One of the most difficult parts of fitness is finding the time and the motivation to stick with it. Setting aside time for exercise—or making “me time” in general—can be harder in practice than it is in theory. When you’re swamped with school, pressed to stay late at work, or juggling a busy home life, making time to spend on yourself can seem selfish, even greedy.
If you do find the time to get into the gym and make healthy food, sticking to a plan for the long haul can be an even bigger challenge. Sure, you can do it for a few months, but after those first few pounds go, how do you stay motivated?
The truth is, motivation and time management are two of the biggest fitness obstacles, and there’s no simple trick to getting over them. However, we do have all the tools you need to take fitness from an occasional endeavor to a lifestyle.
Here’s the breakdown:
Consider yourself a priority
Although time management, motivation, and consistency all fall under the same branch of fitness struggles, we’ll start with time management because it’s often the biggest hurdle of the three. Whether you’re busy being an office hero, an A+ student, or a supermom, you must also prioritize your health and recognize that you’re worth the investment.
Loving yourself and knowing that your health and fitness matters is an important part of the process. Even if you’re responsible for an entire business, your personal needs must have a place in your life.
Failing to plan means you’re planning to fail. Try taking some time on a Sunday to set your schedule. If you have a late meeting one day, plan for that. Maybe you can still fit in a short workout at lunch or a quick circuit session after work. If not, make that late-meeting day a rest day.
Just like you schedule meetings and soccer practice, it’s also important to pencil in your workouts. As powerlifter and strength coach Jennifer Blake mentions in Kellie Davis’s “Health and Fitness Tips for the Busy Mom,” “I literally have to schedule training on my calendar; otherwise, it will inevitably get pushed aside,” she says. “Between clients, helping develop and grow our gym membership, and growing my own training business, the day can slip by very quickly before I even think about hitting the gym for my own workout.”
Use that calendar app on your phone and fill out your schedule.
Make fitness a family affair
Another way to reduce unwanted feelings of guilt is to involve the whole family in fitness—whether that means going for a run with your dog or embarking on a post-dinner hike with the family. It’s something many fitness-focused families have implemented to keep them on track and united in healthy living.
While you may not have a home gym or a tightly-woven web of support, implementing small changes—like playing games outdoors instead of plopping down in front of the television or taking a walk after dinner walk—can make all the difference.
Making meals at home demonstrates the importance of healthy eating to your children. This will help you and your family realize that clean eating is a lifestyle choice, not a short-term sacrifice. Take it from BPI co-founder and vice president James Grage. “My wife and I don’t diet,” he says. “That’s just a horrible word that sets people up for failure and makes all of your lifelong changes sound like a short-term remedy. Instead, we just eat healthy and take care of ourselves.
Make the most of gym time
Many people think that to have the body of their dreams, they need to set up at least a 90-minute date with the iron. That’s just not true. The only bad workout is the one that’s missed. Even a simple 20-minute workout at your gym or some time spent with bands and dumbbells at home can do wonders.
Even if you have more than 20 minutes to train, it’s important that you make your gym time efficient. Don’t waste time on your phone or chatting with other people. When you walk into the gym, you should have a specific plan already set up. Do the work, and then get out. You’d be surprised at how much you can get done in just 20 minutes.
In order to make the most of your gym time, your workouts should be intense. Increase the intensity of your sweat session by keeping your rest periods short, using challenging weight, and developing a high-volume training style. Your heart should be elevated throughout your entire workout, and you should leave the gym feeling tired but good.
The same can be said about your cardio. Don’t waste time doing 60 minutes of treadmill walking. Get more work done using high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Just 20 minutes of 1:1 work/rest intervals will provide the fat-burning, muscle-building environment your body needs to make progress.
You can do your cardio on the bike, treadmill, or stairmill. But, you can also run or bike outside, do agility exercises, or even do bodyweight exercises. Experiment and have fun!
Time management issues are often tailed by motivation problems. It’s difficult to remain 100 percent focused and inspired every day, we know. There are things you can do, however, to decrease the chances that you let your lack of motivation win out.
The most important way to stay motivated is to remember that, you don’t have to suddenly go from one extreme to other. Tiny, manageable changes to your lifestyle will make small changes in your physique and your overall health. Each change you notice is a win. Over time, those little changes will add up to enormous progress.
Jesse Shand is a prime example of this. When he started on his weight-loss journey, he weighed 653 pounds and was hardly able to walk. After making tiny changes like eating seven chicken quesadillas instead of eight, and taking just a few extra steps, Jesse began to notice changes in his body. Now, Jesse weighs 297 pounds and can actually fit in his shower.
While your story might not be as dramatic, setting up smaller goals to reach a larger goal can help ease the feeling of being overwhelmed. Other times, a workout partner can be the best form of motivation and a great way to put things in perspective. “My friend started working out, and when I saw him that summer, I was shocked at the amount of progress he’d made,” says Joe Batic, who lost over 100 pounds. “He came to live with me, and that was enough to make me realize that I had to do something. If he could work 10 hours and then go to the gym and get his running in, I had no excuse.”
Whether you’ve been struggling for years or just recently changed your mindset, connecting with other people who have had remarkable transformations and being able to relate to their stories can provide that last push to keep on going.
When it comes to exercise and seeing results, people tend to be impatient. Too often, the urge to look for the next quick fix trumps the time and commitment it would take to see real results from a program. The truth is, you won’t get abs by going hard half of the time and binging on potato chips while you sit on the couch the other half.
It’s not realistic to try and be perfect 100 percent of the time. Instead, the goal should be to follow your program as well as you can most of the time. The longer you stick with something, the better you’ll become. Here are some tips to stay on track:
Really, making changes to your lifestyle you know you can continue is the best way to stay consistent to your goals. Don’t try for the zero-to-hero approach. Start by making small changes you know you can stick to, and then move forward from there.