Making time for your health: Plan ahead

Connie Sievers packs a gym bag, healthy snacks and water the night before so early-morning rises will be painless as possible.

Story highlights

  • Connie Sievers says she learned she had to plan ahead to stay healthy
  • Sievers packs her gym bag the night before and has healthy snacks on hand
  • Her refrigerator is never without vegetables and protein
  • Follow her journey training for a triathlon on Twitter @TriHardConnie

There's not enough time.

That is the excuse I used for 19 years. There's not enough time to prepare healthy meals. Not enough time to plan healthy snacks. Not enough time to exercise. Not enough time to get a good night's rest. There's not enough time.

I stopped using that excuse on September 8, the day I watched my children complete in Iowa's Best Dam Triathlon. I decided then and there that I would stop making excuses, take control of my health and run a triathlon with my children in 2014.

Over time, I've realized that there is enough time to do whatever I want. It just requires a tremendous amount of planning.

Planning for healthy meals

Healthy meals start with a healthy grocery list. I keep a notepad on the counter with a list in progress. My husband and I share the shopping. Healthy meals include protein and plenty of vegetables. The moment the large salad bowl is empty, I make sure to prepare another salad. Turkey breasts, tuna, cheese sticks and Greek yogurt are always in the refrigerator as ready-to-eat protein.

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    Planning for a sweet tooth attack

    My sweet tooth is very reliable; it vies for sugar the moment I get home from work. So I modified a snack recipe I saw on Facebook to increase the protein content, and always keep some of these in the refrigerator. My sweet tooth is satisfied after just one or two bites. Warning -- they do have calories, so don't eat the entire batch!

    No Bake Energy Bites (with protein powder)
    I cup (dry) oatmeal
    ½ cup milk chocolate chips
    ½ cup chunky peanut butter
    ⅓ cup honey
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ½ cup chocolate whey protein powder
    Mix and roll into 15 balls. I keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
    Per ball: 130 calories, 15 grams carb, 6 grams fat, 5 grams protein

    Planning for early-morning workouts

    I need to work out in the morning before life gets in the way. When I do, I have additional motivation for making better choices all day long.

    But 4 a.m. comes early. So after dinner, I plan and pack. I pack my work clothes for the next day, lay out my swimming suit or workout clothes for the morning, and pack my work bag with emergency snacks and a plastic spoon for the Greek yogurt I eat in the morning. I charge my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor and cell phone, set out the dishes I need for both my dog's and my breakfast, and set out two water bottles to fill in the morning (one for the gym, one for the car).

    On Sundays, I refill the consumables such as shampoo and body wash, and I put my new weekly workout plan into a sheet protector so it will not get wet at the pool.

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    Planning around bad weather

    During the winter, it's necessary to pay attention to the weather forecast when planning my early-morning trips to the Y. I live about 30 country miles from the gym. If ice or snow is expected, I move my workout schedule around so I can train at home. I have a treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike at home, and they have been valuable. If I miss a swim workout, I do it another day.

    Planning for eight hours of sleep

    Sleep is a huge priority for optimal health and training. That's why I go to bed around 8 every night.

    I have always needed eight hours of sleep to function well the next day. I must go to bed at 8 p.m. to be able to jump (or roll) out of bed at 4 a.m. and be on the road 30 minutes later for my drive to the gym.

    Six quick months have passed since I last used the excuse "not enough time," and good things are happening. I have lost more than 30 pounds. I learned to swim. I learned to jog. I am stronger. I have more energy. I just feel better.

    There were a few nights at the beginning of my journey when I waited to pack my gym bag until right before bedtime. I was too tired then, so I told myself I would pack in the morning. Guess what: The alarm went off, and I knew I was not packed, so I reset my alarm and did not go to the Y that morning.

    For the entire day, I worried about how and when to fit in my workout. I learned not planning ahead is not worth it. Not planning ahead is setting myself up to fail.

    Where will you be in six months? Start planning now.

    More from Sievers: Why you should celebrate small victories