You’re exhausted from finishing up that paper with copious amounts of pizza, rice cakes and kale chips (….maybe the kale chips are just me…), or you’re coming home from a long day at the office. You planned on going on a run, doing that HIIT session at the gym or making it to your spin class, but alas, either the couch or that dirty pile of dishes calls for your attention instead. You promised to work out today, but life happens, and the workout gets pushed back yet another day.
“I don’t have time to work out.” The dreaded yet seemingly inevitable thought that passes through our minds more often than we’d like to admit.
We’ve all been there. And we’ve all read articles and heard fitness instructors chant mantras like, “There are no excuses,” or, “You need to prioritize your health,” and even, “I woke up at 4 am for my lift; where were you?” Those are all fine and good, but there are chores to be done and dinners to be made. Sometimes, you are just too mentally and physically exhausted after those long days.
I wish I could provide a tried and true method for everyone to overcome these sloughs in their fitness/gym regimens, but there really isn’t one. Everyone has different lives and different schedules, and of course no EVERYlete is the same in terms of what kinds of workouts they can do after difficult days on the job or in the classroom.
However, I do have some tips that have helped me overcome the temptation of the snooze button to get the workout accomplished or find that elusive second wind to go run after a long day at the office. They might not work specifically for you, but I suggest taking a look and seeing which elements you can incorporate into your own daily lives. Take a look!
Step 1: Set a plan. Short term, long term, whatever term; you get the point. Regardless, you should set a plan for yourself. You are automatically more likely to stick to a plan when you either write out your schedule and/or set reminders and alarms. I can’t remember one time I just woke up at 5 in the morning naturally and thought, “Well, I’m up, I think I’ll go ahead and run for ten miles now.”
Nope. (People who have done so, I applaud you). However, if I purposefully set my alarm for 5 am with the mindset of going to work out in the morning, I will most likely (key word: likely, not guaranteed) get up and go workout. This leads me to my next point…
Step 1.5: So you messed up. You didn’t get out the door in the morning; your bed was just too darn comfy. That’s where the “fall back” plan comes in- you were too tired, forgot to set your alarm, etc. Bottom line, you didn’t get your workout in. Luckily, because you already had a hunch that you were no way in h*** getting up at 5 am, you set aside another potential time to work out. This is where it can get dicey; work, kids, homework, school are now all additional elements you have to account for when planning your next opportune moment to get the heart rate up. Enter step #2.
Step 2: Be flexible with your workout plans. So you missed the morning spin class and can’t make it to one in the afternoon. Good thing pretty much anything can be used to gain some fitness (I know that sounds cheesy but desperate times call for desperate measures). I highly recommend at least a pair of dumbbells in your household, but even if your humble abode is lacking some iron, body weight circuits and running around the neighborhood is always a good move. Pick up that weird ottoman your grandma insisted you put in the living room and set it aside. BOOM. You have enough room to do push-ups, lunges, planks, squats…all those goodies that tone up all of the muscles (stay tuned for some sample workouts).
Even if your body weight routine only lasts 15 minutes, that’s enough to rev up the metabolism and release those endorphins (yay for being happy)! Endorphins also have this nifty little side effect where if you get into it once, you wanna go and do it again. (For more on the science of endorphins, check out this article from Robert Bolles and Michael Fanselow, Endorphins and Behavior.) So now your metabolism is revved up AND you’re more motivated to work out again; it’s a win win!
*An added bonus to body weight circuit training is the fact that if you pack some workout clothes and bring them to work, you can even clear space in your office. Don’t have space in your office (maybe you work in that awkward cubicle space where you feel as if you are being watched the entire day…)? You can find the stairs and get in a quick walk/jog up and down the steps. Have access to a nice park by your office? Jog or walk there and back. Regardless of workout method, the point is to get in some activity and it will most likely start to not feel like a chore, but rather something you enjoy and in which you take pride.
Step 3: Be kind to yourself. As I said before, life happens and some days you just don’t get the run done or the lift in. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. Again, the long term goal is to run that marathon, lose those 10lbs, or just maintain a healthy, fit lifestyle; you aren’t going to get there overnight. Short term plans and goals can be used to keep you focused from day to day progression. They also provide an opportunity to get back in the rhythm if you missed a workout. Short term plan accomplished. It’s good to keep an eye on the bigger picture and what you would like to accomplish in the long run. Just keep in mind that the short term plan can help you get there. Adapt, move on, and get creative with getting your workouts in and taking control of your health.
So don’t beat yourself up if you miss that morning workout, but do focus on what is within your control- you can control your efficiency and when to fit in something as quick and simple as that 15 minute body circuit. Your body and your mind will thank you.
Time Crunch? Here is an example workout you can do in your living room as well as tips for getting in some fitness through circuit training throughout the day:
15 Minute Body Weight Circuit: When you have limited time, it is most beneficial to do total body movements or exercises that utilize the largest muscles in the body (the larger the muscle group you engage, the higher energy expenditure, the more your metabolism spikes). Check out the hyper links for exercise tips and tutorials to ensure you are performing the movements with proper form!
- Burpees: This move is great for a total body burn. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and jump up, reaching your arms toward the ceiling (or sky…or whatever is above you when you’re working out). As soon as your land, drop down to the ground and do a push-up. Immediately after the push-up, return to the starting position and repeat the movement for 45 seconds. If you find yourself needing a break before the 45 seconds is up, that’s okay, but try to work up to a minute of continuous burpees.
- Rest: After the burpees, give yourself half to equal the amount of time you spent doing the exercise:
- Air Squats: Standing with your feet hip width apart, perform an air squat. Make sure your knees don’t collapse inward. Additionally, your knees should NOT reach past your toes when you squat down. Repeat the squats for 60 seconds.
- The same rest rule applies here as it did with the burpees.
- Plank Variation: Catch your breath a bit while you engage your core. You can either be in push-up position or on your forearms; make sure to keep your stomach tight, envisioning yourself pulling your belly button to your spine. When engaging your core muscles, I’ve been told by numerous trainers and PT folks to think of the feeling when you so desperately need to pee, but have to hold it in (just go with it). Those intrinsic abdominal muscles you are activating, known as the transverse abdominis, are key for making your core tight, protecting your spine, and stabilizing your hips and pelvis. And yes, a good way to fire off those muscles is pretending you are holding in…the call of nature. Now activate this core group while you hold the front plank for 20-30 seconds and switch to one side for 20-30 seconds. Switch to the other side and repeat for the same amount of time. The rest comes after you plank to the front and each side:
Repeat the entire circuit for 15 minutes (or however much time you have to squeeze some movement in). The nice thing about body weight circuits is that you can improvise which moves you want to do and it is easy to change up with minimal to no equipment. If you want to add some dumbbell weight to the squats, go for it, if you have a swiss ball for the planks instead of doing it only on the floor, more power to you. The bottom line with circuits is to utilize as many muscle groups as possible and keep the rest short (you’ll reap some cardio benefits in addition to revving up the metabolism).