Balancing Work and Exercise: How a Personal Trainer Can Help Busy Professionals


Work-life balance has become a bit of a buzzword nowadays – whether it’s used sincerely, when you, or someone you know is struggling with it, or, just as often, in jest, as it’s such a far-off, unachievable concept for many of us. Balancing work and exercise can be difficult. Especially, when financial pressures, job insecurity and blurred work/life boundaries are ever-increasing, how can you make sure you look after yourself? Well, fitness is a great place to start… 

The Importance of Balancing Work and Exercise

The importance of introducing and maintaining a fitness routine alongside your career, relates both to your overall well being, but also to your performance at work too. Exercise has been proven to improve sleep. With more energy, generally we feel better in ourselves, but also we can perform better at tasks, whether at work or at home. The mental health benefits of fitness are also extensive, as you can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels as the brain releases and regulates various hormones during, and, even after exercise too. Achievements in the gym, whether that’s perfecting your form on a certain exercise, reaching a milestone weight in an exercise, or improving your body composition, can all give your self esteem a boost.

This confidence can translate into other areas of your life, including your work – and a little confidence often goes a long way! You might also find that while you’re so focussed on work, you find little time for social activities. Fitness can be a great way to add this in as a fun by-product. Whether you’re training in a class environment, joining a club or training with a friend or personal trainer, it’s important to make sure you interact with people who aren’t your colleagues! It helps to give your brain a break and separate yourself from the work day. And finally, while your career may be really important to you, or maybe even something you really enjoy, you are more than your job. You are worth keeping as happy and healthy as possible, outside of work and exercise could be the answer.

Challenges of Maintaining a Fitness Routine as a Busy Professional

As a busy professional, fitting everything into your schedule can feel like a losing battle. You need to keep the house tidy, do the shopping, the cleaning, sort food for each meal, and maybe you have pets or kids you need to work (and exercise!) around too. All of this aside from shoe horning in social activities that you also really want to do, but often find that sometimes it means everything else starts falling behind. Perhaps when something big is happening at work, you go in early or stay late, throwing everything off yet again. Adding in yet another element like fitness can seem like an impossible task. You’ve seen your colleagues and friends managing it though, so you’ve decided to rise to the challenge. Read on for tips on how you can work fitness into your routine and then wonder how you ever lived without it.

Maximising Your Limited Time

You need to make your new fitness routine as easy as you possibly can, so it’s difficult to find excuses why you shouldn’t go, and so that you can maximise the little free time you have. If you work from home, either work and exercise at home or find a gym really close to you. If you physically go into work, why not a gym on the way/way home? Or on your way to somewhere you go all the time? It might be that adding in a session before/after work will make your day longer, so you’re going to need to be smarter about your sleep. No screen time at least thirty minutes before you need to go to sleep is essential in making sure you can get the full nights rest you need. If you add more to your routine and sacrifice sleep for it, you’re not going to want to keep it up for very long.

Realistically though, most of us have some free time before or after work where you might watch tv, scroll through social media, or something similar. You could use this downtime in a more productive way, that will also make you feel wayyy better too. Have you ever heard of anyone regretting a workout?

An alternative idea is working out in your lunch break, which means you aren’t extending your day. If you have a gym close to where you work, you could use your lunch break for a workout and then have your food at your desk afterwards. You might be thinking your lunch break isn’t long enough, because everyone must spend at the very minimum an hour in the gym, right? Wrong. Four to five 20-30 minute workouts can be just as effective, if not more so, than a couple of 1 hour sessions! 

The reality is that successfully incorporating fitness into your routine isn’t really specifically about fitness, it’s about whether you have the rest of your life organised as well. If you can organise your time properly, fitting in a workout here and there shouldn’t be a problem. Easier said than done though!

Personalised Fitness Plans: Your Solution to Busy Schedules

Ok so, you might now be running through options for how you can start fitting some form of fitness into your schedule. For some, you might fancy the big group class setting, but for others you might lean towards having some you-time and training independently, or with a friend. If you’re training at the gym, it’s not uncommon when you start out to walk in and then realise you have absolutely no idea where to start. There are so many machines you might never have used before and the free-weights section looks intimidating. Wandering around for half an hour looking for a place to start is not how you saw this going.

To avoid this, make sure you have a plan before you go in. If you’ve been training before, you might have a good idea as to how to plan your sessions. If not though, it might be worth enlisting some support from a trainer. They can either give some initial tips and give you a plan to follow, or actually train you to start with until you are confident in what you’re doing. This can save a lot of time. The reason you might not have been working out in the first place was a lack of time and so any time savings like having someone plan and take you through sessions, could be just what you need, while building up your new routine.

Scheduling Success: Time Management Tips from Personal Trainers

Starting a fitness routine won’t just take up time in terms of your actual sessions. You are going to need to consider a few other things too and plan these into your schedule to ensure your success. Things like packing your gym clothes, making sure you’ve done the laundry so you have said gym clothes, prepping meals and snacks to work around your sessions – so you have eaten beforehand to avoid early fatigue but not too close to training that it’s sitting heavy in your stomach, and then eating a good meal afterwards full of protein and carbs to refuel so you’re ready to hit it again in your next session. If you’re showering at the gym, you’ll need to remember to bring what you need for this as well.

All of this requires planning. Your colleagues or friends that have busy work and exercise schedules and still manage to train multiple times a week are going to have planned their time and organised themselves well to achieve this. Now this comes more naturally to some than others, so if you struggle with this, you’ll need to find a way that works for you. Whether that’s setting reminders or alarms on your phone to do things, having a written checklist on the fridge before you leave the house, or planning time in on a Sunday, to prep meals, snacks and get your gym kit ready for the week ahead. You’ll know what works for you. How do you stay organised at work? See if you can carry over the same methods into your fitness and nutrition routine too.

Overcoming Stress and Burnout: A professional’s perspective

Jemma: “For a long time my high-pressure job was my excuse for not exercising. I never felt like I had the time to tear myself away from my laptop which was leading to a very sedentary and anxious lifestyle. I was stressed because I didn’t work out and I didn’t work out because I was stressed. At the end of my first session Ray asked me how many times I’d thought about work whilst training, and the answer was 0! I had completely switched off. Committing to time for myself to strength train a couple of times a week has given me a better work / life balance and I feel so much better. I sleep better, my posture is better, the tension and anxiety in my body has gone and I feel so much more productive.”

Accountability Partners: The Benefits of Working with a Personal Trainer

Other than saving you time planning your training programme, if you’ve hired a personal trainer, you now have extra accountability. You have added external pressure to turn up as someone is expecting you, plus you’re spending out extra on this, and so you want to make the most of it. You literally can’t not go. As mentioned earlier, many of us do have spare time during the day, and so if you have booked in time with someone to train, you’re going to make it fit. Your lifestyle will simply need to change and adapt to a new routine. Your personal trainer will likely have worked with a lot of very busy people and can also help you to restructure your time day to day to fit everything in – get the right personal trainer and they can teach you more than fitness!

Female Personal trainer in Manchester, Ray is lifting a kettlebell above her head, working in a 1:1 session with a client

Nutrition and Work-Life Balance: Guidance from Personal Trainers

Nowadays ‘I don’t have time to meal prep’ lacks all validity. We probably all know someone who does it. Next time you see them, maybe ask them why? Firstly, it could be that they want to make sure they are consuming exactly what their body needs, whether that is for health in general, or to also support their fitness goals. Another big reason they’ll give is that it saves SO much time. Instead of throwing something together to take to work the next day, or having to pop out the shop during your lunch break (a sure-fire way to absolutely bleed money), spending about an hour at the weekend is the way to go. It’ll take up much less time than making it a day at a time, and around the same as buying it out each day, but you’ll have the added benefit of spending a lot less money on something a lot more nutritious (depending what you make!).

Your meals also don’t need to be anything fancy or complex. Just decide on a source of protein and how you’ll cook it, then add veggies and some carbs (ideally wholegrain!). Whack them together and you’re done. You can find recipes if you find these easier to follow and therefore it takes up less time, but, if not, the method above really works. Perhaps investing in a slow cooker could work for you as well. Chop and prep everything before you go out at the weekend and then portion it up for the week when you get back. Easy!  

The same goes for your snacks. How much time do you currently spend getting to a certain point in the day and realising you’re a) not going to make it til your next meal and b) you have nothing on you, so you have to waste time and money grabbing something from the shop/cafe. Perhaps while your meals are cooking, plan what snacks you are going to make/take. 

Putting in the time to plan and prep for the week will genuinely make you wonder how you ever got by without it.

Incorporating Exercise into Your Daily Routine: Practical Tips

Changing any part of your daily routine can be challenging. The things that are currently part of your everyday life are there for a reason; either due to necessity or because you enjoy it. Brushing your teeth for example is, for most people, just a necessity, whereas things like going for after-work drinks, scrolling through social media, watching tv or cooking a nice meal, we do for enjoyment. Ideally, you want incorporating fitness into your life to not feel like a complete burden, but to feel as normal and routine as brushing your teeth, but to also bring you enjoyment in the process. Therefore, choosing an activity you enjoy is essential, otherwise this isn’t going to happen.

It might not be that you find something you really enjoy, but you can make the overall experience more enjoyable and more motivating by creating a reward system for yourself. It could be that you allow yourself extra tv/phone time on the days you’ve trained. Or perhaps after every 10 sessions you can treat yourself to a coffee at your favourite coffee shop, or every 50 sessions you can buy a new outfit, or book a massage. Make it a competition with yourself, so you’re working towards a more tangible reward than your fitness goals, which, in all honesty, take time, and so don’t give you the instant reward that you might need when first starting out.

You also don’t need to spend the traditional hour or so training if that feels too long for you – whether 2-3 hour long sessions or 4-6 shorter 20-30 minute sessions work best for you, do it! It’s also important to not jump from 0-100 straight away and jump into 5 sessions per week from the start, but build it up slowly, in a way that you’ll find more manageable. Changing your routine is difficult, so slow and steady is definitely the way to go. How many times have you heard about a friend or colleague launching themselves into an intense new programme, class schedule or fitness regime, and then a month later you never hear about it again? They’ve tried to do too much too soon, but you’re going to be the one who sticks at it month after month.

Finding the Right Personal Trainer: Questions to Ask

If you choose to enlist the support of a personal trainer to help you find and maintain your new fitness routine, you want to make sure they are right for you. Firstly, I’d arrange to sit down and have a chat prior to starting, firstly, to ask all of your questions, but also, to see if you actually get on! I mentioned already that enjoying the process is important, and the person that you’re spending time with every session, is going to be a big factor in this.

If you have a busy work schedule, then finding out how flexible your personal trainer can be with booking in sessions, is going to be an important question to ask. You also want to find out where they train their clients – is it the right environment for you to feel comfortable in and get the most out of your sessions? If on certain days you can only fit in half of your normal session time, maybe ask how they would approach this to make sure you still get a good workout in.

You’ll probably have more questions that are specific to your situation, but it’s important that you feel comfortable and confident that you have found the right fit, and if not, there’s nothing wrong with shopping around until you find it.

Life Balance, Work and Exercise: A Personal Trainer’s Perspective

When looking at your life as a whole, I think it’s important to remember that your life is made up of the day-to-day routine, with the occasional break or holiday thrown in. So when we’re always focusing on the next promotion, the next car, the next holiday, we can often forget to enjoy each day. We forget to make our daily routine something that we can also enjoy. Yes, the feeling of enjoying the average Tuesday workday doesn’t really compare to the feeling of being told you’re being promoted, with a fat raise, but average Tuesdays make up a huge part of our life, and so isn’t it important to feel the best you can on these days too? And feeling your best often comes down to how you feel physically and mentally – which fitness can play a big role in.

So if you can find a way to fit some form of exercise into your daily routine, why not start now? Why wait for the few bigger things to make you feel good rather than striving to feel good every day with more, smaller actions?

Making Time for Yourself: Self-Care and Personal Training

It might be that most days you don’t take any time for yourself. Maybe you’ve never really thought about it before, but if you’re so busy with work during the week and social plans at the weekend, when are you taking some time just for you? No-one can be go go go all the time and not burn out in some way or other. Whether it’s getting ill or run down, or hitting a mental wall one morning, it’ll happen.

So planning in time to take care of your body and mind is essential if you want to keep up your lifestyle, and feel good in the process. You might also find that you discover new interests and passions through taking moments to yourself. And fitness is a great way to do this. The focus you need on your form, your breathing and your movement during sessions, helps to clear your mind of the daily chatter and can open it up to new, creative thoughts that can often change your perspective on things outside of the gym.

Measuring Progress: Tracking Your Success with a Personal Trainer

Tracking your progress is essential, so that you can firstly make sure you’re progressing and pushing yourself further each session, and, secondly, for motivation, so you can see how far you’ve come. Personal trainers will either get you to track your progress during sessions, or will do it for you. Everyone has their own method for this – personally I have my own app so clients can view the exercise videos and guidance for when they start to become independent and conduct their own sessions (if that’s the goal) alongside tracking your progress for each exercise during our sessions together.

As well as tracking how much you’re lifting for example, they’ll be able to show you how your form has improved over time too and show you how far you’ve come which is really rewarding. Basically, they can make sure you’re always moving forwards and not getting stuck in a rut or plateau with your training. A lot of the time when you are trying to balance work and exercise on your own, you can forget to track your progress and get stuck in the rut.

Female personal trainer, Ray, sits down in the gym with a client to help create a schedule to balance work and exercise

Get help balancing your work and exercise: Start Today with a Personal Trainer

Although I am of course biassed, hiring a PT can be the difference between successfully integrating fitness into your busy schedule, and having it fizzle out after a few weeks. They can work around you for session times, tailor a programme specifically for you and your goals and availability, hold you accountable in terms of attendance, but also in terms of your routine outside of the gym like meal/snack prep and generally be your personal cheerleader throughout the whole process. If you’re in the Manchester area and want to discuss how I can help you balance work and exercise, drop me a message and we’ll grab a brew!

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Picture of Ray Hickford

Ray Hickford

Hi, I’m Ray, a health and wellbeing professional in Manchester working with clients through training and nutrition programmes to help them feel more confident, strong and happy both in and outside of the gym.
As a Qualified Personal Trainer and Level 4 RSPH Nutrition Advisor, I am constantly learning myself - from my clients, from other industry experts and sometimes myself! And sometimes I write some of this down for ya.

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