How to Make Time for Exercise
Finding time vs. making time
The concept of finding time to exercise as opposed to making time for exercise is an interesting one. Of course if you're looking for spare time in your day to work out, you're not going to find it. Every hour and minute is full of...something, even if it is late and you just need some time to relax. Making time is a much more powerful concept. No, it's not about adding more hours to the day.
Before I started to exercise regularly, I awoke at 6:30am each morning, ate breakfast, got ready, hopped in the car, went to work until 6pm, got home, helped finish up dinner, ate dinner, helped clean up, helped the kids with homework, did any other tasks that needed my attention...and crashed. I needed an hour or so of downtime before going to bed at 10 or 11pm and starting the whole cycle again the next day. There didn't seem to be any spare time during my day.
Does it feel like finding time to exercise each day is a burden, a constant struggle? You have to find time daily for family, daily tasks, work, friends, problems, personal time, fun...the list goes on and on. You know you should be exercising. Perhaps you even have a gym membership, bought with every intention of going on a regular basis. But somehow it's exercise that is dropping of the daily task list, and you feel guilty. Worse, you feel weak and unhealthy.
What I do now
So what do I do now? I wake up at 5am, take a pre-workout drink, have a few moments to meditate (pray/read scriptures), and head to the gym by 5:30am. I work out from 5:30am to 6:30am then follow my old routine from that point. So now you'll point out that I sacrificed sleep for exercise, and to a certain extent you're right. But whereas I used to go to bed at 11:00pm or 11:30pm, now I try to go to bed at 10:30pm, so waking up at 5:00am gives me about 6 1/2 hours of sleep which is on the low side, but works for me.
Am I saying you need to wake up at 5am to ensure that you exercise regularly? Certainly not. I just looked at my day, set a specific time for exercise, and oriented my schedule around it to make sure that it happened without fail. I knew that if I waited until after work or before bed, that things might come up and my work out might suffer or be missed. This way I can keep a somewhat normal routine and do my exercise each day without any interference. Look at your own schedule and find a time that works best for you.
Make the decision once
Once you've settled on a time, make sure it becomes part of your daily routine. The last thing you want to do is to ask yourself each day "Should I work out today?" or "When should I work out?" If you're making these decisions daily, you've already failed. You need to make these decisions once, set up a routine to make sure that they happen, and then your brain can disengage and the power of habit kicks in.
Make it routine
Let me add a little more detail to my routine to help you understand how planning can support your workout habit. I set my alarm for 4:50am. I give myself 10 minutes to wake up, but to be honest I've been doing this for so long that my body just wakes up automatically and I don't need the extra 10 minutes. I have my gym clothes all ready in the closet to throw on. I stick my phone in my gym shorts pocket. I make sure that my pre-workout drink shaker is ready in a specific spot and that I have the milk, the protein powder, the peanut butter and oatmeal flour all ready to go (yep, that's my pre-workout drink!). I then have my 20 minutes or so of personal meditation time before I grab the keys and drive 5 minutes to the gym. I keep my headphones in my car and grab them to listen to tunes on my phone while I work out. Once at the gym, I know what to do. Each day of the week I have a specific routine (Mon/Wed/Fri specific weight lifting routines, Tue/Thu/Sat cardio). I don't have to think about anything, everything just flows. Once I'm through with the workout, I come home and have my standard breakfast - 4 eggs (2 eggs, 2 egg whites), a piece of Dave's Killer Bread toasted with jam, and three pieces of turkey bacon.
If you're still reading this, you might be wondering why I went into so much detail. It's because I'm trying to emphasize the point that through simple planning and preparation, you make the whole process of going to the gym and working out BRAINLESS. I don't want to have to be stumbling around the house at 5am trying to grab everything I need to get out the door and then wonder what I'll be doing once I'm there. The less I have to think and the more I can leave to habit, the better. It works. You can keep that kind of routine up for years.
Sure, things like odd work schedules and vacations can interrupt a routine, but you can plan around those too. Just this last weekend my wife and I had a getaway to a neighboring city. I woke up Saturday morning knowing that I was going to work out, but I needed to figure out how. Clothes? Packed. I started to look for gyms in the area, but since it was a cardio day I just looked through the bodyweight circuits I had pinned to my Pinterest board and settled on one. And it was a very hard workout. I'm not trying to build myself up, I'm just relating the power of making a decision once and then putting the proper planning and preparation to make sure that it happens. Haha, my wife would say I need to have the same focus in other areas, and that is true.
That's really all there is to it! Four simple steps. Now go and do it.