It can be challenging to make time for exercise with a busy schedule, but there are so many ways you can get it done! Most people are busy these days, and that is not a copout or a lie. I believe my clients when they say they are so busy that it is hard to find time to workout, because I see it. Like you, they have responsibilities and obligations in the form of jobs, work and relationships.
Some people like to be busy all the time, because it’s just how they choose to live their life. Others are busy for a short period of time such as until a project is completed, at which point life will go back to a regular pace.
Whether you are steadily busy or in a push right now, take a few minutes upfront to plan how to make time for exercise in your busy schedule.
Whether you adjust how long you spend in the gym, move some training sessions to your home, or even cut down some sessions, maintaining some training in your schedule will be worth it!
Remember, you can’t cram exercise. You can’t wait until you’re sick and then exercise for 100 hours in a row and get the benefits. You must exercise regularly. It will build strength, health, quality of life and fortuitously, help manage stress during your busy times.
You can get an effective workout in a quicker time frame than you think, so try a quick workout instead of just skipping. Whether you are doing these short workouts in the gym, home, or even at work, identify smaller chunks of time (10-30 minutes) that you can possibly use for exercise.
At the gym, there are a few ways to get a quick workout. You can:
- Just do your main lift/s and skip accessory work.
- Just do exercises that don’t take as much time to warm up and prepare for.
- Move quicker through your planned session (don’t adjust anything but pace).
- Change the type of exercise you are doing altogether.
Let me touch on each of these briefly to explain:
- If you just do your main lift and skip your accessory workout, the pace of your session doesn’t change. You just end it sooner. An example of this would be if I only had 30 minutes to train, but I really wanted to deadlift. I would warm up well, hit my feeler sets that increase in weight, do my working sets, and then be done. Voila. Note, you should always warm up – do not sacrifice warming up for time! You won’t perform as well without a warm up, and you risk injury.
- Just doing exercises that don’t take as much time to warm up and prepare for is an option also. In this case, you would leave out exercises like heavy compound movements that require the time to warm up thoroughly. You’d still do a warm up! It just won’t be as involved. An example of this kind of session would be a push pull squat minimal equipment workout, where you do 3 exercises and move quickly through them. They’ll be moderate weight, high volume, and quick rest. If you click the link for push pull squat, you can see an exact session like this, and how to modify it to fit you.
- Moving quicker through your planned session is a good option also. If you choose to speed up your session by moving through it faster, you’ll shorten your rest periods, and because of this shorter rest, you’ll skip the most challenging sets. For example, if I am deadlifting but still want to make the time to do accessory work, then I might skip the heaviest few sets, which require the most rest between. You do not want to rush through your heavy compound work.
- Finally, you can change which type of exercise you do altogether. If you are short on time and literally don’t have the time to do multiple exercises and work around the gym, you might choose just to do some conditioning. Say I don’t have time to do my deadlifts (boo!) but I know I’ll have time tomorrow, then today I’ll get on the treadmill for an incline walk. This way I am getting good work in, and giving myself the chance to get high quality work in when I have time to do it thoroughly and safely.
If finding time to exercise means you exercise at home, that’s great too! With just one or two weights, you can do the above linked Push Pull Squat session. It’s killer, and can be briefly done in a small area. There are many examples of sessions like this, where you focus on a few exercise that can be done with little or no equipment, and do them circuit style.
On one particularly cold day a few years ago, I decided I would not be going outside, at all, for anything. I decided to do squats, lunges, and pushups as my workout. I started doing 10 of each and resting only when I needed. Some sets felt great and I did up to 15 reps. When I fatigued, I dropped it to 5. This ended up being less than 20 minutes and I felt great.
You can do something similar. Choose exercises that are within your ability, set a timer and some great tunes, and go!
At Your Work or Desk
Depending on your work situation, you may have a gym or fitness center close to you. If this is the case, make use of it! Remember, you can get sufficient work done in about 30 minutes, 2-3 times a week. If you aren’t able to get to a gym during your workday but you would like to get movement in, don’t forget walking! Walking is so underrated! Walking is great for a whole host of things, including digestion post lunch, and stabilizing blood sugar, which wards off those afternoon energy crashes. You might even be able to walk and get steps in without changing clothes.
Likewise, look for staircases. Walking stairs is legit! If you can find a safe place to walk stairs, do it! You’ll experience significant increases in metabolism and conditioning, and building muscle, ie toning the legs, as people like to say.
Make Working Out Convenient
Whether you choose to exercise at home, at the gym, or from work, set yourself up to succeed! Make it fit in your schedule, make it convenient, and commit! Be creative about how you can minimize wasted time, by adjusting your commute to avoid busy times in traffic and the gym. Also think about how you can adjust your work hours so you are in the office being productive instead of sitting on the highway.
I’ve seen so many creative ways to make room for exercise from my clients over the years. Some examples are:
- Joining a gym with a friend and doing work together instead of happy hours
- Walking meetings instead of sitting
- Joining a gym close to home so traffic is not prohibitive
- Going to the gym early to avoid traffic
- Similarly, going to work early, and going to the gym before heading home. This has a double benefit, as you avoid the busiest hours of the gym too.
Exercising at home can be done with no equipment, or with just a few pieces. You can go as grand as you like in building out your home gym, or go minimal with small pieces that store easily. Links here.
For example, my exercise program The Home Team, uses two pairs of dumbbells and a band. This way you can always have fresh workouts delivered to you to do from your living room, garage or back yard.
I recommend having a dedicated space to exercise at home, like you would have a dedicated work space if you work from home. However, if that doesn’t work for you, you can absolutely have a small storage space for 2-4 dumbbells and a band. Those can go in a corner of the room or closet very easily.
You can even use a Bala ring, which is pretty cute, and can be left out as an accessory. I don’t make any money from this, by the way. I just thought it was so cute that I bought my mom one.
Hybrid Gym/Home Workouts
Finally one of my absolute favorite ways to structure your training is to do a hybrid of home and gym workouts. You’ll always get benefits from going to a gym, whether its by using equipment you don’t have, learning from others, or creating a supportive community for yourself. Even with the most built out home gyms, most people can find equipment they don’t have at a full gym. For example, I have spent a lot of time and money making my home gym sufficient. I still go work out at Big Tex Gym for the cable systems.
Lat pull downs, rows, and large spaces for sled and sandbag work permit me to do back and leg work I can’t do at home. For clients who split up home and gym workouts, I suggest doing the home work that you can at home with dumbbells. Obviously, at the gym, you’ll do the work you can’t do at home.
Use Every Minute
By honestly assessing your time management, you can see where you can fit exercise in. You will also see things you can minimize or adjust. Decreasing social media, for example, can yield you some of your time back. And definitely don’t commit to another tv series! You’ll be fine if you don’t know the water cooler gossip! As a person who doesn’t watch tv, I say this with lots of love. 🙂
Most importantly, schedule your workouts, and do them. Put them on your calendar, remind your spouse and the people who need to know, that you have a commitment to yourself.
Choose which exercises are priority for you, and do those first. It is much easier to maintain strength than to abandon it and rebuild.
If you just don’t quit, you’ll get through your busy time. You can add more exercise in as you have time for it, and you’ll be so grateful to yourself that you never quit.
I believe in you! Message me if this still seems impossible for you. I have the benefit of talking to hundreds of people about how they get their exercise in. firstname.lastname@example.org Let’s find a way for you, too!
Are You Beginning Your Fitness Journey?
If you are brand new to the gym, my program called Square 1 takes you through exactly how to start. It tells you how many sets, reps, and what weight to start with on exercises. It’s $15 for a 6 week program, and you can message me anytime with questions. I’d be happy to help get you started, on this beginning program, or on a program custom written for you! Email me at email@example.com or fill out this form here
About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.