Let's touch on something:
WHAT PEOPLE SAY versus WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANS
“I’m too busy to go to the gym” = Being healthy is not a priority for me
“I’m too tired from working/studying all day to workout” = Being fit is not a priority for me
“I am not getting in better shape because I don’t have access to healthy food” = Nutrition is not a priority for me
It’s all about priorities.
Currently, I work full time at a multi-disciplinary engineering company and help run a fitness facility part time before and after work. On top of all of this, I have to manage my lifting schedule, and still find time to grocery shop, cook, shower, and sleep. Would I be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult and hectic? Yes, I would. But would I also be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it and possible? Damn straight.
Balancing your schedule to fit all of your daily tasks can seem impossible at times, but it all comes down to priorities. With some organization and a little bit of sacrifice you can maintain an exceptional nutrition, training and recovery program, while excelling as a parent, at work, or as a student. This might mean skipping 'boys night out' and hitting the gym for a late night squat session, or going grocery shopping on Saturday morning (instead of sleeping in because you had too much to drink the night before) so that you can meal prep on Sunday. Before we continue do me a favor and ask yourself, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals?
Let’s start with nutrition. Before we had the meal-prep routine down in our house nutrition was definitely the most difficult components of our training and recovery program. I was stuck rummaging through the cupboards, fridge and freezer looking for anything that seemed semi-healthy. This gave me limited choices on what I had to eat if I was trying to adhere to a healthy diet. With a little bit of help, I picked up a few bits of knowledge that is worth sharing. Here are some of the tips I learned for maintaining good nutritional practices:
- Ensure you eat enough around your workout time.
Given that schedules can differ from day to day, make sure the bulk of your eating is directly before and directly after your workout. This should include the bulk of your carbohydrate intake for the day if you want to optimize performance. Eat foods that will provide you with energy when your body needs it. Can’t get a workout in until 7 or 8 pm? Fill your morning and afternoon with quality protein sources, high nutrient vegetables, and healthy fats to keep you satiated. My favorite high fat snack: almond butter. If you do not want to prepare any foods after your workout, make sure to grab items that you can eat without much effort that still provide you with high protein/ high carbohydrates, such as a banana (about 25g of carbs), and low-fat, unsweetened yogurt (example: 0 or 2% greek yogurt have about 20g of protein per serving) or low-fat cottage cheese.
- Cook while you sleep.
How? If you have the ability to cook your own food and make your own meals, I highly suggest you do so. Meal prep is critical to giving you more insight and control over your nutritional intake. The best meal prep tool? A slow cooker. You can throw all of your ingredients in one pot, turn it on, and you’re set. By decreasing the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, you will free up time for other things, like sleeping. By prepping your food, you are also able to eat everyday fairly mindlessly, which will make it easier for you to stay on track with your meals and snacks throughout your busy day.
Other minor tips include:
- Bringing your prepped food with you to work, class, activities, etc. to free up time
- Skipping high calorie coffees/lattes and opting for water or Spark
Given all of this about nutrition, I would still suggest allowing your body to build muscle and adapt; be sure to not limit your success because of a number on a scale.
Sticking to a training regiment while busy can sometimes feel impossible, but if you treat it like you do a work meeting or college class, you will find the time and motivation to get it done. Personally, having the motivation to go train (or practice for a sport) was rarely a problem, because for me it was a great way to relieve stress and enjoy myself. It was and still is my escape from all of the work I had to do for my academics or while on the job. The following are my tips for sticking to a training cycle:
- Train with others.
The most obvious one is to join a supportive gym or team. There is no better way to keep yourself accountable than to have a trainer/coach or a team that depends on you. The individuals in the gym or on the team will share a common interest with you and can push you when you feel unmotivated.
- Pencil it into your schedule (make it a priority).
Make your training schedule a to-do item. Establish a block of time that is not flexible. In other words, do NOT plan meetings, study times, lunch dates, or anything that might deter you from going to the gym and getting your training in during that block of time. If necessary it might be wise to try to workout at the same time everyday in order to make it a part of your daily regimen.
- Compete (if applicable).
Knowing you have to perform in front of an audience should be enough to fuel your desire to train. However, if your ultimate goal is not to compete, then simply give yourself a deadline of hitting a specific goal. Such goals can be created with a coach or independently if you know what you are doing.
To the average person, the words ‘recovery’ and ‘life’ are pretty much opposites. Between the social parties, time spent in class, family get-togethers, binge drinking all weekend at your favorite bars, fast food, and time spent lugging the kiddos around, recovery sounds like the last thing you’re capable of doing. However, as previously mentioned, life is about prioritizing. Recovery is crucial to being successful in any endeavor. Having said that, allow yourself to be successful both at home/work and in training by allowing your mind and body to rest. Without proper recovery, you will not perform to your potential, and also risk injuring yourself. The following are some quick tips for recovering:
Must I say more? How many scientific studies do you have to read to believe that sleep is directly correlated to both success in and out of the gym? Pick a reasonable bed time based on your schedule and stick to it on a daily basis.
- Understand what it really means to recover and how to do it properly.
Many people think recovery is simply foam rolling and stretching. Be aware of the various stressors that can inhibit proper recovery and educate yourself about how to maximize your efforts to recover. Some things you may want to look into include hydration levels, sleep monitoring, and keeping a nutrition log.
Prioritizing your time is essential to your success in the gym while balancing love, life and fitness. Establish a system of accountability to ensure you do not stray from your program, and be sure to seek guidance from your trainers/coaches and your nutrition coach when you can. Determine what recovery tools you have control over and capitalize on those offered to you. By tracking your nutrition, training, and recovery, you will surely enhance your performance as a parent, at work, or as a student!
Thumbnail Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net