For most of us at some point in time, work is a reality of life. I was a part of the working world for the last 13 years in some form or another until fate made it possible for me to stay home with my kiddos. Whether you love your job or hate it, working for a living is something that you know you have to do, and probably don't have much trouble motivating yourself to show up to each day. Wake up, get ready, arrive on time, do a decent enough job to not get fired (maybe better!), rinse and repeat...day after day, week after week. As responsible adults, we make our careers a priority out of necessity. We work to make money, which helps us live the lives we desire. You can complain about it, think it's boring and wish you didn't have to do it, but ultimately, the rewards we get from working outweigh the "rewards" of not working (like sleeping in or having more free time).
So why do we treat other areas of our lives as so much less important? You can hate your job but still show up 40+ hours a week for decades. Even if you don't enjoy exercise, couldn't you muster enough motivation to spend 10 or 15 minutes a day on it? After all, the benefits of exercising—weight management, stress relief, stronger bones and muscles, a healthier heart, less depression, higher self-esteem, a sense of pride and accomplishment, a decreased risk for countless chronic and debilitating diseases—far outweigh the temporary "rewards" of skipping it (more couch time or a few extra minutes of sleep).
What would it look like if we all treated exercise like our jobs (or at least our second jobs)? Doing exactly that could help us make fitness part of our lives once and for all.
Here are a few ways you can treat exercise like your job. View it the same way, and you'll make far fewer exercise excuses.
Make it a priority.
For most people, our jobs are our #1 priority. You spend more time at work that almost anywhere else, and your daily life revolves around your work schedule. If you exercised like it was your (second) job, you'd treat those gym appointments with as much importance as work. You'd make all the other things in your life work around your workout schedule. I know it can seem daunting, but think of all the many other commitments that you treat with respect in your life. Working out is just as important as many other hobbies and responsibilities because it keeps YOU in tip-top shape to be your best at everything else (including a better worker, partner, volunteer, parent, friend and so on). So next time your girlfriends want to plan drinks during your Wednesday night Spinning class, ask them to pick another day or time, or squeeze in a shorter workout and then go meet them. Only by making fitness a priority like you do your job will you ever be able to really stick with a workout regimen. Personally, if I prioritized working out as much as I prioritized meal planning or potty-training my rug rats, I would learn to view it in a whole new way.
Show up on time.
Most of us don't have trouble hitting the sack, setting the alarm, and getting out the door in time to beat rush hour and get to our posts on time. Why then are you chronically late for your personal training session or unable to wake up 30 minutes earlier to squeeze in a morning walk? The truth is that you are capable of showing up to things on time, but you aren't prioritizing your workouts like you do your job. If working out was your livelihood, you would not hit snooze or stay up too late. Think about that next time the early morning alarm sounds. If you treat exercise like your job, you may feel tired—maybe even unmotivated—but you'll get out of bed anyway and put your shoes to the pavement. For me, making myself go to be on time is the key. If I go to bed instead of stay up watching that late night Oprah Lifeclass, then I'd be a bit more rested and able to get up before my household.
Most jobs have some kind of a dress code, whether strict uniforms or a certain level of business-appropriate attire. Because work is important to you, you adhere to those standards, purchasing enough work clothes for a variety of seasons and occasions. You don't have to spend a lot on workout clothes, but you should have something you can work out in: appropriate shoes for your activity, the right layers if you hope to walk or run in the winter, and any other gear that makes working out more comfortable and convenient, such as a gym bag and water bottle. Treat your workouts with as much respect as you do your job, and you'll never be at a loss for clothing or gear, which means you won't be able to make excuses about skipping it.
Try your best.
I know plenty of people who just clock in, put in their hours, and leave when the clock strikes five. But I know a lot more people who try hard at work—and in many areas of their life. There's a lot of satisfaction that comes from a hard day's work, regardless of your job. You probably feel better at the end of each day when you know that you gave it all you could. Not only do you feel better, but your boss probably notices your work effort, too (and hopefully rewards you for it). Similarly, I see people in the gym who trudge through their workouts on autopilot without even an ounce of intensity. Yes, some exercise (even low-key) is better than none, but why not put a little more "oomph" behind your exercise sessions? Not only will your body benefit from a greater calorie burn and challenge, helping you get even fitter as a result, but maybe more importantly, YOU will feel proud of yourself. When I teach my boys new things, I remind them not to quit just because you get bored or it seems hard. I need to follow this same advice in my daily work-outs. We need to give ourselves work-outs that we can be proud of.
Climb the ladder.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? If you're career-oriented, then you probably have some goals in mind. You work hard, challenge yourself in new ways, and hope to climb the corporate ladder. Whether it's for prestige, self-satisfaction or simply more money, most of us hope to move up the corporate ladder. Your workouts should be no different. Regardless of your age or fitness level, you can always improve and take yourself to the next level of fitness. Have you been walking for years? Maybe it's time to graduate to jogging. Have you been lifting the same 5-pound dumbbells for 6 months? Then give yourself a promotion to the 8 pounders and see what you can really do!
Strive for work-life balance.
While most Americans struggle with this, it's something that we all want. If you follow a typical work schedule, you are at least taking a couple days off from work each weekend, which helps us better achieve the balance that we need in our lives. It can't always be work, work, work. And it can't always be work out, work out, work out. You need downtime, easier days, rest days, and a variety of workouts to help prevent boredom and burnout. Build rest, variety and downtime into your workout program just like you do (hopefully) into your work life. We all need to cut ourselves some slack sometimes!
One of the reasons I'm trying my hardest to make exercise a part of my daily life is because I treat it like it's my second job. It's a major priority for me—probably the second biggest priority in my life next being a stay-at-home-mom. There's almost nothing I do every single day other than keep up with the house and two toddlers and exercise, but at the same time, I'm learning to make it fun and give myself the balance (and downtime) that I need, which keeps me going strong.
So next time you find your workout motivation waning, or start making excuses to skip your exercise session, ask yourself how you'd respond to that hurdle if exercise was your job. Chances are, you'll clear it (and be glad you did).
Do you treat exercise with the importance that you do your job? Why or why not?