If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they didn’t have time to exercise, I’d be a very rich man indeed. Personally, I find it hard to understand how, out of 168 hours in a week, so many people can’t even find three spare hours to get a little exercise done – especially when the national average TV viewing figures suggest that most people watch an average of three hours a day!
Not having time for exercise is a bit like when a kid says their dog ate their homework. It may have been true once, or even a couple of times but if you genuinely think you NEVER have time to exercise then there is a bigger issue that needs addressing such as your priorities, your time management skills and your chosen career!
Of course, there are times when you might not have as MUCH time as you’d like for exercise but that doesn’t mean you should skip your workout entirely. In actuality, short workouts can be as if not more beneficial as hour-long aerobics classes or weight training marathons.
Short workouts make you focus on what is important and naturally eliminate that which is not. For example, if you only had 30 minutes for weight training, you’d need to focus on just a few compound exercises like squats, pullups and bench presses to work all of your major muscles in such a limited time. Ironically, such a limited choice of exercise means you automatically cut out superfluous and ineffectual exercises like triceps kick backs and crunches.
If you swapped your 60 minute Zumba class for 20 minutes of burpee intervals, you’d not only burn more calories, you’d trigger a greater calorie afterburner effect and also work every major muscle in your body. Sometimes, shorter is better.
So, to that end, here are some tips to help you get around the whole “I don’t have time” issue and get your exercise fix even when the demands of the day conspire to rob you of your health and fitness!
• Superset everything
Supersets involve doing exercises in pairs which means you get more work done in less time as you halve your rest periods. For example, do a set of press ups and then a sit of squats. Rest 60 seconds and repeat. Not only does this save time, it also really cranks up your heart rate so you get a cardio workout for free.
• Walk everywhere you can
Why go to the gym and then do cardio when you could simply work more brisk walking into your day and get your cardio workout done when you’d normally be driving or sitting on a bus. Walking is hugely underrated and yet offers so many benefits it’s almost a crime NOT to walk. Walk 30 minutes a day and forget doing hour long aerobic classes – that will leave you more time to focus on quality forms of exercise like strength training.
• Compound exercises only
Compound exercises use multiple muscle groups and joints at the same time which means they eliminate the need to do lots of “little” isolation exercises for minor muscles as they are used anyway and by default. No need to do biceps if you have worker super-hard on pullups and no need for triceps when you’ve done a few sets of dips. Take this one step further by doing complexes – exercises that are linked together and performed as a single, unbroken sequence. Front squats with an overhead press, burpees, stiff legged deadlifts with a bent over row, lunges with a biceps curl – all great time savers.
• Don’ stretch at the gym
If you are short of time, don’t waste valuable minutes by stretching. Stretching IS important but you can do it at home in front of the TV. Delaying your stretches by an hour or so won’t cause your muscles to shorten dangerously and if time is really that much of an issue, spend your training time as constructively as you can.
• Exercise at home
Training at a gym is very convenient in terms of equipment and space available but travelling to the gym, getting caught up in locker-room chit-chat, doing your workout – punctuated by more conversations over the water fountain, showering, and then driving home all take up very valuable time. Instead, work out at home. Spend 2-3 months gym membership on a suspension trainer; a couple of kettlebells, an exercise mat, a jump rope and some resistance bands and you have everything you need to stay in shape at home. You’ll save hours per week by training at home instead of at the gym.
• Get up early and get your training done first
Early morning training is not for everyone but it’s amazing what you can get used to. Training first thing in the morning means that you are much less likely to get hijacked by extra work or family commitments and can then relax knowing that your workout is done and, whatever else the day throws at you, you have invested some time in your health and fitness. Twice a week and one day at the weekend is all you need.
• Exercise at lunch time
If you get an hour break at lunch time, rather than sit in the canteen reading the newspaper or watching lunchtime soaps on TV, get a brief workout in. You could do a 30-minute tempo run around the local area, a bodyweight circuit in the car park, run up and down the steps of your building or even go to the gym if it’s nearby. Maybe negotiate with your boss a slightly linger lunch break in return for finishing work 30 minutes later to give you time to train. After all, a fit employee is a healthy employee and less likely to have time off work through illness…!
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While it’s not easy to live a healthy life and find time for exercise, making your training a priority and using these strategies can help you stay on the straight and narrow path to fitness and health. Exercise isn’t easy – or shouldn’t be if it’s worth doing – but the rewards make the investment worthwhile.