How to fit exercise into your hectic work schedule
Going for a jog before work could energise you, get endorphins flowing and set you up for a productive day. Image: mariyaermolaeva/Shutterstock

Here’s how to fit exercise into your hectic work schedule

4 Jan 2018

If the idea of squeezing another commitment into your packed schedule is dizzying, this guide could help you achieve your fitness goals while still leaving time for work, rest and leisure.

I think everybody harbours exercise ambitions to varying degrees at certain points in their lives. It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions.

The Olympic Games are often a boon to local gyms as people catch a heady dose of athletic fever, inspired by the sporting stars on their screens.

However, dreams of incredible physical health and fitness, and the physique to match, can be quickly dashed when imagining trying to fit an exercise regimen into one’s work schedule.

Between lengthy commutes and the urge to check in with the office from home, trying to find time to exercise can seem impossible, so I’ve tried to outline some ways to make the pursuit of your dreams just that little bit easier.

Start small and be realistic

One of the most disastrous mistakes people make when trying to become fitter is immediately throwing themselves into a rigorous schedule, often because they are impatient to see results.

By doing that, you’re not giving yourself the opportunity to mentally, or even physically, adjust to exercise becoming a part of your life.

It’s advisable to take a good hard look at your schedule and see how much time (realistically) you can devote to this venture. Try to avoid being discouraged if you can’t budget that much time at all – even a little bit of exercise could improve your mental and physical health.

Once you’ve established the amount of spare time you have to work with, and from there figured out what your exercise goal is (say, 30 minutes of exercise three times a week), start slowly. For the first few weeks, have a goal that you’ll do one 30-minute session. Hitting that more doable target each week will help motivate you and slowly improve your fitness level. Increase to two sessions and, before you know it, exercise will be a part of your life.

Have fun

Finding the time to exercise is, in many ways, a question of motivation above all else. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, your exercise ambitions will slip away from you pretty quickly.

You don’t have to run just because you see other people running, nor do you necessarily have to lift weights. Those are both good forms of exercise, but the best one is the one you’ll actually do.

Dip your toe into different types of exercise, and don’t be afraid to abandon one method if you find it boring. If you’re going to bring yourself to a class after a long day of work or get up early to hit the gym before your day starts, you need to at least not dread going.

Get a friend involved

Developing a buddy system is a great commitment device; it provides a social dimension to your exercise, gives you someone to talk to about the ups and downs of trying to get fit, and offers you a potential lifeline if you find your motivation flagging at times.

You and a friend could both join a class, or you could ask a work friend to come to the gym at the same time you’re going. Making plans to go with someone else also makes it a lot harder to wriggle out of sticking to your plan.

Introduce exercise into your workday

Fitness need not be isolated to outside of working hours. Making some simple, low-impact changes to your day could improve your health as well.

If you take public transport to work, get off a stop or two earlier so that you’re walking for a part of your trip. Weather permitting, you could even try having a walking meeting.

Other small changes, such as opting for stairs over an elevator, could get your heart rate up in a way that you barely register, putting you well on your way to improving your physical health.

Join a gym near your workplace

Probably pretty self-evident, but it’s easier to fit exercise around your working day if your gym is near your place of work.

You may be one of the lucky ducks who has a gym in the office, which is even better. Having it a stone’s throw away will curb some of the slog associated with getting fit.

Signing up for a gym membership or a series of classes also serves as a handy commitment device for keeping yourself on track. The idea that you’ve already had to put some of your money into your plan could keep you from wavering, lest you throw away your hard-earned cash.

Take advantage of remote working

Remote working will be an integral part of the future of work. It could even be an integral part of working life now.

If you have the opportunity to work remotely from time to time, take it as an opportunity to squeeze in a workout. You can set up whatever equipment you need before you start your working day and put on your workout clothes in anticipation of a lunchtime run.

That way, it’s easy to fit in some exercise, have a quick shower and then eat your lunch afterwards while working away on your laptop from the comfort of your bed.

Be disciplined with your schedule

Using these aforementioned commitment devices is a great way to inspire increased discipline but, ultimately, if you’re not motivated to keep up your plans, your exercise regime could still dissipate quickly.

Treat your exercise engagements much like you would meetings. A slight shift in your psychology could help you conceptualise exercise as a necessity as opposed to a choice.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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