Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Fitness is hard. Beyond the obvious difficulty of literally working out, forcing yourself to get up early, eating healthy, and squeezing cardio into a busy schedule is no easy task. Add in stressful projects at work, weekly commitments, extra errands or a few days of travel, and pretty soon fitness is out of the picture.
Which begs the question: Is there a way to excuse-proof your fitness?
We asked three top female fitness experts how they manage to prioritize fitness and stay in amazing shape regardless of hectic travel schedules, balancing work and family, and running their own businesses. Here are their top five tips to excuse-proof your fitness and hit your goals.
Ask Yourself Why
As Krista Stryker, NSCA-certified personal trainer and author of The 12-Minute Athlete (S&S/Simon Element, 2020), explains, most people struggle to make fitness a priority simply because they don’t have a big enough why.
“Most people know they should exercise in order to be healthy, but long-term health is a vague goal that’s hard to prioritize in the moment,” Stryker explains. “Also, many people create appearance-related goals such as losing weight, building muscle or getting leaner. While there’s nothing wrong with this, research shows that appearance is the least motivating reason to work out.”
Rather than focusing only on vague health or appearance-related goals, Stryker recommends digging deeper to figure out how your goals connect to your values. You can do this by asking yourself questions that begin with why:
- Why do you want to build a regular workout habit?
- Why do you want to lose weight/build strength?
- Why do you want to eat healthy?
- Why do you want to train for a 5K or triathlon?
Perhaps you’ll discover you feel better and more energized when you exercise, you need a lean, strong body to do the activities you enjoy, your mood, sleep and digestion improves when you eat healthy, and you feel a sense of accomplishment when you challenge yourself. Find reasons that resonate, and you’ll overcome any excuse.
Hannah Eden, founder and owner of PumpFit Club, agrees. “I need exercise for more than aesthetics,” Eden explains. “I make fitness a priority and part of my lifestyle because I understand it’s something I personally need to do in order to feel my best. I need it for my mental health.”
Workouts and meal prep don’t happen spontaneously. The best way to excuse-proof your fitness is to add these important tasks to your schedule, which might mean changing the way you’ve always done things to make fitness a priority. “My most common excuses to this day are that I want to sleep in or that have other important things to handle,” Eden says. “I have to schedule my workout before the day begins so I don’t allow work/life to interfere. As a result, I have become an early riser and have built a morning routine that includes my personal workout.”
Amber Dodzweit Riposta, creator and coach of Built for Her, takes it even further. “I have my clients schedule their days right down to the final detail,” she says. “Workouts, water intake, getting protein in — it’s all written down.” Riposta explains that when you see your day on paper and are able to check items off, it sends positive signals to the brain and encourages you to complete each task. Scheduling these important fitness tasks is the best way to take control of your schedule before excuses can get in the way.
Even top fitness coaches don’t rely on motivation to get themselves to the gym. Instead, they rely on discipline. “There is a massive difference between motivation and discipline,” Eden explains. “I have been training since 2012, and I’d be lying if I said I was motivated the entire time.” Eden admits that sometimes she really doesn’t want to wake up and work out at 5 or 6 a.m., but she does it anyway because of discipline. “When motivation fades, discipline shines,” she says.
Stryker refuses to let lack of energy or motivation be an excuse for herself or her clients. “You have to spend energy to get energy,” she explains. “I guarantee you’ll feel better and more energized when you work out regularly.” If the schedule you’ve set isn’t working, she says it’s OK to make adjustments. “If you’re too tired after a long day at work to work out, get up earlier or do your workout at lunchtime,” she suggests.
While it’s easy to skip exercising when you’re short on time or equipment, workouts don’t have to be long or complicated to be effective. “Many people still seem to think they need a lot of equipment to get in a good workout, but there’s so much you can do using your own bodyweight,” Stryker says. Squats, push-ups, lunges, sprints, and planks are all exercises you can do without equipment to get fit, strong, and lean. For more variety, add resistance bands or light weights. You also can invest in some inexpensive home gym equipment like a jump rope, doorway pull-up bar, or a kettlebell or two.
Shorter, circuit-style workouts and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are also highly effective for conditioning and building strength. According to Stryker, you really don’t need more than 10 or 20 minutes to get a good workout.
Commit to Fit
The best way to excuse-proof your fitness is to treat it like the commitment it is. “Honoring your commitment is a really simple way to bring positivity into your life,” Riposta says. “I always encourage my athletes to treat being fit like a promise they’ve made to someone they love. It’s the best way to stay consistent and see the changes you deserve.”
Eden agrees commitment is an essential component of a fit lifestyle. “I love the person I have become through fitness, and I refuse to quit on her,” Eden says. “I’ll always show up. I take pride in the work ethic I have built and the expectations I have for myself. It’s something I refuse to let go of.”