A demanding career means it can often be extremely challenging to find the time to exercise and eat healthily as regularly as I’d like. The aim of this blog is to record the difficulties so many of us suffering from "busy life syndrome" face trying to keep up with life and take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. In short, I'll be keeping you all posted about my struggles and successes, and, hopefully, a variety of tips and life hacks can be shared between us along the way!
Work hard, erm...work hard?....
One of the struggles busy people tend to face is fitting exercise into their daily routine, so addressing this particular problem seems like a good place to start my first blog!
First thing in the morning it takes the majority of my concentration and energy just to put my pants on the right way around, let alone find the time or the impetus to do a decent workout. Lunchtime is difficult because I’m usually stuck to my desk working to a deadline. As for in the evening after work, it’s usually late, I’m ready for dinner and if I tried to do any exercise I think my stomach would just eat itself in protest! But after a number of years of fits and starts, where for very short periods of time I managed to be one of those super-humans and regularly fit exercise into my day, I’m hoping I’ve now found a more permanent solution.
Just to give you some background, I’ve very recently moved to London, although I've been working here for a few years now. Prior to the big move, I had a shitty 3 hour commute each day courtesy of one of our dearly beloved train companies. I spent a vast majority of days leaving the house at 6:30am and finally slumping home at 9:30/10:00pm (for half the year I literally forgot what it was to see daylight!). I didn't realise it until I moved but I was pretty much going through life as a zombie; I was tired all of the time and as a result was nowhere near as happy and energetic as I now remember I can be. It was, to say the very least, particularly unpleasant and not one of my life experiences I'm looking to repeat anytime soon! I know there are a few of you out there who feel my pain and, believe me, I feel yours!!
I promise not to drone on about my job other than to briefly introduce you to it. That way, when I moan about it sapping up all of my time in future blog posts, you'll understand why. So, I'm a litigator, which means I spend my days trying to resolve disputes. Think Suits and The Good Wife....nope, actually sorry to disappoint, they're both a pretty unrealistic account of my job but they make it sound much more glamorous than it actually is so I'm happy to maintain the illusion that they're a completely accurate portrayal!
As a litigator I deal with court proceedings, which means that I often have to work to very strict court deadlines. Consequently, it's often a mad rush to the finish line and I have no choice but to stay in the office until it’s all done.
As much as some of my friends who regularly work out would give me the judgmental eye when I told them during this commuting period of my life that I just didn't have time for exercise or consistent healthy eating, I just didn’t! Now I’m sure there are some of you out there who agree with said fitness friends, ‘Well you could have jogged from the train station to work’ or ‘You could have woken up at 5:00am instead of 5:30am for a 30 minute HIIT work-out in the front room’. The reality is that although I desperately wanted to be "that guy", I physically and mentally couldn’t have brought myself to do either of those things. I felt like I barely had time to think, let alone plan what I needed to take with me (change of clothes, deodrant, blah blah blah....) so that I could jog to work the next day. Also, an extra 30 minutes of sleep might not sound much but to me at the time, it was simply too precious to give up!
More time to play...
Since I moved into London my commute on the tube has been markedly less horrendous, being much shorter than before. Now that I have extra time before and after work, I've found it easier to fit exercise into my daily routine (well, maybe daily is exaggerating, let’s say weekly!) and to prepare healthy meals more regularly. That said, like many out there, I’d still put myself into the "time poor" category because of the hours I work.
It's difficult for me to commit to a class every week for instance because I never know what my day will bring. One day I might suddenly have to get into work much earlier or stay later. It can be quite frustrating not being able to pin down a routine. You know how it is!! So, I've been thinking of ways I can make sure that almost every day I'm doing something active, without it taking up a chunk of my morning or evening and without me having to ditch it for work commitments. Also keeping it fun so that I'm encouraged to stick to it. So, I’ve decided to try to fit exercise into my day by spending my daily commute doing it…..I’ve decided to ditch the smelly tube, brave the traffic and get on my bike!!
Cycling to work...
I honestly didn't think I'd ever do it because the thought of cycling on the roads in central London filled me with fear! But the sheer number of people who do it must mean that I can and as long as I brush up on my cycling proficiency and all that, I should be fine...right?
Despite the anxieties, I finally bit the bullet when:
a) I stepped off the tube one particularly hot and sweltering day with sweat literally running down my entire body (gross!) and the pungent stench of everybody else's sweat invading my nostrils. Suddenly the busy roads seemed much more appealing!; and
b) I realised the majority of my cycling journey could actually be away from the main roads if I really wanted to avoid them. Honestly, if you're thinking about getting on your own bike and are nervous about cycling on the roads then I would definitely recommend researching all of the possible routes you could take. You never know, you might have the same stroke of luck I did.
All the gear, no idea...
I spent some time researching valuable tips online for cycling to work (which again I would highly recommend doing) and have now procured the following items:
a) A bike – crucial piece of equipment for cycling to work apparently, who knew! Tip: check to see whether there is a cycle to work scheme near you and look into whether your employer could help you buy your new bike. Saving money- always a plus!
b) Lights – anything to avoid getting knocked off my bike by a wayward bus.
c) Bike locks – the bike was too expensive (eek!) not to do all I can to keep it from getting nicked!
d) Reflective rucksack cover – Again so that I stick out like a sore thumb to the traffic.
e) Helmet – it looks utterly ridiculous but safety first and all that!
I’m hoping all of that will do the job for now but if anybody has any tips or suggestions for things I might need or things that would make the journey easier, let me know!
I’m really looking forward to fitting a chunk of exercise into my day without even trying. It’s time that I would have otherwise been sat on my bum on a train or with my face squished into somebody's armpit on the tube! My hope is that I’ll feel more energetic, stronger and fitter without having to wonder how I'm going to fit that spin class in at the same time as I also have a 40-page witness statement to draft that needs to be filed at Court by Friday!!! Argh!!
Of course, if you're reading this thinking "I hate cycling" or if cycling to work is just not feasible for you, then there might be an alternative way of fitting exercise into your commute, like jogging maybe. Or, if that's not really your thing either, when I was doing my hellish commute every day, rather than get the tube to work once I arrived into London, I would just walk (relatively fast) for 15 minutes. It meant that at least I was being a little bit active before sitting on my butt for the following 11 hours! I would highly recommend it, even if that's all you can manage.
So, wish me luck and stay tuned for details of my first week on the bike to find out how it goes! Also keep an eye on Instagram where I’ll be posting some pics of my journey and my shiny new bike.
In the meantime, if you have any tips for me or stories to share about your own experiences trying to fit exercise into your busy day or about commuting to work, let me know!! I'd love to hear about it!!