at your desk!
Before writing Winning Without Losing, my co-worker and I believed it was possible for even the busiest of us to keep in shape and prioritize health. Today, we know it is. The 25 role models we interviewed are an impressive bunch; they're building multi-million dollar businesses and have been doing so for years. However they have still found ways to lead a healthy lifestyle. Take a cue from them, commit to making exercise a priority in your life, and never settle for less than feeling strong and fit.
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