Every time I do any open Q&As, one of the most-asked questions centres around fitting in workouts when you work a full-time job. These generally come from people who have recently graduated and who are going to go into work soon, or those of you who have just started work and are hella confused by this whole permanently exhausted thing. Well – welcome to Being An Adult! For anyone who just dropped in here by accident, I work a full-time job as a Trainee Solicitor at one of the biggest law firms in the world. So when I say full-time, that does not mean 9-5! I start at 8 every day (by my own volition) and currently do finish around 6/630pm but I’ve put in a LOT of late nights in my time (the latest I’ve got home is 3am, to be back in at 9am). So when I say I understand your pain – trust me, I do!
What makes it worse is that I did 5 years of higher education (4 years at the University of Birmingham/Université Panthéon-Assas in Paris) and then a year of my LPC exams. So for the last five years, I’d been used to having an abundance of free time; meaning I was able to really focus on nutrition, training, spending more or less every day glued to Noel, and best of all, sleeping.
Skip to September 2016 and I got hit with the most gruesome wake-up call of all time. To give you some context, my mum passed away on 2 September. I was due to start work on 5 September. I actually went in on 19 September, still pretty deluded from the past two weeks’ events, and started in Banking & Finance (which is basically Corporate law). The hours were antisocial at best, and exhausting at worst. My nutrition was more or less reduced to thrice-daily visits to the subsidised Starbucks, my training consisted of a 5-minute walk from the train station to the office, I barely saw Noel (that was the hardest bit) and sleep… What is this word? Not to mention a severely suffering state of mental health – that’s a whole other conversation, but needless to say I looked and felt… Grey.
So, this post is one that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, because I feel like I’m kind of the perfect guinea pig for this situation. Granted, I’ve now changed departments and the hours are a little kinder on the work-life balance. But I still get home for around 7pm, meaning if I want to work out, cook/eat, have any kind of social life and make sure my house doesn’t look like it’s just been raided by armed police, I have to get my ass in gear. Workout gear, if it’s all the same to you.
- So. Ridiculously long intro out of the way, I present to thee my guide to staying on track of your fitness whilst also climbing the career ladder. I really should think of a snappier name. Bear with me guys. As mentioned I’m aiming this at those of you who are currently either not training because of work, or who are about to go into work and are worried about how it’s going to affect your fitness regimes, based on my experience. That said if you don’t fit into those categories, please do read on J
#1 Think like Beyoncé
Shouldn’t every good guide start with this tip? Let me explain: we’ve all seen that picture going around that says something along the lines of “You have exactly the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé”. What I’m taking from is not so much “do you know the Single Ladies routine yet? DO YOU? AND WHERE THE HELL IS BLUE IVY?!” and more “you need to start utilising the time that you have”. Given the multitasking, ridiculously talented artist/mother/wife/all-round bad ass that she is, Beyoncé is obviously very good at being pragmatic. So how do we think like Bey?
- Calculate how many hours you have between the time you get home and the time you need to go to sleep
- Think about everything you should do in that time
- Think about everything you actually do in that time
- Get off your damn phone (unless you’re reading this… hehe)
- DO THE THINGS
- FEEL THE HAPPY
In essence, all that free time you’re used to having has now been cruelly ripped from you. So if you want to do anything with your life, you’re going to have to start being a lot more proactive, pragmatic and organised. This leads us to…
#2 Plan ahead
If you want to make this work, you’re going to have to do a little thinking ahead. Boring, I know. But in the long run, it just means you’re going to have more time to do the things you love. Some things you need to start thinking about are:
- Food: are you in a position to order prep meals? Can you do your online grocery shopping on the train to work so that you don’t have to spend an hour aimlessly pushing a trolley around Tesco? Can you simplify the meals that you do eat so that you’re spending less time cooking?
- Workouts: try and have at least a vague idea of the workouts you want to get in every week. For me, this is generally four a week – two legs, two upper body. Yes, I could do more but I find that at the moment that suits me fine. PS – my main workout style is weightlifting, but of course if you prefer yoga, running, cycling etc – then just plan your classes, routes, whatever it might be in the same manner as I would for lifting.
- Your social life: it might be time to spend less of your free hours hanging around in the pub, or window shopping (guilty) and more time fitting in your chores or things you really need to get done.
The end goal here is to feel accomplished at the end of the day. Procrastination is your absolute worst enemy. I try and multitask where I can – emails and replying to texts/DMs during my morning commute, seeing friends whilst at the gym instead of just chilling at each other’s houses, etc etc. I guess the crux of the matter is that unless you’re getting home at 11pm every night and need to be back up at 6am, you have time to work out. If, despite the fact that you actually get home at a reasonable time, you still feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to hit the gym, it’s probably because you just don’t want to. I get it, I really do. We all have those days. But when you’re having those days, here’s a little magic tip for you: exercising releases these beautiful little bastards called endorphins. AKA, our body’s very own happy pills. So as lethargic, grumpy or just plain pissed off as you may be, exercise is literally the key to turning your frame of mind – and your frame – around. Trust me. 🙂
#3 The more the merrier
I have found that one of the biggest obstacles, or conversely, encouragements, to being able to work out, eat well and stay happy is the company you keep. I’ll expand: I am very lucky to have a lot of friends who are also into fitness, meaning we can keep each other on track and even work out together. This extends to Noel, luckily for me; I don’t have to worry about coming home and then immediately going out to the gym and spending basically no time with him, as we can just go to the gym together and catch up on our respective days there.
So if you can, you’re going to want to get others on board with your new lifestyle change. If this can include your work colleagues, even better; you’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. I am most definitely that one prick at work that won’t stop banging on about how everyone needs to avoid the biscuit tin and get some kale down them. Dear work colleagues, if you’re reading this, I’m doing it in your best interests! If you can egg each other on when it comes to diets, going to the gym after or before work, or even little things such as going for a half hour walk at lunch instead of sitting on the Daily Mail website, then why not?
#4 Don’t be too hard on yourself
Unless you are a) prepping for a show (unlikely), b) chronically over or underweight or c) doing some kind of scientific experiment, then NO ONE can blame you for not looking like a Victoria’s Secret/Men’s Health model 365 days a year. It’s so important that you allow yourself to ‘cycle’ – by which I mean going from peak fitness to somewhat fluffy around the edges, and back again. How do I do this? I set myself little goals throughout the year, usually dependent on some kind of event (holidays, expos, big events etc) for which I will genuinely focus on training and dieting hard. Otherwise, I will stick to 3-4 effective workouts a week and making healthy choices with my food, but I certainly don’t follow any kind of strict nutrition or training plans all year round!
Your happiness will depend on this, because your energy levels will. You need to understand that first and foremost you are trying to further your career. Unless that career is as a PT or bikini model, fitness and health is probably not going to be your main priority. You need the mental focus, energy and positivity to be able to deliver your best day in, day out. You’re not going to be able to do that if you’re training at 7am every day and surviving on 1000 calories!
… And that’s it. I’m not going to tell you what to superset with banded donkey kicks, or do a full run-down of my meals today, because that’s not going to help you! Being organised, balanced, positive, well-fed and surrounded by likeminded people is the way forward when it comes to fitting fitness into a full-time career.
I hope this helps you all get into a better, more enthusiastic state of mind J If you have any specific questions please do drop me a message via the contact page or leave your comments below!