Training and Fitness: Fitting it Around a Busy Family Life
The bonus of working out early is getting the power rack all to yourself.
Life is busy. You already work long hours and travel a commute that makes Marco Polo look like a slacker. You also manage to make the majority of bath/story/bed times. But what about fitness? How is it possible to shoehorn in 3-5 hours of sweating, grunting and breathlessness into what is already a jam-packed week?
Making a Schedule Work for you and Your Fitness Goals
If you speak to the average, inactive person, one of their first excuses for not exercising is probably ‘Uh, I don’t really have time’. What they mean is they are not prepared to make time for exercise. Nobody who works two jobs, has two kids and two mortgages has time to exercise. But making time can be a reality.
Consider this: Your gym opens at 6 am. Your partner and kids generally get up at 7.30 am. That gives you a whole ninety minutes to get your rear end down the weights room, crush some squats (or whatever you prefer) and make it back to put the coffee machine on. Plus you’ll be awake and raring to go, unlike your partner who looks like an extra from ‘The Walking Dead’.
Lunch breaks – you might get 45 minutes, you might get the full hour. That’s more than enough time for a quick sprint session in the park. Or if you’re more of a night owl, get a membership at a 24 hour gym and hit it up in the evening. There’s nothing good on television these days anyway.
The best time to exercise is when you can do it. This is a long term thing so choose a time that suits you and fits with your other priorities.
Workout Efficiency and Activity Choice
So we’ve established that time is at a premium. So it makes sense to workout as efficiently as possible. Gone are the 2 hour marathon weights sessions of college days, and an hour long run is probably out of the question most nights too. So make it short, sharp, hard and fast.
I’m a big fan of Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 which focuses on compact, efficient strength based workouts. Wendler places a lot of emphasis on the exercises which give the most ‘bang for your buck.
This means doing the exercises that tax your body the most and recruit the most muscles – dips, chins, dead lifts, squats, barbell rows.
No-one stayed puny focusing on these movements.
If you go running, think about how you can make more efficient use of your time. Do you really have room in your schedule to go on an hour-long pavement plod?
There are ways that you can get the same benefit in half the time. Try doing stair or hill sprints for 15 minutes. With a 10 minute warm up and cool down that’s 35 minutes total.
Vary your speed using a technique called Fartlek (or Speed-Play) where you run at an unsustainable pace for time or distance and then recover. Repeat this over a four mile route and you’ll have a cardio session which lasts for 30 minutes but still kicks your butt.
The Whole Picture: Making Time for Proper Rest, Recovery and Nutrition
There’s a problem with burning the candle at both ends. It gets used up twice as fast and all you’re left with at the end is a messy pile of melted wax. So if you work hard, play hard and have kids, sleep is important.
Try this: Move your bed time forward by an hour. If you used to hit the sack at 10.30, bring it forward to 9.30. It might take a bit of getting used to but eventually the benefits of the extra sleep will kick in. You’ll have more energy, recover faster and be fresher for when you wake up at 5.00am to squeeze in your morning run before your big meeting at head office.
Use recovery techniques like contrast showers, ice baths and foam rolling to improve your rate of recovery. Your body will thank you in the long run.
Don’t neglect nutrition, even when you’re on the run. Most restaurants will offer healthy options and supermarkets offer healthy choices in salads and cold meats. Use supplements if you need to and have quick and easy breakfast shakes when you’re really pushed for time.