We’re all busy. Our schedules on a normal day can be crazy, and on those days when there’s even more on your plate than usual, your workout can become the first casualty. We’ve all heard that little voice: “You won’t have enough time for the perfect workout today, so why bother at all?”
If this sounds like you, stop losing out on your muscle gains and calorie burn, and learn how to make the most out of what time you do have. These six hacks will help you trim a few minutes here and there so you can still have a productive session and reach your fitness goals.
Strategy 1: Have a Plan B Routine to Your Plan A Routine
I like instinctive training and going with the flow when it comes to exercises, but that doesn’t always work when you’re time-crunched. You need to know what exercises you want to do, as well as the sets, reps, and weight you plan to use in your workout.
You also need a backup plan in case someone is camped out on your favorite squat rack or a machine is out of order. Someone hogging the leg press? Grab a dumbbell and go do goblet squats instead. Standing leg curl machine out of order? Use a low cable pulley instead. If you have alternatives for every exercise, you won’t waste precious fitness time figuring out what to do.
Strategy 2: Skip Social Media
This is a hard sell nowadays, but hear me out. If you want to capture that one shot to inspire the masses or record your epic set, that’s cool. But chances are you’re reading this article because time is an issue for you. So why waste time fiddling with angles and lighting if it means you won’t have time to work out? You don’t need all that noise surrounding your fitness.
It’s up to you, but if I were struggling to find time to work out, I’d keep the phone in my pocket or even locked safely in my locker. It’s much easier to focus on your lifts when you don’t have an app interrupting you and your calorie burn every 10 seconds. And your workout will still be official—even if it didn’t make the internet.
Strategy 3: Superset When the Equipment is Available
Doing two exercises without a break eliminates one rest period. It also challenges your muscles in new ways, making your workout more productive. Supersetting isn’t very practical when the exercises are at opposite ends of the facility, so choose exercises that can be done in close proximity.
Take shoulder day as an example. Machine presses are popular, and so are machine lateral raises. The two stations are likely within a few feet of each other at your gym, making them ideal for a superset pairing. Alternatively, grab a pair of dumbbells and sit them next to your pressing machine for a quick transition to dumbbell raises instead. Bodyweight moves like push-ups are great to include as well. You can do them anywhere.
Strategy 4: Have Your Drink at the Ready
If you still go to the water fountain for your hydration needs, or you wait until you get to the gym before mixing up your intra-workout drink, realize that it all takes time away from actual training and calorie burn. Your fitness will suffer as a result!
Have your water or BCAAs prepared ahead of time. Use a shaker cup or grab a plastic water bottle (don’t worry—you can always refill it to save time and plastic) and have it with you at all times so you can skip the fountain and go right to your next set.
Strategy 5: Shorten Your Rest Time
One way to amp up your physical activity and endurance, while saving precious minutes, is to shrink your rest periods between exercises. OK, this is not a new idea, but it deserves mention. In fact, it may even help boost your fitness gains and calorie burn by making workouts more high-intensity.
Less rest means your muscles are not fully recovered when you start your next set of a given exercise, which means they deplete faster than they normally would. You definitely shouldn’t try to set a PR for an exercise on these days, but if all you need to do is get in and out quickly, cutting rest time is a great way to do it. Carve only 10-15 seconds from your rest intervals, and believe me, you’ll start to feel it.
Strategy 6: FOCUS!
Face it: You love “The Rock” because he’s unapologetically dedicated to maintaining his muscle. So take a page out of his playbook. When you’re training, there should only be one thing on your mind: the next set. Don’t get distracted by random conversations. You don’t have to be a jerk if someone talks to you. Just say hi and make it clear you have to hustle today because your workout and your fitness comes first!