What if you really are Too Busy to Exercise?


Sure I work physically this time of year all out for about two months, a bit less all out for the surrounding two more. This time of year we go from 8:40 till at least 6, often 8:30 pm… but roofing is dawn till dark with rain in the forecast. Most days that’s not enough to close the rings on my Apple Watch. It’s not 420 active calories or 30 minutes of activity most days. And then there are days like today where I drive around all day covering about 280 km picking up specialty products an hour away and providing support to a mooring crew on the water. Though at one point I did have to strip to my skivvies and try to dislodge a stuck float before high tide, not that it did any good. By the way is it weird that I pick my undies to double as swim suits? Either way it paid off twice this week.

Hot stuff? Me stripping a roof in July. This is not just a posed picture, I really did strip it and re-shingle it along side a crew.

We take rainy days off, race days and the odd RC day which involves a walk. Sometimes like this winter three or four hours of each evening are spoken for and about two hours during the day and that’s about it four days a week, but it’s winter. So what I’m getting at here is sometimes I have all the time in the world and sometimes I can legitimately say I have none. Over the last few years our summer construction business has really grown and we’ve also shrunk our everyday crew by a lot. It means we’re more efficient, there is less babysitting but we are a hell of a lot more hands on. So how do you prioritize fitness when you really are too busy? You have a few options and only a couple are easy. Chances are you’ll have to combine a few.

Option 1: The time has to come from somewhere

Usually that means sleep, for most people it’s easiest to do that in the morning. I’m not a person who is going to lean into earlier mornings and as an insomniac that can’t wind down to get to sleep, half marathon training last summer was a toughie. As soon as we hit home every night it was run time. No stopping until the run was done, my work day wasn’t done. I became a light and reflector connoisseur even when sunset was after 9. Long runs were okay this way until they got really long but the last 5 or 6 meant quitting a bit earlier on Saturdays.

There are other options too and depending on your lifestyle some could be an easy ask. Mornings and evenings even if its dark are an obvious option. But there are others, lunch breaks, weekends can take a chunk out of that training plan too. Could you work out an alternate vacation day arrangement with your boss like you come in an hour late or leave and hour early three days a week? If your social calendar is jammed pack with drinks and dinners could you double up on friends and/or skip some? Delete a game or hide a console? Shave time off your makeup routine or train with a club or your friend. If you hung out at work longer or a gym by your work would traffic be lighter and your commute shorter? Would delegating help? The thing is that time has to come from somewhere and it’s your job the find it.

Option 2: Set a goal, Like a big one

Never thought you could do a half or a triathlon, neither did I. But signing up for a plan  like these to get you to that goal and a race day and all the pieces seem to fall into place along the way a bit easier. Your plan is telling you what you should do and when. This can be especially helpful in establishing a exercise routine. After your big race is over you don’t have to maintain the schedule or the distances but you can keep aspects as a regular routine. Knowing you don’t want to embarrass yourself on the day is a big motivator.

Option 3: Don’t

Sometimes this is the only option for a day or a few weeks. No matter how fit and dedicated you are, the world will not stop spinning. If you got injured you’d be sitting out for a few weeks anyway, don’t beat yourself up if your schedule is super tight for a while. It won’t cost much to your training or fitness level especially if you are a regular exerciser with a good routine. Where this gets dangerous is when your few weeks or days off leads to giving up or a lack of motivation after your busy time is over.

So what does a period of not exercising due to you? Well not that much actually. In the study below 7 endurance athletes were studied at different points after stopping training. Lots of measures stopped declining before the end of the study which means that an off period of less than 84 days won’t knock you back this far. But at 84 days VO2 max declined by 16% but were all higher than untrained controls, heart stroke volumes were the same as untrained controls, skeletal muscle levels did not decline at all and were 50% above controls 84 days out and citrate synthase activity (an enzyme in muscles that provides energy) declined but stayed 50% above untrained controls. So basically if you take three months off your muscles will still be well conditioned, your lung capacity will decline but not to zero and you’ll have to work on reconditioning your heart. You’ll get back to it when you have more time in still really good shape.


Option 4: Sneak it in

This is different than scheduling it or making time for it. If you know you’ll be skipping your workouts for a month or so due to work commitments make changes elsewhere to try to compensate. This is tips like take the stairs and park in the farthest spot but can mean other things too. If you know you have a conference call coming take it on your cell and take a walk, replace your chair with a stability ball, do some simple balance poses in lines or become the office errand doer. If you’re a crazy person answer emails at the gym. I used to do push-ups while I waited in the dark room at the lab for film, walk or bike back and forth to the mechanic and skip the shuttle and walk or run for 10 or 15 minutes between experiments or meetings if I couldn’t fit in a proper workout. Look for opportunities, its better than nothing.

Option 5: Schedule it and other stuff

This is old advice, take it seriously, schedule exercise in your day planner and make it a priority. Well that might not be enough it your really are that busy. If this is the case schedule everything! This will make you more efficient over all and give you some exercise time back. Plus if you have a schedule for all that busy making stuff you’ll feel guilty when you’re not doing it and actually get it done. Plus as you write everything down you’ll start to see opportunities to do two things at once and giving you back your evening runs.

Option 6: Make it loads of fun

When you’re really busy you might just come home, change into your pj’s and try to finish the internet again when the day is done. Or is that just me? All you want to do is nothing at that point. You need to find a way to make some form of exercise more appealing then nothing even when you’re stressed, exhausted and sleep-deprived. This could mean changing up how you spend family time. For example if my mom wants to spend time with me when I’m busy it’s going to have to be a bike ride. You could switch veg time and family supper on Sunday afternoons for a hike and a picnic.

Or you might try something new that almost has to be fun at first. What about a recreational team, booty bootcamp or finally buying a new bike you’ll want to ride all the time. I’ve signed up for pole dancing lessons and ariel yoga when I need me time in my schedule. We’re really busy in the summer so I try to pick out something cool for my birthday in July that I want to rush off to at every opportunity, like my new paddle board. Stay tuned for an upcoming post.

RC trail run, a super fun 5 km slow hike.

It doesn’t have to be that fancy though. Richard gave me a bunch of cold weather running gear that was super cute for Christmas and that motivated me to get out there. You could ask a friend for a favour and get them to show up in the evenings offering a walk. Start a new garden, re-do a section of the lawn, take on a painting project or teaching you kids to swim. Find (and maybe schedule) some fun things you’ll really want to schedule or sneak in.

Option 7: Pay for it

Guess what’s never hard to do, spend more money! No matter how much money you’re spending on fitness now, you can find a way to spend more. I have a well deserved reputation for being pretty darn cheap so I really, really hate to waste money. The idea is if you’re paying for something in the schedule you will make time and do it. Start a weekly personal training session, buy a new toy for fitness, hire a run coach or pay for a class. The idea here is pretty simple if your paying for it you won’t skip it when it comes up in the schedule.

Option 8: Lower or change your expectations

Always go out to run 5 miles, bike rides take an afternoon or its a 6 day circuit cycle. How about a 15 minute 2 miler, bike to do your local errands or hit the gym just on leg day. Are you always pushing the bar with one training cycle after another? Don’t do that by the way or you’ll end up hella injured. Sure you might not have time for your six 5 mile runs a week but what about one on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday night, what it you could only go for three miles on your days off. Look at maintaining fitness or just loosing as little as possible for a while until your schedule frees up again. Maybe just an odd walk will have to do.

Option 9: Make it non-optional

You know what we don’t do, rent a wood splitter. But… we burn at least 4 chord every year. Guess who splits it, me, with a 12 pound maul. Side note: I’m pretty into limiting my carbon footprint so I’m pretty happy part of out heating is renewable, the other part is a heat pump. Wood is getting expensive, especially cut and split. But we’re in the enviable position that we’re actually paid to get ours. We cut usually about all we need in a year for customers, Honey chunks it up and I split it.

We used to rent a splitter for a day until 2015 hit, IE snow-mageddon. We had our 4 chord piled and stacked neatly and once it started snowing it didn’t stop and we couldn’t get to it. What we could get at was the disorganized pile for next year. So we split as we went. I killed three axes that year and earned the nickname Queensland’s Axe Murderer. When I started it would have taken 14 hours for me to split a days wood making it my only job in a zombie apocalypse, so honey helped. But I got faster, last winter Tuesday was wood splitting day and in about 90 minutes I could split what we needed for the week. Now I’m called the wood squirrel.

But… it’s not optional, if I want to be warm I have to get a work out in. What can you do to make a workout non-optional? A lot of my ideas are winter related so perhaps that’s when I need the extra motivation. Wood splitting, shovelling your driveway and letting the plow guy go, giving up a car, buying a traditional push mower or cleaning your own house are all options and it turns out save you money. If you pick one thing you have to do every week you’re guaranteed one workout every week.

Do you always make time for fitness or is don’t an option when you’re busy. So are any of these ideas helpful? If you have others I would genuinely love to know about them!


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