Fitness First: How to Make Exercise a Priority

Whether training for a race, trying to stay in shape, or just wanting to be healthier, we all have intentions of exercising or being more active.  So why is it then, that so many of us fall short when it comes to our goals of being active?

I see it all the time when it comes to Physical Therapy.  The patients that are really struggling to get better a lot of times are the same ones that don’t do their exercises at home.  Many of my teenage scoliosis patients also have a hard time making a habit out of completing their exercises. 

It isn’t really that the exercises are that hard, and most people start out committed to doing these things and improving their lives.  So, why is it such a struggle?

Now, don’t think I am innocent in this, because I am right there with you. Over the last year, with rebranding the clinic, treating patients, and personal responsibilities there has not been much time for anything else. 

For me, and so many others, it boils down to TIME! We feel like we just don’t have enough time in the day. Exercise and our health is one of the first things to go because everything else seems more important. 

How Important is Fitness?

Lets take a minute and see where the importance lands on fitness, exercise, health, etc.

The benefits of being active and exercising are many:

  • More energy during the day
  • Better sleep at night
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased depression and anxiety
  • Increased strength
  • Decreased stress
  • Improved short term memory
  • Looking and feeling better

These are all documented benefits of exercise, and this is not even mentioning the health benefits to your heart, lungs, and basically every other system and organ in the body.

If we are truly looking at what is important in our day, wouldn’t the things in that list be near the top?  Who doesn’t want to have less stress when they get home from work to spend time with their kids?  Who wouldn’t want improved memory at work or school?  And, who doesn’t want to sleep better at night?

Sign me up! Well, that is what I would say, but how do we actually make it happen.  You see, I have studied exercise, and I see the benefits in the lives of my patients every day…but I still have a hard time implementing this in my own life. 

What is the secret?

As I was thinking about this blog post, I was listening to a podcast on how to make a business profitable. The main thing they suggested is to take out profit first.  Once you take profit out first, then you are forced to run the business more efficiently and are more selective about the expenses. 

This made a lot of sense to me, but it is backwards from what I have always been taught, especially with business.  Profit is supposed to be what you have after you subtract your expenses from your income…right?  Not if you want to make sure it happens! (The book is Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz)

Rocks and Sand in a Bottle

It reminded me of an object lesson I saw as a teenager.  You may have seen the same lesson, which involves a jar, sand, and rocks.  Here is how it goes:

  • The jar represents our time during the day or our capacity to do things in a day’s time. 
  • The rocks represent the important things in our life.  Things such as…
    • Family
    • Health
    • Exercise
  • Smaller rocks represent normal things we do during the day of medium importance. 
    • Job
    • House
    • Hobbies
  • The sand represents the less important things, like…
    • Watching Netflix
    • Running errands
    • Social Media

The person demonstrating, then takes the jar and puts the sand in first, which fills up a part of the jar.  Then they try to fit the rocks in with the sand.  The problem is they are unable to fit the rocks in because the sand is taking up too much space.

The sand and rocks are taken out and the person then starts by placing the larger rocks in the jar.  The smaller rocks follow and go between the larger rocks.  Finally, the sand is added and fills up the area around the rocks. 

The Lesson

The moral of this story is to fill up your day FIRST, with the most important things.  Make sure those happen, and then add in the less important things.  It may be that you don’t get all the sand in the jar, but at least you have made room for those things that are crucial.

I think a lot of the time, we think of exercise and fitness as a small rock or even sand, but this is not right! Exercise and health are one of the bigger rocks and should be prioritized as such.

Do it FIRST (or near the first)

In order to make room for exercise, we need to make sure it gets done first.  If not, we will not be able to fit it in with everything else, and we will continue to say we don’t have TIME for it. 

I know when I have felt the most healthy was when I am active or exercise most days of the week.  This only happens when I do it in the morning.  I prioritize it and make sure it gets done before the craziness of the day comes.

Not only is this a great way to prioritize exercise, but we can use this way of prioritizing to make sure we get the most important things done FIRST. 

My challenge to you! 

1. Realize and recognize the importance exercise and fitness should play in your life.

W hat things in life would change if you exercised more consistently?  Really think about this and decide which of the benefits of exercise would you most want.


2. Make a plan how you are going to put fitness first.

When are you going to do it?
What are you going to do?
What challenges do you anticipate and how are you going to overcome them?
How will it feel when you meet your goals?

It Isn’t Easy

There may be some aches or pains that you feel may not allow you to meet your goals.  If that is the case, PLEASE contact me to find out what you can do to get on track! (Click here for a FREE Consultation!) Activities can be modified, injuries can be healed, and you can achieve your goals.

It may be that you are struggling to begin that training plan for a half marathon.  It is uncomfortable, you get sore every time, and you can’t seem to find the time during the day to do it.  The truth is, yes you will be sore at first, but putting this training first can make all the difference. 

Maybe not the first thing you do in the morning, but putting exercise and fitness earlier in the day works better than leaving it to the mercy of the busy afternoon.

The scoliosis patients I see are asked to do their home exercises 20 to 30 minutes, 5 days a week.  Even though this doesn’t seem like much, after a few months it starts to lose its appeal.  Then it becomes hard to fit in and the motivation lags.  The ones I see do the best are those who learn how to prioritize their exercises and make it a habit. 

This is not new!

This information I presented is not new or earth shattering. I remember hearing about Stephen Covey’s book on how to put first things first when I was young.  The jar example I mentioned above has been around for a long time. 

Even though this is not new, it may be new to you or you may be in a place now where it makes more sense. If that is the case, act on it! 

I PROMISE you will NOT regret it.  Your body will thank you.  Your mind with thank you, and you will finally meet your goals!

Thanks for reading, and let me know if we can help you with anything at Align Therapy.

David Butler, Physical Therapist