Updated: Apr 5, 2020
There aren’t many people who just train and eat and don’t have any other commitments.
Most of us lead busy lives. We happily make time to train and eat, but often we can't plan our days around it. There’s going to be times that we will be under the pump and won’t be as active and healthy as we’d like.
Lately, I've had a number of things on my plate - a new role at work, an extra-curricular commitment that is quite time intensive, and some personal events on my calendar. I haven't had as much time as I would usually have to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, or take my time at the gym.
But I haven't missed a training session, or skipped a healthy meal.
I don't say this to talk myself up. Actually, it's the opposite. The more frantic my life becomes, the less time I spend on exercise and food. I make sure that it is easy so that I don’t have to think about it.
Here are four tips to make exercise and diet easier, when you don't have time for it.
1. Have a realistic plan and don't question the plan
If you have a lot on your plate, the last thing you want is to have to think about whether / when / what you will train. This just diverts your time and mental focus away from the task at hand. Eliminate the unnecessary self-talk in your head, make a plan ahead of time and stick to it.
The easiest way to do this is to have a coach that you trust design a program for you. This way, all you need to do is show up and follow the program. This is how I manage my training. I don't question whether or not I will train. I plan in advance the days and times I will train (make sure this is realistic) and I put it into action.
If you don't have a coach, you can do this yourself. It could be that you have an exercise class you like to attend, or you prefer to walk. Each Sunday, plan out the days and times you will do your preferred exercise, and put it in your calendar. Make the promise to yourself that you will do it, and don't think about it again.
2. Cook in bulk
This is my number one tip for efficiency when it comes to a healthy diet. If I can, I will happily spend hours in the kitchen and cook up a storm. But if I'm under the pump, I can have a week's worth of meals ready in an hour. A slow cook or a chicken stir fry are both incredibly easy options.
Have multiple dishes on the go at once to optimise the time you spend in the kitchen. For variety, I will steam / roast / sauté a selection of vegetables and add other nuts and oils so that each meal is a variation of the same dish. This way, you can minimise the amount of times you need to cook, but you don't have to eat exactly the same meal each day.
The more frantic my life becomes, the less time I spend on exercise and food. I make sure that it is easy so that I don’t have to think about it.
3. Take opportunities to be active
How many times in a day do you take a lift rather than stairs, take public transport for a short trip, or sit at your desk and skip breaks? When time is limited, it's easy to find that the hours disappear and you haven't moved from your computer.
Make a deliberate decision to take opportunities to be active. The 10 minutes you take to walk from A to B will not set you behind. In fact, it will probably help to keep you mentally fresh and prevent lethargy.
4. Keep easy-to-access snacks on hand
Let's say in advance that you will probably miss a meal at some point. It's better to be realistic and plan for this so that you can still make sure you eat a healthy option. My staple snacks are Brazil nuts or almonds, or half an avocado - both easy and ready to eat. If I know I will probably be late to eat a meal, I will have some nuts to tide me over and keep me fuelled and energised.
Take home message
The trick is to keep your exercise and food simple. If you set up habits to help you do this, then your health can easily remain a top priority in busy times.