For me, getting in a good daily sweat is always a priority. First off, it’s in my DNA at this point (this is not the case for everyone, and that’s okay!). Further, after competing as an athlete for so long, I know that I simply don’t function as well without giving myself 1-2 hours a day to lift some heavy things or run around like an animal. During undergrad, I used my hockey practice and lifting sessions as “me-time” and focused only on improving as an athlete, leaving all of my other obligations off of the ice and out of the gym. I feel this made me a better athlete because I focused solely on my craft during practice but also decreased my overall stress levels off the ice so when it came time to focus on organic chemistry or physics after practice, my mind was clear and I could focus on my academics.
When my career ended, the last thing I wanted to do was lower the intensity of my workout sessions, especially since life has gotten more stressful during the medical school application process. However, as I’m sure is the case for many of you, I simply don’t have the time now that I used to have and can’t devote 2 hours a day to the gym. Between research, meetings, clinical involvement, and other obligations, I have needed to modify my workouts to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of my time spent exercising.
So, how do you maximize your time in the gym to accommodate your busy schedule, while ensuring you’re still getting high quality workouts? First off, let’s make one thing clear- making progress towards your fitness goals takes hard work and time, there’s no way around this. With this said, there are some steps you can take to make your workouts more time-efficient and effective, and that’s what today’s post is about.
METHODS FOR INCREASING THE EFFICIENCY OF YOUR WORKOUTS:
1) Utilize Complexes- If you’re someone who is experienced with lifting of any kind (barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell) complexes can be a tremendous time savor. Complexes involve choosing 5-10 different movements and performing them with the same load in series, without dropping said load. For example, you may choose the following:
A. DB Deadlift
B. DB Clean
C. DB Push Press
D. DB Front Squat
E. DB Alternating Row
You would complete each exercise for 5-10 reps before moving onto the next exercise without dropping the weight. 3-4 sets is all you need here, TRUST ME.
Benefits of complexes- Increased calorie burn post-exercise (epoc), works both anaerobic and aerobic systems, is very easy to progress and/or modify.
2) Implement Full-Body Workouts- If you’re pressed for time and can’t make it to the gym everyday, don’t stress! You’re not an athlete and you have other obligations. Instead, program your workouts to include full-body splits. This is best for someone looking to put on some strength, but only has time for 2-3 workouts per week. The only caveat here is that you’ll likely have to spend a little more time in the gym on these 2-3 days to see any significant results. However, if you make those 2-3 days high-intensity full body lifts, that’s all you’ll need!
3) Too busy for the gym? Use bodyweight exercises in complex, Tabata or MetCon form- This one’s huge. I get so angry when people say things like “well I’d really like to get a workout in but I can’t make it to the gym.” I have a friend who is an ER Doc, on call at all hours of the night, works 80 hours a week and still manages to workout 4-5 times per week. If you don’t have time to get to the gym, choose some bodyweight exercises and get after it. Some of my favorites are burpees, mountain climbers, pushups, jump squats, and hand stand push-ups. Try implementing your favorites into a Tabata (20 sec on, 10 sec off), or set a timer and do as many reps as possible in the time you have available.
4) Go to a cycling class (if you have the guts)- Don’t you dare laugh at this. If you’re reading this thinking “man, Albee has lost it, he’s gone soft,” you’re wrong. If you find a good, well-run, intense cycling class, you will benefit from 30-60 minutes of pure torture. Your HR will elevate, you will burn calories very efficiently, and most importantly, you will have a blast. I try to cycle 1-2 times per week and feel that it’s helped me get into the best shape of my life ( I also cycle at a top notch cycling gym where the instructors take no prisoners).
5) LEAVE YOUR CELLPHONE ELSEWHERE- Can you tell this is a pet-peeve of mine? Obviously, if you’re on call or need access to your phone, bring it with you. My point is, we need time to ourselves and often times the gym, road, field or wherever you exercise can serve as the best space for you to forget about the world and focus on you. Further, the more you focus on your workouts, the greater the benefits will be and the less time you’ll have to spend in the gym.
I’m sure I missed a ton of other obvious tips, so feel free to comment on your own experiences below!