Some links may be affiliate links. I may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of these (at no cost to you).
“I want to lose weight/get in shape, but I just don’t have time.”
As a fitness professional, this is one of the most common excuses I hear from people. And for women juggling a career, raising a family, and managing a household, time truly is a precious and rare commodity.
So how do you find time to exercise with a busy schedule?
The first thing you’ll need to do is come to terms with what it takes for exercise to be effective and figure out how much time you’ll need to clear. There are plenty of fitness influencers out there who are working out 5-6 days a week for hours at a time. But for the average person, just a fraction of that is going to be sufficient.
How Much Do You Need to Exercise?
Unless you’re training to become an elite athlete, aim for 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity exercise. When you break that down, you could do 10 minutes of movement, morning, afternoon, and night. It could look like a post-dinner walk with the family or a HIIT class at your favorite gym (or in your living room!).
Anything over 30 minutes is a bonus, and it goes without saying that exercise is definitely a “more the merrier” situation. If you can fit in 60 minutes or more, that’s even better! You’ll definitely feel the positive physical and mental benefits more quickly by upping your time spent.
So if you’re brand new to exercise and 30 minutes feels darn near impossible, start with 5. You can do anything for 5 minutes. Then maybe next week 5 turns into 10 until you find yourself weeks from now moving for 30 minutes a day. Choose how much you want to exercise, then let’s dive into figuring out where that time comes from.
Define Your “Busy”
Does anyone else feel like busy has become a badge of honor? Our society encourages busyness because it’s become synonymous with productivity. How often do you start a conversation with someone, ask them how they are, and they respond with a heavy sigh followed by “so busy.”
It’s almost like, if you’re not busy and feel in control of your time, you’re not doing enough. But I’ll save that rant for another day.
This is about defining your busy to determine where you’re spending all of your precious time and why. Here’s how in two simple steps.
Step 1: Track your time.
My favorite way to track time is in 15-minute increments using Laura Vanderkam’s 168 hour time tracker. Yes, 15-minute increments might seem insane, and at times it felt that way. As I wrote down what I was doing, I was thinking, “still working…still the same thing I was doing in the last 15-minute block.” But stick with it, and I promise you’ll have some insane realizations at the end of the week.
I was shocked and sometimes saddened as it dawned on me that even though I’m not a self-proclaimed phone addict or TV junkie, I spent way too much of my time doing mindless stuff like scrolling through Pinterest and watching Netflix.
By understanding where your time is going, you can begin to mentally re-allocate it toward something higher on your priority list, like working out.
Step 2: Remove the mental barriers.
Before you even think about breaking a sweat, it’s time to break down all of your excuses and remove any barriers to successfully starting an exercise program. I recommend making a list of any current reasons you give for not being able to exercise. That might look like:
- I can’t wake up early because I’m tired and need to sleep
- The gym I’d prefer to go to is too far away from my house
- I’m straight up exhausted after working and caring for my family
Once you have your list, ask one simple question.
Is this roadblock immovable or do I simply not want to move it?
There is a HUGE difference between what we “want” to do and what we know we “need” to do. Exercise, at least to me, is a need, not a want. The mental and physical benefits of exercise breathe life into everything else you do. And failure to take care of your body and give it the input of exercise will cost you in the long run.
So as you go through your list and asking about the roadblocks, be honest. For example, do you not want to wake up early because you don’t want to go to sleep earlier because that’s your only alone time all day? What if the alone time you’re having in the evening could shift to your morning workout instead?
If the gym is too far away, is there somewhere closer you could join? Could you create a workout plan yourself and work out in the living room or garage? If you’re exhausted after a day at work, could you sneak in a morning workout or even work out during your lunch break instead?
4 Ways to Find Time to Exercise With a Busy Schedule
Now that you know how much time you need, where you can afford to shift your schedule, and any mental roadblocks to success, the rest is gravy. Here are 4 actionable ways to find time to exercise with a busy schedule without needing to sleep in your workout clothes.
Set Exercise Appointments…and Keep Them!
Fitness is as critical to your day as any work meeting. So give it the level of importance it deserves by affording exercise a spot on your calendar. If you need to get to a gym or other space for your workout, make sure travel time is part of that block.
Now that’s only one piece of the puzzle. After you set the appointment, you need to keep it. Protect your exercise appointment as if it were your firstborn. Don’t accept optional meetings during that block and encourage co-workers and partners to respect that time.
Make Exercise a Social Event
One of my favorite ways to make new friends is through running. Thanks to my love for running, I now have two women in the neighborhood that I’m happy to call friends. We run a few mornings a week, and I feel like I’m pulling double duty by combining social hour with getting my sweat on!
Have a standing happy hour with girlfriends? See if your friends would be willing to exchange that for going to your favorite fitness class instead. Only have the babysitter for a few hours? Why not see if your significant other wants to take a long walk before enjoying dinner at your favorite neighborhood spot?
Pull Double Duty With Your Commute or Lunch Break
While I’m not a huge fan of multi-tasking, I do believe finding time to exercise during your commute or lunch break is one of the most efficient things you can do.
If you’re working from home, go out for a 15-minute walk as your morning and evening “commute.” Listen to a podcast, audiobook, or radio like you would on a typical office commute.
Often, actually eating your lunch only takes about 10-15 minutes of your 30 or 60-minute break. Use the time before you eat to take a walk or do a quick workout by your desk. Try this quick leg burner as a place to start: 3 rounds of 10 air squats, 12 reverse lunges, and 14 calf raises.
Get Help if You Need it
I can’t say this one enough, but if you want to make exercise a part of your life and you’re juggling a boatload of responsibilities, you will need help. That might be from a partner, a family member, an older child, a neighbor, friend, whoever. But asking someone to sit with your kids for 30 minutes while you go out for a run is not an undue burden.
If you have a friend in the neighborhood who also has kids, trade-off so both of you can work out while still making sure the kids are cared for.
The Main Thing About Finding Time to Exercise With a Busy Schedule
During certain seasons of life, finding time to exercise is going to be more challenging. But how you spend your time is who you are. If you want to be someone who works out, you’ll find time to make it happen, no matter what. So what are you waiting for? Time to get moving!
Like what you’ve read? Sign up below to make sure you never miss a post and download my weekly dinner plan printable for free!