Time Budgeting: Make the Most of Your Workout (June 6, 2013)

To read my June 6 article about managing time and getting the best of your workout no matter your schedule, Time Budgeting: Make the Most of Your Workout, either click here or keep reading!


It always amazes me that from fitness magazines to TV shows and everything in between, women get their fitness advice from celebrities. Whether it is the reality TV starlet letting us in on the “secret” to her legs or the pop sensation promoting the newest fitness craze, an ever-growing portion of our exercise tips come from the rich and famous.

It’s understandable, of course. Who wouldn’t want to look like Jessica Biel in a bikini? But it isn’t usually realistic advice, and more importantly, it isn’t usually applicable advice. Celebrities not only have virtually unlimited funding to put toward their fitness goals, but they have virtually unlimited funding for nearly everything — opening up all the time in the world for them to perfect their abs. It is their job to log hours at the gym, and I don’t care how many “tips” they give the women’s-fitness-mag-du-jour, I can’t relate to spending $200 an hour on a personal trainer. Most of us don’t have these luxuries, and we may as well be looking to Martians for relatable and applicable fitness advice.

We have jobs. We have families. We have obligations and stresses and mortgage payments to make. It’s wonderful that some can afford three hours a day at the gym, but for most of us, that simply isn’t the case.

But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be Victoria’s Secret model workouts or nothing, and having a life shouldn’t discourage you from making exercise part of your routine. Even if you feel like you’re constantly racing from point A to B, you still have time to workout.

With that in mind, I’m going to give you three workout-time allotments; 25 minutes, 60 minutes, and 2 hours or more. The following advice will help you optimize workouts, no matter your time restraints! Generally, I suggest working out three to four times a week. If you can do it more frequently, go for it! I stick to a “three days on, one day off” rule, to avoid injury and let your muscles recover.

If you have 25 minutes:

Though it seems like you won’t be able to get anything accomplished in 25 minutes, you’ll be shocked in how much you can achieve. By combining all of the important elements of a well-rounded workout plan in some supercharged moves, you’ll be an exercising multi-tasker in no time flat.

You’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, so don’t waste any time hopping in the car and going to the gym. With a few inexpensive tools, you can get a great quickie workout at home. Get your hands on some weights and a pilates mat, and spend your time working out, not driving.

With such a short period of time, I suggest some of my favourite combo moves like squat jumps, pushup burpees and butterfly planks. Keep in mind that you want to include as many muscle groups as possible, while combining both cardio and strength training. By working your core, glutes, legs, and shoulders with one big move, you’ll see big results in no time. Don’t waste your time on exercises that only work one muscle; instead choose to work large muscle groups to maximize efficiency.

Finally, be sure to give 110% during a short workout. Intensity is key if you’re only working with 25 minutes. Remember, if you cheat, the only person you’re cheating is yourself.

If you have 60 minutes:

Oddly, an hour to work out can be the trickiest. You convince yourself you have all the time in the world, but before you know it, 55 minutes fly by and all you’ve done is stretch and find your iPod.

It’s a hard trap to avoid. Be aware of the clock, and make an exercise schedule to keep on track. With an hour, I suggest a 35/25 split between cardio and strength training. Spend 35 minutes running, cycling, or swimming, and save the last 25 minutes for resistance training.

Try devoting specific days to specific body parts. For example, make Monday an arm day, Wednesday an ab day, and Friday a glutes day. This will help maximize time by keeping you on track and focused, and will even help with muscle fatigue.

If you have two hours or more:

Lucky you. I’m sure most readers are supremely jealous. You have time to explore your fitness goals and preferences, and find out what you really enjoy doing.

Why not try a new class at your gym? By adding some adventure to your workout routine, you’ll not only enjoy yourself, but you’ll keep your muscles guessing. That’s key to the lean, toned look we all want. Explore weight training if it’s new to you, or try training for that half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run.

The only (potential) downside to this much workout time is the problem of intensity. Don’t let yourself get lazy just because you have quite so much time on your hands. Keep up a good pace and make sure your heart is pumping, and you’ll get great results. Also, beware of only working on cardio. Unless you’re training for a specific event, 60 minutes of cardio is more than enough. Use the rest of your time for resistance work and stretching.

No matter how much time you’re working with, it’s important that you at least partially enjoy your workouts. If you hate every second of what you’re doing, you aren’t likely to stick with it, and that is a problem. Don’t be afraid to try new things until you find the right fit.

If you’re really feeling the time crunch, try to make your lifestyle less sedentary. Walk to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or even just get out in the garden. Remember, you don’t have to be beet red and panting to be working your muscles. Small changes make a big difference, and simply doing anything besides sitting in front of the TV is an improvement.

Making the choice to be active is truly the most important step.

Molly Daley is a nutritionist and runs the healthy cooking, fitness, and wellness website, Diary of a Formerly Fat Girl. Find her at www.DiaryofaFormerlyFatGirl.com, or follow her on Twitter, @DOAFFG

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