We’ve all read articles telling us about the importance of exercise, and we all know we should probably be doing more to safeguard our bodies for later life, but what does that actually mean for busy people juggling family and work commitments? We’ve put together some realistic tips to help you find ways to fit a bit more movement into your life.
Find your reason to exercise
What is your ‘why’ for exercising? Are you doing it to feel good, to become stronger, more flexible, to train for a specific goal or for aesthetic reasons. It’s really easy to get swept along with exercise trends but if you aren’t sure why you are exercising in the first place you might find your enthusiasm begins to dwindle after a while.
Do you feel you need to do HIIT just because everyone else says how good it is for them, even though you dread the thought of doing it?
As I’ve got older I’ve come to accept there are forms of exercise that just aren’t for me. Running is definitely one of those things. The idea of running really does appeal, being outside in nature, feeling the wind through your hair as you clock up the miles, the opportunity to have some time to yourself, working up a sweat. However, I’m now at a stage in life where I can quite happily accept that I really don’t like running and probably only go running because it’s something I feel I ‘should’ be doing, rather than something I enjoy. It’s just not for me and I’m fine with that.
But whilst I don’t enjoy running, I do really enjoy walking, and I’ve found this is something I actually stick to. I walk for the school drop off and try to walk for as many local journeys as I can. I like being outside, that there is no need to change into special workout clothes and once I’ve been walking for a while I find I get into a comfortable, almost meditative, flow with the rhythm of my steps.
If you remove the ‘should’ from your mind, is there a form of exercise that you might actually enjoy doing, regardless of whether it’s trendy or it works for other people.
Set goals if you want to. Or don’t bother.
Working out to reach a certain goal can be a great way to motivate you to exercise. And if you have specific health and fitness targets you’re best advised to seek the advice of a professional who can set you up with a specific programme to follow to help you reach those targets.
However, our society these days is very much goal-oriented, and there’s always so much focus on ‘getting’ and ‘achieving’ and that just doesn’t work for everyone. What if you were to remove goals from fitness and focus instead on a more mindful approach and concentrate on how certain types of movement make you feel instead?
How can you fit exercise into your day?
A lot of people find that it’s much easier to fit movement into their day if they make it part of their commute. If you have an office-based job, is there a way you can walk or cycle to work (or even part of the way). Or how about a brisk walk at lunch time? You’ll probably find you are more effective in your working day if you are able to take a break from your desk regularly anyway.
If you work from home can you get up a little earlier and fit in something before you start work? Or perhaps 20 minutes of exercise after you’ve put the kids to bed? What about some simple bodyweight exercises or stretching while winding down in front of Netflix in the evening.
As a mum, my time is limited, and I find uninterrupted time is pretty much non-existent, so what works for me at the moment is to get my exercise done first thing in the morning before the rest of the house wakes up. Yes, this does mean I’ve had to re-jig my schedule so that I’m early to bed and early to rise, but making time to move is important to me, and having some time to myself everyday helps get my head in the right place (well, most of the time).
It takes a little time to form a new habit. The first two weeks of getting up early were a bit of struggle, but after a little while I began to get used to my new routine and it required a lot less mental energy to ease myself from bed each day. Yes, of course I would rather stay in bed, but I feel really great after my workout so it’s for me it’s worth it.
You really don’t need to have hours available, 10, 20, 30 mins sessions are a great start, even splitting your time might work well for your schedule eg: 1 couple of 10 min sessions twice a day. Do what you can, adapt day-to-day if you need to. Be kind to yourself and your precious body. Really, something is better than nothing.
Try something different
There are so many great alternatives to gyms and pounding the pavements. Here are some of our favourite kinder forms of exercise (these aren’t sponsored links, just accounts we think are doing great things!)
Carolina offers a more mindful approach to movement with gentle, guided flow-based pilates and yoga inspired routine. It’s certainly a refreshing alternative to reps and sets that feature so heavily in many fitness programmes.
GMB Fitness have a really refreshing approach which focuses much more on movement quality than purely fitness for fitness sake, promoting building a body for longevity, rather than aesthetics. If you’ve always dreamt of achieving a pull-up or push up then check out GMB for safe and achievable progressions.
Paola is a professional Pilates instructor, based in Milan. Paola’s workouts promote slow and thoughtful movement. Many of Paola’s routines shun rep ranges and sets, instead encouraging you to flow with your body’s own capabilities.