Excuse: I Don’t Have Time to Exercise

BULLSHIT. Yes, I said it. A controversial point and I know it.

It’s the most common excuse for not engaging in activities which contribute to a healthy lifestyle – the fact that we are simply too busy.

In the past I’ve declared “I don’t have time” to justify the many things that in hindsight, I just simply didn’t want to do. It’s far easier to communicate using that short statement than it is to explain that we have allocated our precious time to something else, because we place greater value on that alternative activity than say, a spin class (which quite frankly, is fair enough!).

The Luxury of Time

Modern life is a series of connected events which merge together to create a waking day which is ‘fully switched on’ from start to finish. Every waking hour of every day appears to be consumed with working, eating, networking and running around after other important people in our lives.

In fact, according to Ofcom, we’re spending two hours online on our smartphones every day; twice as long as laptops and PCs.

How to ‘Find Time’

It’s not very helpful to rubbish the excuse without providing practical steps to get over it, so here’s some of the techniques I’ve used in the past when I’ve been hammering the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse…

1. The ‘Time-Sheet Test’

Otherwise referred to as the ‘repeat test’, you keep a detailed log of your day, including any ‘down time’. I can almost guarantee you that you’re committing time to things you don’t place any value on, or to things you simply didn’t realise you were doing! Having seen in black and white how you’re allocating time, you might wish to ditch the third consecutive episode of that Netflix drama and get some fresh air.

2. Be a Bit Selfish

If the one real barrier between your current position and a healthier lifestyle truly is time, when you’re making your choices about what you want and therefore what is most important for you to fit into your routine, consider first the direct effect on your life and then consider the effect on the lives of those for whom you care the most.

3. Sleep Less

Sleep is something people often give up to fit in the things when they’re struggling for time but having tried 5am daily workouts for a few months I decided sleep wasn’t something I could sacrifice – the cumulative impact of sleep deprivation was just horrible.

For more tips on how to find time in unexpected places, see this Huffington Post Article.

How to ‘Squeeze In’ Exercise

If the above methods have failed, all is not lost! I’ve had many weird suggestions from my friends over the years on how to fit in exercise ‘in disguise’. Here’s some of the weird and wonderful ways my associates manage it despite not being able to find the time…

1. Switch up the Transport Method

The prime candidate for this is the commute to the office.  A friend of mine switched the car journey for cycling. This added 15 minutes to his commute in the morning and again on the way home, but it did mean that he was getting in 45 minutes each way of moderate cardio. The way he looked at it was that he would already spend an hour a day getting to and from work and wanted to do around an hour a day of exercise. In combining the two he managed to SAVE half an hour in the day!

Many companies actually incentivise cycling to work through cycle to work schemes, so check with your employer if you plan on making this switch!

2. Make the Train Less Convenient

For some of us, cycling to the office isn’t an option. Getting off the train / tram a station further from the office can be just as effective.

This is a relatively small change to make and often doesn’t inconvenience the traveller much more. Take the example of riding the tram into Manchester city centre – if you want to get to Victoria from south Manchester, then you could stay on the tram right through to that stop. As an alternative, you could jump off the tram near the city library and walk the 10-15 minutes to the office from there (assuming the office is close to Victoria!). This would, as a return journey, amount to nearly the recommended daily minimum exercise quota per current government guidelines.

Squat whilst Brushing Your Teeth

This was one of the more ‘out-there’ suggestions. Brushing your teeth is an essential part of our daily bodily maintenance, and whilst I don’t want to discourage concentrated and methodical tooth-brushing, most people can probably manage moving their legs independently from their arms in order to dip down into the squat position a few times. If that’s not the case, then you’re also developing co-ordination skills at the same time. Win-Win.

Some even go as far as whole dental-related workouts – see this handy article for more ideas! 

Sit-ups in the Ad Break

Dropping to the floor and doing sit ups or press ups when the adverts are on the TV doesn’t really appeal to me, but I can see how it’s better than being in full couch potato mode.

The only real flaw is that a lot of what we watch now may be recorded, and therefore you could just whizz through the adverts, thus avoiding the exercise altogether!

Under-Desk Leg Raises

This requires you to hold your legs out in front of you at a right angle to the body when sitting at the desk, thus engaging the abdominal muscles and quads.

It might look a little bit odd if you have a desk which doesn’t have ‘sides’ or you’re on the end of you bank of desks, so perhaps have your reasoning readily prepared in case you get challenged about why your legs are suspended in mid-air.

Try some of the other ‘Stealth’ moves in the office – check out the tips in this article!

Take the Flipping’ Stairs!

Whilst this is possibly one of the most obvious suggestions, I expect few of us actually do this! I used to work on the 12th floor, so by the time I had walked up, it had taken me a few minutes and because I’d come from outside in my big winter coat carrying my work bag and my lunch supplies I would be very warm and flustered, therefore much preferred to take the lift!

Hold ‘Walking Meetings’

Again this is a bit of an odd one, but fairly logical nonetheless. There are plenty of meetings I’ve been in that could have been conducted on-the-go. In fact, I often used to dash out at lunchtime to grab something for lunch an with my colleagues in tow, we would effectively be having a walking meeting.

There are obviously some draw -backs. It’s pretty hard to take notes, and even harder to show slides, but next time you have a 1-2-1 or a less paper heavy meeting perhaps suggest a quick walk in the fresh air.

The oft-cited benefits of improved productivity and the ability to break down hierarchical barriers in the workplace might sway you towards trying it nonetheless.

If the thought of that is far too ludicrous, perhaps suggest the meeting takes place somewhere away from your desk so that you at least have the benefit of getting up and walking, even if it is only to a meeting room on another floor.

Do ‘Exercise Sprints’

This means splitting your (for example) 25 minute workout into 5 x 5 minutes slotting those small sprints into the day.

This was something I saw on a social media post, by a new mum who was struggling to fit in her work-outs. She had a yoga mat at home and would split her workout into 5 rounds of 5 x 1 minute exercise bursts, meaning she could do them on an ad hoc basis around whatever needs her baby son had.Sounds intense, but completely do-able.

Actually Take a Lunch Break

Take a break at lunchtime and use it wisely. Perhaps a stroll, gym class or a swift stretch. This is so easy to do, yet so many of us work through our lunch break that it just doesn’t happen. Not only is it physically beneficial to take a lunch break, but has been proven to improve productivity upon your return to work. Even the boss will be happy.


Keeping on Track

Physically allocating time for something in the day is one thing, but committing to it longer term is another thing altogether. Maintaining good habits much harder than choosing to adopt them in the first place and takes considerable self-discipline.

It’s important to learn to differentiate between when you:

  1. Genuinely have other more important things to do (e.g. you’re in work for a long shift, then picking up the kids, then have a dentist appointment, then have to wash the clothes and take the dog for a walk) or;
  2. You’re stretching out other things in order to provide a bullshit excuse for yourself to mean you can justify avoiding training – otherwise known as procrastination – something I used to be very good at!

If you’re in a situation where you genuinely need to prioritise other things then you also need to accept it, get that done, and take tomorrow as a new day. Shit happens.

If you really honestly don’t have time to work out, then so be it. Accept that you’ve prioritised something else that was a worthwhile focus of your time and then you can be happy and content with your decision.

It’s all a choice – and the best bit is, you only need to be accountable to yourself!

F x



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