7 Tips for Fitting Workouts Into a Busy Schedule

Nancy Chen

The most commonly used excuse for skipping physical exercise is lack of time. Whether you’re a college student, a working professional, or somewhere in between, time feels limited.

But working out not only makes you happier, but it also increases blood flow to your brain, making you more productive, alert, and arguably more intelligent???? .

So if you’re ready to get on that workout train, these 7 tips will help you fit your workouts in, no matter your schedule: 

1. Do your research and plan ahead. 

This is a step that many forget, but is the key to success. Before I began my second co-op, I knew that 1) I was training for a half marathon, 2) wanted to do both boxing and yoga, 3) had a 9 AM-5:30 PM work schedule with an hour commute on both ends, and 4) had leadership positions in school.

It sounds overwhelming, and that’s because it is. The solution? Get it out on paper. I wrote out all the times I thought would work and then plotted it out. Questions to ask yourself:

  • What does your class / work schedule look like now?
  • What studios do you want to take classes in? How far they are from your class / work?
  • Are you a morning or night person?
  • If you run, what times do you want to run and how long will it take you?
  • If you go to the gym, where is it? When is it open? How long do you want to spend there?

2. Schedule it in.

Now that you’ve figured out what will work with your schedule, write it in. Put it into your calendar and add an alert for when you need to leave to get there on time. Pack your bag the night before so that you’re all ready to go.

Scheduling it in not only keeps you accountable, but also removes the anxiety of figuring out what classes you can take or what exercise you can get it in. By putting it in your calendar, you can figure out what other events you have and if that will impact your workout schedule, which also means you can adjust accordingly.

For example, I’ll schedule out the week’s workouts the week before. I have a routine I usually follow: a long run 1x a week, boxing 2-3x a week, yoga 1-2x a week, and strength training or some other type of alternate workout 1x a week (spin, tabata, and BodyBurn by Ray are some of my favorites!).

3. Find what you like and do it. 

This one is pretty self-explanatory. There’s no point in forcing yourself to do something you don’t like if you don’t have much time – you should make those 30-60 minutes of exercise something that brings you joy. 

Many studios allow you to try your first class free or drop in for a reduced rate. Try something new – you may find yourself in love with it.

4. Make it social.

Use workouts as a chance to catch up with old friends you haven’t seen in awhile or keep up with friends you wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see. It makes it more efficient – rather than going out to dinner, you were already going to work out, so you don’t have to clear another spot in your schedule. Plus, it’s beneficial for both you and your friend to get that blood flowing! Who knows, you might just find yourself another workout buddy.

If you still want to catch up after, you can always grab a quick bite – chances are, you’ll be making healthier choices after you work out anyway.

5. Think outside the box.

Workouts don’t have to be your standard studio class, gym time, or running. There’s tons of at-home workouts, from Kayla Itsines’s program to whatever’s available via a quick Google search. You can also find some awesome workouts via Instagram.

There’s also a ton of outdoor workouts that you might not think of. If you’re traveling, try hotel room workouts or park workouts. If you have a set of stairs anywhere, instant workout right there.

6. Make it efficient.

Be realistic. If you’re crunched on time, don’t go on 12 mile runs. Take it from someone who has trained for a half marathon – those long runs take a good part of your day.

Stick with short, effective workouts that get your heart rate up, like HIIT workouts (also good when you’re traveling or on vacation) or 30 minute lunchtime classes. I used to squeeze in a short run whenever I had time, even if that was only 20 minutes.

7. Make it part of your life.

You can be a fit and healthy person without working out a lot or for a very long time. How? By being an active person.

Make yourself mini rules (microresolutions) you always follow, and before long they’ll be habits. For example, I told myself I was taking the stairs to my apartment every single time, no matter how tired I am – the only exception is if I’m literally unable to carry my groceries.

So make it a habit to walk everywhere if you have time instead of driving, taking an Uber, or public transportation. Stand up every once in awhile instead of sitting all day. Pace when you’re on the phone. Park a little further from your usual spot.

Try hiking on weekends instead of (or in addition to) brunch, do some yoga poses at the beach, calf raises when you brush your teeth (a trick an old swim friend taught me), squats while you wait for the shower to warm up… be creative.

From Caroline Arnold’s book on microresolutions, and Gretchen Rubin’s book on habits, I’ve learned that habits can change your life more than single large changes can. By making being active a habit and by ingraining fitness into your life, you’ll find yourself falling into the habit of exercising.

Nancy Chen

Paleo-ish blogger and trainer at Title Boxing Club Boston. Nancy’s passion is helping people lead a happier lifestyle through transforming their health, fitness, and mindset in a realistic manner. Yoga enthusiast, finisher in the 2016 BAA Half Marathon, Tough Mudder and Spartan Race runner, and former competitive swimmer. You can usually find her with a smoothie bowl in one hand and some form of avocado in the other.



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