Yes, you’re busy. You’ve got work, school, kids, hobbies, parents, projects, and maybe a long commute as well. Plus, somewhere in there you’ve got to find time for a significant other, and maybe even date now and then, if you’re lucky. How do you spend an hour on exercise, when you’re so slammed you can’t even take a decent lunch break anymore?

How can you not?

Working out at least three times per week might seem like an extra, like a luxury item you can add in when it’s convenient, someday. But it’s not. If you don’t learn how to make the time to get this done, you risk losing your health and everything you’ve built upon it: your career, your lifestyle, your future, and your happiness. The first step to fitting a workout routine into your schedule is to stop looking at it as an option. It’s not an option. It is a basic building block of life as a human. You’ve got to move your body to keep it alive.

Normalize it.

If you’re going to be consistent with your workout schedule, you’ll need to find ways to incorporate it seamlessly into the other things you absolutely have to do. Anchor it to your day like you would a meal, or sleep, or wake times. Here are a few strategies for hanging your workout times on the pillars of your schedule:

Tie it to your bedtime:

Not a morning person? Then prep for your workout before your head hits the pillow at night. Line up your sneakers by the bed. Wear your workout shorts and top to sleep. If you need a DVD or weights or other equipment for your session, get them lined up and ready to go. Find a slot for your workout prep to belong forever, like right after you brush your teeth at night, or right before you set your alarm clock. Then wake up and hit the ground running.

Tie it to your commute:

You’ve got places to go, so why not use your body to get there? If you live close enough, maybe you can run to work each morning and walk home in the evenings. Or take the train there and jog home. Even if you work far from home, you might find a place to park the car and ride your bike the rest of the way. Other ways to make the most of getting there:

  • Take the stairs, not the elevator
  • Park at the far end of every parking lot you use
  • Walk to your favorite cafe at lunch
  • Get up and go to your coworker’s desk instead of emailing or calling

Tie it to mealtimes:

Even if your meal breaks are brief, they still have to happen each day. That makes them perfect moorings for your workouts. If you can squeeze in just ten minutes of cardio activity around each meal, that adds up to thirty minutes a day. Plenty. It could be ten minutes of Zumba after breakfast, a short run after lunch, a brisk walk after dinner– whatever you enjoy. This doesn’t have to be perfect. If your lunch hour gets sabotaged by meetings, just add a little more effort to your after-dinner jaunt. Throw in some strength training every other day, and you’re well on your way to a long life in a healthy body.

Change your “too busy” thinking.

If you’re not used to working out regularly, it will take time to change your habits. Start with small goals, like 90 minutes of cardio each week. Set consistent times to get it done. Most importantly, listen to the things you say to yourself. All of those “too busy” reasons to put off your workout are old friends. They sound right, and it’s easy to give in to them. Replace them with new thoughts:

  • I’m too busy to get sick.
  • I don’t have time for heart disease.
  • This is the hour (or half hour, or ten minutes) I set aside for my health.
  • My people need me to make this happen.
  • I deserve to feel good in my own skin.
  • This is an investment in my life span.

Then get out there and change your life and body for the long haul.

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