Habits of Fit People: Work Out Like It's Your Job

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For most of us, work is a reality of life. Whether you love your job or hate it, working for a living is something that you know you have to do, and probably don't have much trouble motivating yourself to show up to each day. Wake up, get ready, arrive on time, do a decent enough job to not get fired (maybe better!), rinse and repeat...day after day, week after week. As responsible adults, we make our careers a priority out of necessity. We work to make money, which helps us live the lives we desire. You can complain about it, think it's boring and wish you didn't have to do it, but ultimately, the rewards we get from working outweigh the "rewards" of not working (like sleeping in or having more free time).

So why do we treat other areas of our lives as so much less important? You can hate your job but still show up 40+ hours a week for decades. Even if you don't enjoy exercise, couldn't you muster enough motivation to spend 10 or 15 minutes a day on it? After all, the benefits of exercising—weight management, stress relief, stronger bones and muscles, a healthier heart, less depression, higher self-esteem, a sense of pride and accomplishment, a decreased risk for countless chronic and debilitating diseases—far outweigh the temporary "rewards" of skipping it (more couch time or a few extra minutes of sleep).

What would it look like if we all treated exercise like our jobs (or at least our second jobs)? Doing exactly that can help you make fitness part of your life once and for all.

Here are a few ways you can treat exercise like your job. View it the same way, and you'll make far fewer exercise excuses.

Make it a priority.
For most people, our jobs are our #1 priority. You spend more time at work that almost anywhere else, and your daily life revolves around your work schedule. If you exercised like it was your (second) job, you'd treat those gym appointments with as much importance as work. You'd make all the other things in your life work around your workout schedule. I know it can seem daunting, but think of all the many other commitments that you treat with respect in your life. Working out is just as important as many other hobbies and responsibilities because it keeps YOU in tip-top shape to be your best at everything else (including a better worker, partner, volunteer, parent, friend and so on). So next time your girlfriends want to plan drinks during your Wednesday night Spinning class, ask them to pick another day or time, or squeeze in a shorter workout and then go meet them. Only by making fitness a priority like you do your job will you ever be able to really stick with a workout regimen.

Show up on time.
Most of us don't have trouble hitting the sack, setting the alarm, and getting out the door in time to beat rush hour and get to our posts on time. Why then are you chronically late for your personal training session or unable to wake up 30 minutes earlier to squeeze in a morning walk? The truth is that you are capable of showing up to things on time, but you aren't prioritizing your workouts like you do your job. If working out was your livelihood, you would not hit snooze or stay up too late. Think about that next time the early morning alarm sounds. If you treat exercise like your job, you may feel tired—maybe even unmotivated—but you'll get out of bed anyway and put your shoes to the pavement.

Dress appropriately.
Most jobs have some kind of a dress code, whether strict uniforms or a certain level of business-appropriate attire. Because work is important to you, you adhere to those standards, purchasing enough work clothes for a variety of seasons and occasions. You don't have to spend a lot on workout clothes, but you should have something you can work out in: appropriate shoes for your activity, the right layers if you hope to walk or run in the winter, and any other gear that makes working out more comfortable and convenient, such as a gym bag and water bottle. Treat your workouts with as much respect as you do your job, and you'll never be at a loss for clothing or gear, which means you won't be able to make excuses about skipping it.

Try your best.
I know plenty of people who just clock in, put in their hours, and leave when the clock strikes five. But I know a lot more people who try hard at work—and in many areas of their life. There's a lot of satisfaction that comes from a hard day's work, regardless of your job. You probably feel better at the end of each day when you know that you gave it all you could. Not only do you feel better, but your boss probably notices your work effort, too (and hopefully rewards you for it). Similarly, I see people in the gym who trudge through their workouts on autopilot without even an ounce of intensity. Yes, some exercise (even low-key) is better than none, but why not put a little more "oomph" behind your exercise sessions? Not only will your body benefit from a greater calorie burn and challenge, helping you get even fitter as a result, but maybe more importantly, YOU will feel proud of yourself. When I teach Spinning, I remind my students not to quit just because we're close to the top of a hill, the end of a song, or the end of the workout. Give yourself a workout that you can be proud of.

Climb the ladder.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? If you're career-oriented, then you probably have some goals in mind. You work hard, challenge yourself in new ways, and hope to climb the corporate ladder. Whether it's for prestige, self-satisfaction or simply more money, most of us hope to move up the corporate ladder. Your workouts should be no different. Regardless of your age or fitness level, you can always improve and take yourself to the next level of fitness. Have you been walking for years? Maybe it's time to graduate to jogging. Have you been lifting the same 5-pound dumbbells for 6 months? Then give yourself a promotion to the 8 pounders and see what you can really do!

Strive for work-life balance.
While most Americans struggle with this, it's something that we all want. If you follow a typical work schedule, you are at least taking a couple days off from work each weekend, which helps us better achieve the balance that we need in our lives. It can't always be work, work, work. And it can't always be work out, work out, work out. You need downtime, easier days, rest days, and a variety of workouts to help prevent boredom and burnout. Build rest, variety and downtime into your workout program just like you do (hopefully) into your work life. We all need to cut ourselves some slack sometimes!

One of the reasons exercise is part of my daily life is because I treat it like it's my second job. It's a major priority for me—probably the second biggest priority in my life next to my career. There's almost nothing I do every single day other than work and exercise, but at the same time, I've learned to make it fun and give myself the balance (and downtime) that I need, which keeps me going strong.

So next time you find your workout motivation waning, or start making excuses to skip your exercise session, ask yourself how you'd respond to that hurdle if exercise was your job. Chances are, you'll clear it (and be glad you did).

Do you treat exercise with the importance that you do your job? Why or why not?

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KOALA_BEAR 1/8/2020
I've gone thru stages in life where exercise was scheduled as a priority around work or classes, then had careers that took up all my time. Now retired I'm looking forward to making movement & activity a part of my daily life. Planning a fitness room in the new home plus lots of long walks. Got to get this body back into a routine & out from the prolonged stress of work then decluttering, packing & moving. Almost done & so ready to get into the fun phase & over these minor injuries that indicate I've been pushing myself too hard doing things I didn't train for. Being out of shape hurts & is a reminder that my heart needs regular attention also so cardio will be my primary focus with strength training alternated w/ some yoga or tai chi. Thanx for a helpful article about getting or keeping fit from a scheduling perspective. Report
Wow, great blog. Report
Great article. I am retired, so health and exercise are/can be my new main priority. Here's the plan, on the days that I don't play pickleball, I will do exercises at home. If I get a routine set up, I can actually do it anyday. Priority is 1/2 hour workout. Report
Great article!

I look at my week as a whole and write my planned workouts in my "Happy Planner". I feel like I've accomplished something when I get to check that box by my workout! I also write down what I did during each workout session so I can see progress and change up things too. :) Report
Never thought of it that way. Hmmmm! Report
very good article. well stated. Report
Because if its not important to you then your not in shape for your job. If your not in shape then the job your doing isn't either!! Report
Being a mom, it is hard to put my mindset into making exercise a scheduled priority. There are always 5 million other things that seem to need my attention at any given time. This article really does make one think though. I need to make exercise more of a priority in my life so I can accomplish all that I need to in my work/family life. Report
I need to print this out and tack it on my wall. This article just bashed all of my tired excuses with a huge hammer. Report
Yes, Coach Nicole, I wholeheartedly agree. Health and fitness, keeping priorities straight, IS a full time job. I tell people I have 2 jobs: my profession, and my life. Every day I attend to the business of my fitness. Every day. The payoff is more than monetary... it's life and joy and purpose.
And no one can take your health from you. Report
I've been on disability for years. Though weight is not the primary reason for my being on disability it is definitely a major contributor to my overall health and more problematic to longevity than my neurological issues do to my two head injuries. So I've always treated getting fit as my work, since disability is my source of income. It's not unheard of me to spend 3 hours or even longer at the gym or doing outdoor activities like cycling, hiking, or walking. I also read books on fitness, nutrition, and other health related topics. Report
Great Blog, so many good and true points in it. Report
Great blog...I do snooze a lot on days I need to workout early...that has to change....also need to get a routine in place, I'm sure that'll help get me going. Report
I work full time graveyard 5 days a week, 2 part x jobs different hours every week,run my own 7 day a week business and clean houses. no day is ever the same in hours. I have scheduled my work outs with my personal trainer 3x a wk for 4 yrs to make sure i show up. I don't want to mess with his paycheck any more han I want someone messing with mine. He has been great in re adjustig as my schedule changes but never lets me drop a workout w/o replacing it @ another time that SAME week! I also schedule 2 days rest w/o any workouts! Report
Wow, this blog has really got me thinking. I do make everything else a priority in my life everything BUT working out. I seem to find any ol' excuse I can not to work out. Lately, I've been changing that. Last week I worked out 3 x's. This week my goal is to work out 4-5 times. I know I can do this. Thank you for sharing. Report
I cried as I read this article. It hurts me that I have not taken my health so seriously or given my body enough worth. I paid my for my education and worked hard for that & I see the resemblance to this as well. I don' t want to see this as a JOB, but a gift I deserve each day, such as my cup of joe I like to enjoy before my day starts. thanks for the insight Nicole. Report
Thank you! I really needed to read that tonight. It's so true but I never considered this perspective. I'm diligent about being present and at my best in my professional life. Why haven't I considered doing the same for my own physical well being? Wow!! Report
Yes I have. I've done this for a year - what a difference it made in my exercise habits. I lost weight and feel stronger. I've come to be close to instructors who teach classes that I took at the gym. I even give them a call or text them if I cannot make it for any reason (just what you will do if you have to call off from work) try this gang, you will see the difference. Report
Absolutely loved this article. I used to hate working out, only because I did not know what to do and didn't like group workouts....working out from home has made all the difference in the world because I have no excuse not to do it....It has just become part of my life...... Report
Yes!. It has to be made a priority. Report
I like this idea, but I don't know if it will work so well for me. I like the outside motivation of working. If I don't show up, my boss will yell at me and I'll get fired.
If I don't work out, it's just me mad at myself... Report
I am a resthome helper and I have co-workers whom have been this 30 and 40 years.. If our bodies are not up the chase we get hurt.. I don't have to worry about hurting myself if I train hard and listen to instructions with heavy clients..
I can by taking my training seriously keep a demanding job, at 46 years of age out work women half my age, make the gym and over fixing dinner up ask the family how their days was without collapsing on the sofa..
I work early hours so I fit exercise in when I can, if I over work myself and am off ill I don't get cudos from work mates- our days hang together working as a team! Report
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Every evening after work I'm at the gym, without fail. Report
This is one of the best blogs I've read on SP! I neglect myself because my job is such a huge part of my life. I rarely take time off and all areas of my life and health suffer as a consequence. I'm grateful to all those who have commented too. I'm going to draw up a new plan which includes 'me' as a part of the job. I've never looked at it that way before. I think it'll really help on days when I try to skimp on looking after myself in order to get my job done. Report
I have been trying this and I'm up to 3 days a week, I like being up early before everyone else. Report
Joan mentioned that she's not paid to exercise, that's why it's harder. But what a great idea! Why not pay yourself every time you go to the gym or walk/run or whatever the exercise!! Have a "workout" jar... you can use the funds to reward yourself!! Report
I hate to be the business one in the group - but the answ. is simple- work gives us money so we CAN spend money on working out. Work allows us to earn money - and most of the time - if u want ur job- u must put in 45-50 hrs a week to impress the boss. Thus - your personal time becomes shorter .. and u only have so many hours in a day. This is why Europe is so more advanced than us- they have understoond the balance of work/life for years - so they have more vacation time built into the society. The solution is simple - one step in the right direction - is to allow gym & coach fees to be deducted from your taxes - for trying to stay healthy and not becoming a burden. ...how i dream ..ha Report
Soo true!
It's exactly what I did 8 years ago when I lost 60 lbs. I'd go to my 'real' job and then, as soon as I got home, I'd pour a cup of coffee and get into my gym clothes while I was drinking it. Then off to the gym I'd go!
Gotta get into the habit of doing that again!! Report
I like this idea a lot. :) Report
Thanks for the words of encouragement and the suggestions! Report
This is a great blog! Wish there was a way to mark it as a favorite so I can keep reminding myself how important exercise is. Report
It's true you have to make it "your life" because it is your life a long with family and work but honestly if you don't put you first you might lose out on more than you know. Report
I to wish I would have started this years ago. I am in the gym 6 days a week. The body begins to crave the activity and my day is not complete without it. Report
I suppose if I was paid to exercise I would do it more. It's too easy to do it later or tomorrow. Report
I wish I would have figured that out a long time ago! I now get up at 4:30every week day. And have found it is a great way to start and energize my day. Report
This makes me laugh, I procrastinate and slack as much as i can get away with at work. Sadly, I don't get paid well enough to warrant much effort. The company I work for has zero loyalty, they don't like to promote within. They don't pay well for people just getting thier foot in the door or those who've been around for awhile. So applying my work ethic to working out, would be a baaaaaaaaad thing. Report
But I don't WANT a second job! Report
Such a great way to look at exercise...thanks! Report
What a great way to look at it! I've changed my work schedule so I can work out in the morning before going to work. That's how I reprioritized my time so I could get my workout in. But thinking about it like my second job - I like that! It makes the workout not optional any more. Report
Great article. I need all the motivation I can get to do any kind of exercise on a regular basis. Thanks. Report
My workout time is on my schedule - I'm at the gym at 4:00 M-Th and yoga 7:30-8:30 Tues evenings. I schedule it in my day so I have no excuses. It has helped me be consistant. I often do things on the weekends that also classify as workouts like gardening, splitting wood and/or carrying it into the house wood storage box if it's already split, taking a walk down the road, etc.
I also realized when I started this journey that I would have to do it the rest of my life to stay in better health. Report
I like your comments Nichol, I've been retired for 15 years and usually get up an hour before my wife and enjoy reading the daily newspaper, this must and will stop until I've done my daily workout. If I remember I will let you know how well I do in the months ahead.
Keith Report
Thanks, Nicole --- a very motivating idea. Report
Exercising is like breathing in and out. We need to do it everyday for the rest of our lives. It's not negotiable. Report
I have recently realized that I do need to take exercising (moving) more seriously and to treat it as something that I need to do every day. Thanks for the blog that supports my thought. Report
Thanks so much for the motivational kick. For some reason I have never looked at exercise quite like that! Report
That actually is how I have been viewing exercise. It goes into the schedule for the week is an appointment that is as important to keep as an appt. with the doctor. It's a "gotta do"! Report
This is also listed as one of the secrets to success...treat exercise and weight loss like a job; show up every day. Report
It took me a while to realize this, but since I have set my mind to at least 10 minutes everyday I am succeeding more than I ever imagined. Report