How to Exercise When You’re Busy or Tired

Exercise when tired busy

There are two main reasons people don’t exercise: They’re “too busy,” or “too tired.” And so they find it hard to make time for exercise.

But if you’re reading this, it means you think exercising is important. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight or grow more muscle. Or you want to improve your fitness because you’re tired of chasing after your breath every single time you climb the stairs.

We all need to exercise. That’s actually one of the few things you can say about everyone. We need food, sleep, and movement. Those are the essentials of a good life.

Science has shown that exercise also improves your focus and energy. Which helps a lot when your day is packed with activities.1Source: Mayo Clinic

Here’s the key to exercising even when you’re too busy or tired: Do what you can, not what you wish to do.

People often miss their workouts because they decide they can’t do the routine they want.

  • “I’ve got tons of work to finish. By the time I’m done, it would be too late to hit the gym.”
  • “I want to train for a marathon. But I’ve got too many responsibilities right now. I’ll put that off for when I have the time to do it.”
  • “It’s been a long day at work. I probably don’t have the energy to exercise anymore. So I’ll just binge-watch on Netflix, as usual.”

There’s a solution for any of the above scenarios: Exercise on a smaller, more convenient scale.

If you can’t hit the gym, go for a 15-minute walk instead. Marathon training isn’t suitable for your lifestyle yet? Then try running even just 5 kilometers thrice a week. Feeling out of energy? Do something light and more relaxing, like yoga or a dance class.

The key is to exercise in the capacity you can, and not in your ideal scenario. Because that’s just how life works. Responsibilities arrive every day, and emergencies happen. You don’t have to be a perfectionist who trains like an Olympian. You can simply work out based on your schedule and needs.

As long as you ACT. And you act consistently.

Here are 3 other tips for exercising when life gets hectic.

1. Make it ridiculously easy to work out

My researcher, John, once tried to keep a gym routine. But it never stuck. The closest gyms are 15-25 minutes away because he lives in a rural mountain town.

So every time he thinks about hitting the gym, he calculates his travel time, plus workout time, and then determines whether he can slot that time in his day. Unsurprisingly, his usual answer was: “I don’t have the time for this right now.”

Years later, he switched to running; where he could exercise the moment he stepped out of his apartment. There were times when he went out for a walk and because he was wearing running shoes and shorts, he transitioned his walk to a 1-hour run. Even when it’s raining outside, John could maintain minimal physical activity by running back and forth at home.

I can relate to this. If I want to go to a gym, I need to make sure it’s really close to my house or it’s on the way to my office. Otherwise, I just won’t go.

And when I’m traveling, I bring a TRX Go system with me so I can at least do some exercise no matter where I am.

When your workout is ridiculously simple and easy to execute, you can exercise more sustainably.

2. Do it because it’s fun

If running or hitting the gym isn’t for you, then you can stick to other physical activities like hiking, skating, swimming, yoga, dancing, etc.

Here’s a mindset shift: It’s not about having an exercise routine. It’s about avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. The key is to keep your body on the move.

Think of the top 3 leisure activities you do daily. These could be things like binge-watching series, eating out, having brunch with friends, even scrolling social media, and so forth.

We all do small things every day to boost our dopamine. The key is to have at least one or two small, daily dopamine boosters that are physically demanding.

Take cycling for example. Going out doesn’t have to be another dinner night. Instead, you can spend time with friends cycling through nature. Or attending a dance class with your partner.

Do something you enjoy that moves your body regularly. When you execute this mindset, you’ll find yourself thinking less of exercise. And more of having fun — while maintaining your health.

Get active!

3. Be kind to yourself. But always act

Guilt creates a negative cycle: Folks feel guilty for not working out more — even when they know they should — which pushes them to rely on dopamine-boosters (like doom scrolling or binge eating sweets) that are bad for their health, which make them feel guiltier.

This thought pattern often happens without us noticing. So it’s important to spot it early. Wallowing in guilt won’t push us to action. Or even if it does, it’s usually temporary.

And what’s the best way to battle those sedentary dopamine-boosters?

By getting some exercise-induced dopamine!

To exercise even when you’re busy or tired, we need to keep things simple and enjoyable. So be kind to yourself. And focus on keeping your workout fun and a natural part of your lifestyle.

Start moving and make sure you keep moving.

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