Blog Image How to Find the Time to Workout

November 23, 2021 by Megan Dahlman

How to Find the Time to Workout

Megan Dahlman Strong Mommas Podcast

Why is it so hard to squeeze in a workout? 

For some reason that phrase bugs me. "Just squeeze in a workout today." As if it makes complete sense to do a workout on the way to the grocery store or in between errands. Who does that?! You can maybe squeeze in a walk while you're at the park or some squats while you're carrying the baby...but a whole workout? 

​While I'm a huge proponent of workouts that are highly efficient and don't require you to spend an hour and a half at the gym, you can't ignore the fact that workouts are typically an ordeal...both practically and mentally.

  1. For starters, doing a workout is a time commitment on multiple levels. While you're working out, you can't simultaneously be doing other things, like responding to emails or doing dishes or folding the laundry. Working out is a separate task altogether that requires all of your focus. And often, if it’s a more involved workout, you're going to need a shower afterward. And then on top of that, if you workout at a gym, you need to factor in travel time.

Also, if you're a mom that prefers to workout at home, we all know that it can become a huge ordeal with the kids. What should be a twenty minute workout can quickly become a full hour or more when you’re constantly interrupted. 

  1. I want to acknowledge that a simple workout can quickly become a big mental ordeal, especially if you're just beginning. There's the anticipation, the fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar, the lack of experience for how all the logistics of a new workout fit together. It can take a lot of mental energy to get yourself motivated to even start.  

It's no wonder that many moms find it easier to go for a run as their primary form of exercise. Everybody knows how to run, and all you have to do is lace up your shoes and head out the door. Minimal mental energy. And the same goes for strolling your life away on an elliptical machine at the gym. You don't have to think at all, you just do what the machine does. 

But we talked about this just a couple weeks ago on Ep. 124. If you want to spend your exercise time doing something that actually moves the needle and helps you experience true results with your body, cardio is not the answer. 

So, a real deal workout? The kind that makes a big difference for your body? Yeah, you can't just "squeeze" that in, in between running errands. ​You have to make time for it. 

Or can you? 

Non-Negotiable. 

Before we go any further, I want to talk about your priorities. Let's call your priorities “non-negotiables”—pieces of your daily life that are required for you to feel like you’re functioning well.

Your non-negotiable priorities might be something that you desire to do today (like lounging in the evening watching Netflix with your family) or something that you know you have to do (like brushing your teeth). 

Often, non-negotiables can fall in both categories... you might desire or want to do it, and you might also know that you have to do it. For me, brushing my teeth or taking a shower are usually both kinds of non-negotiables. 

And sometimes, working out is like that. Sometimes I desire to do it and I know I have to do it. That’s when the magic happens, when your habit is both desirable and necessary. 

But more often than not, working is not desirable and you don’t feel like you have the time for it. So this is where it really becomes a struggle. 

Now, when you have a habit that is non-negotiable to you, you will put your foot down and decide that it’s going to happen whether you desire to do it or not, and whether you have the perfect amount of time to do it or not. You will find a way to make it happen. 

So let me ask you: Is exercise on your non-negotiable list? Is working out important to you and are the effects of regular exercise valuable enough to you for it to make the cut? It should be.  

Your body requires regular, consistent exercise to operate best, to stay resistant to illness and injury, and to provide energy for all the other tasks you’re being called upon to do. It’s a must-do. 

There should be no room for negotiation.

So listen… If you really struggle with prioritizing your exercise, then I want to challenge you to sit down and make a list of all the reasons why it’s important to do. And make that list as long as you can, and put it somewhere that you can physically see it. 

When exercising finally makes the cut and becomes non-negotiable for you, the task then simply becomes fitting it into your schedule. 

Scheduling. 

Place your workouts into your schedule at a time that is the least affected by other variables. What part of your day is the most predictable? You should know exactly what will or will not happen at that time of day.

For some of you this may be later in the evening. The kids are in bed, dinner is over and nothing ever happens between 8:00 and 9:00.

For others, your most predictable time could be early afternoon. You’re always home to make sure your kids have their naps, so this is your best opportunity.

And for many of you, the early morning is the only sacred time that is unaffected by busyness. The rest of your day, from the moment the kids wake up until you crash on the couch late at night, is packed full. And you simply can't muster up the energy to do a good quality workout late at night. So, early morning is your best bet for a consistent workout, completely void of other commitments. 

 

The evolution of my 5:30 am workout...

For years, my own workouts happened when I had a free hour here or there. Back in the days before kids when I was doing eight or more training sessions per day, if I had a chunk of time available I would bust out a workout.

But then we had kids and I found myself home more, so my workouts happened during morning or afternoon naptimes. My workout time was never set in stone, but they always happened because they were non-negotiable.

However, the problem with my time-free-wheeling was that I never found a groove. Yes, I followed a steady, well-designed workout plan, but my body was all over the place with the different workout times. One day I would feel fresh and energetic, but the next day I would feel blah.

I was able to identify that whenever I worked out after lunch I had zero energy and motivation. Once I recognized this problem I decided to always workout mid-morning, forgetting the afternoon or evening workouts altogether. 

But two problems arose: 

  1. My kids were awake and with me, so in order to keep them off of my body for two minutes I had to plug them into the cartoons, practically intravenously. They were watching a lot of cartoons. 
  2. My work and activity schedule sometimes changed, so this mid-morning workout became unpredictable. Sometimes it happened and sometimes it didn’t. 

Even though mid-morning was my favorite time to workout, in reality it wasn't working well, for me or the kids. I often found myself frustrated or skipping it altogether. 

There had to be a better way. 

The collision of my selfishness and my selflessness.  This probably sounds out of character for me to even suggest this, but you might need to be selfish a little bit. Hear me out. 

For me, I brought my workouts up the priority status where they were non-negotiable. I could no longer argue or negotiate or come up with excuses...they were going to get done. But I needed to find a chunk of time that the kids wouldn’t bother me and any other plans would never affect it.  I prefer to get in and get out without being bothered or interrupted. In order for me to consistently train in an uninterrupted environment I had to be a bit selfish with my time. 

But, I also needed to be selfless and lay aside momentary comfort, because the only time I came up with that would consistently work was 5:30 in the morning! 

Ouch.

It’s dark and cold, and the bed is so very warm and comfortable. Committing to workouts this early in the morning was not going to be easy, but I knew it was my only choice.

It was going to require some sacrifice. 

Thus, the 5:30 am workout was birthed. And believe it or not, I have come to absolutely love it. Not everyday, but most days. The house is still and peaceful. I see the sunrise every morning (well, not every morning because I live in the PNW after all, not Hawaii). And by 6:30 every day, my workout is in the bag and I can move on with the rest of my day.

This feels so good.

(The rest of my house wakes up at 7:00 am, so wrapping up my working at 6:30 is imperative. I value that half hour to sit in the stillness of the house with my coffee, my Bible, and a heart that's anticipating the day ahead.)  

 

Decide how much time you realistically have

So, let’s circle back to some things I mentioned in the beginning, how it feels ridiculous to try and squeeze in a workout in between running errands or while you’re cooking dinner… 

  1. We think this way because we assume that a good workout = a 45/60-minute session that’s going to be a whole ordeal with showers and everything
    1. What you need to know is that it’s far better for your body to be consistent with quick, 10 minute workouts than sporadic with 60 min workouts. And yes, you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve in such a short amount of time. 
  2. We also think we can’t squeeze it in because we’re unfamiliar with it and it’s going to be mentally hard and you’re going to feel dumb and have to learn a bunch of new things…
    1. Well, yes… any time you do something new there’s going to be a learning curve and you might be nervous the first time. 
    2. But if you choose to do a plan with someone that you trust, and you just do it that first time, you’ll rip the band-aid off and realize it’s far less of an ordeal than you made it out to be. 

 

Consistency is Fitness' Best Friend

The truth is that if you want to be healthy, strong and fit, you must be consistent with your exercise, whether that's consistently doing three 10-minute workouts a week or five 45-minute workouts. But, you can't play the game of three workouts this week and one workout next. You just won't get anywhere and see any real results.

The big takeaway then is this: If you want to consistently find the time to workout, you need to: 

  1. Start by making sure that exercising is non-negotiable. Treat it as a life requirement, like showering, eating, or sleeping...therefore you must accommodate it regularly. 
  2. Look at your schedule over the course of the week and determine the days and the times of day that you can control the most. Be honest about this assessment. It might not be 5 am, but it might be. 
  3. See if you need to be a little more selfish with your time, or maybe even a little more selfless...sacrificing certain comforts that are preventing you from being consistent
  4. Recognize how much time you realistically have to commit to and adjust your expectations. Remind yourself that it’s totally ok to start with just 10 minute chunks, especially if that’s consistent, and see where it goes. 

 

Now, I want to hear from you… 

How do you feel...both mentally and physically...when you consistently show up and get your workouts? And also, do you think you need to be a little more selfish or selfless with your time to make it happen? 

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