Got a job? Got kids? Got extra projects? Got stress?
Yeah, me too.
Any and all of these can be consistency-killers! But they don’t HAVE to be.
Here are some of my favorite strategies for staying consistent with workouts when life gets super busy or super stressful. Tested and proven by yours truly!
1. Front-load your exercise.
I don’t know about you, but it’s like my day and schedule pick up speed and gain inertia as the hours pass. Meaning, I swear things get busier and more complicated–with lots of extras popping in–after lunch through dinnertime and don’t tend to wind down until after the kids go to bed.
There have been many times where it LOOKED like I had a great opportunity to get in my run/lift/workout between 1 and 2pm, only to have that window of time compromised by some schedule change or additional ‘to-do’ sneaking in on me.
To combat this, I front-load my workouts, ESPECIALLY in those phases when life seems extra full or hectic. I make sure to place them first thing in my schedule, and I ‘Sharpie’ them in.
Ever try to erase Sharpie from any given surface? Exactly.
I carve out and protect that chunk of time (whether it’s 20, 30 or 60 minutes), dedicate it solely to my workout and that way it gets done, I feel more accomplished and therefore more positive and relaxed, and there is little to no chance of that time getting co-opted by other needs.
2. Cut it in half.
Whatever your workout might have been that day–a run, a lift, a circuit or HIIT session–cut it in half.
Keep your warm up solid (skimping on this leads to poor performance and a greatly increased likelihood of injury), but cut your run or mileage in half, OR perform only the first big components of your lifting program (such as the A and B portions) OR perform 1 or two sets of your exercises instead of 3 or 4 sets OR perform only one or two rounds of your circuit rather than 3 or 4.
Make your intensity count instead of your duration!
3. Make it a ‘5-Minute Mini’/a ‘Structurally Sound’ workout
Instead of adhering to an ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude, where if you don’t get in that full, balls-to-the-wall workout it’s not worth it, try a ‘5-Minute Mini.’ Or two. Or three. Spaced throughout the day, or added in at beginning or end of it, 5-Minute Minis are a simple but effective way to stay consistent and address possible areas of need (injury or just some area you want to give extra attention).
Some quick-and-easy 5-Minute Minis I’ve used are:
10 glute bridges with a 2-second pause at the top + 10 ‘Superpersons’
10 squats + 10 push ups
10 – 15 Band pull aparts + 10 – 15 band-assisted leg lowers
Dead Bugs + Glute Bridges
10 Bird Dogs + 30 sec. side planks/side
15 Clamshells (band around legs above knees) + 15 Squats (band around legs above knees)+ 15 side step walks (band around ankles)
15 Bicep Curls with a tube + 15 Tricep kickbacks with a tube + 10 X-band walks/side
Demonstrations can be found on my YouTube Channel
*repeat combinations until 5 minutes are up*
4. Make it include the kids (as appropriate)
When it comes down to either finding a way to include your kids or not getting a workout at all, compromise is key–as is some flexible thinking and creativity.
Things I’ve done that have worked pretty well:
Set up ‘stations’ in the house or yard and created a circuit training workout for you all–low equipment, uncomplicated movements that can be done for time (my kids love hearing the beep of the timer!). Push Ups, planks, squats, lunges, jump squats, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, high knee jogs, butt kick jogs, ‘toy soldiers’…all accessible, do-able and a great way to get in an intense workout, hopefully without too much interruption 🙂
Take the kids out for a jog with you. Yes, you’re likely not going to log a PR that day, or get in much more than a mile or two, with intermittent walk breaks of course, but you’re all outside, getting fresh air and the blood circulating, and this alone can help take the edge off and make you feel like you’re staying on track, too.
Go to the park. Parks and playgrounds are LOADED with opportunities for exercise. Pushing a toddler on a swing? Try Push-Squat-Push. The kid swinging back at your face will keep you focused on moving quickly, lol. Benches are prime for exercises for the upper and lower body. LOADED, I tell you. My favorites: Incline and decline bench push ups, step ups, butt-tap bench squats and one-legged squats.
Look for an ‘At-the-Park’ workout coming soon!
5. One-element workouts.
Pick one piece of equipment (dumbbells, barbell, medicine ball, TRX, kettlebell…whatever), and do exercises that use only that piece of equipment without interruption. This is also known as a complex.
A nice dumbbell complex could be: Front squats, Double Bent Rows, Reverse Lunges, Squat to Press, Romanian Deadlifts and Renegade Rows. Done in order for time or reps, this can be a quick-and-dirty, killer workout.
Bonus: only using one piece of equipment cuts way down on ‘travel and search’ time, especially at the gym. Saves your sanity a bit more, too 😉
6. Do your favorite thing.
Let’s face it: we’d rather do things we like than things we don’t like. And we’re a heck of a lot more likely to do the things we like, too.
When we’re stressed and worn down, the last thing we are likely to opt to do is something that’s either a) really a struggle for us, or b) requires a massive amount of motivation and effort to do. So if you’re ‘supposed to’ lift or get in a training run or (fill in the blank) that day, but it is the LAST thing you want to do, maybe substituting the form of exercise you like the most for that day is the best idea.
Love Zumba? Do it. Love working your legs? Do it. Love playing ‘Just Dance’? Do it. Love taking a walk? Do it.
If it’s the difference between doing something or not doing anything, do the thing that’s the most tolerable and palatable for you on THAT DAY. Something you do with gusto is going to beat anything you do half-heartedly and definitely going to beat doing nothing at all.
When times are tough, make working out easy. As in easy for you to do.
There will always be challenging times; learn to find creative solutions.
Make a list of them and stick them somewhere visible and meaningful (bathroom mirror, near your desk, on the fridge).
Have your solutions ever-present in the back of your mind and you’ll have a lifetime of successes ahead of you.
And if you’re interested in done-for-you, do-practically-anywhere workouts, sign up for my email newsletter–a brand new workout with video demonstration goes out to all the people on my list every Wednesday!
Remember: stay stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods!