I don't have any time!
We all have a lot on our plates, and when you throw in kids or extra responsibilities at work, it can seem near impossible to fit in exercise. Your day is booked up from sun up to sun down. I get it. It's freakin' tough to fit everything in let alone have the energy to do it.
My sister-in-law just had her first child about 5 months ago, and though she has always been into fitness and healthy living, she's really been struggling to fit it all in. And now with her job as a teacher back in full swing, it's getting even harder to carve out the time. Understandably, it's frustrating for her because she enjoys working out and how it makes her feel and look. But it's a struggle to combine it with a new baby and getting back into the thick of things at work.
We've tried several options to make it more doable for her while still seeing results, which is what I'll share here to help you stay consistent with your workouts even if you think you have zero time.
This is a favorite strategy of mine. As much as I love long lifting workouts and focusing purely on strength, sometimes you need to get a little more efficient with your workouts due to time constraints. Metabolic conditioning (also known as a met con) is a fusion of weights and cardio, cutting down rest periods and using more light to moderate weights. It ups the intensity and condenses the work into a shorter period of time. This really gets the metabolism going through the
"afterburn" effect. You may have heard of this concept in terms of interval/HIIT cardio work, but it also applies here big-time. Not only do you burn calories during the workout, but you also burn more calories after the session is over, anywhere from 1-36 hours, according to some studies. How awesome is that?
And done right, you will be breathing hard and getting a solid cardiovascular benefit as well, which carries over into your everyday activities, like climbing stairs, doing housework, and chasing after your kids, as well as any other activities that you enjoy like running or biking.
Here's an example of a Met Con:
As many reps as possible (with good form) in 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds rest for each exercise, 3 rounds total. Use a moderate weight and modify any exercises as needed.
Stability Ball Leg Curls
Alternating Single Leg Lowering Drill
That's 6 exercises and 1 minute per exercise, for 3 total rounds, which gives you a tough 18-minute workout that will leave you huffing and puffing, sweat rolling down your face, and your muscles burning. When you up the intensity and lower the rest periods, you can get away with a much shorter workout. You don't need to always be putting in 1-2 hours a day to see results. In fact, I would argue that you shouldn't. Your goal should be to do as little as necessary to still elicit results. That gives you something to work with if you hit a plateau. There's only so much cardio you can add before it becomes counterproductive and actually hurts your results. Plus, who has time for that?
For an even shorter workout, try a ladder of two exercises. Like this:
Jump Squats x 10, 9, 8, 7... 1
Push-ups x 1, 2, 3, 4... 10
You'll alternate the Jump Squats and Push-ups, performing 10 JS and 1 Push-up on the first round, 9 JS and 2 PU on the second round, and so on until you reach 1 JS and 10 PUs. Rest as needed. This can usually be completed in less than 10 minutes. Do this before you get in the shower in the morning, during a break in work, or after work. Whenever you want to do something but have no time for a full-on met con or traditional workout.
If you'd like to see more examples of metabolic conditioning workouts, check out my Fast Fit series over on Instagram. I post a new one every Friday. You can also see them on the Fast Fit page on this website here.
If you are still struggling to fit in a shorter, more intense workout like the one above, try breaking down your current workout into shorter segments throughout the day.
Say this is your planned workout:
A1. Walking Lunges x 20 x 3 sets
A2. Push-ups x 10 x 3 sets
B1. Weighted Glute Bridge x 20 x 3 sets
B2. Bent-Over Wide Row x 10 x 3 sets
C1. Lateral Raises x 10 x 3 sets
C2. Russian Twist x 20 x 3 sets
My SIL often can't make it to the gym with her son and errands and housework taking up all of her time. Plus, she feels guilty leaving her son in the gym's childcare after he's been at daycare all day. And when she's home and trying to fit in a workout, he sometimes gets pretty fussy, which puts a
kabash on that. I'm sure a lot of you ladies can relate. What I suggested is that she break down her workout into smaller pieces to complete throughout the day, instead of all at once. It could go something like this:
1 set of Walking Lunges + 2 sets of Push-ups upon waking
2 sets of Lunges + 1 set of Push-ups at lunch time
2 sets of Glute Bridges after she gets home from work
1 set of Lateral Raises + 3 sets of Rows while dinner is cooking
2 sets of Lateral Raises + 2 sets of Russian Twists after dinner and the baby is in bed
1 set of Glute Bridges before bed + 1 set of Russian Twists before bed
Really, there is no wrong way to do it. Sure, ideally you'd complete the exercises all in one session, but sometimes you just don't have the time or energy. And that's okay. Maintenance can be a worthy (and still challenging!) goal. Even if she can't get through everything, she's still putting in work that will benefit her and get her a little closer to her goals.
Something is always better than nothing, even if it feels too small to matter. And sometimes you just need to keep the momentum going too. Just the act of doing something makes it easier to stick with the habit of exercising regularly. And we all know how difficult it is to start over from zero on something.
With the application of these 2 tactics, my SIL has been able to fit in more exercise each week. Of course, it's never as much as she would like, but she does her best. If she has the time and my adorable nephew is in good spirits, she strap him in the stroller and go for a leisure walk. The benefits of this are two-fold: she gets moving and burns a few calories, and it also helps manage her stress hormone levels. When your stress is out of control, this can really stall your fat loss, so
putting in the time for those R & R activities is super helpful for your overall wellbeing and goals.
Avoid "shoulding" yourself to death here. Just do your best. That will look different from day to day, and that's a-okay.