Fitting in fitness when life is unpredictable

Don’t you love it when everything goes according to plan?

No work dramas, family emergencies or exploding appliances to interrupt the workouts you scheduled for the week.

Great sleep and lots of energy to support your efforts in the gym.

Knees, hips and shoulders that squat, lunge, push and pull with nary a complaint.

If you’re like most midlife exercisers, this ‘perfect’ week is the exception rather than the rule.

Wait for it to appear before you start your next exercise routine or nutrition program and you’re likely to be waiting awhile…

More often, unpredictably is the norm and learning to fit in fitness despite upheaval and chaos is an important strategy to long-term health and wellness.

Here are three approaches to fitting in fitness when life is unpredictable (that is, most of the time…):

Create a ‘flexible schedule’

‘Flexible schedule’. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But being flexible with your workout plans is the best way to maintain the consistency required to develop a long-term exercise habit.

Embrace all definitions of ‘flexibility’

  • Recognize the potential for interruptions

When you create your weekly workout schedule, look for days when things might not go according to plan. They’re usually pretty easy to spot.

An early morning workout scheduled after a late night work function.

An evening workout scheduled for a night when there are lots of kids’ activities on tap.

A long strength session at the end of a busy week.

Workouts that might be abandoned because life ‘got in the way’.

  • Draft a plan ‘B’

Having a back-up plan in place before chaos erupts reduces the chance that you’ll miss your scheduled workout.

Sub an at-home body-weight workout for your planned gym visit when time is tight.

Reduce your recommended number of sets from 3 to 2 (or even 1; 1 is always better than none).

Walk the track while you wait for soccer practice/swim team/dance class to end.

  • Include a ‘flex’ day

Look to the end of the week and see whether there’s a pocket of time that might work as a ‘make-up’ session. Label it ‘flex’ time and plan on keeping it free just in case you need to squeeze a missed workout in.

Flexing on ‘flex’ day 😉

And if you end up having one of the rare perfect weeks? Use it to catch up on Netflix, do a little knitting or sit in the sun and daydream 🙂

Adopt a ‘me-first’ mindset
  • Stop thinking of self-care as ‘selfish’

Remind yourself that to be able to rock at all the other things you do in life you need to take care of your mind, body and spirit.

Fitness doesn’t just help you reach your aesthetic and body composition goals, it helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, increase creativity and mitigate many of the symptoms of peri-menopause.

All things that will enhance your ability to succeed at life.

  • move fitness and self-care to the top of your ‘to-do’ list

Above housekeeping chores (they never end anyways…)

Before supervising your kids’ homework (teach them to become self-directed learners early…)

Prior to hanging out on Facebook or chillin’ with Netflix on the couch (the best way to tell that you actually have more time to exercise than you think? Look at your internet data usage for the month…)

Scan the horizon for obstacles

Holidays, month-end deadlines, weekend-long soccer tournaments, visiting in-laws; you know that they’re about to happen and are likely to interfere with your exercise routine. Design an alternate course around the obstacle BEFORE it happens and finish the course strong (and consider yourself lucky you’re not a Spartan Race participant; they perform 30 burpees for each missed obstacle 🙂 ).

  • create a plan for navigating them

If the obstacle takes you far from your gym (or home exercise equipment) look for other ways to fit fitness in.

Book a hotel with a proper gym (most hotel websites include photos of their exercise room). Try one of these three minimal-equipment workouts for home or holiday.

Pack your skipping rope and resistance band.

Check out that boutique cycling studio down the street from your daughter’s dance class.

Worry less about getting your usual workout in and more about maintaining your exercise momentum.

  • let go of what you truly can’t control

Sometimes obstacles truly are unpredictable.

Life throws us curves that we never expected and we’re not always in the best emotional place to consider exercise.

Recognize these rare events for what they are. Don’t add guilt to the list of difficult emotions you’re experiencing.

Pay attention to what your body wants. Move in ways that honour and serve you. Trust that you’ll find your way back to fitness again.

  • get back on course as soon as you can

Remind yourself that you’ve been consistent with exercise in the past and are completely capable of returning to that routine again.

Know that the first week or two of exercise after a hiatus will humble you. You’ll feel like a beginner again and experience the same post-workout aches that you did way back at the beginning of your journey.

Be comforted by the fact that delayed onset muscle soreness and cardiovascular de-conditioning will be over soon and that your body will quickly regain any fitness you’ve lost.

And use this period of returning to fitness to remind yourself of the most important reason for sticking with it for the long haul; it’s harder to get fit than to stay fit!




  1. Really well written post that deserves to be one of your classics. If I enter a workou t onto my calendar and put a time to it, i will make it.

  2. I’ve had times when I have not been feeling great and decide to take a few sessions off. The few sessions is a slippery slope, and I end up several months not exercising. Then the inertia to start again sets in. I do find that once I start the workout, I can continue it in my schedule without issues.

  3. Some really terrific ideas here. I am lucky enough to work from home so I can pretty much workout on the exact schedule I need to without fail, but I do try not to freak out when something gets in the way. Life happens! You can always make it up later, and the key is 90% consistency over time, not being a total slave to your workout routine. That’s a good way to burnout.

    Great post!

  4. Hey, another great article! I love reading this blog cause it’s always so entertaining and refreshing. Every time i read good articles like this I get very motivated. What’s always keeping me going on is knowing, that not only I have to struggle to achieve my goals!
    Brian recently posted…Top 5 Best Crossfit Gloves For Pull Ups 2017My Profile


  1. […] Strength & Conditioning Workout via Nourish Move Love Fitting in Fitness When Life is Unpredictable via Fit Knit […]