Every day runs better if I work out. There’s something inherently good about breaking a sweat and knowing my body worked hard. Because of this, I make exercise a priority. I know from experience that if I don’t invest time into my mind, body and spirit, everything falls below the expectations and desires I have for myself. But it isn’t easy.
I’m annoying about efficiency. I hate doing things twice and wasting time literally drives me crazy. Life is busy. I often feel torn between competing demands, and finding those precious minutes to pour into my self is a choice.
But because I know I have to exercise for my sanity and mental health, I try to make the most of every minute and get a double the benefit as often as I can. For me, that means using my exercise time to double as personal mental/spiritual time as well.
Here are a few ways I use my workouts to do double duty, and how you can make your workout work for you:
1. Listen to sermons or podcasts
When I was training for Ironman, I spent a lot of time working out away from my family and needed to fit as much into that time as possible. I began listening to podcasts and downloaded apps on my iPhone to listen to sermons during long runs. A few of my favorites include: Your Move with Andy Stanley, Bethel Church Sermon of the Week, Good Life Project, The RobCast, and The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. I also have a lot of Beth Moore on hand in my music library because, well, I just love her.
2. Bring a book or magazine
I’m a hard-worker-outer and I know reading doesn’t always fit into “working out.” But if I’m not running and plan to use the stair mill or stationary bike instead, I’ll bring a book or favorite magazine. Oftentimes I don’t have time during the day to read until it’s bed time and this gives me an extra 30 minutes to zone out into my favorite book and makes the stairs go way faster! If I’m running and need to zone into my workout then I’ll pull out my magazine after while I’m stretching. It still gives me 10 minutes to read a few fun articles or read the latest trends.
3. Take a mental break
If I’m out for a run and have a lot going on, sometimes I deliberately choose to head out the door with no distractions or input. These are the times I prepare to mentally zone out and usually end up doing some of my best thinking. Head out with one or two things on your mind that you want to think about and then set your mind free. There’s something about being out in nature, exerting yourself physically and focusing just on breathing that creates room for free thought. Problems seem smaller and solutions seem easier to grasp out on the open road.
4. Write it down
After a workout I’m usually high on endorphins. As noted in #3, I have some of my biggest ideas during a workout but they quickly disappear if I don’t write them down. Whatever problem you’re tackling during your sweat session, make sure you write down your thoughts as quickly as you can after working out so you can address them, implement them and move on to the next big thing. If I’m on a long run and have my phone, sometimes I’ll pull it out and quickly record a voice memo so I don’t forget. It takes only a second and saves me time and frustration when I’m trying to remember that genius idea later!
We’re all pressed for time. We all have conflicting demands on where we invest our time, attention, energy and effort, but the most important place to start is with ourselves. If our tank is empty, we have nothing to give to those we love. Make sure you fill up your own oxygen tank first so you can better love the ones you love. If that means pulling double duty, I hope these ideas help you get started so you can make your workout work for you, and free up more time to love others well.