“I Haven’t Got Time” – Rethinking Your Priorities

I reckon “I haven’t got time to exercise” is one of the most common phrases used by grown-ups – especially parents, and mums in particular. In fact, I heard it again yesterday and really started to question the validity in that statement.

Of course, I can relate to not having time to exercise. Sometimes I barely have time to feed my children; shoving breakfast biscuits into their little hands as we pile into the car for school drop-off is testimony to that fact.

When I was studying for my postgraduate degree many years ago while balancing full-time work, exercise was the first to go. I met my husband during this period, and in those early months of being in love my weekends were largely spent doing assignments while my adorable new love served up comforting chicken schnitzel, followed by a full Viennetta ice-cream cake. I was also in a new job, working crazy hours just to stay on top of everything.

Exercise and good eating habits just fell away.

The crazy thing is, I didn’t have any dependents back then… so I must have had some free time, right? I could have set the alarm 40 minutes earlier on weekdays to squeeze in a brisk 30-minute walk. But I didn’t, and I certainly paid the price. Looking back on photos of that time, I’m shocked at how the lack of exercise and healthy eating habits showed up – in my body, my face and skin, my general vibrancy.

As I grow older and wiser, I have come to realise that – while it’s tough to juggle all of the things we do, particularly when we have young children – we need to prioritise taking proper care of ourselves. Seeing exercise as important is the key to turning it into regular habit. I have always been active, mainly gym classes, basketball, dance. But it was after a period of burn out a few years back that the penny dropped for me: exercise is as important to my mental health as my physical health.

So, I made the commitment to regular movement. Some weeks, this means I do something every day, others it might just be one workout… or even none. Sometimes I can’t wait to pull my gym gear on, while other days I have to force myself. But here’s the thing: if I go much more than a week without moving my body, I feel, in a word, yuck! Besides balanced nutrition, it plays the biggest role in shaping my overall wellbeing, how I function and feel.

Putting exercise at the top of the ‘to do’ list

I fit exercise in because I prioritise it. It’s at the top of my ‘to do’ list, and if that means going without other activities, then so be it. Saturday spin class trumps a trip to the hair salon, or I swap lunch with friends for a 6km coastal walk. Instead of a boozy Saturday night, I opt for a couple of glasses of wine and then stick with water, so I am able to be up for Sunday mass. I’ll choose something that nourishes me physically or spirituality over a beauty treatment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not obsessed. It’s just a learned behaviour of prioritising what makes me feel great. And it’s always weighed up against competing priorities. If one of my children is receiving an award at a school assembly, I’m right there, not at the gym. Likewise, if I’m off to a wedding and my legs desperately need a wax so I feel fabulous in my new dress, that wins too.

The point, though, is this: when we say we don’t have time to exercise, that’s not the whole truth. We simply haven’t prioritised it over another activity.

It’s also very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if someone makes time to exercise regularly, they simply can’t be as busy as you are. But the plain and simple fact is that everyone has the same hours in every day. It’s how we choose to use them that’s different.

This culture of ‘busy-ness’ is so important to acknowledge, because it becomes a ready excuse that can flow into so many elements of life. Do you really not have time to study, to visit your parents, to call that friend? Or is it that it’s just not high on your priorities list?

Acknowledge your priorities 

What I’m trying to say here is that we all need to be honest with ourselves. We do have the time to be active, and the rewards infuse every aspect of your health, productivity and happiness. Let’s shift the language; start saying “I don’t prioritise exercise”, or “I choose to do other things than exercise”. This simple shift will create greater personal responsibility and prioritisation.

And before you know it, you’ll be bouncing out of bed 40 minutes earlier, donning your trainers, and reaping the infinite rewards of that brisk, energising walk.


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