How to Get and Stay in Shape When Life Feels Busy
Updated: Feb 22
I get it. Getting and staying in shape can be hard when life is calm. But how do you stay in shape when life feels busy or becomes overwhelming?
Know that you’re not alone. A lot of us are struggling with consistency with movement…parenting struggles and juggles, caregiving for aging parents, health challenges, work stress, money tight…
It’s okay if you’ve fallen off the wagon…or haven’t quite been able to get on it…yet.
Most of us know that exercise is good for us. It helps maintain and improve range of motion and balance, strengthen muscles and bones, and it helps prevent injury and disease. Those are just some of the physical benefits. Exercise also helps decrease stress and improve mental health. It boosts positivity, grit and resilience. Did you know that regular aerobic exercise is just as effective as antidepressants to alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression?
Knowing exercise is good for us, unfortunately isn’t enough. We actually have to DO it.
Action is more important than information.
Doing is more important than knowing.
Only consistent daily action creates change.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED:
KNOW YOUR WHY
First off, get real about WHY you are doing it. Why is moving your body important and meaningful for you…today, next week, next year, 5 years down the road?
If fat loss is your answer, let me ask you if it’s your only one? If it is, okay. I just encourage you to first make sure that this is a goal that is coming from you and not Instagram or someone else making you think that's what you're supposed to do. If it truly is your personal goal then figure out what’s going to keep you moving when the scale or tape measure isn’t moving in a direction you want it to. Because, in my experience, those numbers NEVER continually move downward in a straight line forever. You will hit a plateau. And, when you actually achieve your goal weight, what then?
Hey…I’ve been there. And it’s a tough road to travel if that’s your only WHY. Partly because exercise isn’t the one and only thing that’s going to get you there. And mostly because moving our bodies is about soooo much more than a number on a scale or a tape measure.
The trick is to find YOUR why.
In my coaching programs, I ask clients to complete an exercise called The 5 Why’s. Clients are asked WHY they want to achieve whatever goal they have set for themselves. And then to continue to ask themselves four more times why their previous answer is important or meaningful for them. I invite you to try it and see what comes up for you.
My WHY is to continue to enjoy being active and participate in life and with those I love as I get older. I want to be pain free (or manage my pain) and be fit enough to play with my dogs, hike, SUP, and go on active vacations with family and friends. I also know that strength training cultivates mental and emotional strength and resilience for me and yoga helps maintain my range of motion, and balance (both physically and mentally).
After you know your ‘why’, it’s important to start listing what kinds of movement you enjoy. Don’t know? Then start experimenting. What did you used to like to do as a child or teenager? What kind of movement brings you joy? We are much more likely to do things that come more naturally, and that are fun or joyful. Some people like calming movement, others prefer more energetic and fun types of movement.
Now that you know your WHY and WHAT kinds of movement/activities that you enjoy (or can at least tolerate), start to add a little in each day. Heavy emphasis on the little. Ten-minute increments of activity is a great starting point. If 10 minutes seems like too much, then start wherever you can. The more ridiculously easy or doable it is, the more likely you’ll stick with it. Once you’re doing that, start to add on to do a little bit more or do a little bit better.
When I coach clients on movement, I coach using a hierarchy of movement, start slow and low by increasing your daily movement and then start adding in some training.
Focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN'T.
Daily movement is one of those things that is available and accessible to all of us...even when life feels hard. Injured? Focus on what you can do to move just a little bit more. Prolonged sitting can increase the risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It’s important to get up and move as much as possible…every hour if you can. You not only add to your energy expenditure every time you get up and move, you are also preventing muscle imbalances that often occur as part of sitting for prolonged periods. Even if people are hitting the gym 3 times per week, many of them are still sedentary…sitting more than 8 hours per day. Aim for gradually increasing your daily steps to 10 000 or more per day.
How can you get more daily movement in? Set a reminder to stand every hour. If you’re working from home, take a walk around the house. Play with your dog/cat/bunny/kids/grandkids. If you’re working outside of the home, park further away and take a walk at lunch.
The following training regime is recommended for women who want to feel better, gain or preserve muscle mass or lose fat. Balance is important - work hard sometimes - rest, unwind and recover other times. Depending on how many hours per week you have available, here is a suggestion for how to break up your time:
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend strength training major muscle groups for a minimum of twice per week. New to strength training? Start with 10-minute sessions and work your way up to 30-60 minute sessions 3 or 4 times per week for body recomposition (muscle gain or fat loss) goals. Prioritize multi-joint movements followed by single joint movements and core work.
Active Recovery (Low to Moderate Intensity Cardio)
Active recovery includes fun stuff (playing a sport, a yoga class, riding your bike, hiking, snow shoeing, etc. – extra bonus points for getting out into nature) &/OR more intentional low to moderate intensity cardio (elliptical trainer, cycling, jogging, swimming) twice per week for about 30 minutes per session.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
Go fast, go slow, repeat. Once you’re doing strength training and getting your active recovery in consistently, add in some interval training once per week. The type and level of high-intensity training you do will depend on your goal. We suggest starting with one very short session of 5-10 minutes and gradually adding a bit more time until you get to roughly 20 minutes. It’s important to make sure you are getting adequate recovery and rest.
Fun Stuff (The Rest of The Time)
This includes things like playing with your dog, kids or grandkids, playing a sport, hiking in nature, whatever you find enjoyable.
Now that you know why and what to do…here is the single most important thing to help you DO it.
What kinds of things can you put in place to help remind you and support you to move just a little more or a little better?
Well…what kinds of systems do you have in place now for things that you do consistently? For instance, if you brush your teeth every night before you go to bed, what is it that reminds you to do it? Timing? Part of a ritual or routine? Your toothbrush out on the bathroom counter?
I have a built-in reminder for daily movement…a dog. Don’t have a dog? What could you use to remind you to move more?
Set reminders on your phone to move. Many fitness watches have built-in reminders.
Subscribe to an app or program to have workouts delivered right to your inbox.
Set your clothes/shoes out the night before. Preferably somewhere that you'll see them or almost trip over them.
Get a walking/workout/accountability buddy. Even if you can’t work out together, text each other a reminder or do it together over Zoom or FaceTime.
Attach it to something you already do consistently. Every time you put the kettle on, do some squats, stretches, a yoga pose, walk around the house or dance while the kettle heats up.
Start slowly. Aim for being just 1% better.
Once you conquer that consistently, aim for 1% better again.
Slow and steady always beats all-in-and-then-quit.
Want some ideas for a quick strength training workout you can do anywhere? Check out this infographic for 6 Key Moves To Do When You're Busy.
As a bonus learn about:
How to fix a broken diet, and
The Power of Sleep
Remember…just start. Do just a little bit better. Repeat. 🧡
Yours in health and vitality,
Coach Anita 🧡
Still not sure what to do? One of the positives of having been through a world-wide pandemic is that online resources are better than ever. Some trusted free sources include Girls Gone Strong (look for their free strength training workouts), or follow #vhfworkout on Instagram for free strength training workouts created and demonstrated by myself! New workouts coming soon.
Want help hitting the reset button and making 2023 your fittest year yet? Coaching can help. I’ll teach you the skills and habits you need to become a stronger, healthier, more confident version of YOU. And…I will personally support you every step of the way, no matter what life throws at you.
My next Women’s Nutrition and Fitness Coaching Program, Vitality Coaching for Women, is coming soon. Join the waitlist to be the first to know when the doors will be opening and get a chance to guarantee your spot.