My ability to make time for exercise has been crap.

There, I said it.

I’ve been feeling for some time that I need to do more to maintain my physical wellness.

My line of work is about rebuilding and renewing our sense of wellness after a serious illness or serious injury or whilst living with a chronic illness. Having had a serious neurological illness, knowing that heart disease runs in my family, having osteoarthritis, and witnessing my other half deal which his chronic conditions, you think I would have been exercising every day.


With my clients I often talk about taking a holistic approach to our wellness and to how we make changes in our lives. I encourage my clients to look at all aspects of their wellness.

I feel like I have not been practicing what I preach.

There, I said that too.

Read here about why I found it hard to make time for exercise and what I did about it #fitness #exercise #wellness tell a friend

I have found it hard to make time for exercise

For a number of years now. Yet, it is becoming increasingly important to do so for health reasons.

I want to tell you why I found it difficult. Because there may be a change you want to make, may even need to make for health reasons too. But you may be finding it hard and are not sure why.

By taking you through what I experienced and what I have learned, I will give you eight things to consider regarding a change you wish to make but are finding difficult.

Why I have not been able to make time for exercise

What I share with you here I’ve learned over the years from coaching and therapy. And I’ve had a fair amount of coaching on this topic!

I last exercised regularly in 2009. I was working 3 days a week and the other days I trained as a coach, exercised and eventually set up my own coaching business.

As I was still in the early recovery phase from the neurological illness I had, exercise was important. There was also a very clear boundary between my work and personal life. I also felt I could make time for exercise given I was working 3 days a week. Feeling I could make the time and having a clear boundary time-wise around exercise enabled me to make exercise happen then.

Consideration 1: Do you feel you can make time for exercise? (or any other change you wish to make) If no, what are the reasons for that? If you knew you had dedicated time to exercise (or make some other change in your life), would you do it?

In 2010, things changed. I went to 4 days a week at work. Work became more challenging. My other half and I were dealing with the grief of learning we would not have our own children. And towards the end of the year, my other half’s close friend died unexpectedly and suddenly. My doctors were also wondering if the Transverse Myelitis I had was evolving into Multiple Sclerosis.

I remember exercising less and putting on weight in that year.

Consideration 2: A key learning is it would have been good to make time for exercise (of any kind for any length of time) as it would have helped my mental health, which was deteriorating.

Looking back, I was holding a lot on an emotional level. There was only so much I could hold, and the emotional stuff was taking all the space.

Pic of a woman holding many big and traumatic things in her life and she has dropped her balls of exercise and wellness. She found it hard to make time for exercise.

I don’t berate myself for having dropped exercise during that time. I was dealing with a lot of grief on several levels, trying to support my husband through his grief and that of our friend’s young family.

Time moved on, we grieved, I left my job to do a masters in coaching psychology. We moved house. We continued to grieve. I worked for myself as a coach and finished my masters. I also became Chair of a charity which ended up being much more work than I expected. I started working with a personal trainer. My husband then got unexpectedly seriously ill and had a brush with mortality. Exercise stopped. We re-entered the bubble that serious illness and recovery can be.

Consideration 3: Sometimes, we can only hold so much due to trauma and that may not include exercise or some other change we wish to make. That’s ok.

When my husband started returning to work, I started exercising again. I chose kayaking as I had done it in 2011, loved it and wanted to do more of it. It turned out to be the best decision ever!

Pic of me kayaking in Chichester Harbour. Kayaking is when I make time to exercise.

It was only when I reflected on it that I figured out I selected a sport that caters to my motivations.

I have an extroversion preference, I really enjoy being with other people, chatting and doing something together. 90% of the time I kayak with other people because it is the safe thing to do and so a requirement at the sailing club I’m a member at.

I am out in nature. As a kid I would play in the forests which surround my childhood home and I remember loving that. Even though I’ve lived in cities for all of my adult life, I still love being in nature.

Kayaking is a sport that is low impact on my joints. Given I have osteoarthritis in my knees, this is important.

Consideration 4: Learn what motivates you to exercise (or make the change you wish to make). Find a physical activity (or a way of making another type of change you want) that matches your motivations.

The club I am a member at has scheduled club kayaking times. So these times are in my diary during the kayaking season and I consider it sacred time. I make the time for exercise with intention. During the season, I kayak about twice a week and even walk the mile to the boat yard and back.

Consideration 5: What gets scheduled with intention has a much greater chance of getting done.

The other issue I have/had is this drive to achieve. Achieving something would feed my self-worth. But I would then shrug off the achievement as if it was no big deal because ‘anyone can do it’! I was feeding my self-worth and then discounting my achievement which would of course starve my self-worth. I then would set out to achieve something else because I had my self-worth to feed.

I was in this never-ending unhelpful cycle of achieving to feed my self-worth. And achieving demands time! This was an effective way of self-sabotaging my ability to make time to exercise.

If you want to #exercise or make some other kind of change in your life, but you're finding that you just cannot make progress no matter what you do, a self-sabotaging strategy could be getting in your way. Learn more here #wellness tell a friend

Consideration 6: It’s important to develop your awareness of your self-sabotaging strategies.

That way we can do something about them. I have to be aware of my achievement cycle kicking in and have learned more healthy ways to feed my sense of self-worth.

My achievement cycle is a good example of how this way of being and doing I had was having a not-so-helpful impact on various parts of my life, of which exercise was just one.

Consideration 7: Your self-sabotaging strategies can be entrenched in ways of being and doing that show up in other areas of your life beyond exercise, like my achievement cycle did.


For the past couple of years I’ve been wanting to increase the amount I exercise. I made several attempts where I would start exercising regularly here at home using my bike, stretching, doing ab work and going for walks.

Pic of exercise equipment at home to help me make time to exercise

But then I would injure myself or get ill and could not exercise for several weeks. Once I was better, work beckoned, would get busy, and I heard myself saying, ‘I don’t have time. I don’t have time.’

It was like a mantra. But a really unhelpful one. It is one that has been with me for quite some time.

And then I came across this quote

Pic of quote. Do not say you do not have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Einstein. You can make time to exercise.

Yes, I do have as much time as Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, and other people who have produced or done great things during their lifetime. That was a good kick up the bum for me!

Consideration 8: It’s about priorities and what you choose to prioritise.

I did not make time for exercise because I was not prioritising it. Work was my priority.

I also learned from coaching and systemic constellation work that I was not taking time seriously. Other than my work, I was not being intentional with my time.

These two items turned out to be key for me.

I started to develop a new mantra.

Take time seriously, treat it with intention, and time will take care of you and your needs.

Pic of quote by Barbara Babcock at Return to Wellness. Take time seriously, treat it with intention, and time will take care of you and your needs. Make time for exercise.

I’m going to end here for this week as I’ve written plenty for you to mull over. But come back next week when I continue explaining what else got in the way of my ability to make time to exercise. (yes, there was a lot) And what I ended up doing about it.

What’s it like for you?

If you are struggling to exercise or make another change in your life, what is holding you back? If you have successfully made a change you really wanted for yourself, what enabled you to do that? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to make a change in your life, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018


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