What do you do when you’d rather sleep than sweat, or if you’re too busy running around, to actually go for a run? Do you make an excuse, or make it happen? If you catch yourself thinking, “I don’t have time” don’t listen!
Simplify your workout instead!
While most people assume that getting in shape or staying fit requires a never-ending time commitment, that’s just not the case. You can create an exercise plan that keeps things simple, helping you become a fitness minimalist.
So skip the gym and forget about that 10 mile run. Here are 24 simple ways to guarantee you never miss a workout, even if you “don’t have time.”
- Set a Timer – you only 10, 15, or 20 minutes, huh? Perfect! That’s all you need. Use a stopwatch, your phone or a kitchen timer to put a limit on your workout. But, there’s a catch, you have to cram as much intensity into that workout as possible. How you ask? Check out the next 4 tips…
- AMRAP – it means, “as many rounds, as possible.” Pick 3-5 exercises, then determine the number of repetitions, and them complete the circuit as many times as you can in the allotted time period. For example, you might choose to do 5 burpees, 10 lunges, 15 squats, and 20 sit-ups as many times as possible in 15 minutes. There is no planned rest, you only rest when necessary because you’re trying to keep the intensity high.
- AFAP – similar to the previous tip, AFAP is an abbreviation for; “as fast as possible.” String a bunch of exercises together, maybe mix in some sprints or a run, and then set the clock. You have to finish the workout as fast as humanly possible. Try a 400 meter run, 50 squats, 400 meter run, 50 push-ups, 400 m run, 50 lunges, 400m run, 50 sit-ups. How’d you do?
- Tabata – Do you have an extra 5 minutes on your hands? Then you have more than enough time for a Tabata workout. Over the course of four minutes you alternate between 20 seconds of all our work, followed by a rest period of 10 seconds. In a brief four minute period you will complete eight rounds of the 20:10 protocol. Whether it’s strength training or sprints the Tabata method will leave your muscles burning and your heart pumping.
- HIIT – using a timer also comes in handy for High Intensity Interval Training. Producing better results than longer, slower workouts HIIT features periods of all out work, followed by a brief rest (sound familiar?). HIIT it in the gym for a fast paced strength training workout, or head to the track for interval sprints. If you’re feeling really adventurous you could combine strength and cardio into one hybrid workout.
- Hill Sprints – sticking with the idea of intervals, try incorporating hill sprints into your workout routine. Two days a week sprint uphill for 60 to 90 seconds, walk or jog back down the hill, then repeat that process eight or 10 more times. You won’t need more than 20 minutes for a workout like this, you’ll be begging for it to end after the second set.
- TRX – if you have a doorframe and a TRX you have all you need to for a great workout. Start by mastering basic moves like the suspended row and push-ups, before moving on to single leg exercises and explosive moves that require more strength and balance.
- Jump Rope – I have a few jump ropes. I keep one in my truck, one in my gym bag, and one at the house. Sometimes I’ll jump rope to warm-up. Other times, I’ll hit up some single leg work and crossovers to improve my footwork. Then, there’s times when I’ll do double unders for time, reps or in between sets. No matter how you use it, the jump rope is a great tool for improving conditioning and coordination.
- Kettlebells – if you have a kettlebell or two, and a few feet of spare space, you can turn any room into a gym. Kettlebells are the total package: better results in less time, engaging every major body part, training strength and cardio simultaneously. What more could you ask for?
Consider this; best-selling author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris exercise with kettlebells twice a week, completing 50-100 swings with a heavy bell. That’s it, that’s the entire workout. He’s out to find the most effective – minimal dose of exercise. Kettlebell win for caloric output, muscular engagement, and hormonal response.
- Sandbag or SandBell – make your own sandbag or spend a few bucks on a Hyperwear Sandbell and you’ll never have to worry about being bored with a workout, or going to the gym again. Check out this video I made using a Sandbell to create a killer workout.
- Barbell/Dumbbells – simple enough, right? We’re all familiar with these guys. But I’m not really focusing on the equipment in itself I’m interested in how you use it. If you’re short on time stop doing isolated exercises that only focus on one muscle group. Instead, stick with compound or multi-joint exercises that engage lots of muscles at once.
To that end, all the exercises you really need are right here. You can use dumbbells or a barbell for each.
- Press – Flat bench, incline and overhead military
- Pull – Barbell bent row, single arm dumbbell row, pull-ups
- Squat – Back Squat, front squat, overhead squat, box squat
- Hinge – Deadlift and kettlebell swing
- Olympic – Power clean, hang clean, snatch, clean and jerk
- Challenge – Thrusters, burpees, dumbbell man makers, farmer’s carry, tire flips
- Bodyweight Exercises – Far and away the best part of body weight exercise, beyond the fact that you don’t need any equipment, is the fact that anyone can use them. If you’re just starting out you can use body weight exercises to learn proper exercise form and get fit. For those of you already exercising, body weight exercises can be used to improve core strength, balance, and coordination.
- Level I – exercise position, jumping jack, plank, push-up, squat, lunge, inverted row
- Level II – mountain climber, side planks, pull-up, dive bomb push-up, tip over, split squat
- Level III – burpee, plyo push-up, jump squat, jump lunge, pistol squat, box jumps, handstand push-up
- Lunges – there’s six lunge variations I can think of right off the top of my head: walking or stationary, lateral, reverse, diagonal, lunge and press with weights, and a jump lunge. What I’m really saying is, learn a few basic exercises and mix them up. Add in a jump or do them fast, then slow. Add weight when possible. You don’t have to make things harder than they are. Stick with what works and keep things interesting by adding variety.
- Crunches – if you really want six-pack abs stop doing sit-ups; that’s a waste of time. You can’t lose body fat from one spot on your body by doing a million sit-ups. Just stick to higher intensity workouts and total body, compound movements. Moves like crunches burn fewer calories and aren’t useful for building strength.
- Exercise Machines – try this, stop doing any exercise that requires you to sit down and change the pin-placement on a stack of weights. These machines are not functional, not effective, and not worth your time.
- Cardio Equipment – WHY? I never understood why anyone used an elliptical or stationary bike. If you want to sweat and burn calories run then do it outside, or save the money you’re wasting on a gym membership and buy a bike. If you absolutely have to use cardio equipment, use a treadmill and do sprints.
Be more active
- Walk – if you can’t get to the gym (not that you need to) and don’t even have time for a workout, just take a walk; at lunch, in the morning, after work, during your kids baseball practice. The longest living populations in the world don’t really exercise; they just walk a lot more than us.
- Hike – grab the kids, the dog, and a backpack then hit the trail. Enjoy the great outdoors and your family while burning some extra calories.
- Ultimate Frisbee – you might laugh at this suggestion, but that’s only because you’ve never tried it. Go join a league and get in on a real game of Ultimate. You’ll be sprinting, jumping and diving all over the field.
- Bike – get a bike and commute to work or to the store. It doesn’t matter if you’re just joy riding as long as you are moving more.
Putting it all together
- Make Fit Friends – it is way easier to find time to exercise when all of your friends are doing it. It’s more enjoyable and becomes a social event. Plus, really good friends won’t let a missed workout go unnoticed.
- Have Fun – this point plays of off the previous one. Do things that you enjoy, don’t do things that you hate. If you despise running, don’t run. Find other ways to get your conditioning in – kettlebell swings, rowing, biking, hiking, swimming, etc.
- Compete – whether it’s against the clock or someone else, you’ll get better results if you’re competing. Try and best your own personal record or beat someone else to the end of the workout. Keep the intensity high and go hard. Pack as much effort into a workout as you can and you won’t need to exercise for hours on end, because you couldn’t even if you wanted to.
- Be Consistent – if you really are so busy that exercising for 15 minutes isn’t possible you are way more important of a person than me, so I not going to try and reprimand you. Just don’t let it happen two days in a row. One time is a flute, twice is a habit.
Try this productivity technique I stole from Jerry Seinfeld.
- Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall.
- Get a big red magic marker
- Every day that you exercise, put an X over that day
- After a few days you’ll have a chain of X’s. You’re job is not to break it.
Seinfeld used this technique to keep up his habit of writing new material for standup. I’ve used it to create a writing habit for myself wherein I write at least 1,000 words every day. I’ve got a chain that spans 9 months, and twenty two days. I’ll be damned if I am going to break the chain now.
So, what do you say: are you going to start your chain today? Or, is today the day that you break the exercise habit you have going? Tell me how you fit fitness in, even when you don’t have time.