It’s a question I get asked a lot: “Karen, I’m just so busy – how can I fit exercise in around childcare/work/family?”
Now I hear you.
Sista’ I feel your pain.
I know that I absolutely need to exercise for a) my sanity; b) my energy levels; and c) my future health.
I also know that there’s something about exercise that drives me in business and teaches me important life and business skills.
Practically speaking, my best time for listening to business podcasts is either whilst running or on my way to the gym. But the more I learn the stories of women in business, the more I hear parallels of sports and fitness with work.
There is simply no escaping it. The women ‘killing it’ in the boardroom or with their online businesses are often killing it in the gym, in the sea or on the triathlon circuit. Something I alluded to in my recent article for The Guardian Women in Leadership about the connection between exercise and brain function.
And these women often have young families too.
So how are they doing it?
Well I’ve had something of an epiphany recently via my own self development – namely thinking to myself ‘how the **** can I do everything without completely unravelling every Friday’ (there’s only so long I can fund my therapist).
I have started differentiating exercise from activity in my life and treating both very differently.
Exercise is my sanctuary. My reset. My headspace recharge. There is considerable scientific evidence now to suggest that creative or exercise activities can ‘reset’ the amygdala in the brain. The emotional processing centre. It’s the part that gets befuddled when you have to do repetitive tasks or ‘hold your tongue’ a lot.
I have other headspace times, like a Wednesday bath with a glass of wine and Saturday night, home cooked fish curry with my husband.
Far from being nice things to do, they are essential to my headspace and therefore to my productivity and happiness. One simply can’t create when one is approaching burnout dahr-ling.
Activity on the other hand is just seeking opportunities to be active. Walking the school run rather than driving. Walking to the high street. Choosing a forest ramble over a coffee meet up. Going for a walk after family lunch rather than cogitating on the sofa.
I’m all for activity – it’s often the first thing I recommend to people trying to get more exercise into their busy lives. It is a great first step and will make you feel heaps better in the first instance but it’s easy to let slide because you fit it in around your life.
But I’d suggest just taking a few exercise activities in your week and making them your sanctuary.
Protect them like a lioness.
For me, there are only two absolutes. My Tuesday morning run and my weekly weight’s session. A swim and another weights/circuit session would be optimal but I have to be realistic. Right now my training goals are about keeping me relatively fit (for my energy levels), retaining my lean muscles mass as I approach the next decade where life begins and staying pain free.
If I can do this as a minimum AND squeeze more activity into my life, then I can manage the week without unravelling. Usually!
So how can YOU fit exercise into your busy life?
- Shift your exercise motivation. Why do you need to exercise? Think about mind, body, work and the ageing process.
- Find two exercise sanctuaries in your week. It could be a walk with a friend. It could be an exercise class that makes you feel awesome but make it work for you and your schedule.
- Squeeze as much activity as you can into the rest of your week.
- Be realistic about what you can achieve right now. If you are a working mum with a young family, I’d suggest now is not the time to go all out for your best marathon time ever. Something will suffer.
- Remember exercise gives you energy. Fact. The fitter you are the more mitochondria (battery/energy cells) your body produces.
Stick with us. We are working on more ways to get Fit School into your life without you needing to get to a class (although if you’d like a class you know where we are), including our online Pilates programme. Join our Facebook community group and let us know how we can help you.