Stop using “I’m too busy” as an excuse. We’re all busy, but living a healthy lifestyle is about building a routine that allots time for all of those important but so-easy-to-brush-aside habits. We asked the experts how to work it all in.
1. Unplug for sleep
Plan your bedtime so that you’ll get seven to eight hours of shut-eye. Shaun Francis, CEO of Medcan, Chair of True Patriot Love Foundation and author of Eat, Move, Think: The Path to a Healthier, Stronger, Happier You, says sleep needs to be a priority because it sets the tone for how energized you are throughout the day. To make sure he gets seven hours a night, he reserves his coffee drinking for the morning hours only, gets active during the daytime and vows not to look at his clock or phone through the night. “I try to avoid waking up in the night and wondering what time it is,” he says, explaining it can send you into a tailspin, worrying about how long you have left before you have to start the day. Plus, checking your phone poses the risk that you’ll see messages that will get your brain fired up.
2. Begin with a body scan
Every morning, perhaps even before you get out of bed, Kira Lynne, a life coach, psychotherapist and counsellor in Vancouver, recommends checking in with your body. Start at the top of your head and work your way down your body, noticing what you’re feeling and anywhere you might be tense. Repeat the exercise again in the evening — you might find you feel completely different by the end of the day. “We get really disconnected from our bodies which can lead us to push ourselves past the point of healthy behaviours,” says Lynne. “Awareness is the first step in making positive change, so it’s important to be aware of what’s happening with yourself emotionally, mentally and physically.”
3. Make the most of mornings
Start your day off with a morning routine that makes you feel energized, not stressed. For Francis, that means staying off of social media, reading the paper, eating a small breakfast, then listening to music on his way to his workout. “Then I’m set for the day, I’ve had a good endorphin release and I feel great because I already accomplished something,” he says.
4. Plan a date with your workout
Kim Lavender, vice-president of team and specialty group training with GoodLife Fitness, says you don’t have to exercise at the same time every day to build a routine, but you do need to have a plan; otherwise your day will naturally fill up and you’ll conclude that you have no time for fitness. Lavender schedules when she’s going to exercise in advance. “If you look on my Outlook calendar, you can see when I’m planning to work out,” she says. Making exercise a priority means making it one of the first things that goes in your schedule — then you can plan the rest of your day around it. Lacking motivation? Try these tips to get up and off the couch.
5. Resist fitness routine fatigue
While you’re scheduling those workouts, do some longer-term planning and arrange to try something new every four to six weeks. It might be signing up for a new class at your gym, picking a new route for your run or trying a new sport for the season. “The key to success is doing something you enjoy and are engaged in. Keeping things on that four-to-six-week cycle will keep you engaged,” explains Lavender. Plus, your body will be challenged in new ways.
6. Make changes slow and steady
“It doesn’t work to make huge changes all at once,” says Lynne. When she’s working with clients, she suggests starting one new habit at a time, practicing it for a few weeks, then adding in something new. For instance, if you’re looking to start a new fitness routine, begin making all your meals on Sunday, and adopt a daily meditation, just pick one goal at first. “Sustainable change tends to be slower change.” These fitness myths can seriously damage your health.
7. Think bigger
We tend to take some of the biggest determinants of our routines for granted, like we have to work nine to five or we have to spend an hour each day commuting to work. But Francis says we shouldn’t let social norms dictate our schedules. If your current routine isn’t working for your health, consider moving closer to work or talk to your boss about adapting your schedule. Your employer might be interested to know that a 2011 study from the University of Minnesota found that when employees were given control over when and where they worked, it reduced turnover by 45 percent.
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8. Make health social
It can be challenging to have a full social calendar and keep up with your healthy habits, so Francis suggests bringing socializing into your health commitments. Make your workout social — say, by having a workout buddy, joining a fitness group or even exercising with a trainer. That way you can make new friends or catch up with old ones while exercising. He adds that meals should also be social, so avoid scheduling activities that get in the way of family dinners, or specifically schedule meals with friends.
9. Celebrate success and move on from failure
It’s totally natural to fall off the wagon when you’re trying to build a healthy schedule, says Lynne. In fact, you should expect setbacks like snoozing through your healthy morning routine. The problem occurs when you beat yourself up about it and decide to give up altogether. “It’s not about whether you miss a day,” says Lynne. “It’s about how you can shorten the time between the relapse and when you get back into action.” To help yourself stay motivated, give yourself credit on the little things you have done right so far.
10. Fine-tune based on how you feel
When you’re trying something new, keep track of how it goes on your phone or in a journal. Felt sluggish in that evening workout? Maybe you should try to squeeze in a class at lunchtime instead. Notice you had more energy when you started your day with oatmeal rather than eggs? It might be time to rethink your breakfast. “If you try something and it works well for you, record: What were the conditions? Did you get a good night’s sleep before? What was the time of day?” says Lavender. This is how you determine a routine that’s suited to your body’s unique needs. Next, learn how this celeb trainer fuels her 6-day a week fitness routine.