“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Zen proverb
It’s January, which means health clubs are going to resemble farmers markets on Saturdays for the next couple of weeks. A lot of people milling around, doing things randomly, maybe bringing their dogs, wearing odd things and probably eating food they bought at the local vendor while doing all of this. Nothing says fitness like pocket muffins.
Because of this new influx of of people looking to get their fit on, and because everyone deserves the chance to work on themselves, it may be a little more difficult to do your normal routine while they check the place out and see if it works for them.
Now if you’re someone who has a hard time getting enough time to get to the gym, it could make things doubly challenging to get in the workout you want to do, plus fight the crowds, and also do all the other things you have to do in your life to make the time work. You may find that January is your busier period (hi all you trainers out there!!) which means you may have to adjust your schedules, frequency, or duration of workouts to make it work for you. There’s always options out there, and I wanted to help you out to find the best ways to use your time when it comes to getting your workouts in.
Step 1: Audit your Time
When people say they don’t have time to exercise, they may need to look at how they spend their time and what elements could be changes to free up a couple of hours each week. Do you go grocery shopping every day when you could realistically go every 3 days without any issue? That likely would save up about 1 hour every 3 days, if not more, that could be used for a workout. How much television do you watch, which could easily either be watched while doing some form of cardio, or taped to watch at a later time after your workout? Why do we still say “taped” when it comes to television, knowing that no one uses a VCR anymore?
There’s a lot of elements to your daily life that could be condensed or eliminated to make it more effective use of your time while still giving you the ability to get in your workouts. I’ve worked with a few CEOs who schedule their day in 6 minute increments, and still carve out time each day to workout, as they know how easy it could be to push their fitness to the side, but their value in it means they have to double down and treat their workouts like an appointment that they can’t miss.
Sometimes it could come down to when you schedule your workouts. I know for me one of the only times I get to workout is at the end of the day, but by then I’m pretty tired and might feel the pull of the couch instead, so I might have to switch up and do a mid-afternoon workout a couple of times week, or just not get in a workout on the days when I train clients later into the day.
#2: Understand How Much Time you Need
If your plan is to drive to a gym, change, workout, change, and drive back to where you want to be after the workout, how much time will that actually take, and can you make it work for you? Do you need an hour or would 30 minutes actually suffice for what you’re looking for? From my experience, some workouts can be easily completed in 20-30 minutes, some may take 40-60 minutes, and if you’re involved in some higher level training, like for athletes or competition prep phases, it may take longer, but you could still sneak in a good blast in 20-30 minutes, regardless of your level.
Having a home gym makes this easy. For me to walk downstairs, put on some music, and deadlift my face off, the time from start to finish may be 30 minutes. A cardio workout may be 40 minutes. A more involved bro-fest might be 50 minutes. Transit time is zero.
So let’s say your plan is to work out in the afternoon, and your gym is 15 minutes away. Change time takes 15 minutes, post workout shower is 20, and return travel is another 15 minutes. That means with zero time spent working out, the total time investment per session is 1 hour 5 minutes. Add to that the time spent working out, and for the sake of this example you want to spend 40 minutes doing something active, you’re now pushing just under 2 hours per session for a workout. To get in 4 workouts like this a week means you have to carve 8 hours into your weekly schedule to make it happen.
So now that you’ve picked out ways to free up some time, you have workouts to plug into your schedule. Do they fit? If yes, then in the words of Hemingway, “The shortest answer is doing the thing.” Get to work and show up for those workouts as scheduled. If no, you have to either adjust your workout duration, find a way to shave some time from the commute, change & shower, or use shorter workouts, or you have to keep cutting the useless out of your hectic schedule. There’s really no other way to put it.
#3: Pick Your Workout Based on Goal
If your goal is to lose weight, you’ll have to adjust your food intake to have fewer calories, but from sources with better nutrient quality. This means veggies, lean protein, fruits, and trying to keep higher calorie foods in moderation. You’ll also have to burn more calories from activity, which could be from resistance training, cardio, or anything you like, but the goal is still creating a deficit. If you can do that, the type of activity itself isn’t as important, so pick something you enjoy doing and are willing to do a lot of.
If you want to gain muscle, you’ll need to eat protein, lift weights with a combination of heavy loads and low reps, as well as lighter loads and higher reps. There’s a lot of research to say muscles will grow from pretty much any rep and set scheme, so don’t worry too much about that, just train all the muscles with a combination of compound lifts and isolation lifts as you see fit.
If you’re pressed for time, keep rest intervals short, train each body part at least once a week, and if possible twice. You could easily rotate an upper/lower split twice in a week, with each workout being 10-12 sets of work, and only being 30 minutes per session, and see progress.
If you want to improve your cardio conditioning, hit up some short but intense intervals, some Crossfit workouts, or anything than pushes your workout intensity above either anaerobic threshold or VO2 max to make your body adapt to using more oxygen than bringing in and push your utilization higher. Keep the work intervals short and rest times brief, with the total time around 20-30 minutes for everything, including warm up.
Please note, this is a very challenging series to do and not something to just jump into on day one. It’s a good kick in the pants for someone who is adapted to weight lifting, but not something for a beginner.
Step #4: Don’t Procrastinate
You have the time carved out, you have the workout in mind, you have your gym bag packed and your quickest route to the gym. Now go do it. There’s a thousand things that can pop up to become more important in your mind than that training session, but where would that leave you? Probably sliding down the slippery slope of regularly skipping workouts for stuff that wasn’t as much of a priority as you thought it was, missing because “you don’t feel like it,” or making up a reason why the gym isn’t going to happen.
Want to know why that slope is so slippery? It’s from the tears of failure. Your tears. There’s no crying when you get your workouts in, except when they’re tears of success, but those tears aren’t slippery. They give you traction and make it easier to get through the next workout, and the next. Happy success tears have anti-slip technology built in to add momentum to your climb. Patent pending.
Step #5; Repeat, and Stay the Course
Doing a workout once is a success. Getting in workouts consistently is a trend that leads to success in whatever goal you’re trying to attain. Keep it up and progress will come. It’s not from the singular event, but the repeated application of singular events that produces any physical benefit.
Until next time, stay classy.