It’s safe to say that most people would agree that living a healthy lifestyle is a good thing. If you’re reading this, my guess is that you have made a commitment, in one way or another, to living a fit lifestyle. Whether it’s heading to your local In-Shape for an early morning cycling class, checking out the cool 29-Minute Circuit program, or hitting the free weights, you do something with the goal of living an “In-Shape Lifestyle.”

The question that always seems to be asked is, “How do I juggle everything on my plate while also meeting my fitness goals?” Six months ago, I was trying to figure out an answer to that question.

Here’s a little background on me: I’m a 31-year old recent father and semi-recent husband. Prior to diving in head first to marriage and family, I had the time to commit to myself to working out in a way that doesn’t seem to happen as much these days. Marriage and family commitments take a front seat to some of my personal wants. The question I asked myself was, “How do I fit everything in?” The answer: with a little creativity!

I’ve found setting goals works for me. For example, I’ve always enjoyed running, but have had difficulty sticking to it long-term. I had to figure out a goal-oriented solution that would make running a personal competition of sorts. As someone who considers himself competitive, challenging myself was something that made sense to me. I decided that I would start training to run either a 5k, 10k, or a competitive mud run once a month throughout the year.

The next step was finding a time to fit working out in my busy schedule of work and family.  I always work out better in the morning, so heading to the gym before my wife and son were awake.  That way I wasn’t missing any time I could be spending with them since I had to be away all day for work. Sure, getting up at 4:45 in the morning was not my first choice, but it got me up and allowed me to spend more time with my family.

If I was going to do this, my goal was to consistently get better and better with every run I took on. I laid out a strategy. Starting in January of this year, I started training by hitting the treadmill several times a week. The more time I spent on the treadmill, I gained confidence in my running, and decided in March to take on my first monthly run – a 10k race that included quite a bit of uphill running. I didn’t set the world on fire, but it was a start!

Fast-forward 6 months, and I just participated in the Del Osso Farms Mud Run in Lathrop, CA in September. Between my treadmill running, other resistance training focused on building endurance, and one run a month, I went from running an 11 minute mile in March to smashing through the mud run, coming in the Top 100 of 2,900 participants. It was exciting for me to see how I got from point A to B in less than a year. I attribute my success to a cocktail of planning, creativity, and goal setting. Sprinkle in a good diet and fitness-based activities with my lovely wife (more on those coming soon) and I am feeling better at 31 than I did at 21!

What do you do to stay fit while juggling what life brings at you? Any advice you have for someone looking to take on a new challenge?

-Mike D.