Want to stay healthy? They key is to plan ahead!

CNN
Saturday, March 29, 2014 - 12:00pm

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.

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.

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.

Editor's note: Connie Sievers is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the "Sassy Six" on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 14.

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