I am often asked how I find time to exercise and prepare and eat healthy foods while I juggle full time work and full time graduate school, which includes 30+ hours/week of work, 16 hours/week of field placement and about 7-10 hours of classroom time (not including reading and homework time!). My schedule is jam packed, and there is usually at least 1 day per week where I am out of my house for 12+ hours. Yet, I still make time to exercise 30-90 minutes 4-6 days each week and eat clean and healthy foods. You may be thinking I am crazy, but I believe you are totally capable of taking care of your body through exercise and nutrition no matter how busy your life gets!
Here are some of the key tactics I use to stay on track!
- Make Your Health a Priority: Just like I make sure I go to class, show up to work on time, and pay my bills, I make exercise and healthy eating a priority in my daily life. Since making my health a priority, both working out and nutrition have become part of my regular routine and I find myself including them while I prepare my schedule for the upcoming days and weeks.
- Plan Ahead: I have a planner where I write down things like all my appointments, classes, assignment deadlines, and when bills are due. Because I have made exercise a priority, I also find holes where I can schedule a work out. I check my planner regularly throughout the day, and find it most important to take a look at it in the evening to get an idea of what the following day will bring. If I know what I have planned for the following day, I can gather the belongings I’ll need, including work out clothes and whatever meals will happen while I’m away from home.
- Prepare and Pack Your Meals: In general, I usually make recipes that feed at least 4 people even though I am only cooking for 2. This way, there are always left overs that my partner and I can grab over the next couple of days for lunch or dinner, depending on our schedules. By planning ahead and having an idea of how long my day will be, I know which meals and how many/what kind of snacks to pack. Many folks in the fitness community prep their meals for the entire week on Sunday or Monday, filling their fridge with containers ready to grab and go each day. This is an amazing idea that I plan to play around with. For now, I get a mental idea of what I’ll need the following day and prep a container of dinner, if needed. Then in the morning, I blend up my Shakeology for lunch and pack snacks. If the morning is going to be really rushed, I prepare overnight oats the previous night so I can quickly grab breakfast too! Packing meals is one of the most important ways to make sure I eat healthy all day, saving time, money and calories!
- Simplify Your Nutrition: Keeping my kitchen stocked with whole foods makes it so the only option I have to grab is healthy! I have figured out my favorite healthy foods, making packing snacks and preparing meals quick when I am short on time. Of course, I love to experiment with new recipes and try new foods, but in the midst of a packed week, I rely on my tried and trues to keep my lunch box full and my body satisfied. My go-to snacks include: carrots & raw broccoli with hummus, a piece of fruit with low-fat organic string cheese, Greek yogurt with fruit, cottage cheese with fruit, a rice cake with almond butter or tuna or avocado, a Skout Trailbar, and a piece of fruit with nuts or trail mix. All of these combinations are quick to pack and easy to carry. Furthermore, drinking Shakeology at lunch makes that midday meal a no brainer when prepping food for the day.
- Make it Social: Living a healthy lifestyle does not need to be done in isolation! On the weekends, I love to spend time with friends and family, and I have found ways to be active while having fun. Lately, I have been bouldering almost every weekend with some friends who share the same hobby. It is an incredible work out and going so frequently means I have spent more time with these friends than I have in months! Double awesome! Luckily, I live in a city full of people who love to run, so there are fun runs throughout the year and I have friends who have joined me in some of them. I also love to hike, so I recruit friends to come along with me. Having people over for dinner is another great way to eat healthy foods and not have to worry about what is on the menu at some bar and saves a bunch of money too. I also love concerts and dancing, both of which are great ways to spend time with friends and are great work outs (bonus!).
- Find Time, Make Time: The bottom line is I have to find and make time in my hectic life for healthy eating and living. Some days, I find myself squeezing work outs in between meetings or during breaks in class because it is literally the only time I will have to do it, and it is totally worth it as long as I make it count. Only have 40 minutes? Run HARD for 25 or do a Jillian Michaels 30 minute work out DVD. If you are one of those people that can actually get out of bed when your alarm goes off, wake up early to make sure you get that work out in. Working out in the morning is an amazing way to start your day refreshed. I hate waking up in the morning so much that I am fine showing up to class super sweaty or spending my hour dinner break in an 8 hour class on a treadmill. Packing your meals and snacks saves you time as well, since you aren’t going to a restaurant and waiting in line so you can apply that time to getting sweaty. Spending a little extra time the night before or on Sundays preparing meals for the following day(s) is well worth it.