To all my clients and friends who want to get in shape but can never find the time, I’m going to call you out right now. I’m talking to myself here, too.
This is not about guilt or feeling bad about yourself. It's about moving forward.
The time will never be just right. There will always be a party or a birthday or a work deadline or a mother visiting or a sick child. Life is never static and your schedule will not suddenly stand still for a magic hour for you to get your run in. If you truly want to exercise, you will make time.
You brush your teeth every day, right? Here’s the thing: exercise is so vital to our health and quality of life that we need to think of it like basic hygiene. Your goals for exercise don’t matter here, though it helps to have a reason that resonates with you. I’m not telling you that you need to lose lots of weight or become a crazy muscle machine or run a marathon. All of us need regular exercise, preferably on a daily basis, whether we’re doing it to look our best, feel our best, perform our best or just to be able to keep living and functioning. Your goals will determine the time you spend being active – even a little bit will improve general and mental health and help ease problems like diabetes and high blood pressure and reduce the risk of a variety of cancers.
There are lots of resources out there to help you find some exercise you don’t hate, to connect with others to make it more fun, to motivate yourself by tracking and to develop step by step plans for specific goals that ignite some spark of passion in you. That’s not what this entry is about.
The bottom line is this: unless your excuse not to exercise on a given day is something that would prevent you from brushing your teeth or showering if you needed one, do it anyway. I don’t care if it’s 5 minutes of stretching or 20 minutes of strength training or a half hour on the treadmill – whatever scheduling snafu has messed up your plans, go to plan B and do it anyway. I don’t care if you’re not in the right headspace or don’t feel like it – the only way you’re ever going to start feeling like it is if it’s habit and you’ve done it enough times that it starts to feel good (which will happen), so do it anyway. I do care if you’re injured, but if your ankle’s sprained you can always get in the pool or on a bike or at the very least do some stretching, so come up with an alternative and do –something- anyway. I do care if you have an exercise addiction or eating disorder and need to tone it down, but that’s not most of us. Most of us need to stop talking ourselves out of being active and start talking ourselves into it.
How long have you been “trying” to get it together and develop a regular exercise habit? How much of that trying has entailed waiting for the “perfect time”, waiting to “feel better”, waiting to have “enough energy”, waiting until you have “more time”, waiting until the house is clean or you can afford a gym membership or your kids are old enough to entertain themselves or your back stops hurting or your divorce is final? How much of your life do you want to waste with “trying” when you can and should be “doing”?
Anything can be worked around if we really want to do it. Ask any athlete who’s lost a limb and kept doing their sport. There are a million stories out there of people who rose above every challenge to come out better, stronger, happier people who have achieved amazing things. Chances are, in comparison to some of those stories, your challenges are not so very large after all. So figure out what your goals really are, stop trying to be anyone you’re really not (like a marathoner if you really just hate running and would rather go golfing), and ditch the excuses. You’re smart. You’re resourceful. There is someone in your life who cares enough to help you if you need it, and if not, you can pay or barter for someone to care. You’ve gotten this far in life and even if you feel like a kicked dog right now, you can take control of your body and your health, and it doesn’t have to be as big a bloody deal as most people make it. In the time you’ve spent listing the reasons why you can’t exercise, you probably could have taken a walk around the block.
So take the initiative. Stop fighting so hard against yourself. Take a deep breath and decide today, and every day, to accept all the challenges and excuses and inconveniences and feelings, figure out what you CAN do, and despite all the reasons you might not, do it anyway!