I’ll be the first to admit that living fit is difficult when you’re smack dab in the middle of a busy life. You already know how busy I am. I have five kids still at home, a full-time job, church activities, grad school, book writing, blah, blah, blah. All the day’s minutes? They are used up. Your story may be different than mine, but I’m sure you feel no less busy than I do. So how do we find time to make things like working out and eating healthy food possible?
I’ve learned by trial and error how to prioritize fitness in a way that doesn’t make me feel guilty or selfish, and so it doesn’t get pushed aside in the hustle. By making it work, I feel healthy and invigorated, which translates into more productivity and better moods throughout the day. Everybody wins!
Here are 10 tips for living fit in your busy life.
10. Food prep: I have friends who pack up five days worth of salads in individual Mason jars so they can grab one each morning and have their lunch already ready to go. Just be sure to put the wet veggies on the bottom and anything you want to stay crunchy on the top. You could do the same thing with soup or leftovers if you plan ahead and make enough. I know someone else who makes 50 to 60 chicken breasts on a Sunday afternoon so she has her lean protein ready to go at all times, leaving her no room for excuses.
You can also spend an hour or two and put all of your smoothie ingredients for the week or even the month in individual freezer bags and freeze them. Then, when it’s time to blend up your breakfast, just grab ONE little bag, pour the contents into the blender, add water or milk, and blend. You’re left holding one empty freezer bag (which you can reuse) rather than piles of chopping remains and a ton of items to put away. Literally five minutes!
9. Count your steps: Living fit is made even easier by the step-tracking devices that are all the rage, Fitbit being the most popular at this time. They’re great because they give you an accurate measurement of how much you’re moving in a day. You may be surprised to learn that you are more sedentary than you think. When I first started tracking my steps, I was shocked to see that I had a long way to go to reach the recommended 10k-step daily goal. It motivated me to go for a walk after dinner or do some laundry rather than watch television so I could get the reward of reaching my goal. Many of them also track stairs you climb, heart rate, and sleep quality.
8. Eat for fuel: I talked about my “inside-out change” in this post. That change has been evidenced to me most by my relationship with food. I’ve seen that when I eat for fuel with my mind set on performance gains in fitness, work, and even simple daily living, rather than for comfort or pleasure, it accomplishes three things. Not only does it take up less time in the day to achieve its purpose, but it also helps me make better choices and feel better all around.
[feel free to save and/or share the 10 Tips for Living Fit in a Busy Life graphic. Here it is in .pdf form if you prefer.]
7. Dictate: As I write this paragraph, I’m driving to the pool for my second early-morning swim of the week. The pool is 30 minutes from my house and happens to be right by my work, so it’s completely convenient, but that 30-minute drive to get there is a vacuum of time. So, I utilize the hands-free dictation option on my iPhone’s display to dictate a blog post, an email, or even a chapter of a book. When inspiration strikes, I can often do two or three things in a half an hour. Then, when I get wherever I’m going or settle in for the day, I can copy and paste what I’ve written, edit it, and be on my way.
6. Sleep well: For me, living fit means making sure I get to bed early enough that I am not dragging myself to early-morning workouts, or worse, skipping them completely. I get about six hours of sleep a night and, at this point in my life, it’s enough. Many experts would disagree, but it’s working for me. Sure, seven might be better, but it’s a fair balance to me, and that extra hour in the early mornings gives me more time for extended exercise sessions . You can figure out what works for you and make sure you’re giving your body the rest it needs.
5. Buddy up: A few years ago I watched my sister-in-law lose 160 pounds! I don’t get to see her but every few months, so the changes were astounding. I watched her Facebook for updates and inspiration about how she was living fit, and one thing I noticed was that she was always posting pictures of her workout buddies and group events they did together like muddy 5ks and Zumba…lots of Zumba. So, I prayed that God would send someone local who would share my vision and who would understand the journey I was on. I needed someone who would partner with me in some of the crazy things I wanted to do and push me farther than I thought I could go–but never ask me to do Zumba! So He did; He sent me Stacy, another busy, working mom who loves to push herself just as hard as I do.
Do you have someone who will hold you accountable without judgment? Do you have someone who will make you get yourself out of bed and hit the gym or the bike? Or the pool at 5:15 on an icy, snowy February morning? If someone comes to mind, consider making a real accountability agreement. Step out of your comfort zone and talk about what you need.
4. Hydrate: We all know how important water is to our health and even to our appearance, but did you know that it helps keep you energized? Dehydration is very taxing on the body and it makes you sluggish and weak. When you stay hydrated, your body can operate at optimum levels and your skin appreciates it, too. The recommendation is to drink somewhere between 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. So, a 140-pound woman would drink 70-140 ounces a day. A gallon is 128 ounces, so that would be a good place to start.
3. Eat right: It’s important to get a good balance of carbs, fat, and protein. I used to preach hard against all carbs and worked to keep myself under 20 grams a day (thank you Atkins diet). I did lose weight that way, but my metabolism was a wreck. Now I eat a good amount of good carbs (fruits–especially berries, veggies, and other low-glycemic carbs), but I try to keep them to early in the day and avoid carbs after 2 pm. I eat a good amount of fat, but try to keep it to things like olives, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and good butter. And protein–I eat a lot of protein throughout the day.
2. Lifestyle: Results are better and more likely to be permanent when you can make fitness a part of your lifestyle rather than a chore you have to find room for in your day. Build a fitness mindset into your daily functions. If you work at a desk, maybe you can find a way to do your work standing up rather than sitting all day. Another good option is to sit on an aerobic ball–this helps with core strength and posture. You can also do things like parking farther from the entrance to a store or taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Soon your body will crave movement and you’ll notice more and more ways you can work fitness into your lifestyle.
1. Prioritize: Living fit is not something that should ever make you feel guilt. It’s a priority–to you, to your family, and to God. Prioritizing your fitness is vital to your success. When I have a loose plan of when I’m probably going to exercise in a day, it often gets pushed to the end of the day or never happens. The only way I can ensure I get my workout in is to plan the night before for the next day and then wake up in the morning ready to go. If that means a 4:45 wake-up, and it often does, then so be it. And the only way I can ensure a full day of healthy eating is to plan ahead so I can have what I need ready to go. Figuring it out on the fly often results in a drive-up window or processed, sodium-laden garbage that’s not good for me or my family.
The trick to living fit is to look at the things that cause you stress, and figure out a way to duplicate or multiply your efforts so you don’t face the same conundrum every day. What is your biggest challenge? Maybe I can help.