When it comes to exercise, a lot of people get hung up on the idea of “time” as the determining factor to what’s makes a good workout or not a good workout…
Well, let me just say, that’s baloney.
Time is only valuable in exercise when it’s used efficiently and effectively. Saying you worked out xx amount of hours this week says nothing, unless it’s rooted in a fundamentally sound training program.
And when you’re busy, time is everything. So let’s make the most of it.
Fitness Goals Don’t Necessarily Equate with Fitness Needs
Now, this is a tough one. I’m a runner…I love running and I would run each and every day if I could. Like any other endurance sport, though, running is quite time-consuming. Unless I’m doing intervals, I run for over an hour each time. It’s a big time commitment and most weeks, I don’t have the bandwidth to do it – family, work, life. It’s also the number one reason I have not trained for a marathon in three years…no time.
Endurance sports are incredibly exhilarating and such an amazing cardiovascular exercise; however, you can reap the same fitness benefits from 3-5 shorter runs per week than pilling up the mileage. If your aim is to be healthy, you don’t need to train to run half-marathon or marathon distances…it’s not necessary.
Optimally you should aim for at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise. Interval runs are another quick option. Run at a moderate pace for 1 minute, then up the pace for 2-3 minutes. Repeat. Intervals are high-intensity interval training (HIIT), improving stamina, cardiovascular function and an extremely efficient way to train time-wise (minimum 20 minutes). Intervals can also be used for outdoor and indoor cycling.
Not All Weight Training Days Are the Same – Don’t Overcomplicate the Basics
When it comes to lifting weights, it’s very easy to fall into the trap that you must do every possible strength training exercise in order to achieve optimal fitness. This is simply untrue. What often happens is people watch videos or see other people in the gym doing a multitude of exercises for a particular muscle group and they copy that thinking it’s the best way to train. Two things: one, it often leads to overtraining (quads, in particular) and two, it’s an absolute waste of your time.
If you follow a traditional lifting regimen, you’ll train at least three days a week, diversifying all your major muscle groups. My weight lifting schedule is broken down into three parts: 1) back, biceps, abs; 2) chest, shoulders, triceps; and 3) legs, abs. Each phase lasts from as little as 30 minutes, to as much as 90 minutes. My leg days require more gym time. On the other hand, back, biceps days are short and sweet. In. Out. Done.
Weight lifting is efficient and effective only when you embrace a “less is more” attitude. Minimally you should train each major muscle group with three varying, push/pull resistance exercises (3 sets / 6-12 reps per set). And, please, do not fear heavy weights. Your body will only respond and progress with challenges. If you’re able to easily lift xx pounds for over 12 reps per set, then it’s time to up the weight! Training with lower weights is not effective and is also time-consuming because you need to perform much higher reps to achieve any benefit. Heavier weight that is safely lifted, with proper form, between 6-12 reps is ideal.
Unless your training for a bodybuilding competition or power lifting event, keep it simple. And, as a side note, over-exercising your muscle groups is counter productive and can lead to injuries and a disproportional physique (i.e. men that have huge upper bodies, yet small leg muscles; women with overly developed quads not in proportion to their calves or aesthetically complimentary to their upper body). Don’t overtrain.
Explore Other Options to Maximise Your Window of Opportunity to Workout
Who says you must do the same exercises everyone else is doing? If you want to become more physically fit, there’s other options you can explore that are quite time efficient, yet equally very effective exercises. My favorite two alternate workouts are HIIT and indoor cycling.
In my article Working Out at Home, I discuss the benefits of high-intensity interval training. Research shows that HIIT not only significantly improves endurance, capitalizing on aerobic and anaerobic energy, but also burns calories for longer periods of time, well after the workout is complete. Combine that with lean muscle building calisthenics and viola…you have an excellent in home exercise program, saving time all-around (i.e. no drive to the gym). This is my #1 go-to exercise when I have absolutely NO TIME to go to the gym or run. It’s a quick 30-45 minute workout. Seriously hard core, but extremely effective.
Indoor cycling, or studio spin classes, are my next favorite total body workout. This is not your same old boring gym spin class…nowadays it’s a super high energy, very intense 45-60 minute strength and cardio workout. It’s also an awesome low-impact alternative to running, which is great for when you’re recuperating from an injury. The heart-pumping music and group training atmosphere is very motivating and fun! As I’ve said before in my article on spin classes…don’t knock something until you’ve tried it.
Exercise is constantly evolving and new takes on traditional workouts are shaking things up.
So, keep it simple.
You got this!