freelance exercise

How do you fit exercise into your already overwhelming schedule? Stop viewing it like another thing to check off your to-do list.

I’m not a gym bunny or training for my next marathon. You won’t see me shopping at Lululemon or cycling down Shoal Creek in my Tour de France gear. I read lots of books. I wear glasses. I eat homemade chocolate buttercream frosting by the spoonful.

But I do work out at least three times a week. A healthy lifestyle is important to me (my consumption of veggies does, generally, outweigh the icing). And it kind of defeats the purpose if it becomes a source of stress. To achieve my exercise goals, I had to change how I view my time at the gym.

Step one: Like it.
On some level, you have to want to work out. Try viewing it as a hobby, like knitting or cosplay, or a social activity, like happy hour or board games night. I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s a good idea if one of your hobbies gets you up and moving. There are tons of options out there, so take your pick. This Austin Monthly article has a few creative suggestions. There’s even an Austin Fit magazine packed with localized tips and suggestions. If you’re totally out of ideas, go for a walk after you eat (bonus points if you’re exercising your dog at the same time). Once some form of physical activity is part of your routine, you may even come to need it, like your morning coffee. If I miss a workout, I start to feel a bit antsy. And nothing cures a tension headache like cardio.

Step two: Know thyself.
When you don Spandex, do you prefer to drive to the gym or jump on a bike? Does the elliptical leave you feeling like a caged rodent, or is it a great low-impact alternative to jogging? Do you like to pop in your earbuds while working up a sweat or socialize? a.m., p.m., or it depends on the day? Self-motivated, or does it take a village? Only you can answer these questions and select the best fit.

Step three: Be flexible.
Whatever you pick, it won’t last forever, because nothing does. Without getting too philosophical, I can guarantee that something will come up that’ll require you to change whatever workout routine you masterminded. This may be short term, like a vacation or a tight deadline, or long term, like moving twenty minutes away from your favorite gym. Don’t worry, you’ll figure something else out. In the meantime, take advantage of the shift in perspective and try something new.

Bonus step: Eat.
Skipping breakfast or having lunch at four are not good habits anyway. But you need that energy to exercise, and if you’re dragging, you probably won’t feel like getting that heart rate up. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking, with larger meals every four to five hours and a snack in between. It’d be great if that big bowl of oatmeal at noon lasted you till dinner, but it really doesn’t. Your body needs consistent refueling.

It’s tricky to fit in healthy eating and exercise habits if you keep telling yourself it’s hard. Explore options that resonate with you, then relax and enjoy the activity. Besides, endorphins feel great.

Kamila Forson