woman in gray long sleeve shirt and black pants sitting on wooden floor
Even if all you have time for is to stretch, you are moving and sculpting your body. Photo by Alex Shaw

The DAO of finding time to work out (and yes you can)

Time is the biggest barrier to working out that I see for people who have crazy busy jobs. We simply don’t have it. And we certainly don’t have the luxury of spending hours in the gym. I get that, and I am here to help you. I have hacks where you can not only fit workouts into your day, but also fit workouts into your work.

What’s the skinny?

  • You can find time to workout, even if you only have 10 minutes
  • The key is to plan and find your castle time
  • You can also work cardio into your day, on your zoom or google calls. Our society is evolving in that direction and you can be a rainmaker.

How to make time to exercise when you don’t have it – Top 10 ideas

  1. Plan workout schedules and times like meetings and put on calendar 
  2. Only check social media once a day 
  3. Don’t check emails right before scheduled workout
  4. Do the fireman routine 
  5. Pre-program coffee machine 
  6. Have supplements pre-rationed and full glass of water on nightstand
  7. Premake your lunch(es) the night before 
  8. Plan rest days around most complicated task days 
  9. Combine lunch or coffee dates with workouts 
  10. Dry shampoo and and body wipes

Plan like you do everything else

To get into a routine, YOU HAVE TO HAVE some structure and plan your workouts for the week, just like you plan your work stuff.  Start a google sheet and map out what you plan to do and at what time of day, including rest days.  Enter those workouts into your calendar.  If you are married or have kids, I would suggest using a family or shared calendar to indicate this is when you are working out and not to be bothered.  

You can access my google sheet template and sample exercise plan HERE.

white and brown concrete building near body of water during daytime
Finding time to work out is about finding your castle time. Because your body is your castle, and you are the king. Photo by Bernardo Lorena Ponte

Draw boundaries – find your “castle time”

You have to find and draw boundaries around your “castle time”. Your castle time is  a window of time every day you can block off an protect  –  even if it is only 20-30 minutes..  Just like with important client meetings, it’s about finding it and drawing boundaries around it,  yes, even around your family and your friends.  

Set yourself up for success. Here are some do’s and dont’s:

1)     DO Plan, plan, plan.  Your workouts should be booked for the week like business meetings and on our calendar. If you have a spouse and family obligations these should be on your shared calendars so there are no questions about who is walking the dog or giving the kids breakfast.  That should all be worked out before you even start the week. Also, plan out what workouts you will do.

2)    DO the “fireman” routine.   You know, how firemen lay out all of their uniforms in case they have to get out to put out a fire in a hurry? Well that’s what you need to do with your workout clothes, from your headband to your socks and shoes and whatever musical apparatus you will be using.  Roll out of bed and put these on. The longer you stay in that bathrobe, the more your motivation will erode. Do the same with the clothes that you will be wearing after you workout.  If you work out in the evening, make sure you have clothes packed and an extra pair of shoes in the car/at the office so you don’t have an excuse to come home first and then get tempted by food, Netflix, etc.    If you need coffee in the morning, set a timer or prep it so you just flip the switch.

3) DON’T SABOTAGE YOUR CHANCE TO WORK OUT IN THE MORNING BY CHECKING YOUR EMAIL OR SOCIAL MEDIA. Remember when we talked about “OPP” in the meditation post? This is about YOU, not other people’s priorities. They can wait. Checking your email or social media first thing in the morning, when you could be spending that 10-15 minutes working out, automatically puts other people’s priorities ahead of your own. Don’t be OPP. Focus on above all on your own priorities.

4) Do know it’s OK to take shortcuts – body wipes, dry shampoo, and other insta routine toolks can be valuable time savers. My favorite dry shampoo is from Kerastase (becuase it moisturizes) and I am also a fan of Yuni shower sheets.

Work working out into your work. 

This is really easy to do now, post-COVID.  Get a standing desk. Consider a treadmill desk. I ordered this one from GoPlus for less than $500 (1/5of a Peloton, y’all!) That brings up the question of whether it’s ok to Zoom on a treadmill. Clearly, there are times you probably should not, like if you are on the first call with a prospective client or your weekly call with your boss, or if you need to share a screen. Other than that, there are ways you can do this without appearing disruptive or disengaged.

  • Often times you can just turn a camera on only when you are speaking, especially if it is a large “all hands” kind of call, or a training.
  • You can start by saying that you will be walking and there may be some background noise. Nothing to apologize about.

This way, you get at least a walking workout, no matter WHAT.

Other ways to hack around having little time to work out

If I am strapped for time, here is what I would prioritize:

  • 10 minutes or less – stretching workout. Stretching is often overlooked but it is a really important part of our overall fitness and recovery. Workout apps have stand alone stretching sequences, that are usually 10 minutes or less, like Tone it up, SWEAT, Equinox+ or Peloton. I have linked to my reviews of these apps at the bottom of this article. Or you can follow one like this one by Equilibrium online.
  • 30 minutes or less – HIIT workout, strength train or precision train (i.e., express yoga or barre workout). See my guide to strength training HERE.
  • 30-60 minutes – a combination of strength training and steady-state cardio. Do the cardio as a warm up, then close out with 15-20 minutes of strength training. Some people recommend to do weights first but you will burn more calories doing cardio first. 

Key takeaway

You can make time to be the CEO of your own body. And you should be. Without a healthy body, you can’t do much else, include kick ass at your career. Prioritize yourself and find your castle time. Don’t compromise and don’t write off not having a whole hour – you can do a lot more in less time than you think.


Equinox+ and Peloton aps:

Jillian Michaels and Toneitup

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