As a qualified personal trainer, it’s my job to get you excited about working out, give you the push they need, and talk about working out seriously. This also happens when writing about it too.
However, most people have jobs, children, and homes to take care of. Just because you decide you want to put some serious effort into your health and physique doesn’t suddenly mean you are going to abandon your kids at the side of the road, quit your job and live in the basement at your local gym.
So how does someone who is busy hit their fitness goals? By following a few simple rules.
Rule #1 – Workout to match your lifestyle
If you want to improve your overall health and achieve a great physique you need to sit down and figure out a workout plan you can stick to. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my way of telling you to cop-out because you’re busy, quite the opposite in fact. You will get more done at a better level if you know exactly what you have to work on and develop a plan that works with the availability you have.
Let’s face it if you’re a busy corporate executive working 60 hours a week with a young family at home, telling yourself you’re going to hit the gym for three hours a night, seven days a week just isn’t going to work. You’ll start missing workouts, this will dampen your enthusiasm and you will lose motivation to continue.
The key to succeeding is figuring out what time you have and how you can use that most efficiently to get the best results. Maybe you can get a quick 30-minute HIIT cardio workout in your office 3 days a week (possibly before starting work or during your lunch hour) and a full-body 90-minute strength training session one day at the weekend. This might mean preparing yourself by having a set of sweatpants at your office or even a kettlebell for a good workout to make the most out of those 30 minutes.
Rule #2 – Sweat the small stuff
Meant both metaphorically and literally, the small things you don’t think could make a difference, do. We’ve heard it many times before and that’s because when you strip away the hype in the fitness industry, the fundamentals have and always will be the same. Taking the stairs rather than the elevator every day does add up. Walking to the gym rather than driving (if you can) makes a difference. Making a meal swap or having a little less every meal adds up. Try it for yourself and see how big a difference the small stuff makes.
Rule #3 – You’re not an athlete (which can be hard to remember)
I’m far from old, but I remember being 18 and having all the energy in the world. I could go out on a heavy nights drinking, recover and go to the gym or even go for a run the next day. No problem. Oh, how things have changed! As we age, the body’s ability to recover and perform deteriorates, and from the age of about 26 (approx.) you’re fighting a losing battle. To begin with, you can do more than you will lose so you will continue to improve, but over time, the deterioration of your body will catch up until you’re fighting to stay normal.
This may sound a little demoralising, but it is an important point. I’ve worked with people who forget their age, or that it’s been a decade since they did any real exercise, and while their belief in what they can do hasn’t changed, their body certainly has, and it often comes as a shock to people when they realise how far backward they’ve gone. The key takeaway from this is to start by assessing where your fitness stands. You can do a few simple fitness tests at home or in the gym to gauge your level. This will serve two benefits. The first is to determine the correct intensities to train at for maximum results and the second is to stay healthy and avoid injury from doing too much too soon.
Rule #4 – Progress is different for everyone, but stick at it and you will progress
For many who go to the gym, progress is either measured by how much extra you can lift, or how much weight you’ve lost. These are two common forms of assessing one’s progress, but they don’t have to be the only ways to see how far you have come. When training for anything, you have the option of focusing on something shorter-term than weight loss or strength gain which can take a few weeks at a minimum to materialise into visible results.
If you have a sedentary job, wearing a pedometer and beating your previous day’s step count would be a good way of measuring progress, as would noticing how much fitter you feel when walking upstairs or performing daily tasks. The second is far less tangible, but the point is to recognise when you have made a visible improvement. If you run to lose weight, for example, it would be better to focus on the time reduction for a certain distance than weight loss because the reductions will happen slightly quicker than the weight loss and this could help keep you motivated.
The point is to find something that symbolises a positive step forward in improving your fitness, recognise it and give yourself a pat on the back. It’s easy to react with some negativity if you don’t feel the progress you’ve made compares well to others, but all change is relative and shouldn’t be knocked.
Whatever your goal is, if you are realistic in ensuring your workouts fit around your lifestyle, you keep going and have patience knowing they may take slightly longer to achieve, you can achieve them, regardless of your lifestyle.