By John Andersen
By far, the single most common reason people give for not sticking to their fitness goals is that they can’t seem to find the time.
On one hand, I completely get it. Life is BUSY! And it seems like it just keeps getting busier. Perhaps our culture is just busier—is there a way to measure that? I’m guessing my parents also complained about being busy back in the 70s and 80s, but it sure does seem that there is not a lot of downtime in people’s schedules these days. When we have given energy and hours to our jobs, our families, and our homes, there just doesn’t seem to be much time for anything else, let alone exercising for an hour!
On the other hand… come on, make time! All too often we think of exercise and fitness as a hobby versus a need in our lives. And perhaps that influences where we put it on our priority list?
We can all get by without exercising and without being fit. We can let our cardiovascular health deteriorate, our weight increase, and our general energy levels decline, and we will likely survive just fine thanks to the amazing infrastructure we have in this county. However we are BETTER when we are fit. Exercise makes us better. When we give ourselves time each day to exercise and take care of our health, we are becoming better human beings.
I heard a really interesting interview on NPR the other day with Yuval Noah Hurari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Mr. Hurari sounds like a crazy eastern European scientist, but I must admit, his views on humans today, compared to our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago, are quite thought provoking.
At one point in the interview, he asserted that on average, humans today do not enjoy a better quality of life than humans did 25,000 years ago. What?! That, of course, sounds crazy. What about all the progress in this modern world?
His point is this: humans long, long ago were all hunter-gatherers. And as much as there were perils, occasional famine, and no “health care” as we know it today, humans lived a surprisingly good existence. We lived in close groups. We worked physically all day, running, walking, squatting, etc., as we gathered our food and kept up our shelters. We were eating a varied diet, sleeping well, and our lives were full of activity. And clearly, we survived.
Compare this to, as he said in the interview, the person who made the shirt that he was wearing, which represents a large proportion of today’s human population. Here, someone is sitting at a desk for 10-12 hours a day, making just cents an hour, doing work that is just not very physical. Their diet, thanks to the agricultural revolution, is very narrow, consisting of mostly rice. Mentally, and physically, as a human, Hurari makes a compelling argument that there is not an obvious answer to who had the better quality of life.
Is this relevant discussion to our lives here in Crozet, though? Indeed!
Humans have been around on this planet long before cars, long before the industrial revolution, and long before the agricultural revolution. Bear with me for a moment – I want you to imagine humans, as they first came to be, a species designed so perfectly that we have literally taken over the world.
Now think of your typical day. Are you living up to your human ancestry? Do you spend time outdoors every day? Do you move and do things physical all throughout the day? Do you eat a varied diet? Do you sleep well, going to bed at nightfall and waking up naturally in the morning?
I’m not sure that many of us can really live the “off-grid” lifestyle in this day and age. I’m trying to make the point that fitness and exercise are NOT optional parts of your health, they are incredibly integral to you performing best as a human being.
Want to be a better parent? Be a fit parent. Want to be a better employee? Be a fit employee. Want to overcome depression, chronic health problems, anxiety? Daily doses of exercise and being outdoors are a start!
Now that we agree that exercise and fitness are integral to your essential being, how are you going to make it happen?
Let me say that I am not a big planner. I am a procrastinator, I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants, and I am about as non-committal as it gets regarding my weekly schedule.
However, besides my work schedule, I follow a very regular exercise schedule that makes exercise happen. Although I don’t necessarily know what I’ll be doing Tuesday morning, I know that I will be exercising. I have discussed it with my spouse and family, and everyone knows when I’ll be taking care of my fitness.
I can’t overstate how important it is for people to have a regular, weekly exercise schedule that becomes part of their daily lives. The key to lasting fitness is consistency. We’ve got to start somewhere and a schedule is a great start. My wife and I share an overlapping schedule of exercise, waking up early, etc., so that we can both get our exercise in while still being there for our son, jobs, and home.
The other big scheduling tip I have for people is to wake up early. If you can turn the TV off and get to bed early, there is a lot of great exercise to be had before 7 a.m.
You may think I’m nuts because I wake up at 4:30 a.m. three days a week to exercise. But for me, this allows me to stay on schedule, and as much as it is always tough to wake up that early, I have never once regretted doing so, and being done with a run/workout/ride by 6:30 a.m. is a very good feeling.
So, think you can’t find time to exercise? Make it a priority. It is a priority! Schedule it, then show up!