They say that the building blocks of fitness success are simple. Have a goal, make a plan, and consistently execute it. Doing this puts you above most other people, and that’s before you begin learning about proper nutrition and training habits.

It’s an approach that’s difficult to argue against and mirrors in some way the process many of us were taught when it came to education in our early years. However, the formula neglects to take into account the realities of modern society and how our responsibilities and commitments conflict with this simplistic approach.

Waking up at 6am to spend some time with those new adjustable dumbbells sounds straightforward enough. But that deadline at work is also playing on your mind, or your newborn baby isn’t quite on the same wavelength as you and your ambitious new ab exercises. Going out for some drinks at the weekend sounds like a plan that the textbooks say you should ignore, but when you haven’t seen an old friend for a year, the temptation isn’t easy to put to one side.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s never about being perfect and most people who have long term training goals reach them despite a few slips along the way. As long as the slips are the exception to your habits and you’re able to get yourself back on track quickly, it’s still possible to aim high, and get there.

It’s easy when you have 28 hours in a day.

work life balance and exercise

Time is something that many of us have in short supply and the idea of factoring in dedicated exercise time to an already busy day seems like nothing less than impossible. When you’re told you “just need to find the time”, it’s not a particularly helpful piece of advice. 

However, what you can do is change how you view your exercise plans. If a bulging to-do list at work commands your attention, is it possible that a strict exercise routine could help you become more productive in the long-run? Does that make exercise a part of achieving your work goals too? 

Our goals within fitness and outside of it are not separated neatly and the building blocks for success in your training are likely to be entirely inline with those in other aspects of your life.

Practical steps:

  • Don’t try to commit time that you don’t have. If you can fit in 10 minutes of exercise in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon, then that’s your starting point.
  • Remember that exercise could in fact help you save time in other areas. More exercise equals more sleep and this could give you a much more productive morning every single day.

One salad won’t make you slim, one burger won’t put fat on you.

healthy nutritional balance burger vs salad

One of the most important aspects of our physical health is nutrition. That doesn’t mean a Friday night pizza delivery is ever out of the question (stop thinking about mozzarella sticks), but rather taking a balanced approach to your diet, moderating the things that stand between you and your goals but not restricting to the point that your mental health suffers.

Our social lives are notoriously food-centric (we’ll come to alcohol shortly), and sharing a meal with friends and family is woven into the unwritten rules of society across the many cultures that share the planet. The choices you have are to exclude yourself from such activities or you can adapt your approach. One thing is certain; removing yourself from friendship groups and family gatherings is far from ideal for maintaining your overall wellbeing.

Out at a restaurant, your friends are not having a good time because of the calorie dense options you have on your plate. An hour after you finish your meal, the only person who will remember what you ordered will be you and so you may find the mixed grill doesn’t always have to be upgraded and that side dishes truly are optional. On the other hand, you don’t always have to hold back, and some days it’s ok to allow yourself to binge just remembering that the following morning, you’re back on track and you haven’t let anybody down. 

Bear in mind, one salad never made anybody slim, so one burger and chips won’t have the opposite effect.

  • It’s ok to eat food that’s considered naughty. You don’t have to train like an Olympic athlete to make real, tangible changes to health.
  • The small adaptations add up in the long run. Nobody believes brushing their teeth once will make a huge difference to their dental hygiene, but doing it twice a day for years certainly does.

Would you like a top up?

alcohol exercise fitness training

“Alcohol is the only drug that if you’re NOT using, people ask if you’re ok”

The topic of alcohol is never missed when lifestyle and fitness come into conflict with each other. Yes, alcohol in excess isn’t doing you any favours physically and this paragraph isn’t intended to cause any kind of revelation on that point.

Reducing alcohol intake is one of the most difficult lifestyle changes that people need to make in order to reach their fitness goals, but it’s also not a case of one day pulling up the drawbridge on alcohol consumption either. Much like fast food, alcohol in moderation is entirely consistent with a new fitness regime. If you were drinking heavily before, then that certainly can’t continue indefinitely but that was true even before you decided to embark on a training journey and if you didn’t make the decision, chances are your liver would have done so at some point. 

For some of us, enjoying a drink at the end of the week can be a way to unwind and release the stress (see below) of an intense week at work. And that’s fine, as long as you take into account the fact that there will typically be a great number of calories involved and an increased desire to break good eating habits. Is it possible for you to choose to drink less on each occasion, or commit to drinking just one day per week? There are many positive steps you can take that don’t involve abstaining, and this is where the majority of people sit, as can you.

When you’re drawn into social situations where drinking is involved, could that be the day you opt to be designated driver? If not, as an adult, never forget that you’re allowed to drink soft drinks for some of the night if that’s what works for you. You’re certainly not alone if you’ve been in a situation where you feel compelled to drink more by those around you and you regularly find all of a sudden your glass is being topped up. Sometimes it’s ok to say no and other times it’s ok to go along with it. The key is moderation and remember, the dose makes the poison.

Practical steps:

  • If you choose to, you can still drink alcohol. You just have to give it a little more thought
  • If you slip up, put it behind you and tomorrow is a new day

Just take some deep breaths…

“Boiling water will soften the potato but harden the egg. 
It’s not the environment, it’s what you’re made of”

Stress is more of an issue than we can ever convince ourselves of and it’s a word that after exploration demonstrates how our physical and mental health are strong bedfellows.

It could be a stressful career, relationship, or responsibilities such as bringing up children. Regardless, stress placed on our body is felt mentally first, and physically afterwards. The good news is, the way you deal with stress will play into your wellbeing and fitness goals and this can be positive.

Stress links back to the topics already discussed in this blog post including diet and alcohol and is largely the reason why abstaining from fast food or alcohol isn’t always the best path to success if doing so removes one of your tools for managing stress.

What we have to do is find balance amongst everything we want to do and achieve and realise that our decisions aren’t isolated. Cutting down on alcohol can increase how we feel stress but may lead to fewer mornings where you wished you hadn’t the night before and leave you feeling more motivated to get out of bed and work up a sweat in your home gym. This then inspires a day of conscious eating and over time a habit is built.

Practical steps:

  • If you need to slip up a few times, that’s fine if it keeps your wellbeing in check
  • Visible abs are no replacement for good mental health. If you need to break your good food choices for a day or two to help your mind, do it. The trick is to get back on track afterwards.