When we think about getting in shape and reaching our fitness goals, we often think about long workouts and a big time commitment.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! As a personal trainer and someone who has been involved in the fitness industry for almost 10 years, I have coached my fair share of extremely busy people who have limited time  but still managed to reach their goals.

Even in terms of my own fitness goals, it’s much the same story. I am a lawyer as well and gone are the days of being a teenager with a few spare hours to kill every day. What I’ve learned over the years is that if you’re time efficient and you focus on the right things, reaching your fitness goals doesn’t have to be incredibly time-consuming.

Over the years, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks that have worked well for busy clients as well as for myself. Here are 11 ways that you can workout when you have little time available.

1. Workout early in the morning

Why not try waking up one hour earlier and exercising first thing in the morning?

As someone who has worked out at every hour of the day at some stage over the last 10 years, I’ve found that early in the morning works best for me.

The main reason why I love getting my workout ticked off early in the morning is because there tends to be significantly less distractions compared to later on in the day.

I understand that everybody lives a different lifestyle and has different responsibilities, but a common theme that I’ve observed over the years is that it’s pretty rare for something unexpected to pop up that disrupts a 7 AM workout! Now contrast this to working out later in the day! As the day wears on, there tends to be a lot more things vying for your attention!

2. There’s always time if you make it a priority

I understand that not everybody will have the time to workout for 2 hours everyday!

But seeing results and reaching your fitness goals does not need to involve this level of time commitment!

The average person living in the Western world doesn’t exercise consistently and eats too much highly processed food.

It’s the relative change that matters! Making the change from this unhealthy lifestyle to 2 or 3 workouts per week, combined with eating more whole foods is all that the average person needs to do to see great results. It might not be enough to step on a bodybuilding stage, but it will be plenty if you’re an average person looking to tone up or slim down.

Turning your current lifestyle upside is unnecessary and it won’t even be sustainable in the vast majority of cases and will lead to burn-out.

The net point is that the time commitment isn’t that big in the context of a 168 hour week. And if improving your health and fitness is important to you, and you put it high up on your priority list, you’ll find the small bit of time needed to get done!

3. Become more time-efficient

For busy people, the answer is often becoming more time efficient with the time that you already have.

Related to the last point, a lot of people waste time sweating over the small details that don’t really matter! You need to find out what the important variables are for reaching your fitness goals and then become excellent at executing them on a daily basis.

In the fitness industry, there’s so many myths and so much fluff that just complicates things and takes your focus away from what actually matters! There’s only so many hours in the day and so many variables that you can focus on. So you want to make sure that you are focusing on the variables that will give you the best return on investment.

For example, if your goal is weight loss, then on a daily basis you need to focus on being in a calorie deficit, exercising a few times per week, eating a high protein diet and getting plenty of sleep.

Forget about the latest fad diet that you see flashing on your phone promising to give you a six-pack in two weeks! It’s not going to happen and in a few weeks from now you will be back at square one again.

4. What days should you workout on?

Most people are at their busiest during the week and take it easier on the weekend.

If this applies to you and you currently do all of your workouts during the week, then why not move some of your workouts to the weekend when you’ve more free time?

It’s a lot easier to find the time to workout on a chilled Sunday, then it is on a busy Monday when it’s deadline after deadline!

5. Find yourself a sweat buddy

Why not kill two birds with one stone?

Think about the important people in your life that you spend quality time with on a weekly basis.

Instead of taking a few hours out of your day to meet them every week and then another few hours to do your workouts, why not combine the two? Why not move your socialising to the gym floor and workout with them?

If you know that you’ll be going to the gym yourself regardless, this will allow you to double-up on your time and save a few hours every week.

Most people have at least a few friends that go to the gym. And even if you can’t think of anybody, you probably have at least one friend who is looking to get started with going to the gym. And who knows, you might just give them the push that they need to also start living a healthier and fitter life too!

6. Workout at home

Very often, one of the biggest time drains for people that prevents them from having the time to workout is the commute and the transition time coming and going from the gym.

For example, if you live 15 minutes away from your gym, then that’s 30 minutes gone on travel every time you go to the gym.

One thing that we’ve learned in recent years due to world events is that home-gyms can be a viable alternative to public gyms for people looking to save time. This is even more true for people who work remotely.

The home gym and equipment that you’ll need to make it a viable alternative is naturally going to vary depending on your goals. For example, a powerlifter is obviously going to need access to more weights than someone who is simply looking to just “tone up” or lose a few pounds.

You definitely don’t need to break the bank and shell out thousands on unnecessary gym equipment. But on the other hand, if you have serious fitness goals, then you don’t want to sell yourself short on the equipment front.

Due to financial and space constraints, most people won’t be able to kit out a home gym that’s as well equipped as a public gym. That’s alright! An entire gym floor worth of equipment isn’t necessary for 99.9% of the general population!

Furthermore, it’s about making a trade off. You might not have access to as much equipment in your home gym, but saving 30 minutes each time you workout will often be worth it for busy people.

7. Go to the gym at quiet times

Working out at quiet times is a great way to get in and out of the gym much faster. This is because there is a lot less waiting around for machines and equipment.

From personal experience, I’ve found that early in the morning tends to be the quietest time and this is another reason why I love waking up and heading straight to the gym.

8. Have a plan and a program!

Go into the gym with a solid plan and program that sets out what you’re going to be doing once you arrive. Going into the gym and flirting around with different equipment without a plan can waste a lot of time!

That being said, while having a plan is important, it’s also important that busy people don’t become too fixated on their plan either. For example, if a piece of gym equipment that’s down on your plan is taken and being used then learning to improvise and do a different exercise that works the same muscles can be a great time-saver. That way you’re not waiting around 5 or 10 minutes for the other gym user to finish up.

I highly recommend that you come up with an exercise library that allows you to improvise to save time as needed.

Another option is to ask the other gym-user to “work-in”. This is where you do your rests while they rest and vice versa.

In terms of your plan, another great tip to save time is to focus on compound exercises and supersets if you lift weights.

Having a plan and program also acts as a strong accountability mechanism, rather than going to the gym and winging it every time. In order to make progress, you need to apply progressive overload so that your body has a reason to grow back stronger during the muscle recovery process.

9. Exercise at lunch time

Why not get a quick workout done during your lunch break? If you have a 1 hour lunch break, then you’ll easily have time for a 30 minute workout, a shower, and time to get something to eat.

Alternatively, you could go for a long walk during your lunch break – exercise doesn’t have to always involve something more intense like lacing up your running shoes or stepping out onto the gym floor.

You might also find that getting in some exercise also helps with your energy levels during the second half of your day and helps to avoid the dreaded midday slump. This is especially true if you spend large parts of your day inactive and seated at a desk.

10. Fully commit

Modern life is very busy for a lot of people. As discussed, unexpected things are going to pop up that interfere with your workout plans, even if you’ve made it a priority.

Sometimes to get your workout done, you’re going to need to go above and beyond the call of duty. For example, you had a 6pm workout planned out, but you got held up at work and now it’s 8:30pm.

If your day had gone according to plan, you would have had your workout done by this stage and you would be at home watching TV .

In this situation, some people will still head to the gym for a later workout and other people will skip it and head straight home. A lot of people will play the “I don’t have time to workout” card. Without trying to sound judgmental, you do still have time to workout, just not at the time you intended.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this! You’re free to spend your time as you please. Relaxation is an important part of your health and well-being too. And truth be told, skipping the odd workout here and there won’t make or break your fitness goals.

I’m not here to tell you that working out is more important than relaxing and watching TV. That being said, if you’re trying to leave no stone unturned and get the best results possible, then you can’t afford to be skipping your workouts too often!

As a Personal Trainer, the clients that get the best results are those that fully commit to nailing the day-to-day process and will literally have to “break a leg” to skip a workout!

11. Multitask

If there’s a TV show you like to watch, why not put your phone on the stand on the treadmill and watch it while walking or jogging?

If there’s a podcast that you’re listening to, why not pop in your earphones and listen to it while lifting weights or while out walking?

If you have 5 minutes spare while waiting for the wash to finish or while waiting for your food to finish cooking, why not go for a quick walk around the block?

Simple multitasking is a great way to fit more exercise into your lifestyle without any extra time commitment.

These are all things that I do every day and in total it saves roughly a good hour worth of time rather than doing everything separately.

Overall, being busy is often a symptom of the modern lifestyle that we live. While this makes finding the time to exercise harder, it’ll rarely make it impossible provided you are willing. Regular exercise has so many physical and mental benefits that make it is too important to ignore.


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