Life on the Run – Balancing Work and Working Out

Working full-time (or job searching full-time) while maintaining a robust workout routine can be like living a double life – suiting up in the morning as a professional, only to make the mad-dash to change into fitness apparel to squeeze in a quick workout with whatever time permits.

I recently started a new job that includes working a lot of night meetings. On those days, there is a very finite window in which I can fit in my run (or class, or whatever the case may be). It can be almost comical – much like Clark Kent runs into a telephone booth and transitions into Superman – I too have rushed into an enclosed space (my office, a McDonald’s bathroom, the doctor’s office) and emerged like some sort of deranged superhero. Lawyer to long distance runner in the blink of an eye. 
So when The Ladders (a career resource dedicated to both the job-search and professional growth) contacted me regarding tips for maintaining an active lifestyle while keeping a busy schedule, it couldn’t have hit more close to home. I am a huge proponent in doing what you can, when you can. So with that, here are some of the tips that I have found help me with striking this balance. 
1. We all have the same number of hours in a day – it’s all about priorities. Make your fitness a priority.
It makes me cringe when people blame their inability to workout on not having enough time. I would venture to say that there are very few people who truly don’t have the time, as in nearly all cases it comes down to two things: (1) priorities and (2) wasted time.

Regarding priorities: do you really not have enough time, or are you simply jam-packing your time full of other things? Take a look at the things that you are making time for. Make your health and fitness a priority. In fact, I have found that on days that I work out, I feel better, which in turn makes me a more productive employee and a more relaxed family member, spouse, and friend. Maintaining a fitness routine shouldn’t be to the exclusion of all else – but it should certainly have a place in your weekly (if not daily) routine.

Similarly, are you wasting time? Are you losing time due to procrastination or not planning ahead? Are you finding time to watch TV? Visit your social media sites? These “quick breaks” add up – and working out doesn’t have to be an all-time consuming activity. Make it simple and choose an activity that you enjoy that doesn’t involve a lot of coordinated effort. For example, running can be done from nearly anywhere and a solid workout can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time. Stop over-thinking and just throw on your shoes and go.

2. Be prepared. Keep a change of clothes with you.

Even when you think that you know your schedule for the day – things change. Be prepared and don’t let an unexpected hiccup derail your planned workout. I learned this lesson the hard way. When I first started at my new job, I had a 2+ hour commute and a work schedule that often included after-hours night meetings nearly every evening. Packing for work was like packing for a safari – knowing that I likely wouldn’t be home for 16+ hours. Ordinarily I would keep a spare set of clothes in my car so that I could go to the gym between work and these later meetings.

On one particular day, I thought that I would be able to go straight home. Of course, life never goes as expected and upon arriving at the office, I was asked to cover a meeting that wouldn’t start until hours after the “regular” work day. ended This left me incredibly frustrated – as time was at a premium and I had the a long, unexpected break (that I wanted to make use of) but nowhere to go. Luckily, I was able to dig-out an old pair of running shoes from the trunk of my car, so I ended up going to Walmart and buying a complete workout ensemble (the cheapest items I could find) so that I would still be able to squeeze in my run. While I was happy to fit my run in, this ended up being a completely unnecessary stressor and a waste of time and money, that could have been easily been avoided if I had simply been prepared. Plan ahead and learn to be flexible – keeping a spare set of workout clothes and shoes in your car or office can help you take advantage of those unexpected changes in your daily schedule. Make it difficult to make excuses. 

3. Location. Location. Location. Find a gym close to your office. 

Location is everything, as we are creatures of convenience. The key to maintaining a regular fitness regimen is to eliminate the potential for making excuses – so find somewhere to work out that is close to the office. This could be as simple as discovering a favorite running trail or committing to a month-to-month membership at a no-frills gym. This will create the potential for fitting in a quick workout over a lunch break or forcing yourself to go straight to the gym rather than succumbing to the distractions of home. It will also save time – which makes the likelihood of being able to fit in a workout more probable.

4. Just say no. Pass on the donut and give yourself healthy alternatives. 

I am a sugar addict. Upon starting my new job, I quickly learned that everyone in my office must be one too (I don’t remember that being a question on the job application!) This means that on a near-daily basis, homemade cakes, cookies or donuts will magically appear in the kitchenette. While a treat can be a fantastic reward for getting through an especially hard day – it should be just that – a treat.

One of the best ways to “just say no” is to give yourself healthy alternatives. The most important think, however, is making sure that the healthy food is something that you will actually eat. If you bring a bag of celery to work and you hate celery, there is a good chance that the bag will just sit in the office fridge. Healthy habits don’t develop overnight, so it’s important to stay realistic with yourself so that you set yourself up with success.

The same goes for going out to lunch. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean foregoing all social interaction at the office. However, often times the lunch hour will be enjoyed at a less-than healthy establishment. On those days, eat a healthy snack before going out for lunch and then choose something light at lunch. If you are not as hungry, you will be far less likely to eat “junk.”

The takeaway? Keep it simple and set yourself up for success.