One of the most commonly cited reasons for failing to exercise is “lack of time.” Unfortunately, sometimes we can be made to feel like if we’re not a complete and total gym rat, we aren’t doing enough! The good news is that feeling fit, being more active, and improving your health do not require two-a-day workouts or hours at the gym. Don’t get us wrong, the first step does need to be recognizing that daily activity needs to be a priority. Sometimes our feeling of “just not having enough time” is actually just us not prioritizing or using good time management skills. The truth is, if you are caught up on all the latest Netflix shows– your barrier to exercise is not a time issue. Here are some simple time-saving techniques to have shorter more effective workouts and to strategize your time so that you CAN fit it in.
Remember… any activity is always going to be better than none!
Plan Ahead / Get on a Program
One of the biggest wastes of your valuable gym time is wandering around trying to figure out what to do. Instead, create a plan for yourself (or have a professional create a plan for you). Know before you go! Knowing which exercises, sets and rep ranges you plan on doing will prevent you from wandering around and “winging it.” You’ll be more likely to stay on schedule when you know what’s on the menu. You can even go as far as to designate time frames for each activity. For example: “I will spend 5 minutes stretching and then I will try to run as far as I can on the treadmill in 15 minutes.”
Circuit training is a popular lifting style partly because it is efficient. Choose a series of exercises— it could be a set of 3 exercises or even a giant set of 5 to 6 exercises. Complete 8 to 15 reps of each exercise. Upon completing the last exercise in the series, begin back again at the first exercise. Circuits are usually done two, three, or even four times through. If you are first starting out, it is perfectly fine to go one or two times through your exercises and then increase the number of rounds as the weeks go on. Hidden benefit: One study showed that compared to a treadmill workout of the same duration, women who engaged in circuit training experienced a greater post-exercise metabolic boost or “afterburn.”
Skip the Bicep Curls & Calf Raises
Spend your time on bigger muscles— think legs, back, chest, and core. In other words, stick with bigger-bang-for-your-buck exercises, the meat and potatoes, and ditch some of the accessory work. Working these bigger groups of muscles will by association hit the smaller synergistic muscle groups like the biceps, triceps, and calf muscles. No need to isolate these smaller muscles if you are in a rush. A few hard sets of your main lifts will definitely feel better than skipping the entire workout. Hidden Benefit: Working the larger muscle groups typically uses more energy which equates to a greater calorie burn.
Choose Multi-Joint Exercises
If you are adamant about working some of the smaller muscles group in, pair them with larger movements. This would create a multi-joint exercise which forces flexion and extension at multiple joints of the body. For example, add an overhead press to a traditional squat, or a bicep curl at the top of a lunge.
Go Hard Instead of Far for Your Cardio
There are benefits to lower-intensity, long-duration cardio. However, if you are strapped for time, chances are you’re not running a marathon for today’s workout. Rather than go for distance on your cardio machine of choice, find ways to manipulate intensity, like increase the incline setting, increase your speed, or jack up the resistance and get the most amount of work you can in less time. This is a great opportunity to push yourself to your limit.
Leave Your Phone in Your Locker
Searching through your playlist for the perfect song, looking through work emails, or texting your friend dating advice during your workout will definitely cut into your workout sesh. If possible, leave your phone alone or in your locker all together. This is your sacred time. Hopefully, these other factors can wait for 30-45 minutes while you blow off some steam.
Limit Your Rest Time
Duh. Taking less time between exercises will allow you to get more done. Hidden Benefit: Cutting down on rest time between exercises can increase the total cardio conditioning and overall intensity of the workout by keeping your heart rate elevated.
Mix Your Cardio With Your Weights
Sometimes we may plan on wanting to get in some cardio and strength on the same day. Unfortunately, we may not have the time to approach each of these separately. Add in some kind of cardio movement between weight training sets. Great examples of mini cardio blasts would be:
1-minute Treadmill Sprint
Hidden Benefit: Kill two birds with one stone by skipping the “cardio” machine altogether. Your cardiovascular system will get a good workout with this interval-style circuit.
Make It Social
Sometimes we are left with the choice of catching up with a friend after work or staying true to our appointment with the treadmill. A great way to kill two birds with one stone is suggest meeting your friend for a walk, instead of meeting at the bar. Before you know it, you could have successfully gotten in a two-hour walk and be fully caught up with your bestie, plus you dodged the extra calories from a drink and apps.
Convenience is Key
Maybe lacking time to hit the gym simply means your current location of exercise is just not convenient enough for your routine. Try to find a place to workout that is more on the route of your home/work life. Also, adjusting the time of day which you carve out for your workout could be a game-changer. If previously you have exercised after work but find meetings are getting booked later and later, its time you re-evaluate your plan and block off another time that will be more successful for you.
And suddenly… the workout you did not have time for, becomes your best workout of the week!