How To Make Time for Health and Fitness

zahara training outdoors

How to make time........

Time is one of the most important things in our lives, how many times have you talked about doing something / making time for something, but you don’t because you don’t have the time? We are all guilty of this, wanting to eat healthier, cook more, exercise more?? The list is long, sometimes seeming endless.

So we have teamed up with Zahara who is a health and fitness expert and has got some great tips and tricks on how to fit health and fitness into a busy lifestyle. 

zahara training outdoors

Zahara, it would be really good to start by giving a brief intro into who you are, what you do.

Sure! I worked as an English teacher in secondary schools for 9 years; I worked my way up the much loved ‘career-ladder’ to Head of English and Associate Senior Leader. However, as much as I loved my career, it came with the usual time and stress impingements - I always short of the former and filled to the brim with the latter! I’ve always loved working out so my main stress reliever was the gym. Working out has always been social for me too and I love a good chat and coffee, so I’d use it to spend time with my friends, whilst making friends in the industry too. To cut a long story short, I decided to turn my hobby into something more and qualified as a fitness instructor and then personal trainer. At Christmas I realised that as much as I loved teaching, my new love was health and wellbeing, so I took the plunge and decided to make a full time living out of it!

How have you fitted in keeping fit into both of your lifestyles?

Classes and a personal trainer. I look at my week ahead and I make a realistic (judgement of how much time I can spend working out. I then book a class or a schedule a 30 minute PT session. As much as I’m a PT myself, keeping fit is my time to switch off - I spend my days thinking about the health and fitness of others, it’s nice to have someone do the same for me. The other thing I’m a big fan of is quick bursts of exercise, no matter where you are: the age-old ‘take the stairs, not the lift’ is always a winner, but when the kettle is boiling, I might do some squats or star jumps; before bed, I might do a quick 10 minute core workout and I try to stretch and mobilise no matter where I am, whether it be waiting at the checkout in Sainsbury’s or again, waiting for the kettle to boil…I do love a good coffee!

Now that you are a qualified trainer, what tips would you give anyone trying to build fitness into a full-time job and busy life?

Self-discipline and self-love are not selfish. When working full time, I remember thinking everything works on everyone else’s time, whether that be work, the kids at school or even paying the bills! It’s important to be really disciplined with taking time out, even if it’s 30 minutes a day. Put it in your diary just as you would a meeting; change into your workout gear before you leave work to make you go to the gym, or wake up 45 minutes earlier a couple of days a week to fit in a home workout. I can’t emphasise enough how much it is a state of mind and soon it becomes a habit. You can’t regret a workout and it’s difficult to feel rubbish after it because you’re genuinely and scientifically (!) doing something for the betterment of your body and mind - this will absolutely lead to a more productive and efficient working day and it’s what I want to encourage employers, whether that be schools or private companies to believe.

Healthy eating is another one that definitely falls foul of time for a lot of people - how do you manage to keep your food on track when super busy?

There is so much on social media about healthy eating and nutrition that it has almost become overwhelming and repetitive at the same time! I’m not a nutritionist so want to emphasise my regime was based on the following formula: research, reading the back of packets and investing in a few good books (Kayla Itsines, Alice Liveing, Deliciously Ella, The Body Coach and Rhiannon Lambert to name a few). I’m not sure if other professionals will agree, but I had and still have NO TIME to make my own granola?! I mean, if you do, hats off to you, but when in a full-time job with barely 20 minutes a day to spare, things had to be quick easy and fuel filled! On a Sunday when cooking dinner, batch cook for the week: purchase 5 airtight tubs and fill them to the brim for your week ahead! Breakfast was always eggs and toasts or now, store-bought granola (I recommend Lizi’s Kitchen). As my husband and I work late most evenings, we would keep dinner very simple: black bean wraps, chicken, fish with some veg and sweet potato. Snacks were always nuts or things like Livia’s Kitchen snacks, Kind Bars or a protein bar. I don’t calorie count or macro count, but again the same applies - meal prep either once or twice a week and plan it into your schedule - it’s one less thing to worry about!

Do you have any tops tips for people on the go who don’t have time to prep?

Supermarkets and coffee bars now have a great range of healthy options: Pret is great as is Marks & Spencer. I try to be quite frugal when it comes to food, so if you don’t have the time, I really would encourage making the time as we still live in a world where healthier choices are on the more expensive side, unfortunately. All I’ll say is don’t go without food; the amount of colleagues I had who would go without eating all day used to amaze me - you really can’t run on empty and if your working hours and routine do not account for the need for lunch, we need to sort that out! As opposed to a quick sugary fix, always opt for whole foods - a wholemeal sandwich, wrap or salad is better than constantly snacking on cakes, crisps and biscuits. Trust me, I’ve been there in the office! And, always keep a big bottle of water on your desk. I would try to get through at least 1-1.5 litres before leaving work and would drink another before bed; I’d just purchase a litre bottle (now I have a reusable one, and they’re so cheap to get online!) and that would be my measure and guide.

For me, breakfast is one of the hardest meals of the day when you are really time-pressed - what can you recommend?

Breakfast can be really quick and easy! Granola with Almond yoghurt and some peanut butter, quick scrambled eggs with a piece of toast, peanut butter and toast, or if you have the ingredients in your fridge, whizz up a smoothie filled with greens and some fruit!

How do stick to your goals and what is your advice for staying on track and hitting them?

The first thing I would say is to be kind to yourself and to be realistic. It is not possible to be 100% goal driven 100% of the time - but I think in Britain especially, we have a tendency to go full steam ahead and then nothing at all. This is similar to what I was saying about finding a balance. If you understand your limits, time frames, motivations and you're 'why', you are more likely to set realistic and achievable goals. For example, I'd love to try a vegan diet, but as a person, I know I'm just not the best or most creative cook; being a creature of habit means I don't go out of my way to try new foods - so this would be an unrealistic goal for me. Instead, I might try the odd vegan soup pot from Pret (I'm always on the move, so healthy food places give me these options without the need to think!). My other tips would be to keep your calendar or diary updated hour by hour, so you always know where you are and what you're doing. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media as much as possible - it really is a distraction and encourages us to think about others more than we think about ourselves. Review your to-do list on a daily basis and tick things off - think about what you can achieve in the morning, afternoon and evening as opposed to everything at once - it prevents that overwhelming feeling of having too much to do! More than anything, if you do find yourself becoming demotivated to achieve your goal, take a few minutes to reflect and remind yourself of your 'why'; think carefully about what made you choose this goal and what you are working toward. Or, it may be that it just needs to change - there is nothing wrong with this, just always remind yourself that goals make a difference to your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing - and that's the most important thing!

There is so much about balance and finding a balanced life - what does this mean to you and what does it look like?

If I manage to watch an episode of Friends a day and tick off 90% of the things on my to-do list, I’m having a great day. Equally, if I want to find balance in my day, I will make time to just take 10 minutes out and breathe. You must find time for yourself - to me, that’s balance as we spend more time working for and with others than we do on ourselves in today’s working world. If ‘time out’ just isn’t a daily option for you, always have something to look forward to: it might be a film at the end of the week, a dinner or just time to sit and chill on the sofa. So many people think that ‘work hard, play hard’ (my favourite hashtag!) has to be big trips, excursions or purchases. It’s just finding time for yourself to do the things you want to do - to me, that’s balance.

Something that a lot of people don’t focus on, but is definitely coming through is wellness. Most of our lives are now busy and stressful - do you have any tips for managing this and how to fit it into a busy life?

This is something I am very passionate about and it is what I hope to support working people with! Having a weekly schedule which you can see makes a huge difference. If you can ‘see’ your week, it is much easier to take 5 minutes and schedule in time for yourself, daily. Think about when you could get those 10-15 minutes of peace a day: if it means waking up a little earlier do, if it means going for a walk after work, do. Make sure these minutes are without technology or any distractions; the world we live in today prevents any form of ’stillness’ and I think it is those moments where we get to pause and just be (in essence, mindfulness), which lead to our success. Again, self-discipline - MAKE time for yourself, it’s equally as important as completing a task at work, plus your mind, body, friends and family will thank you for it.

You've talked about mindfulness and given some tips, which are great! - How you fit it into your day, and what have you found works for you?

In terms of mindfulness, I try to treat it just like I would fitness and nutrition: I want it to become an integrated part of my lifestyle, and think that's the best way to approach it. I find it much more tricky than fitting in a gym session, just because it is more of a mental challenge, so small, sizeable chunks of it are manageable, I think. For example, whilst watching an episode of Friends (pretty much all I do in my free time!?), I might take a minute to look around my flat and just appreciate that I'm happy and laughing in the moment; I might mute the television during ad breaks and just breathe deeply for 5 minutes, trying not to think about anything else but the present moment. When driving, instead of listening to music, I might just record myself talking about what is going through my head or mind at that particular moment - it sounds odd, but is really therapeutic! I also journal every evening about how my day has been and write down 3 things that have happened throughout the day, which I am grateful for. Some may say this is not a 'strict' approach to mindfulness, but essentially, any kind of therapy, meditation or relaxation method needs to work for the individual: with such a busy schedule and my mind always running at 110%, these approaches work for me! 

Having worked on both sides - full-time employment and self-employed what have been the biggest things you’ve learnt on your journey when it comes to health / fitness and wellness?

You can’t be perfect and no matter what social media shows you, no one is working out or eating ‘right’ all the time. It’s all about incorporating what works into your lifestyle. For example, September - December was ridiculously busy for me at work, so home workouts and chicken and veg became my go to. Now, it’s quick early morning workouts and I still batch cook on a Sunday! In terms of wellness, I’m becoming a bigger fan of being mindful and grateful: when you take 10 minutes ‘out’ it leads to a greater appreciation for what you have and it has given me the confidence and resilience I need to reach my goals. It was the same when I was in full-time work: my goals were just different, but I still needed the resilience to achieve them.

What is your go-to snack when you feel like being naughty?

Chocolate. Always, always chocolate. And not dark chocolate either - good old, Galaxy…!

Zahara, thanks so much for this amazing interview and we hope that you have enjoyed reading this. If you would like to know more about Zahara and what she does, make sure you check out her website and social handles: 

Website :


Facebook: zaharafitness1

If you have any questions, please comment below and we will come back to you. 

Finally ...... if you enjoyed reading this article and are thinking about setting some goals, why not check out our Goal Setting blog to get you started