Sometimes my schedule is so tight that despite owning a training center with more weights than I know what to do with, I find it hard to fit in time to workout. In fact, there are some days when I’ve spent most of the day where people work out and all my work is done and I really have to geek up the motivation to hammer out a workout. Lately though I’ve set some personal goals that center around a return to competitive sport and I want to try to get as fit and prepared as I can in what limited time that I have. Gone are the days when I could work out 3-5 hours every day. Now I have to find whatever time I can to churn out mini-workouts. And then try to string together 3, 4, or 5 of them in a day. Here’s some tips on how to stay fit on a tight schedule:

  • If you have 1 free minute you can do something. Don’t fool yourself in to thinking that a workout will only be effective if it’s 20+ minutes long. If you have a spare minute stand up and knock out 60 bodyweight squats, or pushups, or lunges…you get the idea. This intermittent work will help stoke the energy burning fire that is your metabolism and over time these short bouts will add up to considerable volume.
  • If you have 10 minutes you can get in a pretty serious workout. I’ve started doing things like “10 in 10” where I do 10 sets of 1 rep on a given multi-joint lift and work up to a daily maximum. Or I might do 5 x 5 in 10 minutes working up to a heavy workload by the 3rd set. In addition to these types of heavy lifting (which would probably require you either get creative or have a gym in your office) you can also do hard metabolic conditioning workouts. For example, if I have 5 minutes before my next appointment or meeting I might try to knock out a 5 minute time trial on a concept 2 rower, or see how many pullups I can do in 5 minutes, or do a mini-circuit with some combination of strength and aerobic endurance.
  • Consider running or biking to work. I now bike to work at least 3 times a week and try to run once a week.  This takes a little bit longer than driving but it ensures that I’m getting in more workout time while doing something that I’d have to do anyhow (commute to work).
  • Choose your exercises wisely. You’ll get more bang for your buck from multi-joint full body exercises than single joint isolation exercises. This means doing exercises like squats, pullups, dead lifts, olympic lifts (if you know how to do them safely), pressing movements, etc. Likewise, free weights beat machines every day because they incorporate stabilizing muscles and require greater coordination and balance.
  • Crank the intensity. You can get fit on less than an hour of training a week if you’re willing to REALLY push yourself. This means going beyond that point when you want to stop and take a rest or catch your breath.
  • Vary the training modality. Include running, biking, rowing, weight lifting, calisthenics, etc. This will prevent the body and mind from stagnating.
  • Get something in early in the day. Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes of exercise. This will ensure you never go a day without some level of activity.
  • Work all sides of the energy-system fitness

    and speed-power continuum. Not only will this ensure you’re developing holistic fitness but by alternating workouts that focus on different energy systems or different aspects of the speed-power continuum you’ll be able to push hard more frequently without worrying about over training because the recuperative resources for each workout will not overlap as much.

  • Try to fit in multiple small workouts throughout the day. If you work in an office setting and don’t have the luxury of going to work in shorts and a t-shirt every day like I do, then just do a little intermittent exercise every 60 to 90 minutes. Enough that will rev up the metabolism and produce a cumulative training effect but little enough that you won’t be showing up to your next meeting with sweat stains around your collar.
  • Try to get in a mini-workout before you eat. This should help stoke the metabolism and you’ll process your food more efficiently and be able to enjoy food with less worry of weight gain.