Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s series on what fitness means to Canadians: “What Does Fitness Look Like For Me?”
There are plenty of stories out there about how people can “lose weight.” We’re not interested in that. We want to know what Canadians really think about fitness, how it makes them feel, and whether they think it’s important for their health. Because no matter what fitness looks like for you, it’s valid.
Today we’re talking to: People with demanding jobs.
It seems like everyone’s lives are so busy these days. Between juggling work and a social life (and perhaps even raising kids, too), it can be tough for some people to find time for themselves, let alone time to get in their daily exercise.
We talked to five Canadians who have demanding jobs and have felt the guilt of bailing on fitness when life gets overwhelming.
Read on to learn how they fit exercise into their schedule and how they cope when the guilt creeps in.
Note: Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
How would you describe your relationship to fitness?
Nikki Bettinelli, 30, is a social media consultant and the founder of social media agency, NB Media.
I am an extremist when it comes to fitness. If I don’t go full force, I don’t see the point. I like to see how far I can push my body. I’ve done fitness model programs. A few years ago I entered a charity boxing tournament and trained for 12 weeks, and right now I am focused on building muscle.
I definitely wish I had more time and energy for working out. I’d also like more time to add in other forms of fitness. I really miss yoga, but I can’t seem to find an extra hour for it right now.
Palak Loizides, 35, is the founder and CEO of Embiria, a Toronto company that hosts pop-up experiences.
I was never the kid in school that excelled in gym class or was part of sports teams, and I grew up to be an adult that never loved working out. [But] I’m so happy to say that over this past year that has changed drastically.
Losing weight and staying “fit” use to be my main priority [for working out], but I now do it because of so much more than that. I value being able to move my body more easily, making healthier food choices, and building strength and resilience both physically and emotionally.
[I value fitness] so much so that I’ll make time for it — even if that means waking up at 6:30 a.m. to get a class in (and I am typically not a “morning person”). You make time for whatever is a priority to you.
Steven Branco, 31, is an entrepreneur, content creator, and an on-air men’s lifestyle expert.
It’s a love-hate relationship for sure. Love the outcome, hate the process and how you feel in the moment. [I] definitely understand that the hard work will pay off.
With such a high-stress job and sitting behind a laptop — in, most of the time, very non-ergonomically friendly ways — you get aches and pains. Working out helps deal with that.
I wish I had more time [for fitness], but when you’re hustling to achieve a dream, every minute counts. And when you’re finally seeing the trajectory, it’s easy to put yourself last to work towards your career goals.
Julie Huber, 26, is a corporate banking analyst and blogger.
I love to exercise. I do it on a regular basis because I find it energizing and a lot of fun, but I do also realize the health benefits from it, especially after sitting at work so much.
If I had more time, I would definitely exercise more and maybe do more sports like skiing and rock climbing, which I like to do, but [they] take more time.
Erin Bury, 34, is the co-founder and CEO of Willful.
I am certainly not one of those people who lives to work out — I can easily Netflix binge and eat pizza as easily as I can go to a Barry’s [Bootcamp] class — but I do love exercise.
Prior to [my] wedding in 2018, I incorporated a lot more strength training into my routine, and I love feeling and looking strong and fit. I don’t wish I had more time to work out, but I do wish fitness classes were more affordable.
Between my Barry’s packages and ClassPass, I spend hundreds of dollars a month on fitness. It’s my one luxury as a startup founder, and I believe it does have a huge positive impact on the business, so I can justify it.
How has your current job changed your fitness habits?
Being so busy, it’s hard to build consistency, which is what I feel is necessary to really get a workout regimen going. Both as an entrepreneur and as a writer and editor, they’re both very demanding roles, so it’s tough.
I don’t want to [restrain] myself to not have any time for fitness because I know how important it is. So I just try to fit in any form of extra activity and steps as possible. Heck, you might even catch me doing lunges up or down [Toronto’s] Yonge Street on my way home from work!
It’s made me much more scheduled. Before owning my own business, I would workout when I could fit it in and didn’t really have a plan or a schedule.
Now I know that working out helps my mental health and makes me more productive, so I make a point to schedule my workouts into my calendar and make sure I don’t miss them.
Currently, I’m finding 5 p.m. workouts are best for my schedule, but the days vary based on meetings and events.
I’ve always been into fitness, but being an entrepreneur has changed when I work out and why.
In previous [job] roles, I worked out to be strong and to counteract my favourite things: wine and pizza. But now I work out for the mental benefits as well as the physical benefits.
Exercise is proven to be one of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety, and it also helps you sleep better. I think a regular exercise routine should be required for any entrepreneur.
What does fitness look like for you now?
For the past 18 months I’ve been working out around five to six times per week consistently with high intensity training. Going first thing in the morning helps me start my day in the best way. I also walk to and from my classes at F45 (a training studio) — 30 minutes each way, even in the winter — which has the added benefit of getting fresh air and clearing my mind.
I love fast-paced workouts that make me sweat, but I know it’s important to stretch and move my body in different ways. So I also like to add in a barre or yoga class once a week to switch things up and allow me to slow down.
Right now, I do three to four days a week [of] strength training, and I’m trying to fit in two boxing sessions a week to get my cardio back on point. If I don’t schedule a workout into my calendar, it’s easy to skip it or get too busy and forget about it.
I schedule my strength training with my partner and boxing with a trainer so that I’m accountable to someone. It’s hard to skip your workout when someone is relying on you. I treat it like a work meeting.
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Fitness doesn’t always take first priority, that’s why I’ve switched to all morning or weekend workouts. There are just so many things to distract you from getting to a post-work class.
I love HIIT training, bootcamps, boxing, spinning, and barre. I typically do three classes a week and then supplement that with one to two sessions at my condo’s gym (bike or running and weights).
My morning classes are always 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m., which scares some people, but exercise reduces my stress levels, helps me sleep better, and getting it out of the way in the morning is the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t get knocked off my to-do list.
“It’s hard to skip your workout when someone is relying on you. I treat it like a work meeting.”
With all the challenges and changes in my schedule, I just can’t commit to making it out to the gym regularly. So what I do to get some activity is build some cardio into my day.
I walk more [and make] an effort to do it as much as possible every day. Sometimes it just isn’t possible because of how crazy my day is, but I usually will get [my steps] in at least five times a week. Then, if I manage to slip in at least one weight session at my local gym, great. But let’s be honest, that hasn’t happened in a long time.
Do you consider fitness to be a priority in your life?
Over the last few years, my job has required a lot of my time. It’s really made me prioritize what’s important to me; however, I treat fitness like a part of my job. I make a conscious effort to fit it into my schedule, otherwise, it wouldn’t ever happen.
Early in my life I realized the importance of exercise and I found that it really helped to keep me grounded.
“Over the last few years, my job has required a lot of my time. It’s really made me prioritize what’s important to me; however, I treat fitness like a part of my job.”
Not at all. My work is my priority. It’s what I have worked so hard for and I’m totally consumed by it. I’m an entrepreneur; if you don’t work, you don’t gain, so it’s easy to get submersed in it.
I also haven’t hit rock bottom, and because I feel like I manage to keep a handle on getting some form of exercise in regularly, then I feel satisfied — for now at least.
Absolutely. My hobbies are travelling, reading, playing guitar, and working out. It’s one of the few things I consistently make time for outside of work, and I rarely go a week without working out.
Do you feel guilty when you can’t fit fitness into your schedule?
[The guilt] creeps in if I happen to have a really jam-packed day where I physically can’t make it to a class or if I’m on vacation or happen to get sick and have to be in bed. All of those things can feel like a step back.
Unlike before where they would really steer me off track (an excuse to stop essentially), I now know it’s temporary and I can get right back into it tomorrow.
Fitness doesn’t have to mean a hardcore workout either. If I can’t make it to a class, I just ensure I squeeze in time to move in other ways, like going for a long walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. I’ve learned that all of the little things make a huge difference, too.
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Yes. I feel sluggish both mentally and physically. As an entrepreneur, there are late nights, lots of events, and lots of opportunities to be unhealthy, so part of my commitment to my personal and professional growth is to ensure that I’m taking care of myself. When I’m not working out, I’m not doing that.
I use to feel guilty when I missed out, but now, if I miss the odd day, I’m OK with it and I just shift my schedule as needed. Sometimes if there is a busier work day, or I am recovering from an injury — two things I can’t necessarily control — shifting my schedule might mean instead of going to a yoga class, I might just squeeze in a short workout at the gym.
How has your attitude towards fitness changed over time?
I was thinking the other day, “I’m a fitness person ... someone who genuinely loves working out now,” and I don’t really know when that happened. Fitness was always a part of my life, but I never truly loved it until a few years ago.
I use to work out just because, but now I know how it impacts more than just what I look like. It impacts my mood, my mental health, and my productivity.
I actually crave it now, which is still shocking to me to say. Especially as I get older, and as I see people of all ages, I think to myself, “My health is a blessing and I want to treat my body in the best way possible as I age.”
For me that means making sure I move regularly, sweat regularly, and feed myself nourishing food. I’ve now seen results firsthand in how much better it feels to be active and strong and actually enjoy working out rather than dreading it.
When I was regularly going [to the gym] way back when, I loved it. Now I dread it because it’s an uphill battle again, but I love cardio. So trying to fit [fitness] in, in any way, shape or form keeps me grounded. It makes me feel like I haven’t given up.
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