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by MindJournal - 13 min read
Staying on top of your fitness can be tricky. We all know it’s great for body and mind, releasing endorphins and boosting our confidence and self-esteem. But, it can also take up precious time. When it comes to work, family and season 2 of The Bear, who has time for that 7 am circuit class? Or that Sunday morning spin session?
To help you not only make those classes but include fitness hacks in your everyday life, we've put together the ultimate list of fitness tips.
Ultimately, it's mostly about planning – something we celebrate with our new Weekly Fitness Planner (coming soon), which will help you track your workouts, fitness habits, and meals like a pro.
So, to motivate you to up your fitness game this month, here are our pick' n' mix fitness tips to help you achieve your best, even when you're busy.
You might not have time to run 5k this morning. But you can probably walk around the corner to get a coffee at lunch instead of making one in the work kitchen, right? All of these little steps add up, as do things like squatting while brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil.
PT Matt Roberts says that working out intensely (say, as part of a new fitness goal) will only lead to burnout. Work in slower recovery days and steady state (low intensity) exercises alongside HIIT and the sweatier stuff to hit the sweet spot.
Short and hard workouts take up less time, but a 2015 study found that longer, slower workouts can be just as beneficial. If you’re short on time, maybe opt for the former. If you need to decompress after a hard day, the latter can be a sound choice.
Bring a sandwich with you and eat it at your desk, using your hour’s break to get out for a run, visit a nearby gym, or even a long walk. All of it helps – and will be better for your back – than remaining desk-bound.
Set aside a specific drawer for your workout gear, and keep your water bottle and shoes in the same place. That way, they’ll be exactly where you need them. Laying everything out before you go to sleep can give you one less reason to ditch your morning run, too.
Guess what? Even professional athletes get injured. You’ll likely need time on the bench for injury or illness too. Instead of getting frustrated, factor in some downtime and use it wisely. Seek a specialist if needed, and plan your come-back, including what you might do to prevent future injuries.
Plan ahead by building in rewards. Maybe it's your favourite meal when you've mastered a new PB. Or perhaps it's just investing in a delicious protein flavour for your shake to boost your palate when sticking to a meal plan.
If you don't have time to get to the gym or have no equipment to hand (maybe you're travelling for work or on holiday), invest in some bodyweight routines. The benefits are well documented. Can't do press-ups? Start on your knees and build it up from there.
Only a superhuman can force themselves to work out every day. But planning your workout schedule will mean you're more likely to stick to it. If Wednesday equals yoga, great. You don't have to think about it; you can grab your gear and go. It's also worth remembering that schedules change, and that's ok. If this happens, try to adapt rather than skip altogether.
Do you really drink enough? Water not only helps our bodies function but is proven to keep us mentally sharp, too. If you aren’t sipping throughout the day, how will you have the energy to work out post-work, too?
Celebrities spend hours in the gym each day. Who has time for that? Compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, bench presses and cleans are proven to give you the most bang for your buck, scorching calories in the gym and hours afterwards. Meaning you don’t need to be in there all day.
Sleep is vital for recovery. When we're already tired, late-night or early-morning gym sessions might be a false economy. Sometimes, we really do need extra time in bed. By allowing yourself proper rest, you'll come back feeling fitter and stronger.
You'll lift heavier with a friend to spot you. You'll work harder with a PT egging you on. And a gym buddy will keep you accountable for those early morning sessions, so don't go it alone.
As well as IRL companions, fitness wearables are proven to greatly improve your workouts, with one study finding modest short-term improvements in fitness. Use that as a starting point to build from.
Apps like Strava can help us tap into the wider fitness community, spurring us on. Likewise, fitness podcasts, books, and real-life meet-ups can all provide a much-needed burst of inspiration.
You'll likely need to adapt your workout when it's hot (hit the treadmill in the air-conditioned gym, maybe) and when it rains. But don't let the weather put you off. Plan how to adapt for cold, heat, rain, and sun, and you won't be caught off guard if conditions aren't perfect (and they rarely are).
If you find yourself slumped in front of the TV instead of in the gym, why not combine the two? Maybe your gym has fancy TVs in its treadmills or bikes? Or maybe you can buy some resistance bands to do some light stretching at home, in front of the box?
It sounds dry, but planning your weekly meals means one less thing to worry about. You don’t need to load Tupperware with chicken and rice on a Sunday night – maybe just look at your weekly schedule and if you’re out of the office, workout where you might go for a healthy lunch, or post-work dinner.
“Society promotes exercise and fitness by hooking into short-term motivation, guilt and shame,” says Michelle Segar, the director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center. Focus on the immediate post-workout high instead of vague future milestones.
If we’re busy, the last thing we want to do is a boring exercise. Studies have shown that mixing up our workouts can lead to better results, so don’t feel beholden to your fitness plan if it’s no longer working.
Simply planning your workout is different from actually lifting weights, but it is a vital first step on your fitness journey. Prioritise taking time to outline your goals and you’ll have a clear indication of where to start, and waypoints to celebrate, too.
Keeping a fitness planner helps keep you motivated, and on track. Making a big deal out of a PB day, an extra workout, or even just a day you managed to get to the gym in the form of, say, a star, can all provide visual motivation to keep it up.
You might not have time for a full HIIT session, but you could do, say, 10 squats before dinner and 10 squats before watching TV. Treat it as a chore you have to do before doing something fun. Want to watch your favourite show? 10 squats earns you one episode.
Don’t give yourself a hard time if you’re not in love with every workout. Falko Sniehotta, a professor at the National Institute for Health Research says that’s OK. Focus on aspects you do enjoy, like meeting new people, or achieving goals instead.
Whether it’s a kettlebell or a new pair of runners, if you can afford it, investing in some new gear can be a great motivator, and genuinely get you excited about wanting to try it out.
Phones are distracting, so if you’re working out at home, keep it in another room to stop you going on Instagram mid-set. On the flip side, getting out of bed to turn off your morning alarm is a great way to get you moving in the morning, too.
Studies have shown that baths can burn as many calories as running. They’ll also help soothe aching joints, and help you de-stress after a busy day, giving you more mental energy to dedicate to fitness.
You might not have time to up your 5k run to a 10k, but you could probably manage 6k, or even 7k without breaking too much of an extra sweat. Over a month these extra kilometres will add up, and you’ll feel fitter, too.
If one of your fitness goals is to lose weight, make sure fueling your body remains a priority - giving you the energy you need along the way. Learning how to make snacks like protein or energy balls, and keeping a stash to hand, can be the key to success.
An obvious one. The NHS wants us to do 30 minutes of exercise per day. But even taking out the bins, gardening, helping your kids carry their P.E. kit from the bus, walking the dog that bit further, all adds up.
Plan your recovery. This will help keep you fit, but will also let you know which days it’s OK to take easier, stopping any last minute decisions to call it off (unless, of course, you genuinely don’t feel up to it).
Doing two back-to-back workouts (i.e., lat pull downs and lat raises) is a quick and efficient way of working multiple muscle groups in a short time. Look up some ideas online, and write them into your Weekly Fitness Planner ahead of your next workout.
Self-compassion is vital. Work, family and more can get in the way of working out. Remember, while feeling fit is great, sometimes other things take precedence – and that’s OK. Give yourself a break.
We know you’re busy. But this doesn't mean fitness has to take a back seat. Use the tips above to create a more balanced approach, make a plan and take it one day at a time. You'll get there, we know it.
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