I pack a lot into my days, including time for exercise. It makes me feel healthier, stronger, and better able to deal with whatever life throws at me. So when someone asks, “How do you find time to do that?”, I tell them. I get up at 5:30 most days of the week, sometimes even on weekends.
What is really important in your life, that you can’t find time for? Is it healthy eating? Exercise? Travel? Time off with friends and family? Whatever it is, schedule it in. Not everyone’s an early riser like me. You have to know yourself. Maybe you’re better in the evening. I just know that if I leave it til later, I’m much more likely to make excuses. That means prioritizing my work, and working smarter, so I can fit in the things that I say are important. Productivity is about more than shoving more work out the door. It’s also about creating a way of working that lets you live a life that’s right for you.
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In an ongoing quest to be better every day, I’m always working on health as one of my priorities, and that starts with walking, and also with eating well. Filling yourself up is important – starvation, deprivation, and denial just aren’t sustainable. So instead it’s really helpful to focus on putting as many good things into a meal as possible. Empty calories are easy to banish when you choose lots of healthy vegetables, brilliant colours, lean protein – with a nod to Michael Pollan, mostly plants! This tasty salad has sweet potato, peppers, red onion, pink beans, and a tasty curry vinaigrette (equal parts Dijon, cider vinegar, canola oil, and a teaspoon or so of curry powder for each serving).
There’s more to filling yourself up to eating, though – something I have been discussing with a friend quite a bit lately. It’s important to fill your mind with positive, helpful, forward-moving thoughts. Often when we are overwhelmed with trying to help others, we forget to take care of ourselves – but the oxygen-mask rule can help keep us on track. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ll recall that they tell you to put your own mask on before helping others. That’s because if you aren’t filled up (with air), you won’t be any good to anyone. So my favourite fill-up method is to get out for a good brisk walk, early in the morning as the city is waking up, and to drink in the sights and sounds around me. Today I was particularly inspired by the sunlight filtering through the trees in Allen Gardens – just steps away from skyscrapers and streetcars. That alone has filled me up with enough gratitude to last all day.
What if someone gave you a fabulous new vehicle, that was capable of doing virtually anything you could imagine? Further, what if they told you that as long as you took good care of it, it would last for the rest of your life, and it would carry you anywhere you wanted to go?
Guess what – you’ve got it! It’s your own body. Take good care of it and it will carry you in style to the end of your days. I know there are exceptions, sometimes bodies let us down, through no fault of our own. Illnesses and conditions can make our physical performance less than optimal, compared to others. That’s the great thing, though. When it comes to your own human health and performance, you don’t need to measure up to anyone but you.
If you’re having trouble fitting fitness into your schedule, try working it in a little at a time. Make sure you make a commitment that you can keep. For me, for example, I know very well that if I plan to work out first thing in the morning, no matter how early, the odds are better that it will happen. If I try and leave it to the end of the day, life seems to have a way of intervening.
Other tips for making sure you give your fabulous vehicle the care and feeding it deserves?
Find a workout buddy who will keep you accountable
Start small – even parking at the end of the lot and walking to your office is better than no exercise at all
Don’t overdo – trying to compete with your younger self isn’t helpful and it may just set you up for an injury
Try different activities until you find one you like
Don’t invest in a pricey gym membership until you’re sure you’ll go – try as many “taster” classes as you can
Check out your local YM/YWCA or Community Centre – they’re great places to sample a wide variety of drop-in classes until you figure out the things that are fun
Try something you’ve never tried before, just once – who knows, you might like it!
Have fun, get fit, and here’s to your health. You’ll be grateful when you feel great every day.
You know my initial response to this question is, “as often as possible”, or “whenever you want”. But there’s more to my question than that. Last night I had the privilege of attending a series of presentations by social entrepreneurs from all across Toronto at the Centre for Social Innovation. These women (mostly) and men were focused on how we build healthier communities, and the solutions were as diverse as the presenters. At the event, I was discussing a rule-of-thumb I learned from a Parisienne acquaintance of mine: it’s the one kilometre rule. It works like this: if your errand or appointment is one kilometre or less from where you are, walk. No cab, no bike, no streetcar or metro. Just use your feet.
Sure, you say, that sounds great, but how do I know if it’s a kilometre? Won’t it take long? I’m a busy person! At a brisk pace, but by no means race-walking, a kilometre will take you about ten minutes. So if you walk to the store and back, you’ve gained twenty minutes of exercise that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. How long did you spend waiting for your last public transit, or looking for a parking spot?
It’s worth it for your health and a longer lifespan – instead standing around checking your smartphone, or circling around looking for a parking spot, invest that ten minutes in yourself. Your stronger heart and your clearer head will thank you.