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How to fit exercise into a busy schedule and maximise your workout

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With our super busy lives nowadays, it can be hard to find time to exercise.  That’s got to be one of the top excuses people have for not working out regularly - they simply don’t have the time.  Well, I think exercise is so important, you need to make time! 

There’s a great quote I read once that said something like ‘if you can’t find time to exercise, then you’ll have to find time to be ill’.  It’s the perfect workout motivation quote.

In this blog post I’ll explore how you can fit exercise into your busy schedule and also how to maximise your workout to get the most out of it.  Maximising your workout is particularly handy if you are so busy you can’t exercise as often as you’d like.

Reasons you should exercise, even if you’re busy

Exercise has so many benefits and should be undertaken regularly in order to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here’s a quick look at some of the benefits of exercise:

  • Improve your health - doing at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce your chance of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and having a stroke.  It can also improve bone health and decrease the likelihood of some cancers.  Plus, weight training can help to increase muscle density and function.  Even skin can be improved by exercise as it increases blood flow and can reduce the signs of aging.  Sweating can rid the body of toxins and help to clear skin too.
  • Improve your mood - so you’re super busy and too stressed to exercise… BUT, did you know exercise is actually a stress reliever? Regular exercise can help to reduce stress levels and can even prevent mental health conditions such as depression.  It’s good for all of us to switch off from our busy lives and there’s no better way to do this than through exercise which will clear the mind, help us feel less stressed and more ready to tackle a busy day.
  • Improve your sleep - It can be a struggle to get to sleep when we are so busy and have lots to think about or stress us out.  Exercise has been proven to aid our sleep by increasing how long we sleep for and allowing us to enter a deeper restorative sleep the more strenuous the exercise we do.
  • Improve your energy levels - Whilst you may feel tired and lacking in energy from being so busy that exercise is the last thing on your mind, exercise can actually improve your energy levels and give you that burst you might very well need.  Getting your heart racing and blood pumping is always a great way to banish fatigue.  You may even find you have more focus and become more productive.

How to fit exercise into a busy schedule

The problem a lot of us have with exercise is simply that it takes time.  We never have enough time.  There aren’t enough hours in the day. We have no time to exercise as we work too much. 

By now, if you’ve read the above, then you’ll realise that it’s important to make time for exercise, even if you are stacked with work.  It’s so important for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Here are some tips on how to work out, even if you’re super busy:

Make the commute a workout

Do you usually drive or get public transport to work?  Could you cycle or walk instead by leaving a little earlier?  I used to have around a 2.2 mile walk to work and I would stick in my headphones and power walk there and back every day.  It was a great way to wake me up before walk and also to get my heart pumping and some exercise done easily each day.

Get up earlier

Be honest.  Do you jump out of bed, straight in the shower and to work?  Or do you check up on all your social media, hit the snooze button and lay in bed for a good half hour?  If so, then try getting out of bed as soon as that alarm goes off and exercising for 30 minutes instead.  You don’t have to leave the house either.  Simply find a free workout video on YouTube to energise you for the day ahead.

Make it a habit

If you’re one for routine then schedule your exercise into your busy week.  Make it a habit, a priority and a routine.  Block that time out for exercise and don’t plan anything else.  You’re busy.  You’re working out and doing something good for your health.  Other plans can wait.

Walk and talk

If you’re taking a long phone call then don’t sit down.  Stand up and walk around whilst talking.  Clock up those steps!  Go outdoors and walk around the block if it’s not too noisy.  Think about the tasks you can do walking instead of sitting, such as mobile phone calls or 1-2-1 meetings.

Skip the lift

If you work high up then skip the lift and always take the stairs.  Climbing steps is a great way to build muscle mass and burn off calories too.

Make the most of your lunch break

How long do you get for lunch?  30 minutes?  60 minutes?  Do you need all that time to eat?  If you usually spend the time hunting down food at the nearest supermarket and sitting at your desk eating it, try taking a packed lunch instead to save time and then exercise for the rest of your lunch break.  Try some office yoga or get out of the office and go for a brisk walk.

Stand up to work

Sitting down all day can be as bad for our health as smoking, so invest in a standing desk or ask your boss to purchase you one.  You can buy an adjustable height laptop stand that goes on your existing desk, or you can buy an actual standing desk that rises up and down.  Even better is a treadmill desk so you can slowly walk as you’re working all day.

Workout with the kids

If you’ve got kids then realise all the ways you can work out with them too!  Go for long walks with the pushchair or even a jog.  Take them on a bike ride or go for a run alongside them riding their bikes.  Even many playparks now have adult exercise equipment so you can work out whilst your kids play!  If you really love the gym then find one with a kids club or crèche so you can keep fit whilst the kids play.

Catch up on emails whilst cycling

OK, don’t start trying to read your emails whilst on a bike outside, but I’m talking about whilst a static exercise bike!  Whether you’re at home, the gym or can have an exercise bike in your office, it’s a great way to exercise whilst catching up on quick emails that need short replies.

Do it in bursts

If you really struggle to find 30-40 minutes to exercise in a row then do it in shorter bursts throughout the day.  Only got 5 minutes?  Grab a skipping rope and do as many jumps as you can.  Do a few yoga stretches.  Do a plank.  Load up YouTube and search for 5 minute exercise videos.  Most people can find a spare five minutes in their day.

Exercise at home

Nowadays you can do exercise anywhere from your living room to your bedroom.  Most of us have smart TVs or devices and there are numerous free videos online with workouts at home.  Do ten minutes when you get up or ten minutes before bed.  There really are so many ways to squeeze some exercise into every single day.

Tips to maximise your workout

If you’re super busy, and even if you’re not, you probably want to maximise your workout.  This is so you get the best results possible each time you exercise.  By maximising your workout you will see results faster and make the most of your time.

Here are lots of ways to make the most of your workout:

Do something you enjoy

If you haven’t exercised for a long time or even for your whole adult life, then you are going to find it difficult at first and probably not enjoyable.  Keep at it though and soon you’ll find it easier and may even look forward it.  The trick is to find something you enjoy doing.  That way you’ll stick at exercise and you won’t find it a chore.  You’ll even look forward to it and want to become better at it giving you the motivation to succeed. Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Try a few exercise machines and some classes until you find the exercise that is right for you.

Aid muscle recovery with a protein shake

If you’re trying to build muscle then protein supplementation can help to increase muscle size alongside your weight training regime.  Many people associate taking protein shakes with bodybuilders and muscle building, but they also have other benefits.  Protein can help to repair damaged muscles and tissues after exercise.  There are lots of different options and there are even plant-based powders such as soy, hemp or pea protein for those of us who are vegan.  Just make sure you follow the guidelines and take the right amount for your weight.

Drink plenty of water

You need to ensure you are drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated and to perform better when exercising.  If you feel thirsty, then really it’s too late and you’re not hydrated enough.  If you work out whilst dehydrated then you risk poor performance, camps and injury.  Make sure you have plenty of water to hand whilst working out as you’ll lose a lot of fluid through sweating.

Increase the intensity, not just the time

Once you can endure cardio for 30-40 minutes then that’s really long enough.  Instead of trying to go for longer, instead increase your intensity to improve the effectiveness of the workout in the same amount of time.  Add more hills or speed to increase the intensity.  It’s the same with weights - just because you can now do 100 reps with that weight, it doesn’t mean you should!  Once you can easily do ten reps or so then it’s probably time to increase the weight.

Get enough sleep

Our bodies produce their own muscle-building hormones as we sleep so it’s important to get plenty of sleep to aid muscle growth and recovery.  Luckily plenty of exercise also benefits our quality of sleep, so it’s a happy cycle!

Rest between workouts

It’s important to rest between workouts too so your muscles have time to recover.  This doesn’t mean you have to take a full day or two off in-between every workout, but you should at least vary your exercises so you’re not always working on the same muscles.

Make a killer playlist

Create a dedicated workout playlist full of all the songs that motivate you to move and keep going.  I perform my best on the treadmill when I have my best running playlist blaring in my ears.  If the batteries run out or I forget my iPod then I really lack as much motivation to run!  The music helps me stay in my own zone and a good fast beat makes me want to run faster.

Track your progress

Use a fitness app or even the notes on your phone to log your workout times, weights, reps and so on.  Just seeing what you did last time and wanting to better this is enough to improve each workout.  Tracking your workouts and holding yourself accountable is a great self-motivation tool.

Eat a nutritious plant-based diet

Another quote I love is ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’.  You need to fuel your body with proper nutrition and stack your diet full of as many plant-based foods as possible such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, healthy plant-based fats, nuts, legumes and seeds.  Many people think if they exercise lots then they can eat whatever they want as they’ll burn it off.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that and you need to ensure you are fuelling your body with the most nutritious foods possible so you can perform your best when exercising and so you are benefitting your overall health and wellbeing.  A plant-based diet can reduce inflammation in the body and reduce oxidative stress to reduce your post-workout recovery time.

Final word

There are so many different ways to fit exercise into your hectic schedule that not having enough time simply isn’t an excuse!  Hopefully these tips will help you to find a way to exercise that suits your busy lifestyle and enable you to maximise each precious workout.


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 This is a collaborative post and images are from Canva Pro.