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Fit for Leadership: Tackling Exercise Barriers for Busy Professional Women

(Note: Please always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen.)

As a professional woman and mother in leadership, you may be all too familiar with how challenging it is to fit exercise into your day. You’re juggling multiple responsibilities daily. You have long working hours, family obligations, and an ever-growing to-do list to get through. Some days are so busy that it can be hard to squeeze in a sneeze, never mind meeting the requirements of the World Health Organisation’s adult physical activity guidelines.

Understanding the Challenges

Before diving into the solutions, let's face the common physical activity barriers we must overcome as busy professional women and mothers:

1. Time Constraints

When faced with the responsibilities of leadership roles and parenthood, it often feels like 24 hours in a day aren’t enough to accommodate a fitness regimen.

2. Energy Levels

If you wait until the end of the day to work in a workout, you might feel too exhausted to engage in physical activity. This is especially true if you’ve had a demanding day at work or even at home.

3. Guilt

Many women struggle with the guilt of taking time for themselves, especially when it could be used to “catch up on some work’ or care for their families.

4. Lack of Motivation

Finding the motivation to exercise is tricky when you’re tired but can feel like mission impossible, particularly if you’re facing work stress and family commitments.

5. Perceived Incompetence

As a high achiever, you’re used to being good at what you do or doing well. So if you're new to regular physical activity or any activity, you may feel a bit daunted or fear judgement, which can impede your efforts to stay active.

Strategies to Overcome the Barriers

1. Prioritise, Plan and Protect

Three key strategies to overcoming time constraints are ruthlessly prioritising, effectively planning and fiercely protecting that activity. First, prioritise physical activity as a non-negotiable part of your self-care routine. Then schedule your priorities. This means planning for your workouts like you would any important meeting. And finally, protect that time fiercely.

2. Small Steps Count

Instead of viewing exercise as an exhausting chore that needs to be done in one time-consuming hour-long chunk, break it up. Do small bouts of physical activity sprinkled throughout your day. For example, in the morning, do a quick stretch or yoga session; during lunch, take a 10-minute walk or in the evening, add a 15-minute walk around the block to mentally switch off from work and transition into a more relaxed home mode.

3. Get Rid of Guilt

Taking care of your physical health is not a luxury—it's a necessity. The healthier and more energised you are, the more effectively you can perform in your professional role and the better you will take care of your family. It's not selfish—it's self-care.

4. Find Your 'Why'

Ask yourself why being physically active is important to you. Go beyond the external motivators such as dropping dress sizes. Discover your deep-seated reasons for exercising to tap into internal motivation, which is more powerful than external motivators. These internal motivators could be to have more energy, manage stress better, or model a healthy lifestyle for your children. Identify your 'why' and let it drive you.

5. Build Confidence Gradually

Remember, everyone starts at the beginning. It's normal not to know everything about a new activity or exercise initially.

Start with simple workouts, get comfortable moving and gradually introduce more complex routines as you gain confidence.

Adopting a Mindset Shift

The biggest shift comes when we start viewing physical activity not as an optional add-on to our lives but as an integral part of our overall self-care and success strategy. Regular exercise is a powerful tool to help you build resilience, improve focus, enhance creativity, and remain calm under pressure, all of which are critical for a leader.

By understanding and addressing the challenges that prevent you from exercising, you take an essential step towards breaking your self-limiting glass cocoon and closing the self-worth gap. Physical exercise is more than just a route to physical health; it's a testament to the value we place on ourselves.

Now it's your turn. I'd love to hear your experiences and how you fit physical activity into your busy life. Leave a comment below, and let's share, learn, and grow together.

After all, we're not just professional women or mothers; we're women who understand the importance of self-care and are ready to lead by example.

Let’s make your success healthy and happy!

Dr. Masi

Disclaimer: The content in this blog and related posts is for informational purposes only and not medical advice. Views expressed are those of Dr. Masi Njawaya and Herself Health and not any official organisation. Consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice. Use this information at your own risk.

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