Are you worried about how much exercise you do or don’t do? Are you aware that you are spending too much time sitting behind a desk, working long hours, and eating unhealthily?
Do you think you might not be drinking enough water or getting enough sleep?
Many expats find it hard to fit exercise into their schedules. Often they find themselves in a cycle of too little activity, too many business dinners, frequent travel, and long working hours.
The American Association of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week, or 20-60 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times a week.
You know the benefits of exercise. You are well aware that a good exercise routine will not only help keep you physically healthy, but also help you sleep well, and enable you to cope better with stress. But how can you possibly fit it in?
You aren’t going to smash a marathon on your first run. Creating an exercise plan based on realistic goals is the best way to establish good habits. Start small, (3 x 10 mins a day, for example) and build up slowly. In this way you are less likely to get injured, and more likely to stick to your plan.
Actively replace any negative with positive thoughts. For example, rather than thinking, “I’ll be really tired at work if I run this morning” tell yourself “I’ll feel energised and in control of my health if I run this morning.”
In 2013, Nilofer Merchant argued in Harvard Business Review, that “sitting is the smoking of our generation” because it increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, think about ways to get yourself moving.
Get on your bike, or walk part of your commute. Stand up when you talk on the phone, or better still, take a walk. Set an alarm to remind yourself to move every hour. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, exercise while you watch TV, take a 10-20 min brisk walk at lunch. Stretch in your chair, or sit on a stability ball. Small actions, practised repeatedly lead to good, long-term habits.
Find your favorite form of exercise
It’s really important to find a form of exercise that fits in with your lifestyle and personality because this will be much easier to incorporate into your schedule without it becoming a chore.
Try different things. Book a dance class, swim some laps or take up martial arts. If you are motivated by being part of a community find a team, or a running buddy, or a class. If you work better when you’re held accountable, ask around for recommendations for a good personal trainer. Commit to regular times, book ahead and schedule the times in your calendar.
Create a plan that fits in with your lifestyle. If you travel a lot, plan exercise you can do when you’re away, such as running, interval training or body weight exercises. Put a jump rope in your suitcase – 10 minutes of skipping is a great high impact cardio exercise.
Incorporate strength training and stretching into your programme as well as cardio. While cardio is important for your long-term health, strength training will boost your metabolism, and stretching will mean you are less sore after training, and less prone to injury.
Feed your motivation
Think about what motivates you, and create a plan that feeds this motivation. Do you want to feel more energised so you can run around with your kids, for example? Do you worry about your long-term health and want to feel more in control?
Track your progress using an app, or a good old-fashioned wall chart. There’s nothing more motivating than ticking off those completed sessions! Set regular targets. If you’re a beginner runner, for example, find a 5K race and make an exercise programme that will get you there.
Plan when you are going to do your sessions and schedule them in your calendar. Prioritise these sessions as if they are important meetings. If you can’t make a session, reschedule, just like you would a work meeting.
If it helps you to think about the benefits for your career, remember increased fitness will give you more energy, quality sleep and increased productivity. It will alleviate stress, and mean you can cope better with the demands of your job.
Or consider, what will happen if you don’t exercise. Investing time in your health now will mean less time and money invested in doctor appointments, medication and sick leave in the long-term.
It’s a no-brainer, really, isn’t it?