Stay Fit Despite a Busy Schedule

Podcast Episode #012: Stay Fit Despite a Busy Schedule

If you're like most people, busyness is a major barrier preventing you from getting into a great fitness groove. When you're dealing with an erratic work (or life) schedule, it makes things that much harder. Here are some super-practical ways you can keep active despite your unpredictable schedule.

How to Stay Fit Despite a Busy Schedule [Full Text]

Today I have an excellent question from Ingrid:

"One of my challenges is an unpredictable schedule. I have an inability to block off time for exercise and a lack of planning for food. I often end up not having the right ingredients or the energy or the time to prepare a good meal. What do you recommend I do?"

A really good question, Ingrid. Having an unpredictable schedule definitely deters living a healthy lifestyle. In fact, people who don't have a set routine or a set schedule have been shown to have all kinds of negative health consequences. They suffer from inadequate sleep, they have weight issues, they are more likely to have improper digestion and they are less likely to exercise than people who have set routines or set schedules.

In fact, there has been research that has shown that 10% of people who live without a set routine, particularly those who work shift work end up with type 2 diabetes. Contrast that with people who do live with a set routine, only 7% of women and 9% of men end up with type 2 diabetes, so something being tied to that routine is definitely changing how healthy of a life people are able to live.

Another interesting stat shows that people who don't live with a set routine eat about 10% fewer fruits and vegetables than those who do have a set routine, so again, reinforcing that idea, having a set routine definitely makes it easier to live a healthy life style, but for some people it's just not possible. Usually it's a job that dictates an erratic schedule. There has to be something that you can do in order to improve your chances of having that healthy life.

How to Beat an Unpredictable Schedule

The first one I want to quickly touch on is meal planning and making positive food choices. If you look back at Episode 2 of the podcast we covered the idea of super foods and is it important to eat a huge variety of foods and I won't spoil the surprise, but go ahead and listen to that episode and you're going to learn about the importance or the effectiveness of food monotony.

Creating Health Go-To Meals

Developing some go-to meals that are healthy meals and using those when you don't have time to prepare something new or don't have time to go out and get ingredients that you might not have stocked in your kitchen already. Be sure to listen to Episode 2 of the podcast if you want help developing a healthy eating routine even if your schedule isn't that predictable.

What about lack of exercise? I preach all the time that creating an exercise routine is critical, but what if that is just not possible?

What You Can, When You Can

My first suggestion is let's reframe our idea of what exercise actually looks like. It doesn't have to be going to and it doesn't have to be exercising for 45 minutes or an hour or even more. I recently came across this concept called "wik-wik" and it's really a hashtag #wycwyc, and what it stands for is "what you can, when you can" and I love this idea.

Basically the principal is exactly like it sounds. Do as much exercise as you can, when you can do it. It doesn't have to be a lot, but it adds up cumulatively over time. It's all about taking advantage of the little chunks of time that you do have and making the best of those, getting some quality exercise done even if it's not a huge quantity of exercise.

In the show notes I'm going to link to a couple video workouts that I've created based on this #wycwyc concept. Even if you only have five or ten minutes you can get a really effective workout done.

Exercise doesn't have to be time consuming. What can you do right now that will move your body even for a few minutes?

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I know you're thinking, "How much exercise can you actually get done in just five minutes?" Research has shown over and over again that higher intensity interval training is more effective than long drawn out steady stayed exercise.

It's really important that when you go into this #wycwyc workout concept, think about that, how hard can you work for a very short period of time and then be okay with it. What you can, when you can.

This #wycwyc concept is hugely valuable for someone with an erratic schedule. Maybe today it's exercising first thing in the morning and maybe you'll do ten or fifteen or twenty minutes of exercise. Tomorrow that could be in the afternoon or the evening. It doesn't matter. It's what you can, when you can.

Know Your Exercise Options

Another think I really encourage you to think about is knowing your options. For people who operate on a set schedule it's easy to plug in a specific activity at a specific time of day. For example, on the way home from work you go to the gym and you know the gym is going to be open. You know there is a treadmill there and an elliptical machine and you know what you can do.

If you have an erratic schedule it's tougher to tie your activity to the schedules of other people or other facilities, so, say going to the gym maybe works great if you're within the gym hours when the gym is open. What happens if your time for exercise falls at one in the morning? Maybe you don't have time to go to the gym or maybe your gym is not 24 hours. What are your options?

Again, in the show notes I'm going to give a couple resources that are really helpful, that will allow you to have lots of options no matter what time of day or where you are. One of them is a resource of the 50 Best Home Workouts and they're all video based and they're all for free. You can find them online. Be sure to take a look at that.

There is something for everyone in that resource whether you're looking for resistance training or cardio or yoga or palates, core work, whatever it is, there's something there and by the nature of the beauty of the internet you can do these workouts whenever you like. Another great point about most of the resources in there is they're generally quick, quick so a lot of the workouts you can do in 20 minutes or less.

You don't have to go to the gym to be fit. Fitness comes from movement, and you can move your body any time you want.

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Another great resource that is actually included in that 50 Best Workouts resource is Do Yoga With Me and I really pump up the value of yoga. Yeah, it's not going to burn as many calories as some other types of exercise, but it's one that has a huge de-stressing component to it and if you've listened to any of my other podcast you'll know that we talk about losing weight. There is a prerequisite of de-stressing.

Be sure to check out Do Yoga With Me. They have all kinds of free workouts and regardless of whether you're a beginner at yoga or you're an advanced yogi, there is something there for everyone.

Finally, I'd like to plug my own workouts. I've created hundreds of workouts that you can do at home with absolutely no equipment. Again, if you're on an erratic schedule, but you can pull even 30 or 40 minutes out of your day, you can do a full length workout right from your living room.

Re-Framing How You View Exercise

Again, it's re-framing that idea of what exercise looks like. It' doesn't mean going to the gym. It doesn't have to mean playing a sport or going for a run. It can be something you can do at home on your schedule.

Using a personal example, I used to be horrible at stretching or doing yoga myself. I love doing resistance training. I love doing cardio, but when it came to the other I just never made time for it. I've re-framed or retrained to program that right into my day.

Everyday I allow myself to watch one TV show, one Netflix show, or maybe some sports highlights and the rule that I set for myself is while I'm doing that I'm going to be stretching or doing some sort of yoga routine. All it's taken is me practicing some yoga routines. I actually got them off Do Yoga With Me and now I know the routine. I know there's about ten different poses I'm going to do. I can do it within about thirty minutes and it's something that now happens on most days.

Again, it took a re-framing of what yoga looks like as opposed to adding that as another type of exercise that I need to do, I now look forward to it. It means that I get to watch TV and relax while I do something that is positive for my body.

Create an Exercise Checklist

The last thing I'd like to suggest to anyone who has a bit of an erratic schedule is to create a week-long exercise checklist.

This is somewhat different than creating an exercise schedule because just by the nature of having an erratic routine, having a schedule might not actually work that well for you, so having a checklist is looking at your week as a whole and deciding how much exercise am I going to accomplish in this week and then actually write out, so don't just do this in your head.

Create a week-long exercise checklist. Then do a little bit whenever you can fit it in.

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It's important we put on paper or put it on your computer, somewhere we're actually going to see this as a reminder. You're going to write out what are the events or the activities that I'm going to accomplish this week. Once you have that list that becomes your goal. I'm going to complete this checklist in the next seven days.

Now, it's up to you, even despite your erratic schedule, to find a little bit of time to start checking these items off your list each day. One day you might do one item, you might do two items. One day you might not have time to do any of the items.

Even if you consider that #wycwyc concept. I know some days it's just really tough to fit in any exercise and that's okay because the very next day you can come back to your checklist and maybe check one or two boxes off. Again, looking for that goal of completing your entire checklist in one week.

Don't Break the Chain

To go along with this concept of a weeklong checklist I want to tell a story about Jerry Seinfeld. This is a pretty famous story. He was back stage preparing for a show and had a young comic come up to him and the young comic said, "Jerry, I really respect you. I look up to you. Can you tell me what's the best piece of advice you can give a young up and comer like myself to be as successful as you?"

Jerry, right away, had a really great piece of advice. He says, "Don't break the chain."

"Don't break the chain" -Jerry Seinfeld. We can use this for exercise. Do just a little bit every single day.

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The young comic kind of looked at him and thought, "Don't break the chain. What's that?"

Jerry went on to explain that he takes a monthly calendar and he calls that his chain and every single day his goal is to write at least a joke or part of a joke, do some writing that can contribute to a future stand-up comic routine that he is going to perform at some point.

Every day that he writes something he X's off one day on the calendar. Again, even if it's only five minutes of writing, it's an X on the calendar. Next day, he does a little bit of writing, he gets an X on the calendar. His goal is to make this chain of X's as long as possible.

Think back to this idea of creating your weekly checklist. You can use that same powerful "Don't break the chain concept." Here's my goal to create this list of check box items and then here's my calendar. I did one today; I get an X. I did one tomorrow; I get an X. The next day another X and see how long this chain can start to build.

This really ties in all the concepts we talked about today because you can take a #wycwyc workout and put that on your list of to-do exercise and then on that really busy hectic day, hey, it's just a five minute piece of exercise there, check, I'm not breaking my chain. It's a really motivating way to keep going even if you don't have a set routine or a set schedule.

Your "10 in 4" Takeaway

Your 10 in 4 take away for today, yes, having a set routine or a set schedule is really great for overall health, but particularly for staying in a habit of exercising daily, but if you live by a little bit of an erratic schedule it doesn't mean that exercise has to fall apart.

The best way to get exercise done on a daily basis is to know your options, know that they don't have to take up a long time or require a trip to the gym, and then some sort of framework to keep track of your progress so there's a little bit of accountability. Even if it's self-induced accountability it will keep you on track over a week or over a month.

My challenge for you right now is to create a list of activities or exercise routines that you can do anytime anywhere. Again, they can be some of the examples that I'm going to give in the show notes, a #wycwyc workout or maybe it's going for a walk in your neighborhood and you have a walking path all laid out. Or, maybe it's near your work and you have a walking or jogging route that you can do from work, maybe at lunch or before work or after work. Whatever it is, list out between five and ten different options that you know you can do on a pretty regular basis regardless of what happens to your schedule.

Thanks for joining me today!

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