Too busy to exercise? That's no excuse with these time-saving tips

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In all the years I've been a personal trainer, I have seen that the single most common reason for missing a workout is lack of time.

Our days are more hectic than ever. And therefore, it truly can be difficult to work in an exercise regime. However, you do not have to spend hours sweating to achieve great results. I tell my clients that if they can find a mere 20 minutes a day, they can make substantial gains in their fitness pursuits.  

Here are some tips for all those days when you're time poor:

  • Do exercises that use multiple muscles, called compound movements. For example, one of my favourite exercises to do with my clients is the 'thruster'. Holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, you begin by performing a deep squat. As you stand from the bottom position, you begin to raise the dumbbells above your head. As soon as you are in the standing position, you go straight down into another squat while bringing the dumbbells back down to your shoulders. This is one repetition. This exercise uses the front and back of your legs as well as your butt, your mid-section, shoulders, upper chest and triceps. Compare this exercise with a single-jointed isolation exercise like a bicep curl, and you will see that you get much more metabolic bang for your buck!
  • Focus on your big muscles. Working your biggest muscles burns a stack of calories and will give your metabolism a good boost. These muscles are your butt, thighs, back and mid-section (i.e. lower back, abdominal and oblique muscles). Again, compound movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups, bench press and push-press.
  • Intensify your aerobic workout. By doing so, you can get results in half the time. For example, instead of doing forty minutes of walking, jogging or low impact aerobics go on a bike or treadmill and do some high intensity interval for 20 minutes. For more details, read: Tabata: the key to fitness in 4 minutes, not 40
  • Double up your exercises, called super setting. Rather than resting between sets, use that time to work a different muscle group, preferably a complementary muscle. For example, alternate a set of bench press with a set of pull-ups. Alternatively, do a set of seated leg extensions with a set of leg curls. Doing this will double the number of exercises you can do in a short time.
  • Incorporate circuit training. Circuit training combines aerobics and strength training in the same workout. Doing this type of workout gives you metabolic benefits along with strength gains. For example, do a strength exercise for 30-60 seconds. Without taking any rest, move on to another. Every two or three exercises, add one minute of skipping, spin bike or rowing for one or two minutes.
  • Before your morning shower and breakfast, or during your lunch hour, squeeze in two sets of ten of the following bare-essential moves: crunches, pull-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges. These body-weight exercises (called calisthenics) strengthen most areas of the body but do not take more than a few minutes. Short bursts of exercise add up. If you can accumulate 30 minutes of physical activity per day in short bursts, you will still enjoy similar benefits to having completed a straight 30 minutes.
  • Try something different. Monotony in an exercise routine leads to boredom, which will ultimately lead to no exercise. A change in the type of aerobic activity, or your specific weight training routine will avoid this problem and will give you greater fitness and strength benefits. You will burn more calories and stimulate muscles in a new way, accomplishing more in a shorter period. Try activities you truly think you will enjoy or you will defeat the purpose and get more frustrated and bored.

By employing the above training methods, the "not having enough time" excuse is made invalid! Work hard, enjoy your exercise, and I look forward to bringing you more training tips next month. 


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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!