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How to Get into Shape on a Tight Schedule

Updated on October 15, 2011

We all want to be healthier, to exercise more, to get in better shape, to take care of ourselves so we can feel better, be happier, and live longer. But a lot of us also have lives! We have jobs, friends, pets, car repairs, houses, bills, chores, kids! How are we supposed to find time for exercise and live up to the expectations put out there by all these fitness gurus and health professionals? According to them, we should work out every day for an hour or more.

But what about those of us that don’t have that kind of time? It may not seem like a lot “on paper”, but when you’ve got 2 little kids, 2 dogs, 2 cars, a house, a demanding job, and local family events, finding 5 MINUTES is a challenge!

So, what are we supposed to do if we can’t possibly live up to that? If we can’t put in enough time to do it right, what’s the point? Why waste the time? Well, not many of those experts have much to say about that. So, what can we do? I guess... Don’t bother.

No. This is important.

Even something is better than nothing. ...right?


The truth is, I used to feel that way. And I didn’t bother for a long time because I had so little time. But after a year of life leading me by the nose and not exercising at all , it was starting to get to me. At one point, I finally decided that I was going to find even the smallest amount of time to exercise, even if it was just barely enough to get warmed up!

So, that’s what I did.

The first thing I decided to do was to make it part of the routine. Since showers during the week were already part of the routine, the easiest thing to do was to jump on our elliptical machine for 10 to 15 minutes before a shower 2 to 3 times each week, after the kids go to bed. Sure, this kind of a workout schedule is nothing in the eyes of a trainer, but it was better than doing nothing.

This was enough to get me started. It wasn’t hard to get motivated, because there wasn’t much to get motivated for; it was only a 10 minute warm-up. And it was easy to fit into the routine because it was so little time.

This was really easy to stick with, because it was so easy, and because even with that small amount of exercise, I felt so much better physically!

This was how it got started. Over time, I gradually increased the time of my “warm ups”. After a few weeks, I was at a solid 15 minutes. A few more weeks, and I was up to 20 minutes.

Keeping at It

It’s been about a year now, and I’m up to 35 minutes 2 times each week. A trainer might laugh in my face, and I wasn’t sure what to expect in the long run. But, it’s actually working! I am actually getting in better shape. I’m able to do more in my workouts. I’m starting to look better! I’m more confident.

Sure, I would be in a lot better shape if I had had the time to put in the “recommended” amount of exercise each day/week. The progress is slow. But it’s progress, nonetheless. And if I had tried to do more in the beginning, it would have been too much, life would have taken over, and I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with it. The only way this succeeded was by making iteasy and doing it gradually.

An Easy Fitness Plan

Find 10 minutes a couple of days of your weekly routine - that’s it. 10 minutes. It’s a starting point. All you are trying to do in the beginning is warm up.

Start Small

Find 10 minutes a couple of days of your weekly routine - that’s it. 10 minutes. It’s a starting point. All you are trying to do in the beginning is warm up.

Don’t Pressure Yourself

Shoot for 3 times a week, be good with 2, accept 1 occasionally - this is a no-pressure approach, so twice each week on average will get us there. And it should be doable, because it’s a total of only 20 minutes.

Work Out at Home

Have a way to do it at home. The gym is too time consuming. We’re starting out at 10 minutes. Just the drive there and back will probably be twice that. I’ve heard people say that home is too distracting. If there are too many distractions to get through 10 minutes, then you need to change something in your plan.

Design your Workout

Think about the kinds of exercises you LIKE to do, and create a workout that includes them. Don’t try to come up with the perfect workout; you’ll be changing it over time anyway, so there’s no sense in wasting your time. Also, there’s no need to do the same workout every time. In fact, it’s better for you to have variety in your fitness routine.

Do it to Feel Good, Not to Look Good

Let’s be honest, you’re not going to be getting ripped with this approach for quite some time. But you will feel good about yourself early on, and that good feeling will last.

Gradually Increase the Duration Over Time

After a few weeks of 10 minute warm-ups, you will eventually start to feel that it’s not enough. You’ll have an “itch” to do more. That’s a good time to add 5 minutes to the routine. This will keep happening, and in a few more weeks you will be up to 20 minutes. Then 30 minutes, then 40! I stopped at 35, because it’s enough time to do what I want to do, and it’s the most time I can take out of my schedule without it creating stress. This will probably be different for everyone, but what’s important is to avoid overdoing it, and creating a situation where taking the time to do it becomes a struggle.

Be Patient

This should be easy to keep up with if you’re doing this to feel good, because that should happen early on. Over time, it will also start to show. You will start to look better. You will start to see the payoff in the mirror. It might take 6 months, a year, or more. But it will happen if you stick to the routine

Good Luck!

Doing this with other small changes to your diet can make a real difference over time.


I am not a medical professional. Do not start any exercise program unless your physical condition can support it. You should check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.


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