If you’re anything like me, this is the time of year where you start to think about what activities you could drop to free up more time.
And one of the first things most people tend to drop is exercise. After all, who has time for physical activity when you have three term papers due in two weeks?
But this is a problem. It’s when you are busy and stressed out that you especially need to exercise. Modern research suggests that regular exercise actually improves your brain’s ability to think critically and remember key information.
So while you may feel you’re saving time by cutting back on exercise, it comes at a neural cost. Your brain’s ability to function will be reduced and it’s unlikely that you will be able to make good use of the extra time anyways.
Alas, I realize this is all much easier said than done. Exercise needs to work for you and be something you enjoy. To help get your exercise fix, this article provides 6 strategies that helped me pick a new physical activity to keep me fit, without sacrificing my quality of life.
1. Do A Physical Activity That Genuinely Interests You
Ok, I hear you. You’re probably feeling the urge to call me Captain Obvious right about now. This may seem so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said, but the fact is if you don’t enjoy the physical activity that you are doing, it’s just not going to stick.
Let’s explore this a little more.
For example, how many people do you know (off the top of your head) who at some point in their life have signed up for a gym membership, only to rarely go work out? I’m willing to bet you thought of at least a few people, and that’s just including close friends, family members, or classmates (plus ourselves!).
There’s a reason that so many people choose to join a gym in an effort to get more exercise. It’s easy and affordable (usually) to sign up, the locations can be incredibly convenient, and the long hours of business give you a lot of freedom on when to work out. But if you just don’t enjoy going to the gym and lifting weights, running or cycling, then what are the odds that you will continue going once life gets busy?
Make an effort to pick physical activities that you enjoy doing, and make those a part of your life. Don’t know of any kinds of physical activity you enjoy? Start shopping around and trying things out! Most sports, fitness classes and martial arts activities offer a trial membership or even a free class or two to try things out.
For me, taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) classes has done the trick for the past year and a half. Practicing a martial art like BJJ offers enough exercise to keep me in decent shape, and is physically and mentally challenging enough to keep me engaged.
2. Location, Location, Location!
So you’ve decided on a new activity to help bring more exercise into your life. Congratulations! Now comes the tricky part. You need to find somewhere to do the activity that is relatively close to home. Even if you join a beautiful new gym, if it’s on the other side of the city, how likely are you to be motivated to travel all the way over there after a long day at work or school?
If it is a short trip to the place that you exercise at, that’s one fewer obstacle to overcome when trying to get motivated to workout. For me, this meant finding a place to train that was within walking distance of my apartment. Whenever I feel tired, sore, or generally lacking in motivation, I think of how close I am to the mats. Next thing I know, I’m walking through the academy doors and getting changed for class.
3. Make Sure It Fits Your Existing Schedule
They say timing is everything. This applies double to your exercise routine.
If you work a job that requires you to travel frequently or work nights, an activity that takes place on weekday evenings isn’t going to be a good fit for you. Be realistic when planning out your exercise schedule and seek out activities that comfortably fit into your day-to-day life. If you’re constantly scrambling and rushing to get to your new activity, it won’t be long before you start to feel burnt out. Once that happens, it’s almost certain that you will end up quitting.
4. Research the Facility
Like a blind date, it can be risky to start something new without any background knowledge on what you’re getting into. Try to read up on the activity you are hoping to try out and also the location that you’ll be doing it at. Take a few minutes to Google some reviews of the place and activity to find out what other people think about it. The last thing you want is to find out that the rock climbing gym you’ve bought a new membership to has a reputation for lax safety standards!
5. Invite a Friend to Go With You
There’s something to be said about strength in numbers. There is also something to be said about having a friend to hold you accountable if you skip out on a workout you had planned to do together!
This one is especially applicable to introverts like myself. Having someone you trust by your side, especially the first few times you try a new physical activity, can make you feel a lot more relaxed and open. Plus, the added bonus of having a peer to motivate you to work out regularly can be a big help to get you to stick to your routine.
6. Make it A Regular Part of Your Life
So you’ve found a means of exercise that you enjoy in a great location that fits your schedule. Great! But things at school and work are just so darn busy right now.
How do you keep yourself from skipping out?
We know that exercise is necessary to ensure that your brain is functioning at 100% when you need it the most.
So think of it this way.
You wouldn’t stop eating just because things got busy, would you? Of course not—you know that would make it even harder to get everything done.
Try to think of exercise the same way.
Just as you plan to eat every day, plan to exercise. Make it a part of your life that ALWAYS HAS TO HAPPEN, just like eating dinner.
With a little hard work and the help of the strategies above, your new exercise routine can survive the incredibly hectic nature of fall. Note that these are things that have worked well for me but can be easily tailored to suit your own lifestyle and preferences. Also, don’t expect to adapt them immediately – take your time, be patient with yourself and good results are likely to follow! If you do try out these techniques, tweet to us at @TalentEgg about your exercise routine and how these tips worked for you!