The biggest problem that people over the age of 35 seem to always claim as being the primary obstacle to getting in shape is that they are too busy. And the reasons they make this claim are obvious:
- Work commitments keep them busy the majority of their day.
- Family time is at a premium, and often scarce.
- Errands need to be run to keep up with the house and personal needs.
- Kids need to be shuttled around from place to place.
- Their spouse or significant other demands their time.
- Eating healthy requires shopping and preparation time.
- Getting in shape means working out, which can cost time, money, and the hassle of finding the right place or the right group or trainer.
- They have to sleep sometime!
Does this sound like someone you know?
If you are over the age of thirty-five, you typically have different priorities than someone under that age. People in their twenties are ordinarily preoccupied with career advancement and socializing, both of which are distractions from getting into shape, yet the vanity of those pursuits often help to sway an individual to get in shape if only to impress their peers than for no loftier reason.
As a mature adult, you have likely left such petty pursuits behind you. You probably sloughed off the yoke of young adulthood years ago, and now you have real responsibilities!
…And these responsibilities don’t leave you room to fraternize needlessly at a gym, flirt with singles at a health club, or workout for three hours a day in a CrossFit box while you live in your parents’ basement.
Nope—You have a serious career, you’ve got a spouse that needs you, and you might even have kids (and that can include dogs that need attention too)!
The good news is that you can get in shape and achieve a high level of fitness, even if you are over 35 and frankly, “too busy.”
Here are the secrets you need to know in order to get in shape at your age and with your level of responsibility:
Getting in shape over 35 is all about your approach, your mindset, and focusing on process instead of perfection.
Too many people are completely focused on the wrong things. Turn that around and get in shape faster by being a little bit counter-culture.
Your approach to health and fitness
If you have exercised a day in your life, chances are you have a belief system that was solidified back when you were still in high school (remember the jocks and the nerds?) where you simply joined a sport, turned on Eye Of The Tiger, and cranked out fifty sit-ups.
This approach gets you thinking that you need to go hard-core and all-in to make the big change. The problem with this approach is that it often leads to burnout, injury, but most importantly, it sets you up for failure because it seems like it is going to take more commitment (i.e. time) than you currently have to devote to it.
Consequently, you save your big day for your big change for a special time in the distant future that never comes.
People who fall prey to this often say things like: “I really should be working out.” Yet they never seem to get around to it because in their mind it is a big deal and big deals take time and commitment that they just can’t seem to make a priority.
Instead of this faulty approach, turn it on its head.
The key is to sneak up on exercise and nutrition the way you would a wild animal. Don’t spook it (or your psyche). Try just a little bit of exercise and don’t overdo it—on purpose.
Instead of turning it into a big deal, just say things like “Yep, that’s me” as a response every time you think of getting in shape. Yes, you are the type of person who just does it, and no it isn’t a big deal, so don’t make it one.
The best part of doing small things is that they don’t take very much time! You could simply take your dog for a walk while listening to voice mails or podcasts, or even taking calls. True, you might get a few odd looks, but your neighbors will get used to it and you are killing several birds with one stone (and your dog will appreciate it too).
Your mindset about getting in shape
The compliment to your approach is the right mindset when it comes to getting in shape post 35 years old.
When you are 25, you party hard and get away with it. You can celebrate every time you do something right. However, at this point in your life, when celebrating too often is no longer enjoyable nor beneficial, you need to change your mindset about fitness and exercise.
Contrary to popular opinion, you shouldn’t throw yourself a big party just because you went and worked out one time, or ate one healthy meal.
The reason is that you are setting yourself up for an unrealistic expectation from day one, and you will be sorely disappointed the next time you workout and don’t receive a surprise party with cake, ice cream, and an open bar.
Instead, you should just do a little bit (as discussed in the previous section) and then move on to planning your next workout or healthy meal. Take it one step at a time and focus on incremental progress. It is the small, seemingly insignificant positive choices that ultimately lead to success, as opposed to the small errors of judgment that ultimately lead to failure. One bad day is not going to undo all of your progress, so always stay focused on the long game and thinking about the larger view of time.
Taking the longer view of time changes all of your priorities. Once you see that fitness is a must for your long-term health and happiness, it becomes easier to sneak a little bit of it in every day or at least several times per week so that you hardly notice it.
Turn the TV off or simply set an alarm at the end of the work day that is non-negotiable. If that doesn’t work, do it before heading into the office, when the only excuse you have is wanting to sleep in, which you don’t need to do, especially if you go to bed at a decent hour. Your mindset influences time by what you consider important uses of time.
Everyone has time for what they truly value.
Your fitness process, not perfection
The final key to getting in shape even if you are over 35 and too busy is to understand and develop a process for long-term health and wellness, rather than succumb to the lure of fast results. We live in a microwave culture where everything is promised instantaneously.
When designing a fitness program for someone over 35, the last thing I want to do is go looking for instant flat abs or overnight buns of steal. The ideas planted in your brain from years of cultural conditioning are likely telling you to lose weight fast and just get it over with as if it is a thing you do once per year and then don’t have to think about again.
If you are looking at it this way, you are missing the point.
The process of getting in shape is a wonderful experience because you get the additional benefits that go far beyond the cosmetic. You get to do things like:
- Lower blood pressure and other vital numbers your doctor likes
- Feel better
- Have more energy
- Sleep better
- Have a better sex life
- Lower your stress
- Get along with people better
- Become more productive at work
- Lower your medical bills
- And obviously, a million other things you can add to here
Your process needs to include evaluations and goal setting. You need to think about your health and fitness objectives regularly, but not obsess over them. I recommend you set goals every 90 days and then have someone you care about (or your workout buddy) go over them with you and help you stay accountable. Make sure the goals are measurable and reasonable. You can safely lose one to two pounds of fat per week without doing anything crazy or drastic. The time this takes is negligible.
Your process to get in shape needs to include slow and steady progress over time, not binges of activity that send you over the edge physically and mentally. You need to do something two to three times a week and give yourself plenty of rest and recuperation time.
Finally, be careful not to get caught up in perfect. The perfect body doesn’t exist, nor does the perfect fitness routine. By focusing on a healthy process, you will make progress, and you are far more likely to enjoy the experience, which keeps you in the game for the long-term.
And the long-term is where the reward is.
If you focus on a-slow-and-steady-wins the race kind of process and avoid the need to hurry up and get hurt or burned out, you will be able to find all kinds of time hidden in your calendar since you will finally realize that a few minutes is often all it takes to get started.
Quit looking for the perfect block of several hours to get in shape and just get started now.