Make time for fitness with these proven tips.
Recently I was running a social 10k with a trail club and had an interesting conversation with a runner who was battling with the few extra kilos he was carrying along like an over-sized waistband. Still, he was trying like a champ and giving it everything to stay with the group.
He admitted that he was disciplined in other areas of his life but that his Achilles heel was neglecting his fitness and not eating healthily. His wife, with us on the run, was the polar opposite and prioritised her life around fitness.
It’s clear to see why people fall into the poor fitness trap. We all do, in different areas.
You probably gravitate towards the things that:
- are the most rewarding
- give you the greatest comfort / sense of familiarity
- are second nature / come easiest
So if you built a habit of regular training at school or varsity, that may have stayed with you, albeit in a new fitness direction. If you didn’t, well, it’s difficult to build that from the ground up, unless you have suitable motivators.
The list below isn’t from anyone else’s but it gives you an idea of nine areas (random and not in order of priority) I have identified in my life that I should be giving attention on a daily basis. Note the should. I know that I am not doing well in some and in addition to the ones that I am doing well in, am now focusing my gaze and willpower on them going forward!
Your life’s components
- Relaxation / entertainment
- Personal growth & travel
- Spiritual & inner connection
What is your personal weakness on this list?
Maybe there are more than one?
It doesn’t matter. Once you and I start working on them, we’re aware of them and can put in the effort to turn things around. What once was a chore, a weakness and a burden can now become a source of inspiration in our lives.
I’ve been inspired by these passages from Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich (a must-read if ever there was one).
On page 25:
Helen Keller became deaf, dumb and blind shortly after birth. Despite her greatest misfortune, she has written her name indelibly in the pages of the history of the great. Her entire life has served as evidence that no one ever is defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.
And on page 24:
You have been disappointed, you have undergone defeat during the Depression, you have felt the great heart within you crushed until it bled. Take courage, for these experiences have tempered the spiritual metal of which you are made – they are assets of incomparable value. Remember, too, that all who succeed in life get off to a bad start and pass through many heartbreaking struggles before they ‘arrive’. The turning point in the lives of those who succeed, usually comes at the moment of some crisis, through which they are introduced to their ‘other selves’.
If you’re battling with balancing your time and fitness, maybe you feel like your life is in crisis too. I thought about the paragraph above and my sub-conscious brought this to the surface: Sometimes you need to sink to the very bottom of the barrel so you know how big a barrel you really have.
I think I can help if you’re battling to exercise regularly. I feel that I’m an expert in this area. Why? Because I never go into negative credits when it comes to fitness, no matter how busy I get. That’s easy, you may be thinking, you’re in the fitness industry, of course you’ll stay fit.
Well, no, that’s not quite accurate. I’m office-bound many days, especially at deadline times. Days are long. They start early and end late.
Yet I know that exercise is my jet fuel. A session in the morning energises me and puts oxygen, ideas and inspiration in my veins. I always prioritise at least one session a day, to ensure I get this free, additive-free super-energy.
Here’s how you might structure your own daily regimen and keep at it until it becomes a habit
Mental. Do you really believe in the benefits of fitness, deep down in your heart? Maybe your first port of call should be to explore your own attitudes on the concept of being fit and motivated to be healthier. Not just for you. Think of your loved ones too. They deserve to have you fitter and healthier and in their lives longer. Truth: If you don’t really believe in something, there’s no way you’re going to find time and motivation to commit.
Timing. Decide what time of day you’re best at exercising. I prefer mornings so they get first priority and nothing else can interrupt it. I find afternoons and evenings are easily snatched away by other commitments. I also battle to sleep if I train too late. You might find you sleep better and maybe you hate early mornings! So that’s a no-brainer for you – set aside a fixed time every day when no-one can divert your energy and use it for exercise.
Venue. The easiest is a place close to where you live. If you have to drive 40km in bumper-to-bumper traffic to do a workout… you need to re-assess your logic in choosing this place. Home is where the heart is. To put heart into your training, you need to be training close to home. Whether it’s your flat or house or the hotel you’re staying in on a business trip, that is your base. Unless you’re in a war zone, it’s unlikely that where you live is unsuitable to train. So minimise the distance to your place of training and maximise your time actually training. Door to door is much better than relying on the Post Office! (Cheesy, but couldn’t resist that one…)
Duration. I was a keen club cyclist for 10 years. Please don’t hate me for that. Kidding! To be competitive as an age grouper, you need to put in a minimum of 12-15 hours a week. At peak times, you might approach 20 hours. I’m not suggesting that kind of commitment for healthy fitness at all. Half an hour a day, five to seven times a week is ample… provided you make every second count. And that brings me to the next point…
Intensity. Recently I was riding circuits on the Manning Road loop in Durban (it’s a great one, try it when you’re in town). I spotted two social cyclists parked off the road, having a good chin-wag with a walker. A 4km lap went by. Still there. Another lap. Still there. Another lap. They were still there, and for another two laps after! OK, maybe they thought they were training because they were in their cycling kit. Maybe they had done 100km in the dark earlier. Maybe they were riding to Kilimanjaro the next day. Maybe they were re-negotiating the proceeds of their billion Rand inheritances. But that morning chat didn’t count as a training session. Reason? Zero intensity. If you want to maximise the short amount of time you have, you need to increase the stresses on your body. That means you need to do shorter spurts at much higher speed than you thought possible. Push yourself!
A practical example
My current favourite session is a running one. It involves an undulating grassy park, a 100m open section that drags on a slight uphill and half an hour of my time. That’s the full time commitment. You can adapt this to whatever you’re currently doing. For cycling, you could do a fast circuit time trial or ride on a stationary bike or rollers and go for a warm-down run. For swimmers, you could combine a run to the pool, do sprints and run back.
How it’s structured
- I walk 300m out of my gate (stretch muscles, reduce chance of injury)
- Shuffle 200m (gentle warm-up), reach the park,
- Jog lightly for 4-5minutes (loosening joints and muscles) then
- Start doing some light strides on the uphill (preparing body for what comes next)
- I keep an eye on my heartrate and start picking it up from 120bpm to 140bpm once I reach the top
- I run back down slowly to recove
- When I get to the bottom, my heartrate is normally 120bpm again and I run up at 80-90% effort, picking up intensity with each run
- At the conclusion, I jog for a few minutes, then walk the final 300m home. Session over. Let the day begin!
I focus on:
- good foot placement (the ground is uneven in places, thanks to Durban’s notorious Berea Red soil)
- fast cadence (anything from 160 footstrikes per minute and higher)
- keeping my elbows relaxed at 90 degrees and not over-extending my elbows and hands backwards (swings energy backwards – not where you want to be going!)
- not over-striding, running on the front of my feet
- emphasis on a strong foot flex to power forward faster. Strong foot = fast runner
- breathing, breathing, breathing. Advanced tip: the exhale is more important than the inhale.
I’m working on improved proprioception (body awareness) by
- Closing my eyes when I run back down. I find this also relaxes me and brings my heart rate down much faster than if I just jog back
- Relaxing ankles! It’s vital if you want to run light and fast
I hope these tips inspire you and if even one of you is helped in one area, I have contributed!
It would be great to hear from you to learn your story of success as you master whatever area is currently digging into your heel and preventing you living the life you deserve to live. Remember, it’s all connected. Conquer your weakness and you become a giant.