I work a stupid amount of hours, and I say that with a lot of gratitude for the job I have. Still, when you work in college sports PR, 60-80 hour weeks are not out of the norm for nine months out of the year. Working nights and weekends, on top of a typical 9-5 schedule, can eat a lot of my free time and, with it, my motivation to work out.
The good news is this: you don’t need to work out for an hour a day every day to stay or get fit! According to the Mayo Clinic, we need 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, or some combination of the the two. They suggest at least 30 minutes of activity per day, but there’s no reason it has to be 30 minutes at one time. On a particularly busy day, I might not be able to fit in the 30-60 minute workout I might want, but I can almost always find two 15-minute periods to get a quick sweat in before returning to my day. It adds up!
Here are eight ways I’ve found to get in a quick workout when my schedule is working against me:
- HIIT! — HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is having a moment, and for good reason. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT “involves repeated bouts of high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times.” HIIT workouts generally provide similar benefits as a normal workout, but in a shorter time period: “HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories than traditional workouts, especially after the workout.” So you workout, then continue burning cals once you’re done. Sounds good to me! HIIT might also help improve your fitness level, blood pressure, heart health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and belly fat. You can do HIIT workouts anywhere: stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, in your living room… Just alternate high effort with rest for 15-20 minutes, and you’ve got yourself a quick, effective workout. Here’s a fun HIIT workout that I enjoy.
- YOUTUBE! — There are no shortage of free workout videos on YouTube of all lengths and intensity levels. I highly recommend Tone It Up for their fun videos, almost always filmed on a beach. I’ve been following Tone It Up for a couple of years and am in awe of the fitness empire built by Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott (or K+K). I’ve somehow limited my involvement with ToneItUp to their myriad free resources — including their weekly workout schedule and daily workouts — but it’s only a matter of time before I spend money on them.
- MINI CIRCUITS! — Pick some of your favorite exercises (between five and seven) and create your own mini circuit. Do 20 reps of each exercise and repeat 1-3 times (or until you run out of time). Here’s a good resource from Greatist of 50 bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere.
- FOLLOW A GRAPHIC! — You can find quick workout graphics from a number of online resources. I like this Runner Workout from Women’s Health.
- DVDs! — Does anyone watch DVDs anymore? I don’t care. I have one workout DVD and it’s Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred and it is insane how much of a workout you get in 20 minutes of these workouts. I have a love/hate relationship with Jillian Michaels. I hate her in the middle of the workout and I’m doing shoulder presses and soldier kicks at the same time; I love her when the workout is over and I feel amazing.
- APPS! — OK, I know you use apps, and you’re already carrying your phone around with you everywhere anyway, right? There are approximately a bajillion fitness apps out there, but for our purposes, I really like the Nike Training Club (iOS, Android) app. Now, I’m an Under Armour girl, but Nike’s app sets itself apart with all of its resources, particularly its guided workouts. I use MapMyRun to track my runs, but NTC stands alone with its selection of workouts and training guides. Each workout shows exactly how long it is, what level it's at (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and what equipment you'll need, making it easier to pick exactly the right workout you're looking for.
- USE YOUR IMAGINATION! — Maybe you’re not in the most convenient setting, but you find yourself with an extra 15 minutes with nothing to do. Make the most of it! Do bicep curls with bottles of water. Do chair dips (just don’t use a rolling chair for this one if you’re at work!). Lift your legs straight out in front of you for a minute while sitting at your desk. Stand up and walk around until your free time is over. Better yet, find an empty stairwell and walk up and down the stairs during your break. Even better, run the stairs a few times.
- WALK! — Sometimes all you need is a good walk around the block to get you feeling good, shake out the legs, jumpstart digestion after a meal. Don’t live or work near anywhere walkable? Tell yourself you won’t sit down for the next 15 minutes and pace the hallways. I get lucky here. I work in a basketball arena and I can take laps around the concourse when I need to stretch my legs. Get those steps in!
See? It doesn’t have to take a whole lot to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle, but it does take a commitment to making those changes. Don’t necessarily blow off your workout because you “don’t have the time.” Make the time — because you can, and because you’re worth it!