Let's start with a side note. I thought I'd take a break for one week. But that slowly rolled into a month. And funnily, instead of having more things to write about, I actually hit a slump. Going back to lessons learned (and relearned) - the more I write, the easier it gets. And the same thing applies to most things - the better I eat, the better I continue to eat. And going to the gym as well. So, as always, let's begin again.
Until last year, I used to train 5-6 days a week. And each training session would be anywhere from 45-75 minutes long. I had no issues in finding the time or motivation to train. But in the past 6 months, I've not had the luxury to continue that pattern. So, I thought I'd share what and how I solve my problem - how can you work on your fitness with minimum/unpredictable time available?
The first thing I had to shift was my mindset. Previously, if I didn't spend an hour at the gym, I'd look at my training session as a half-assed one. I would second guess it - did I do enough work? But with the reduced time available, two things happened.
One is, the quality of work done. This meant pruning any/all extraneous stuff and focusing only on those giving me maximum returns. I don't mean skipping the warmup or any such thing. But fine-tuning the warmup to ensure I got exactly what I wanted out of it, rather than doing 25 things. For me, that meant:
- ankle mobilisation
- hip mobilisation
- Original Strength resets
- breathwork + core
And ensuring every rep in the training session is done with the highest possible mental focus. Previously, in an hour, I'd zone out for a bit. I'd definitely do average reps. And in a set, I'd say about 50% of my reps would be average. Not that they'd be bad technique but just going through the motions. But now, the shift is to be mentally and physically 100% present. Given that the amount of time spent training is much shorter, I can do this.
Two, 20-minute blocks. My body prep routine is 20 minutes. My stretching routine is 20 minutes. My "main" routine is 20 minutes. I know, that seems excessive and it totals to 1 hour. But I don't manage to do all of them daily.
In fact, most mornings, I have time to do my prep routine only. And so, I aim to make time most evenings to do my stretching routine. If I have the luxury of an extra 20 minutes in the morning, I do my main routine. Which is a total misnomer. I am used to resistance training being my main routine and so I call it that. But in my actual list of priorities, it is the third (out of three.)
Twenty-minute blocks give me the freedom to do my work whenever I have a window available. My 20-minute routine is inscribed in stone, so I don't spend an extra second thinking about what I am going to do. I just start and do.
Third, being clear about my goal for the year. My goal is to become bulletproof. My strength is my ability to stick to a training plan for a long time. To stay patient. And I know that's all I need to get my strength, endurance, and power where I'd like them to be.
But my biggest gap is my movement quality/mobility/vitality/grace. And that's what I'd like to work on. This will explain why I ensure I do my warmup and stretching daily. Both are built around my personal goal of becoming bulletproof.
So, that's my context.
Let's talk about you.
First, your mindset. Acknowledge that you have a time crunch. Your goal is not to achieve crazy, insane things at the gym. But your win is to go to the gym consistently. Your goal is to look good and feel good. Your goal is to get some physical activity in regularly. You can set higher targets later when your time constraints are relaxed.
Second, your goals. Be clear about them. And don't set stupid ones.
Third, your plan. I'd recommend having blocks of 15-20 minute blocks and prioritising them. If you have only 20 minutes, you will do the first priority. If you have a second 20 minutes that day, you will do Priority #1 and Priority #2. If you have a third 20 minutes, you will do all 3. You will not have more than 3 blocks. You will not try to balance them or any such thing.
You are not sleeping enough. You are not stretching enough. You are sitting a lot more than you'd like. All of this means you should not be trying to do anything crazy at the gym. And that you need to work on your joint health and movement. So, your first block should be something that allows you to feel better and move better.
Option 1: 20 minutes of Surya namaskaram
Option 2: 20 minutes of OS Resets.
Option 3: 10 minutes of OS Resets + 10 minutes of Surya namaskaram.
- 2 minutes/side doing a glute stretch
- 2 minutes/side doing a quad stretch
- 3 minutes/side doing the QL straddle.
- 3 minutes/side doing a L-sit + child's pose.
Basically, get into a L-sit.
Then, reach forward over one knee.
Aim to keep both shoulders even.
Every 5 breaths, walk your fingers a bit towards the other knee.
Over 5 steps, get to the other knee.
This can be whatever you'd like. Go crazy!
For example, a 20-minute HIIT session. Or some weights.
- Go running/sprinting. Sprint for 30 seconds, and walk for 90 seconds. Repeat for a maximum of 10 times.
- Do some kettlebell ballistics. Do swings for 30 seconds. Rest for 30-90 seconds. Repeat until the timer goes for 20 minutes.
- Do some 30-on-30-off for 20 rounds of any 2-4 move circuit. A simple circuit of squats, pushups, swings, and rows is perfect.
- Lift some weights - a couple of sets of squats/deadlifts, pushups and pullups and you are good to go.
To close it out
Remember, this is NOT the time to set records at the gym.
It is fine to miss a session.
But you will find that you always have 20 minutes in a day.
And the less time you spend thinking, the better. Start with Priority #1. That's a win!
The less time you spend thinking/deciding, the better.
The simpler goals you keep, the better.
Show up. Do the work!
When your schedule clears up, you will have set an amazing foundation for success.
Let me know what you think.