While I really enjoy my 4-10 work schedule (a three day weekend every week), the work day that is seldom less than 10 hours leaves little time for personal things like exercise and nutrition. It just seems like I am constantly grabbing lunch on the run and getting up earlier and earlier for my morning exercise routine. I suspect I am not alone with dads working more and more hours to support their families.
So I asked several dads with a commitment to fitness how they fit exercise and good eating in their busy schedules.
Schedule fitness into your calendar. Making an appointment for exercise, and shooting for a consistent time every day, is an important first step. Put it on your Blackberry or in your planner, and it will be easier to keep the appointment.
Pick fitness activities that you enjoy. Dads tell me that finding activities that you really enjoy is a critical component to making time for exercise. I have a friend who is a triathlon participant, so he runs, cycles, and swims. Being constantly in training for a triathlon is a passion, and so my friend always makes time for his fitness regimen.
Walk or exercise during lunch hour. If you have regular lunch hours at work, a good strategy is to spend part of it exercising. Walking for 30 minutes every day can, all by itself, make a big difference in your personal health.
And if you bring a light lunch or grab a salad at a local lunch spot, you can fit it all in.
Walk with the family. One of my neighbors has smaller children, and his strategy is to jog with his kids. His six-year-old jogs alongside him and the two-year-old rides in a stroller. Jogging, walking or cycling with your kids can help you stay committed to the exercise program (they will remind you) and will help build your relationships.
Drink lots of water. Whatever your job, you can usually bring a water bottle along with you. One dad who recently got his act together and lost 40 pounds in the last year told me that one of the keys for him was drinking a gallon of water a day. He works at a computer most of the day and he kept a 24-ounce water bottle in his cubicle and drank all day long, filling it up on breaks.
Make small changes. Many fathers have reported that working fitness into their daily routine has helped. One dad told me that he parks at the far end of the parking lot at work and gets an extra couple of minutes walking to and from work. Another whose office is on the fourth floor of his office building has started using the stairs every day instead of the elevator. Another dad wears a fitness tracker and tries to get 10,000 steps each day. Checking the tracker several times each day, he looks for ways to get steps and if at the end of the day, he is not there, he slips on his walking shoes and hits the neighborhood sidewalks or the treadmill until he hits the 10,000 mark.
Check into flex time options. One dad with whom I talked has a 90-minute regimen each day that he does on his lunch break. He has worked it out with his employer that he comes into the office a half-hour earlier and stays a half-hour later each day and takes a full two-hour lunch break.
Often, employers who have such flexibility are willing to offer it for employers who are committed to good health and wellness practices. Check out what options your employer might offer.
Take a bike. Our office had a recent "bike to work month" with cash incentives and drawings for people who opted to ride their bicycle to and from work each day. I participated and found that I could get about 40 minutes of cycling each work day that way. And given that I would spend about 20 minutes commuting in my car daily, I got 40 minutes of exercise with only 20 additional minutes of time.
Do something during commercials. My family doctor shared with me his secret of fitting in fitness. He has a treadmill at home set up near their television, and he walks during TV commercials and during the late night news.
Again, he does not have to take time away from his regular activities; he just multi-tasks with his treadmill.
Fitting good nutrition and exercise into a hectic daily schedule can be a challenge for fathers. But the benefits are worth the sacrifice and a little creativity in carving out the time every day can really make the difference in embracing a healthy lifestyle.