It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of inactivity. Busy lives and work schedules can make it seem like there is simply no time for exercise.

When I recently retired from my career as a professional athlete and took up a new job, I was determined to maintain my fitness off the track.

I think exercise should be accessible and achievable. It should also be enjoyable – many sports activities are also social activities and spending time with fun people should definitely be part of the experience of getting more active.

And there really is no reason why you can’t incorporate physical activity into a busy schedule. There’s always a half an hour somewhere in the day that could be better used – whether that’s first thing in the morning or after work.

To help you get started, I’ve put together my top ten tips to get you more active, more often:

  1. Make the decision to get active and get off the couch – it all stems from that decision and your commitment to stick to it. You need to be really firm with yourself – if it’s drizzling outside, you still need to carry out your activity plan. You’ll feel great for not having given up.
  2. Look at the full range of activities that are out there and see what interests you – it might be something off the beaten path that tickles your fancy like spinning or dance classes. I’m an ambassador for the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund, which every year makes €125,000 available for local community projects to get us more active, more often. It has supported some great projects over the years – from a Canoeing Ireland initiative aimed at training forty new kayak instructors who will work in disadvantaged areas, to Swim Ireland’s Swim for a Mile training programme offered in pools across the country. Until the 29th June 2015, the fund is accepting a new round of applications from non-profits and voluntary groups so look out for the five winning projects which will provide new ways to get more active, more often.
  3. Get active with your friends. That’s the most fun way to do it – do activities with people you like. You can gossip and have a good time and you won’t even notice you are exercising. Having a bit of craic is one of the things we do really well in Ireland and you don’t have to abandon that just because you’re doing some activity.
  4. Piece your workout together. You don’t need to get all your exercise at one time. Ten minutes morning, noon, and night can give much of the same benefit as 30 minutes all at once.
  5. Try a pedometer – these devices are cheap and easy to use. Best of all, they help you keep track of how active you are. Build up to 7,000 steps a day—or more. If you can keep track of your exercise it can help you stay motivated, particularly if, like me, you are a competitive person who hates to miss a target.
  6. Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone. Cutting back on screen time is a great way to curb your “sit time.” Trade screen time for active time — and use it as a reward. Watch a movie on your laptop after you do twenty laps in the pool. Nothing beats that feeling of smugness when you’ve earned your downtime.
  7. Sign up for a class. Check out the fitness course schedule at your local gym or community centre. These classes are generally nicely priced and you don’t always have to be a gym member. You may find that having the structure of a class helps you learn a new activity and keeps you on track. You’ll be less likely to give up midway through the workout if other people are doing it with you and you’ll know you’ve done enough when you get to the end of the class.
  8. Keep an exercise log. Monitoring the amount of activity you get each day will help to make you more accountable. And even better, you can create little rewards for yourself when you reach certain milestones.
  9. Walk or bike when running errands. Leave the car at home for trips that are less than a mile or two. Cross something off your to-do list while getting in your physical activity.
  10. Plan exercise into your day. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to exercise and put it in your planner.

Olympic athlete Derval O’Rourke is an ambassador for this year’s Coca-Cola Thank You Fund. Voluntary and non-profit organisations in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are being encouraged to apply for the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund (the Fund), which will award a total of €125,000 in five separate grants this year. The grants will serve as major funding for innovative projects with new ideas to get us more active, more often.

Applications for the Fund are being accepted online until 6pm on the 29th of June.