Ah, the starting months of the year, that grand time when gyms, beaches and parks across the country are packed with New Years Resolutioner’s hell bent on dropping those 20lbs they’ve been wanting to drop all last year… Each year… Before this year… This will be that year… Resolutions to live a healthier life and look better naked are made in a drunken, self-loathing state at the early hours of the morning. As the drunken haze clears from celebrating the end of yesteryear; motivation levels are at an all time high. For some reason, everyone has plenty of time at the start of the year to exercise, the mental fortitude to eat right and the budget to join a gym. It seems once the end of that first two months comes around, everyone seems to have run out of their yearly quota of time and discipline. All those fresh faces at the gym fade away into the fold of everyday life, happily sinking back into bad habits and lethargy and we’re left with the regular see of faces, who have always been there; day in day out; throughout the year. Another pattern continues with the gym regulars however, gyms tend to be the busiest on Monday (and everyone seems to be working out their chest, although I have noticed chest day seems to be everyday, followed only by bicep day and ending with quarter squat day) and slowly gets quieter and quieter as the week goes on, by Thursday after work it’s a ghost town, finally ending the work week with the Friday peak that coincides with 100 set bicep curl day. The weekends, usually have a peak time around mid-morning. But for the rest of the weekend it feels like my own personal gym. If people have plenty of time on Monday, why don’t they make anytime on Friday, Saturday or Sunday?
No matter who you are, where you live, what you do for a crust, how much you earn or how many dollars you have in the bank; we all have 24 hours in a day. If busy world leaders like President Barack Obama, former Australian Liberal leader Tony Abbott, Russian president Vladimir Putin or British PM David Cameron can find time to exercise throughout the week, I’m sure you can too. Regardless of your political stance, I’m sure you can agree that these are all very busy men and the fact that they can schedule time out of their important schedules, highlights just how important exercise is to everybody.
A good way to start managing your time is to breakdown your day down into segments: take away 8 hours (minimum) for sleep and that leaves us with 16 waking hours to be productive. Now let’s assume an average work day of 9-5, so take away another 8 hours. That leaves us with 8 hours of waking, non-work time. Sound pretty depressing huh? Well, not really… It’s equivalent to the time spent at the office (and we all know how long those can days feel!). We basically have two ‘shifts’ a day: work and personal. Just like how we divide our work days to be productive, it’s how we prioritise our personal time that determines how productive we are. Prioritise and plan correctly and that 8 hours and can feel like a whole ‘nother day!
Here are some stats from a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ survey on how the average American spends their time in a day in 2011:
- 2.4 hours spent on household chores
- 5.5 hours spend on ‘leisure’ activities
- 2.7 hours spent watching TV
And what about exercising? Only 22% of men & 16% of women engaged in physical recreation, of those who did exercise, they spent an average of 1.4 hours per day doing so. Not so impressive is it? Not even a quarter of the American population spend their time exercising! Look at your own schedule and lifestyle, how much of your ‘personal shift’ is spent not only on exercise, but on being productive. Now I’m not talking about work productivity (you’ve already spent eight hours on that) I’m talking about improving yourself. I hardly call drinking at a bar, watching TV or surfing facebook for the latest inane gossip activities improving you as a person, albeit they are enjoyable and an essential part of your life for balance and relaxation. When was the last time you exercised, meditated, relaxed, went outdoors and soaked in nature, read a book, educated yourself, learned something new? Look at how productive you are at work and just think how much better you’d be as a person if you spent even half that level of effort on yourself.
But, this is a fitness blog, so I shall focus on that! I always hear people saying they have no time to go to the gym. Now before you make that statement, you have to ask yourself the question, ‘What am I doing with my time, that is keeping me from exercising?’ At the end of the day, it all comes down to priorities and excuses. If you don’t make it a priority, you’ll make an excuse, it’s that simple. If you’re one of those people that can’t see the importance of exercise or keeping healthy, you really need to take a step back and take a look at your quality of life as well as your future health, wellbeing and longevity. Exercise has so many health benefits, that it’s an almost universal prescription from many scientists, experts and doctors to improve a person’s health & wellbeing as well as for preventative measures. It may seem counter intuitive, but exercising actually provides you with more energy throughout the day, (it IS what us as humans evolved doing). Anything is better than nothing, so don’t ever think that there’s no point in doing a little exercise, every little bit helps.
Incidental exercise is a very important part of keeping active. Keeping a body moving is what separates the fat from the trim, a study out of Queen’s University shows that Incidental Physical Activity (IPA) can improve cardiovascular health in the absence of planned intense physical exercise. Another study from US researchers shows that thinner people with a supposed ‘fast’ metabolism are trim mainly because they fidget more than their heavier counterparts, (yes I did say fidgeting); any movement is going to burn calories, it all counts. Our bodies did not evolve over the millennia to sit infront a screen for over half the day, our bodies are what they are from all the movement we used to do merely to survive. Whenever I go to the mall, or anywhere else with a parking lot, I notice that everyone is circling looking for the best carspot as close to the entrance as possible, wasting not only gas, but time too, when there are plenty of spots that are a mere five minute walk away.
Then there’s the 24Hour Fitness with the escalator going to the entrance, I cannot see any legitimate reason for this, it clearly has no other purpose but for the lazy (unless someone out there can fill me in?). Seriously, standing on an escalator to then spend 15 minutes on a stair master? Get off the bus/train one stop earlier and walk that extra 10-15 minutes to your destination. When in New York City, I noticed that compared with LA or San Diego the average person was not as heavy set. All things being equal, I also noticed people walked a lot more in NYC, (yes I did conduct very simple observational study) more people took a reliable public transport system and subsequently spent more time walking and standing, There were also fewer people driving around, short 10 minute walks were nothing for New Yorkers (‘a couple of blocks down’ could mean anything from a one to 15 minute walk). California ranked 41 on the obesity scale, whereas New York ranked 37. Now not a huge difference (both are low on the list, Colorado had the lowest rates of obesity) but it can show the difference between walking and not. Walking those few extra steps really won’t remove a lot of time from your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevators, walk to the cafe for breakfast, or the mall when you don’t need to buy a lot.
Anyone with the proper motivation will make an hour a day free for themselves. Remember that hot date you cleared your schedule for? Or that work project you completed after hours? When the necessity arises, we shift things around to accomplish our goals, no matter what. And your health should always be at the top of that list. Do you really need to watch that TV show? Do you really need to go to that bar? Do you really need to play PS3? Do you really need to look at more internet memes? Are those activities really that important? Are they truly constructive to your development as a person? An hour a day is all it takes to get and stay healthy. If you can’t do an hour straight, simply break that into smaller achievable sessions. Breaking it up into two 30 minute sessions, may seem more manageable for some. Before work, lunch break, after work – there are plenty of opportunities to fit in a workout. You just have to properly motivate yourself, set in goals, put in place checks and balances to keep yourself accountable. And above all else, make sure it’s something that you enjoy and can stick to. Never worked out before? Don’t try and workout five days a week with 100% intensity, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Personally, I enjoy lifting weights, the heavier the better. But if you much prefer to play tennis, kick a footy, go for a swim, surf, run. Ditch whatever other activity is weighing you down and preventing you from becoming awesome.
Another popular excuse people tell themselves, is that ‘oh, it’s only good if I workout in the morning/midday/afternoon/evening. So there’s no point in me exercising now. There are very minimal differences between workout times that really only affect the elite. Exercise at any time is better than exercise at no time. The best time to workout is whenever you are able to. Whatever is most convenient and fits in with your schedule is the best time to exercise. So just get out there!
This simple ‘do what you can, when you can’ approach won’t apply to the 5% of us that don’t merely want to be average. If you really want to achieve greatness, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. No, these people won’t need any external motivation to make time for their workouts. For us, our workouts are our FIRST priority, the rest of our day falls down around the workout. Waking up early, giving up leisure time, giving up social life. It’s a choice that is intrinsically made, there is no doubt about it that exercise is first, everything else is secondary. Ideally, everyone should think like this, but you have to make this choice for yourself and nobody else. To stand out from the ordinary, you have to be willing to DO something out of the ordinary. It is really simple to be big & strong, but it isn’t easy. If it was easy to be strong, then nobody would be weak.
No matter who you are we all have the same amount of hours in a day, it’s how we use them that defines who we are. You will always find a way to do something or not do something, if the motivation, the desire, the urge is strong enough everything else will fall into place to allow you to accomplish whatever it is you set your mind to. Are your priorities improving your life or hindering your life?
Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness. – Earl of Derby