I’ve coached many people over the years who offer good reasons why they don’t have time to workout. Even well-intentioned people who make plans for tomorrow’s workout can give up when tomorrow arrives and the million pressures of life become too much to manage.

If this sounds like you, I offer this suggestion. “How about working IN?” That means, utilizing the idle minutes in your day to work movement in to your existing schedule. In other words, rather than waiting for all stars to align (when no one needs your attention, all your housework done, dinner’s been made, etc) embrace the short bouts of otherwise wasted time to work exercise in. Doing so keeps you fit, doesn’t require much thought and will improve your mood.

Most people on most days can find a couple of minutes (even 5) of unscheduled time. It might not seem like it, but let’s see if any of these resonate with you as opportunities to work your exercise in.

  1. Waiting for your child to get their soccer uniform and cleats on? Bust out a few rounds of: 4 squats + 4 lunges + 4 pushups on the counter or wall.
  2. Have to log on to a conference call, but aren’t expected to speak? Dial in with your mobile device, mute your mic and walk around the block or get on the treadmill while listening.
  3. Watching the news? Keep hand weights or bands in the end table drawer. Pull them out during commercials and while seated (or standing) crank out a couple rounds of 8 bicep curls + 8 shoulder presses + 8 front raises.

Short workouts (5-15 minutes) can be more effective than long workouts simply because it’s more realistic you’ll make time to actually do them. An added benefit of short workouts is that shorter workouts make binge-eating less likely. For example, after a 1 hour endurance run you may be more likely to binge eat thinking “I deserve this” and wind up eating way more calories than you intended. Whereas a short workout in between scheduled activities just fills idle time.

Here are some suggestions on how to structure a sample 5-minute workout using only 5 body-weight exercises that can be done anywhere. Double it up for 10 minutes!
Exercises: Squats, High march, Pushups (on a wall or counter), Arm jabs, Calf raises

  1. Do each exercise for 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds. You can also work up to increasing the working time while decreasing the rest time for more of a challenge.
  2. Do each exercise for 30 seconds. Complete two rounds. To incorporate rest, break the 30 seconds down into 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
  3. Perform 10 reps of each exercise. Continue to repeat 10-rep rounds until 5 minutes has passed. Incorporate rest as needed.

Bottom Line: Short workouts are better than no workout. Challenge yourself to find 5-15 minutes in your day (maybe even more than once per day!) and move your body. A little bit of cardio and strength work here and there means something and will have no impact on your existing schedule. Just don’t over complicate it!

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