There’s an overwhelming pressure on women to be successful at work, successful at home and exercise to look and feel good at the same time.
Given that we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, commuting to and from the office and snatching on average six hours of sleep each night, it’s no surprise that there seems to be next to no time to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is especially the case when you take into account other mundane day-to-day tasks such as eating, cleaning, shopping and sorting out the children if you have them.
It’s not to say that men don’t feel the same kind of pressure or have an equally busy work and home schedule, but there’s an added level of complexity for women when you consider the chore of having to make yourself look presentable after a sweaty workout, which usually involves an intimate yet frantic session with the hair dryer, straighteners and make-up bag. It’s an extra 30 minutes easily.
And while researchers have discovered that there’s little added health benefit in being a ‘regular rabbit’ as opposed to a ‘weekend warrior’, even Saturdays and Sundays are soon consumed with catching up on emails and general life maintenance. There’s unlikely to be time to fit in a marathon.
But aside from the obvious health benefits to regular exercise, it’s been proven to improve concentration levels and performance and can act as a great way to de-stress and recharge your batteries.
So how can busy and successful businesswomen realistically fit exercise into their lives?
Well, it’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the best use of the time you have. Just like you wouldn’t cancel a meeting, you shouldn’t cancel a workout. If you commit to making exercise part of your daily or weekly routine, then you’ll soon find that it becomes a habit that’s hard to shake.
Easier said than done you mutter under your breath? Not really. If you add working out to your seamlessly never-ending to-do list and see it as a necessity rather than a non-essential task, it will happen.
Here are a few ways you could work exercise into your 100 mile per hour life – and be more productive too.
Revisit your commute
The hours spent sat in traffic or on the train (not accounting for inevitable delays) are what many of us would see as time wasted or time that could be spent doing something worthwhile. Yes, if you don’t drive to work and use your commute as an opportunity to clear your junk box or finish a report, then you could argue you’re being productive. But you’re probably only doing those things because you can and have nothing else to do.
Instead, move that non-essential admin to the ‘one day, maybe later’ pile’ and make your commute a workout.
Granted, swapping the car for a bike or the tube for your trainers is not always an option. Maybe you don’t have showers at work, you live too far away or you have too much to carry such as a laptop, but where there’s a will, there’s a way (and it’s sometimes good to not take your work home with you).
Common excuses and viable solutions:
I don’t have showers at work
Get a lift or public transport to work and run, cycle or walk home or simply stroll both ways
I live too far away
Get off a few stops early or park a couple of miles down the road
I have too much to carry
Get a bigger bag and think of it as added resistance or leave superfluous items at home or the office
Meetings followed by conference calls followed by more meetings. Sound familiar? It’s a wonder anybody gets anything done. Usually, when you do get time to yourself, work has piled up and there’s even less time to squeeze in a coffee, let alone a sneaky workout.
How to make meetings more efficient and effective is another article altogether, but one way you can turn the office into a gym is by simply standing up, taking the stairs or incorporating activity into your meetings and calls.
Take that important call and go for a walk, get yourself a funky new standing desk (don’t worry, they fold down into your bog-standard sitting desk too) or go even further and turn your team meeting into team building activity morning.
Getting your team on board could actually have a profoundly positive impact on the whole business and its staff, and it’ll also mean that doing a wall sit during the board meeting will become completely normal!
Take a break, but don't have a kit-kat
At last count, less than a third of British workers manage to take a full hour for lunch every day because they’re too busy. However, like exercise can improve performance, so can taking a proper break.
Again, this is your chance to kill two birds with one stone. It’s probably not enough time to eat, run five kilometres, shower and get back to your desk, but even a brisk walk can make a difference (as long as it’s not to McDonald’s or the corner shop to satisfy your afternoon sugar craving).
Or you could opt for a no-sweat session of sculpting, toning and stretching. Yoga and Pilates are great lunchtime workouts and use your body weight to build strength. You’ll feel a calmness wash over you too that will rejuvenate you for the afternoon ahead.
Convince a colleague to get involved and you’ll then be accountable to one another.
Tea time training
Watching bread rise is like watching paint dry and even though it’s unlikely your cooking bread for dinner, the moral of the story is that the 30-40 minutes your dinner is in the oven is a perfect time to fit in a speedy workout.
HIIT, or high intensity interval training can often burn the same amount of calories (if not more) as a run, swim or hour-long aerobic session. These short give-it-all-you-got workouts boost your metabolism and create an ‘afterburn’ effect meaning that you’re burning fat for hours after you’ve finished exercising. Result! What’s even better is that by the time you feel like giving up, it’s all over.
There are tonnes of free videos on YouTube too that will give you variety so you don’t get bored and most have beginner modifications that you’ll swap for the advanced moves in no time.
No time? no shower? no Problem!
Now there’s no excuse to not workout. If it’s just ten minutes a day or two hours at the weekend, there’s a million and one ways for every busy and successful businesswoman to get their fitness fix.