It’s often quite easy to find an excuse for not doing something – especially when it’s something you don’t especially enjoy. I’m sure, in your youth, you used one of a number of standard excuses for why you didn’t do your homework. Your dog ate it maybe? Or your younger brother/sister spelt water all over it? Maybe you left in on the bus?
Fast forwards a few years and while the unpleasant tasks may have changed, the excuses still keep coming. In place of dogs eating homework, adults can blame technology…it’s amazing how many emails go missing in cyberspace – especially those asking you to do something you’d rather not do. And then there is public transport; it’s an easy scapegoat and can often be blamed for work tardiness when, in fact, a big night out and sleeping through your alarm is really the culprit.
And when it comes to eating right and exercising, the excuses just keep on coming. It amazes me how many people blame the alleged expensiveness of healthy food for not eating a well balanced diet but then have plenty of money to spend on the latest i-gadget, new car or holiday.
And then there is the whole “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse. That one is just astonishing. Take a look on facebook and you’ll see exactly why people don’t have time to exercise – they are too bust bleating to their friends how busy they are. Am I the only one who sees the irony in these “I’m so busy and must tell the world on facebook” messages!?
I do actually understand what it is like to be busy. I work 10 hour work days, I have a family, but despite all that I have going on, I still find time to exercise and if I can do it, I know you can too!
Over the years, I have developed and combined a number of strategies that have helped my keep my training on track despite having a very busy schedule. I genuinely believe that in all but the most extreme cases, everyone can find sufficient time to exercise. Okay, so time constraints might mean that training for an Iron Man triathlon or next year’s Mr. Universe is out of the question but there is really no excuse for not doing enough exercise to keep yourself healthy and fit.
Warming up is important but many people are guilty of spending way to long on this aspect of exercise. Unless you are going to be working at “eyeballs out” intensity, your warm up needn’t be exhaustive. Many fitness experts suggest you need to do a pulse raiser, mobility exercises, foam rolling, dynamic stretches, movement prep, corrective exercises, muscle activation exercises and so on before you start exercising. While all this stuff is great in theory, if your warm up is so long you actually don’t have time to work out, it’s nothing but a barrier to participation and reinforces the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse.
Look at most people’s weights workouts and they look like an A-Z of strength training exercises. I like to think if this as a “kitchen sink” approach to program design. It’s almost as though they lack confidence in the exercises they are performing and, subsequently, add in more and more similar movements to ensure all bases are double-triple-quadruple covered and you have a whole lot of wasted time.
Whenever I am short of time, I simply hack my workout down to the bare minimum of three exercises performed twice a week for 3-5 work sets per exercise. This means I’m in and out the gym, including warm up and cool down in a round 35-40 minutes. If I’m REALLY short of time, I’ll even super-set the final two exercises to save a few extra minutes.
Bent over rows
Pull/chin ups (substitute lat pull downs as necessary)
You may have noticed a distinct lack of direct arm and core work – this is not an oversight. The exercises listed above also use those muscles, albeit indirectly.
While the abbreviated workouts listed above might not be the most exciting or varied you’ve ever seen, I can assure you that, when time is short, they are a lot better than the alternative – doing nothing!
Everyone knows that cardio is all but essential for heart, lung and circulatory health and also for fat burning but how much do you need to do? According to the American College of Sports Medicine we need to do 20 minutes three times a week which isn’t a big investment of time and a whole lot less than the typical aerobics class aficionado or runner does per week. However, you can reduce this time significantly by substituting your steady pace cardio for interval training. In studies, interval training has been shown to deliver greater fitness and fat burning results than steady pace cardio. Concerned that such short workouts will result in weight (fat) gain? If so, you are probably eating too much and need to sort your diet out rather than waste time trying to outrun it.
So, 40 minutes of strength training twice a week (including warm ups) plus three 20 minute cardio sessions equals a little over two hours of exercise which equates to around 1.4% of your week. I bet you spend more time watching TV!
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The next time you think you don’t have enough time for exercise, think again and also remember the Earl of Derby’s old adage “Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.”