But putting fitness at the bottom of your to do list isn't doing you any good. When it comes to physical activity, consistency is key and, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, being active can add up to five years to your life by improving sleep quality, reducing stress and even fostering a stronger sense of social connectedness.
With all of these benefits, how can you afford to miss the gym? Toss aside the excuse of a busy schedule and make the most of the time you have by following these tips to get in, out and on with your day.
1. Set a plan of attack.1 of 8
The first step towards being productive is walking in with a plan. Instead of just bring along your water bottle and good intentions, pack a program you can actually sink your teeth into.
We're not suggesting you go all-out and train seven days a week, but setting a concrete goal—training for a 5K, working on flexibility or simply spending less time on the couch and more time being active—is essential. Trying out healthy actions and turning them into habits is key. Set weekly goals and guidelines, and answer a few key questions: How often do you plan on working out? How long will your workouts last? When in the day will you train?
Whether you're planning to hit the gym three days a week for 45 minutes or run through a bodyweight circuit twice a week in your living room, committing to your plan and staying on schedule is essential.
2. Do a dynamic warm-up.2 of 8
A quick trip to the gym might leave you wanting to cut corners, but skipping out on a warm-up would be a mistake. Warming up is essential to engaging the muscles you're going to train before getting into the meat of your workout.
Not only does a good warm-up get your blood flowing, but a good dynamic warm-up—where you move as you stretch, as opposed to just holding static poses— helps you limber up and improve your range of motion. It also helps to improve body awareness by forcing you to work on balance and coordination.
Skipping out on a warm-up might shave a few minutes off one workout, but it can put you at an increased risk for injury and sideline your workouts completely.
3. Choose music that matches your tempo.3 of 8
We all know that upbeat music can raise spirits, but it turns out that listening to songs with the right tempo can actually lead to a better workout.
A study among stationary cyclists found a direct correlation between fast-paced music and athletic performance, with subjects producing more power behind the pedal, increasing their cadence and covering more miles when the songs were upbeat.
So what music will help you work harder and keep pushing, even when you're feeling exhausted? Fill your playlist with songs that fall within the sweet spot of 120 to 140 beats per minute.
4. Focus on compound movements.4 of 8
Compound movements use multiple joints at once and recruit more muscle groups per exercise. In other words, they're a great way to get the most bang for your buck.
If you're short on time, exercises like the bench press (which engages both shoulder and elbow joints and works the chest, shoulders and triceps) and the squat (which engages your entire lower body, while also involving your core) are smarter choices than curls.
With compound exercises, you'll be able to increase your size and strength more effectively and in a shorter amount of time. Best of all, the gains you make will translate well outside of the gym since they mirror everyday functional movements like kneeling down to lift a bag of groceries.
5. Implement supersets.5 of 8
Back-to-back exercises with short rest periods spell big results with a small time commitment. Enter supersets, a great timesaving technique where two sets of exercises are performed directly after each other without rest. Supersets usually target opposing muscle groups, like biceps and triceps or chest and back if you're training upper body, and they only allow for rest once both sets are complete.
Not only will you shave time off your workout with this technique, but elevating your heart rate for twice as long before resting will help you burn fat faster. Just keep in mind you might want to lower the weight you use with this demanding technique.
6. Practice HIIT for cardio.6 of 8
Aside from your warm-up, there's no need to spend time moseying around on the treadmill or casually peddling away on the stationary bike while watching the latest Netflix original. Having a plan set in place to tackle your cardio session is key to getting the most out of your workout.
Instead of simply counting down the minutes until you can hop off the band, maximize your calorie-burning potential with a strong bout of high intensity interval training or HIIT workouts, which alternate periods of short, intense bursts of activity with fixed times to wind down.
HIIT will do more than just cut down on your boredom and free up your schedule. Just one minute of high intensity work has been shown to boost endurance. Not only will you burn more calories during your workout, you'll burn more calories for about two hours after due to EPOC, or exercise post oxygen consumption. Cutting down on boredom and burning more fat: win-win.
Interested in HIIT workouts? Check out the free ACTIVEx app.
7. Track your progress.7 of 8
How can you streamline your training if you don't know what your weaknesses are? You can't. Knowing what weights you started with will let you know what set of dumbbells to pull off the rack the following week, knowing what rep scheme you hit last week will give you a strong idea of what to aim for before you even sit on the bench and knowing what movements you struggled with during week one will tell you what steps to take to insure you've improved by week five.
Tracking your progress minimizes time wasted because it gives you a roadmap of exactly what to do before you even enter the gym.