As a Personal Trainer in London I spend about 10% of my time training ‘athletes’ and about 90% of my time training regular people who are also holding down demanding jobs and have numerous commitments to distract them away from their fitness training routine. Sound familiar?
Whilst we would all love to be able to spend the amount of time a professional athlete would on their training the facts are that we often only have limited time to dedicate towards our fitness goals among a plethora of other non-fitness related priorities to keep in check. My job is to help people to keep those fitness goals firmly in check, and to do so I have developed a few essential hacks over the years to ensure heightened training efficiency and lifestyle optimisation ‘on the go’!
1. Don’t know how to maximise the little time you have to train? Roll all your training into one (ok this is a biggie so its first up on the list!)
When you actually find an hour to train it has to be efficient but where to start with so many areas to work on? Split your training session into 3 sections to maximise time and cover all those bases.
- For the first segment you obviously want to start at a low intensity so focus on your prep/prehab/corrective (whatever you want to call them) exercises instead of a simple (non time efficient) cardio warm up. Common areas that I see people developing niggles often include tight necks and shoulders or tight hip flexors and lower backs, etc, so keep on top of problem areas with suitable corrective exercises. If in doubt get educated with some quality coaching advice, it just might save you hours of aimless training time and vastly improve your training efficiency.
- Build the intensity up slowly towards the middle third of the session in which you focus on your main ‘working sets’ of the day – these will often be your resistance exercises such as bench press, squat, etc.
- Use the final 3rd to focus on your conditioning – this is often where you ‘build your engine’ and increase your aerobic threshold through a series of higher intensity athletic body weight movements such as squat jumps, mountain climbers and burpees and/or work the rower, treadmill, etc.
- End result is a pretty complete session in which you have taken care of your corrective movements, developed your strength and technique in your working sets before building your cardio and aerobic engine to finish. Boom!
2. Not even got enough time for the gym? If you can’t train as often as 3-5 times a week you need to focus on the 2 other pillars of health – sleep and nutrition.
Emphasising the small day to day details of your health instead of letting everything tumble out of control can really make the difference in the long run. Drink your quota of water a day and get your 7-8 hours sleep!
3. Struggling to control the quality of your meals? Simply put, if you’re training less often you need to eat better…sourcing plenty of healthy nutrients whilst avoiding excess amounts of empty calories that you’ll never burn off is essential if you want to stay lean and healthy.
‘Food prep’ can be stressful and is more appealing to macro counting body builders than us regular folk, SO, instead simply cook double portions at supper and use the left overs for breakfast – e.g. if you’re looking to lean-up go for a protein, quality fats and fibrous veg breakfast. Basically the same as supper, non-conventional but gets you closer to your fitness goals than cereal, toast and orange juice ever will!
4. So you’ve found time for one big training session and you really want to make it count! Train your 3 compound (full body) movements in equal measure and cover your cardio base too in a simple circuit format.
Sure in an ideal world you may wish to split training sessions into individual muscle groups (depending on your goals) but if you are short of time then it’s a good idea to positively affect the body as a whole. So work your upper body push, upper body pull, leg press movements AND cardio all in one session.
Perform the following as a circuit:
- A) Chest Press B) Leg press C) Lat pull down D) 4 mins cardio at 75% effort.
Then 2 minutes rest
Repeat for 4 rounds total.
As you progress you can elaborate on each movement accordingly.
5. Be happy and therefore perform better (more training efficiency!).
As a generalisation happy athletes tend to perform better and stay injury free because of the hormone balances they enjoy whilst in a stress-free state. If you suspect that you are stressed then take some time away from your training to implement some mindfulness and wellbeing techniques. Your training will benefit and you’ll be busting out tip top express sessions in record time! There are some useful apps out there, such as Headspace, that can help you obtain a good level of wellbeing amongst the hectic nature of today’s busy world. * Athletes also perform better in sunny climates as their serotonin levels soar with plenty of Vit D around so as winter draws in get yourself a quality Vit D3 supplement to stay on top of your game.
6. Avoid injury. Being ‘out of action’ means your training efficiency massively suffers and while injuries can be a fact of life reducing their frequency and likelihood is a must for your training and lifestyle goals.
Embark upon a balanced training programme that doesn’t focus on hammering a few body parts only, if you’re looking to improve pectoral size for instance, make sure you are still rotating your programme around the body to share the workout load and allow joints and tendons enough time to recover. You can also focus on improving your total body biomechanics with this approach.
7. Planning and mindset – develop a mindset that prioritises training and healthy habits, if only for the small windows of opportunity, rather than looks for an excuse or a way out.
Remember that your mind is complicit in how favourably you view anything in life – it’s amazing what can be achieved with an all embracing positive mindset. There are plenty of amazing books and apps out there to help with planning, it is an ongoing process but oh so worth it!
8. Morning metabolic boost – I have saved the best ‘time poor hack’ for last!
If you’re going through a particularly hectic patch and work has completely taken over your life then how appealing does burning fat whilst sitting at your desk sound? Pretty darn appealing right. In that case a quick 10 minute HIIT morning routine to boost your metabolism for the rest of the day could be the answer.
Simply try this 10-minute workout at the start of the day before heading up and off to boss your working day;
- Slow squats (squeezing glutes during the upwards movement, tightening core, focus on form) x 20, B) Reverse lunges, alternating legs (for extra postural benefit extend the shoulder and raise arm on the same side as the rear leg) x 10 each leg C) Press ups, slow and steady (engaging scapula, tightening core) x 20 D) Mountain climbers, blitzing for 20 seconds E) High knees, blitzing for 20 seconds.
Then catch your breath for 30 seconds and repeat until your 10 minutes is up…a challenging but effective way to start your day!