Prioritising My Workout Routine Makes Me a Happier Person

Personally and Professionally

Growing up, I wasn't a particularly active person. I never played much team sport in school, nor did I love PE quite as much as many of my classmates. Instead, learning to love being active was exactly that - a learning curve. One that came later in life and was born out of necessity and self-preservation.

It all started when I got my first-full time job after leaving university. I was a mere couple of months into my new role and routine (eat, sleep, work, repeat) when I realised that the reality of having a full-time job could be quite all-consuming. I started to feel like I was living for the weekends and battling to find the time or energy to maintain a semblance of work/life balance, which naturally, didn't bode well for my mental health. 

Enter yoga! In a desperate attempt to make my day a little more about me, and a little less about my responsibilities, I signed up for a month of classes at a nearby yoga studio. Each day after leaving work I'd head for yoga, despite the 100 excuses I made not to (I'm too tired, I haven't eaten properly, I'd rather just get home and relax, I need to make dinner, etc.). But something I learned pretty early in the month was that I almost never felt worse for honouring my commitment. In fact, I always felt better for it! 

Slowly, I started to look forward to my classes and started switching up the schedule to include early mornings or midday slots. I began to reap both the physical and emotional benefits of dedicating just a single hour to myself, to move my body, burn excess energy, rid my mind of thoughts pertaining to the rest of the day, and to feel energised because of it!

Over the years my love for yoga has expanded to other forms of physical activity such as running, spinning, weight training and more. To this day, I make sure that I'm active about 4 times a week because it helps bring balance into my life, as well as a sense of grounding amid the chaos.  

Regular exercise, whether it's an hour's walk before work or a gruelling group class in the evening, helps me to:

  • Regulate my mood and energy (which family and colleagues around me benefit from too!)
  • Perpetuate other healthy habits like eating healthier foods and drinking more water
  • Prioritize my personal needs, and make time for myself - even when life is super busy
  • Create a sense of routine and consistency, which is especially helpful during challenging times at work or personally
  • Feel energised, which in turn helps me to be able to focus more when I'm at work and lend more of myself to work and personal projects
  • Channel excess energy and regulate my central nervous system (often triggered by eight straight hours of work)
  • Feel more in control of my time, realizing that in order to 'have more' of it to do the things I enjoy, I need to create the space on my schedule for it 
  • Live a less sedentary life (sitting behind a screen all day, commuting by car/bus/train, relaxing on the couch, sitting for dinner, etc.) 
  • Think more clearly and sustained concentration throughout the day (more blood flow and oxygen to the brain, as well as more frequent hits of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, lead to higher levels of brain power and ability to concentrate)
  • Sleep better, which is a game-changer

I would encourage anybody who, like millions of other working professionals, struggles with their work/life balance to turn to a regular workout routine. It's a solution that checks so many boxes and combats so many work-related conditions, both physically and mentally.

The best part is that you don't have to be a born athlete to enjoy the benefits of exercise - trust me, if I was able to learn to love exercise, so can you! The trick is to find a style of movement that you enjoy so that you can stick with it and grow confident in it. Maybe it's something gentle like Pilates, or maybe it's something high-energy like kickboxing. Whatever it is, try to find something that'll get you to dedicate time to yourself, especially if it means having to get out of bed an hour or two earlier to do it!

I've found that there are few things more empowering than fully owning the time you have to invest in your health and wellbeing outside of all your other daily responsibilities. Plus, becoming fit, strong, and feeling your best as a by-product makes it a total no-brainer.