Making Your Exercise Schedule Work for You – An Expert’s Point Of View

time for fitness

Weekday. Sleep through alarm, wake up late. Fill belly with coffee and half a slice of toast (possible addition: your choice of spread). Get clothes on and get out the door. Slink into work at 9.02am, preferably avoiding all eye contact and definitely the boss. Work until lunch. Eat depressingly limp salad from miscellaneous sandwich shop.

Back to work. Float through the next four hours doing as little as possible while looking like a dynamic, energetic go-getter. Leave at 5. Get home, consider cooking, realise there’s nothing in the fridge, phone takeaway. Spend the next 5 hours watching cat videos on YouTube before falling asleep to repeat the cycle tomorrow.

And the weekend? Cat videos and Attenborough documentaries, all day.

It’s a familiar(ish) cycle for anyone working the 9 to 5 grind. It can feel like the entire day revolves around work, and any hours we have after should be utilized in rest and personal indulgence. This is the common theme when I talk to many of my friends about their fitness regime (or lack thereof). “I don’t have the time”, “Who wants to wake up early to do exercise?”, “Oh I would but the gym closes at 9 and it’s so far away from my house”, all battle cries I’ve heard time and time again.

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Finding the Time for your Exercise Routine

The truth is finding time to exercise comes down to personal attitude, not how many hours in the day there are. Commitment and a drive to better one’s self are necessities when it comes to maintaining any kind of exercise schedule, whether it’s a simple 3 days a week, 30 minutes a day effort or a full on 5 x 5 workout.

I do empathize with the everyday working person. In my younger years, I had the time and opportunity to play multiple team sports on a regular basis. Now I spend 5 days a week working at a desk for 8 hours a day, and 3 to 4 nights a week standing behind a bar, staring into space. The mathematically-minded individuals among us will realize that this means I’m often doubling up on shifts, leaving very little time in the day free for friends and family, let alone exercise. So how can I maintain any kind of consistent regime?

This answer to this question will be unique to every single person wanting to get into a pattern. For me, it means going to bed as early as possible and getting up as early as possible; this can also mean having to sleep 6 hours instead of 8, which I don’t advise. Needs must. The idea, however, is that I am consistent. My exercise hour falls between 6.30 and 7.30, occasionally stretching past. This isn’t every morning, as my body definitely needs rest, but it is on a regular basis. The regularity means I’m giving myself enough time to rest in between workouts, and my body is used to constant sleep cycle, aiding my sleep hygiene.

For others, it’s about finding what fits and what doesn’t. It’s unlikely that the first way you try is going to be the right way, so give yourself time to figure things out and don’t get disheartened if something isn’t for you. Early mornings may not be your thing, which I can entirely understand, but finding the right time in your day to day life is crucial to making a routine a regular and successful venture.

Thankfully – in the UK at least – there has been an increase in the number of 24-hour gyms over the last 5-10 years. This aids in finding the right time as it opens up the full day.  Chris Thomson, the manager of Glasgow gym Anytime Fitness says “With the advent of the 24-hour gym, finding time to exercise has never been easier. Many people work unsociable hours, while traditional gyms only operate sociable hours. Now you can exercise at 2 am in the morning if that’s the right time for you.

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Things to Consider When Organizing a Workout Schedule

  • Give yourself enough time for each session – While a workout can realistically be as long or as short as you want, you have to factor in the time it takes to get changed, washed, access to machines/equipment etc. There’s no point scheduling in an hour if it takes you a round 40 minutes to get in, set up, and clean off and change afterwards (N.B there is no real set time for workouts, every routine is dependent on the desire results of the individual).
  • Set realistic goals – Trying to lose kg in 3 weeks or gain kg of muscle in a month just isn’t going to work. Serious lasting change takes place over long periods of time, and to maintain these changes exercise has to become a regular part of a person’s lifestyle. Expecting too much in a short space of time is a sure-fire way to lose moral and motivation.
  • Do not judge yourself by others – This point is similar to the above. Everyone is undertaking exercise for their own reasons and goals. Some wish to lose weight, some wish to gain it. Others are doing it to reduce health risks, while for others it’s a necessary requirement in their line of work. Alongside this, everyone has been partaking in exercise for different lengths of time. Looking at others and thinking “Why haven’t achieved that result yet” simply doesn’t work. Avoid this negative mental pitfall wherever you can.
  • The gym is not the only option – While I’ve alluded to workout routines taking place in the gym, it is far from the only option when it comes to exercise. It can be taking a yoga class one or two nights a week, a weekly game of squash with a friend, a 45 minute run at lunch, anything that can be fitted into your schedule and promotes health and well-being.
  • Muscles aren’t built in the gym, they’re built during rest – If you’re focusing on gaining muscle, you have to give yourself enough time to rest in between workouts. If you fail to do so, you run the risk of causing yourself serious damage. Hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs when you rest, not when you lift.
  • Make sure you are focussing on sleep hygiene Sleep hygiene is the collection of practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. Thankfully, exercise already promotes good sleep hygiene through tiring out the body, there are factors to consider. Alcohol consumption, interaction with screens, and timing your food intake are some of the areas that affect sleep hygiene. Good sleep promotes health and well being, making it an essential aspect of any active lifestyle.
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Tom Wishart

Freelance Writer at Wishart Writings
I'm a Glasgow (Scotland) based freelance writer who covers just about anything. I've played rugby and football through my younger years, although these days I tend to go for solo sports, such as skiing, squash, or swimming. I exercise regularly, both at home and at the gym. I also train once a week with a gentleman called Sam McFarlane, one of the UK's leading experts in trampolining and freerunning.
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