Fitting Exercise Into A Busy Schedule

The most common reason I hear for not working out is a lack of time.  I would bet that if most people did an honest audit of their regular daily life most people could find at least 2-3 hours in their week to exercise.  I have even heard estimates of up to 10 hours.  The truth is that we waste a lot of time on Facebook, watching tv (the kind that we really don’t need to watch, the kind that we just watch to pass time) and any number of unnecessary things.  I too, am guilty of this.  I understand when a client has a busy schedule but it’s my job to help find solutions to encourage exercise.

One of the solutions I find the most effective is increasing the frequency that you workout.  Yes, that is correct, greater frequency. Training more days per week allows you to reduce the time spent on each training session and still accomplish the same weekly volume but at a much lower daily time commitment.  Trying to fit in a 60 minute workout during a busy day is far tougher than scheduling a 20-30 minute workout.  We are inevitably going to miss workouts. All of us are.  Let’s look at 2 scheduling scenarios:


In the first scenario you schedule 3 workouts that are each 60 minutes. Life gets busy and you happen to miss 2 of them. You have now trained for 1 hour this week
In scenario 2 you schedule the same total hours but over 6 days, scheduling each workout for 30 minutes. Even if you got too busy 3 out of the 6 days you still amassed 1.5 hours of training, more than you would have in the first scenario. Most likely you would be able to complete more short workouts each week.  This solution is effective for people who are always busy but also for those who will have a temporary period in which their schedule does not allow for their usual 60-90 minute training sessions.  I have always encouraged my clients to come in for 30 minutes if they can’t make the full 60.  Following are some ways to shorten your workouts and increase the frequency of your training.
While we are increasing the frequency of training we need to decrease the number of exercises and sets per workout, or volume.  Generally, 21-24 sets will equal about an hour workout.  If we are trying to shorten the workout we should aim for 10-12 sets. This could equate to 3 sets of 4 exercises or 4-5 sets of 1 main exercise and 3 sets of 2 assistance exercises.
An example could be

Day 1
A1) 4×3 Hexbar Deadlift
B1) 3×8 Single Leg Bench Hip Thrust
B2) 3×12 Reverse Crunch

Day 2
A1) 3×5 Standing Barbell Press
B1) 3×6 Weighted Push Up
B2) 3x30m Farmers Carry
B3) 3×12 TRX Row

Day 3
A1) 3×8 Front Squat
B1) 3×6 Chin up
B1) 3×8 Reverse Lunge
B2) 3×12 Paloff Press

This is an example of splitting 2 days over 3 and it could be completed twice per week. You could even take this and split it further, completing more sets of each exercise over 6 days.  This is an effective way to develop strength. Another way to split it up is into 2 dense circuits and add in either a steady state or interval conditioning day.  Taking it a step further the primary lifts could be completed in one 15-20 minute workout and the assistance work could be completed in another 10-20 minute workout later in the day.  Yes, 2-a-days can be an effective way to complete your strength training workouts, especially if you have very easy access to equipment, such as a home gym.

However you split up your workouts the important thing is to have a realistic plan. Limit your distractions so you can focus on completing your training in the short amount of time you have.  Make sure you are still getting enough rest. Too much stress and not enough sleep never ends well. Sometimes we can’t have it all. When you’re busy it’s tough to fit in everything you need to do and fitness is almost always the first thing to go.  Exercise is one of those things where something is better than nothing.

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