I know that some of you are rolling your eyes right now at the title of this post. “I can barely get my work done, how in the world do I have time for the gym?”
I used to do the same thing when I would come across these types of posts. Recently, I changed both my schedule — and my thinking — to accommodate a new fitness program in my packed schedule.
I had to teach myself to stop thinking of fitness as a necessary evil – I needed to figure out a way to make it not just fun, but also something that was important. For me, the wakeup call came on vacation earlier this summer when I couldn’t hike a medium-hard trail without getting very winded. It was then that I realized that, while I have been very good at mental self-care, I have woefully neglected physical self-care. Self-care is something I place a high value on, so once I started thinking of fitness in those terms, I was able to work on fitting it into my schedule.
Before last August, I thought of fitness as something I “found” time for— and when your week looks like many of ours do, finding time is not easy. But once I started thinking of it as “making” time, I was able to put my training sessions, fitness classes, walks, and other gym visits on the calendar BEFORE I started adding things like office hours, staff meetings, etc. (teaching times were obviously fixed).
Now, I have added these types of appointments to my calendar before, but then canceled them if something else came up. To avoid doing so this time around, I turned to people in my life to help keep me accountable.
First, I signed up to work with a trainer at our campus gym (so she was actually the one to add the appointments to my calendar). I can’t skip a session with her without having to tell her – and let’s face it, it’s embarrassing to write someone and say that your reason for canceling is “I’m feeling lazy today,” so that takes care of those appointments (not to mention the financial incentive).
Next, I signed up for a lunchtime class and convinced several friends to do the same. Now that they are there because of me, I feel obligated to go.
Finally, I made walking or cardio dates with my husband – it gives us time together and serves once again as an accountability measure. By the time I finished adding these “appointments,” I had added 7 hours per week of fitness time to my weekly schedule. If you’d told me that’s what I was doing before I did it, I never would have believed it – but I started with this schedule on August 1 and have so far stuck to it (with some accommodations made for travel and coming down with a cold).
A big part of coming around to making time for exercise was shifting the way I thought about exercise, but I also have some practical tips to share:
As noted above, find a buddy. This has made a HUGE difference – one of my friends told me she’s not as motivated to attend the fitness class when I’m not there, so skipped when I was out of town. That definitely makes me want to go!
If you’re on a campus that has a gym, look into using it. I have colleagues who say they don’t want to use the campus gym because they don’t want to see students, which I think is a bit silly. I do see my students occasionally, but for the most part they are too busy paying attention to their own workout to bother noticing what I am doing. Even if they did, the convenience outweighs the negatives. I can sign up for a lunchtime class because I don’t have to worry about travel time. It’s a 30-minute class with a 2-minute walk. Add in a shower and I’m still only out of the office for a little over an hour, which is about how long I’d be gone if I went out to lunch. On class days, I eat in the office and stay a bit later to make up the time.
Find out what motivates you – personally, I love data and have found that a combination of apps and a Fitbit (or tracker of your choice) combine to motivate me to constantly improve (and get that badge!).
However, the number one thing that I needed to realize was that it’s okay to sometimes put myself first – to make time for exercise and respect that time I set aside to work out. I am getting better at saying “no, I can’t do that time. Can you suggest another?” and realizing that the world will not end if I do that. The benefits to my friends, family, and colleagues are a healthier, less cranky (because I’m feeling better) me. Seems like a good deal.
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Chemical, Paper and Biomedical Engineering: Assistant or Associate Professor in Biomedical/Bioengineering