How to Fit In Fitness When You’re Already So Busy

Dana Lane Photography Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

I get it. You’re busy.  We’re all busy.  It seems our days are jam-packed from start to finish.  So much so that, while using circus-like juggling skills to navigate our days successfully, some of our loftier goals, particularly those involving exercise, tend to be the proverbial ball that gets dropped.   I read an interview with a fitness guru years ago and the gist of the story was, “Of course you have time to work out. The President of the United States works out regularly. Are you busier than the President of the United States?” And it’s tempting to want to reply to that person, “Yes. Yes, I am busier than the President.”  The President has people to help.  Truthfully, most women don’t HAVE people to help. They ARE the people who help.   I’m a working mother of three boys and whenever someone asks me if I work full-time or part-time, my answer is, “all the time.”  It feels true.

BUT snarky responses aside, fit people aren’t any less busy than anyone else.  Having lost and kept off nearly one-hundred pounds, when people tell me that they’re too busy to workout, my reply is simply, “You’re no busier than a fit person.” Fit people make themselves a priority and so they make time.  There’s a careful balance between thinking you’ll find the time to do something and actually making the time to do something.  Much of that difference is in the planning when and how you’ll workout, what foods you’ll shop for, prepare or order and, most importantly, work on developing habits and a lifestyle that you can live with.   You may find, like I did, that you have more time and energy to tackle the rest of what life throws in your path when you’ve taken the time for some self-care.

I may not be the President, but I do feel as though I run a small country.  It’s my country, where, as a married mother of three boys, I’m balancing my work as an attorney and fitness writer, caring for my elderly mother, and trying to not feel like every day is just a series of work, chores, sports practices and games on a rinse and repeat cycle.  My “why” for losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle came from an embarrassing body shaming experience but evolved into so much more.  I wanted the quality of my years to improve, I wanted to give myself the best chance to be around for my children and loved ones for a long time and I wanted to feel like an active participant in my own life.  While I can’t just tell you your “why,” I can share a bit about the “how.”

Here’s what a typical day looks like for me:

5:30 a.m. I wake up.  Historically, I was never a morning person, but I have learned to enjoy this quiet time in the morning before the rest of the house is up and about.  I grab a cran-water mixture that I made the night before and head downstairs.  Typically, I’ll toss in load of laundry, and head into the den to do a 30-45-minute workout.  I recommend a morning workout of some kind as it serves as an “insurance workout” so, when unforeseen events invariably occur on any given day, at least you got some fitness time under your belt.  I also refer to my morning workouts as, “my coffee before my coffee.” Now part of my daily routine, I never feel fully awake if I skip it.   My typical morning workout consists of a 10-minute yoga energizer, 10 minutes of abs/core, light warm up, and I’ll focus on one or two muscle groups with some weight training.  I love doing home workout DVDs (Bodies in Motion with Gilad, Cathe Friedrich and Jillian Michaels are a few of my favorites) as the workouts are laid out for you.   When I’m finished, I’ll toss clothes in the dryer, head up to make my youngest son’s lunch and wake up the boys.  I have the coffee maker set to go off in the morning and a typical breakfast for me is a Luna Bar and coffee, as it’s quick and easy.  If I do want something different for breakfast, it would be scrambled eggs and wilted spinach or some oatmeal.  It’s during this time, that I’ll multitask a bit (set out dinner dishes, empty the dishwasher, perhaps prep a little bit for dinner and put the laundry away.)

Dana Lane Photography
Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

7:00 a.m.  I’ll get boys off to school, check email and update my blog and social media pages.  I’ll take a few minutes to go over my “to do” list for the day and lately, I’ve been journaling some intentions and goals in a weekly journal on Mondays.  I’ve found that the simple act of writing down what I want to happen helps me create the steps towards making it happen.   Once I have an idea of what the day looks like, I’ll jump in the shower and get to work.  Some days I work from home, so this impacts how much time I spend at my desk as well as, quite honestly, if I’ll be staying in yoga pants for the day.

10:00 a.m.  I try to be mindful to move around a bit and will get up to walk around if I’ve been sitting at the computer too long.  I’ll make a mid-morning snack, which is typically a Burton Nutrition Get Fit Protein Shake or a low sugar Greek yogurt.

Photo Credits: Elia Photography
Hair & Makeup: Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

11:30 a.m.  I’ll try to get a jump on the lunch crowd and run a few errands, then I’ll eat my lunch closer to noon.  Lunch can vary, but I love a huge salad and will toss in some protein like tuna, cottage cheese or chicken.  Other times I may opt for oatmeal with protein powder nuts and fresh fruit or a healthy wrap sandwich with some turkey or chicken or homemade soup.

Photo Credit: Dana Lane Photography

2:30 p.m. pick up boys from school and return to work.

3:00 p.m.  I’ll have another small snack.  Lately it’s been almonds with a couple of dates or figs as I’ve been trying to be extra mindful of getting in some calcium rich foods.

5:00 p.m. I’ll start preparing dinner.  I aim for dinners to be a balance of lean proteins (chicken, fish, lean cuts of beef, turkey or even bison), veggies (broccoli, asparagus, zucchini are a few of my favorites), healthy fats (avocado and maybe some extra virgin olive oil for my salads) and a complex carb (sweet potato or brown rice).  I try to cook healthy meals, but I also balance that my sons have a different metabolism as teenage boys than I do, so I typically will skip the pasta and breads in favor of some brown rice or sweet potato for my own choices.

6:30 p.m.  After dinner is cleaned up, I’ll catch up with my favorite TV programs.  I made myself a rule that, unless it’s a family movie night or a big sporting event, I should be on a piece of cardio equipment to watch television.  I DVR my favorite shows and hop on the bike to get my cardio in and will aim for approximately 45 minutes.  When the weather is nicer I may go for a bike ride or, some nights, I like to scoot to the gym and do my cardio on the elliptical.  The timing on this may change based on if any of my sons have practices or lessons to get to or there’s a school event.

7:30 p.m.  Lately I’ve been having an orange or some fresh pineapple or strawberries.  I’ll also prep whatever I can during this time that will make the morning go more smoothly.  My friends tease me that my spoon is in my coffee cup next to the coffee maker!

The rest of the evening is for some family time, occasional date night with my husband or perhaps catching up with a friend.  If I’m going out to an event or meeting up with some girlfriends, I would skip the 7:30 p.m. snack and maybe splurge on a glass of FitVine Wine as it has lower calories and is lower in sugar.  Typically, I try not to eat after 8:00 p.m.

Credits: Four Three Collective
Hair & Makeup: Janeen Jones Hair and Makeup

10:00 p.m.  Go to bed.

While my schedule works for me, it’s not a one-size-fits-all world.  Find what works best for you and your lifestyle, but don’t be closed off to doing things differently.  I always fancied myself a night owl, but I now find that I get more done between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. than I will for the rest of the day.

Here’s a few pointers I learned along the way:

  • “Make your workouts like brushing your teeth.”  Don’t debate whether or not you will work out, but rather what you’ll do that day.  Not every day has to be a hard-core gym workout.  Maybe you walk the track while your children are at soccer practice, for example.  On the days when I don’t feel like doing anything, I tell myself I’ll only do five minutes.  I always do more and always feel better that I did something.
  • “Budget your time.”  I have learned to minimize time where I let negative people complain too long to me or when people try to get me to take on more than my fair share of the workload.  I used to feel compelled to respond to every text immediately or pick up the phone when I was in the middle of something.  You’ll save yourself a lot time if you avoid constantly redirecting yourself.  If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to say no to people, then perhaps learning to say “not right now” will be helpful.
  • “Realize that if you’re constantly running on empty and not taking care of yourself, you’re not truly there for anyone or anything else either.”  Make your self-care a priority and you’ll find yourself better equipped to run your own country!