On March 1, the first day I wore a pedometer, I took under 1,000 steps. Since health experts say that at least 10,000 steps a day are required to maintain an active lifestyle (5,000 steps a day is “moderately active,” and more than 10,000 a day are required in order to lose weight), I knew I had to step up my game if I was serious about changing my fitness level. The next day, I gave myself a failing grade for fitness since I took only 2,789 steps. It was an improvement over Day 1, but still not good enough.
Since then, I have increased my daily steps to over 12,000. In fact, yesterday, I took 13,179 steps, most of them the result of a 3-mile run. As you may know, I track my progress at my FaceBook Profile Page and also in my weekly Workout Wednesday events at the Indie Business Fan Page. Earlier this week, Stacy Brice, one of my FaceBook friends and an Indie Business Radio Show guest, asked me this: “What's your secret to doing so many steps *and* getting everything else done that you do?” I thought I'd try to answer that question.
Before I get to that, I must say that I am the furthest thing from a fitness authority. I am overweight and I have allowed leading my business and raising my children to get in the way of taking care of me. I have not “arrived” anywhere. I've just make a decision each day to put my extremely important self ahead of my extremely important business and my extremely important husband and children. Before making this choice, I was consistently putting myself last.
This has resulted in a healthy business and a healthy family, but an unhealthy dM who was too run down to really enjoy either. I hope something I say helps you, and that you'll forward this to a friend who may be dealing with similar issues.
- Don't speak the negative. This is not the first time I've tried to maintain a fitness routine. The reasons for prior failure are numerous, but one of them is that I spoke negatively about exercise and fitness. I would say things like, “This is so hard.” Or I would say, “I don't have time to workout and run the business at the same time.” I believe that speaking such negativity validated my decision to skip the exercise and tend to the business or whatever was easiest at the time.
My first “secret” is to avoid speaking the negative. Even when you feel it, don't say it out loud. Move as quickly as you can to the thing that moves you out of that cycle and onto the bike, into your swimsuit or whatever.
- Set specific goals. I am in the midst of this process at the moment. Knowing that I would need to move more and eat less, I knew I had to set specific goals in the area of moving and eating. Since eating is the harder of the two for me, I started with moving. My goal was to get to 5,000 steps a day. I quickly reached that goal so I upped the ante to 10,000 steps a day. Having surpassed that goal at 13,000+, I am planning to set a new goal of an average of 15,000 steps a day. Setting specific goals gives you something to aim for.
If you're not aiming for specific things, your efforts are not worthless, but they are not quantifiable, and that means they are not maximized. Exercising is great. But exercising to achieve certain goals is even better.
As a busy mom and CEO, I don't want to spend anymore time each day than I have to sitting around figuring out what I'm supposed to do. Knowing that I either hit 10,000+ steps a day or I fail makes it easy for me to just buckle down and get it done. I don't waste precious time figuring out what to do.
Set goals, decide how you will accomplish them and then make it happen.
- Make it happen. Speaking of making things happen, this is critical. I have a very long list of things to do each day. From getting my kids to school on time and helping with homework, to managing a thriving business, to being the best wife possible, it's easy for me to say I don't have time for fitness. I did in fact say that for years. It's a challenge, and the fact that I've decided to do it doesn't make it any less challenging. But I look past that to the benefits of making it happen. I refuse to let an, “It's hard and I don't have time,” mentality hold me back any longer.
For example, my planned schedule for yesterday included a phone interview with Brandon Uttley for his Web Business Freedom podcast. Early in the morning, Brandon asked me if I could do the interview in person. I had already decided that I was going to run 3 miles yesterday and I knew that changing a phone interview into an in-person interview just might interfere with that. Yet, I really wanted to help Brandon get the sound quality he wanted for his podcast, and I really wanted to take advantage of the chance to see Brandon.
I told Brandon that if he could meet me at the track, I could take a break from my run to do the interview. He agreed. So I picked my kids up from school, went to the track and got in a few laps while my kids played and did some of their homework. When Brandon arrived, I took a break to do the interview. When we were done, I went back out to the track to finish my run.
I'm honestly exhausted just reading about it, but that's the reality of making it happen. No excuses. If you want it, you'll figure it out.
You can listen to Brandon's podcast interview of me here.
- Objectively track your progress. Once you set goals, tracking progress is motivating and revealing. I talked about this a bit in my post about getting back on track after illness, but it bears repeating. On March 2, the day I took less than 3,000 steps, if you had asked me how many steps I had taken, I would have guessed at least 5,000. What a joke! Without an objective measure of my progress, I would still be fooling myself.
Use tools outside yourself to make sure you tell yourself the truth. For you, the tool may be a scale, a tape measure or a combination of many things. If too many tools is overwhelming for you, pick one or two like I did (my other one is my weekly weigh-in at the gym) and then add additional tools as you go.
If you cannot be honest about where you are, even if it's not a good place, you will not make much progress.
- Eat healthfully. This a super challenge for me, so rather than eat non-fat yogurt, dry toast and carrots all day, I decided to eat whatever I want for a while and add in healthful stuff to see how it feels. I purchased a juicer (that's my son in the picture juicing some carrots) and started turning some fresh fruits and vegetables into interesting raw foods. An example is the Avocado Grand I made a few weeks ago. I enjoy food. My problem is that I've been loving too much of the wrong kinds of foods.
Making at point of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables has forced me to discover new ways to prepare them so I don't become bored. This satisfies my natural curiosity to learn new things, plus it makes for some really cool pictures for my blog.
- Use cool toys. I love digital things that allow me to create more efficiency and fun in my life by pushing buttons and making things happen. I used to run without piping sound in through ear phones. I still do that from time to time, but I also enjoy running while listening to audio books and segments of the Indie Business Radio Show.
One of my latest toys is the new super green Apple iPod nono pictured above in the collage. With it, I can take photos, record video, listen to MP3 downloads of music, books or my radio show and listen to broadcast radio.
Having something that allows me to work while I work out is important to me. Doing two things at once, and being able to do both of them well, makes a lot of sense for me as a busy business leader so I try to do it when I can. Shiny toys give me one more reason to look forward to working out. And believe me, I need all the reasons I can get!
- Get help. If you need someone to help you fit exercise into your life, then do that. I use lots of help from a variety of sources. I credit Anne Marie Faiola, an award winning CEO and IBN member, with helping me to more fully embrace the importance of fitness. Together, we started a private fitness blog and she joined me on Twitter using the #FitCEOs hashtag to track our workouts. (You can use #FitCEOs on Twitter for your workouts if you'd like to join us!)
Most importantly, my family is supporting me. My longsuffering husband forgoes time with me so I can fit in my workouts. He's also picking up more homekeeping duties. We've hired someone to help with housework. We also eat out (healthfully) a bit more than we otherwise would because I don't always have time to cook and workout.
In order to fit fitness into your life, you will probably have to make some adjustments as well. If you're like me, you won't necessarily like them all. But like everything else, it's about priorities.
The fact that I don't cook dinner does not mean that no one eats. It just means we eat food that someone else prepares. But no one can workout for me. I have to do that myself. So it comes down to work out and find a prepared meal, or don't workout and cook myself. I make my choice, and it's the right one under the circumstances.
Question: If you exercise regularly, what are your tips for fitting in fitness and still getting stuff done? If you don't workout, do the things I've shared here help you make some different decisions?