Time – it’s the one thing we can’t seem to find when we desperately need it. It’s the number one “excuse” I hear from my clients – “I just don’t have the time!”, “I honestly didn’t have any time!”, “I can’t find the time today. Sorry. Next time?”, “I can’t get out of work on time! Can you wait for me?”

But how important is carving out time every day for your overall health and fitness? The second Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was published earlier this month – a whole decade after the first report in 2008 – with new recommendations supporting the view that any duration of activity counts. The report focuses on time and effort stating that adults need around 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, and that any duration can be considered “in the game!” Which is music to the ears of busy working women, who also happen to be mothers.

Life is busy, and time is often a commodity we use to trade and negotiate with our children, partners, work colleagues, and personal trainers (#firstworldproblems ). But why is time often the number one excuse that I hear?

I’ve heard almost every excuse for bailing out of a fitness session, from late-running meetings to forgetting sports kit, it can be tough to find both the motivation and time. To help my clients hit the weekly recommended target I work with their schedules and family life to try to create or steal time that can be used for at least a 10-min mini-workout. And it works. The key to it all centres around creating habits, finding and maintaining motivation, and using the resources you have to hand – in-house gym, local park, living room at home. 

To get my clients through that “tipping on the edge of using time as an excuse” bail-out of a fitness session, here are my top 5 tips to getting your body and mind in the zone:

  1. If you’re working then log in to your calendar and choose three lunchtimes that you can block out for 45 minutes – schedule an appointment with yourself – and commit to that appointment. Do not cancel for any reason. Throw in a serious consequence if tempted.
  2. Pack your sports bag for the week ahead. If you have a locker or space at work then use this to store your weeks worth of fitness clothing – this saves you having to remember each day to pick up fresh fitness kit. Make sure you have a spare bag to dump the dirty clothing and you’re all set.
  3. Write up 3 post-it notes just at the point you’re feeling “yeah, not training today” with key words “can’t be bothered”, “tired”, “I’ll do it later” – push yourself to go and do your fitness session, then repeat the exercise post-workout: “feeling great!”, “energized!”, “glad I did it!” Store the post-it’s next to your desk – every time you’re “not feeling it” take a look at the post-workout notes and see just how great you felt afterwards. That should at least encourage you to get through the warm-up, and more often than not, gets you through the session!
  4. Make sure your time is effective. If you’ve only got 20 minutes then make sure you’ve got a structure for that time – don’t just wing it. This does take a little prep, but once you have a set bundle of fitness programs you can just pull out and do, it is super quick. I usually buy blank postcards from the nearest stationery shop and use them to write out a routine. I give them to my clients after various sessions so that eventually they’ll have a dozen or so postcards, each with different workouts and because we’ve done them already the client knows how long each one will take – instant structure, instant hit!
  5. If you’re a new parent then incorporate the baby routine in with your fitness routine. Doing a stroll around the local park stopping at every bench and rocking out 10 burpees here, 15 squats there is utilizing your precious time effectively. Older kids love to work out too – get them involved – get them to run around that tree in the park and back again whilst you do no-rep-count push ups. Next round no-rep-count inchworm touches, and so on. Result: happy kid, happy parent!

Time can be your friend or your enemy. The key to finding time for fitness is to be prepared, know what you are going to do in 20/30/45 minutes that you have, have a back-up plan if things don’t go to schedule, keep yourself accountable, create a habit.

Most of all – find that reward – that is the one thing that will keep you motivated. What is the “reward” for you? Is it feeling energized, seeing friends as you work out together, keeping your health in check… find the reward and you’ll find time, all of a sudden, is there.