Make a healthy investment in yourself

As 2008 comes to a close, many will take stock of their current situations and decide to make some changes. Next year, I want you to make the biggest investment of your life. We are not talking about the stock market, an investment property or a charity. I want you to spend something far more valuable than money — your time. If you make this investment, I can guarantee improved health, increased energy, more self-confidence, less body fat and (perhaps) a better love life.

We all know the biggest excuse for not exercising is “I don’t have time.” You do indeed have time. Every day, we have 24 hours to spend as we choose. It is vital that you recognize this. Many things feel like obligations but, the truth is, nobody forces you to do anything. If you want to live in a big house and drive a nice car, then you choose to go to work in the morning. The same holds true for your body. If you want to be healthy and fit, you must choose to spend time pursuing those things.

I know you are probably saying, “But I don’t have any time to spend exercising.” In this case, you should write down your daily schedule, from when you wake until you go to sleep. I am willing to bet that you are not busy every minute of every day. If you are, then throw out your TV. The average American watches more than four hours of television daily. Imagine how much you could get done if you cut that out. If the thought of going without MTV and “Survivor” is just too much for you, that’s OK. Effective exercise does not need to take a lot of time, but it does need to be consistent.

Many believe they have to work out for at least 90 minutes four times per week to get any benefits. This is absolutely false. You can get results by working out for as little as 12 minutes at a time. The most important factor is consistency, not duration. I have worked with many clients who had limited time. To work around it, we designed short workouts that they would do more often than a traditional workout routine. How did it turn out? Clients that felt bad for not doing their workouts before became inspired because it was so easy to fit in. This led to them getting stronger, healthier, more fit and losing weight that they thought would never come off.

Are short workouts the best for everybody? Not usually. While they work for someone who feels a time crunch, making more of a time investment will pay bigger dividends. You still do not need to spend countless hours exercising, but budgeting an hour for each exercise session is a good idea. An hour will let you do enough work to effect a change, while taking enough time between exercises to keep from feeling like you are in Army Basic Training.

Just like your financial planner has told you, consistency is the key to growing your returns. If you contribute $100 from every paycheck to your retirement fund for 45 years, you will have a very large amount at the end. Exercise is the same. If you only exercise once per month, your return will never grow. If you work out consistently, changes in your body start to accumulate. You will get stronger and grow more muscle. This extra muscle causes your metabolism to get faster. As your metabolism gets faster, you burn more fat.

Changes like this continue on and on. Every time you make progress, something gets better, and that leads to something else improving. It is your body’s own version of compound interest.

This year continue to invest your money as you see fit, but make a bigger investment in yourself. Allocate time to your body and you will see and feel the difference.

Jared Carter, CSCS, is the owner of Move Forward Fitness Personal Training Studio, 1616 Walnut St. Contact him at (215) 399-3541 or [email protected]