McMillan: Tight on time but still want workout results?




One thing we’ve heard from many clients is how busy they are. In fact, it’s the number one reason someone won’t start or will stop an exercise program. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in a day to get everything done!

Fortunately, that’s exactly what we specialize in — helping really busy people commit to their health and fitness so they can look and feel their best.

Stay tuned next week, because I am launching the “Lean in 2013” workout series that will only take 30 minutes per day, three days per week. I don’t care how busy you are, anyone can make that commitment to their health and fitness. If you need convincing remember this … make the time for exercise now, or you will be forced to make the time for illness later. And your health is your number one asset, so no excuses.

So here are some quick and easy tips to help maximize your time while maximizing your health and fitness:

Move your body: Focus on increasing your overall activity more throughout the day. If we all just took the stairs more than the elevator, parked further from our destination and walked to do errands, we wouldn’t have to spend hours in the gym.

Avoid distractions: We can’t tell you how many times we see gym-goers zoning out while watching TV or reading a magazine. If you want to maximize your workouts, put away the books, magazines and distractions while working out so you can focus on what you’re doing and get in and out of the gym more quickly.

Go for intensity: When you don’t have a ton of time, replace long duration and easy intensity cardio with short and hard interval training. You can accomplish the same workload in a shorter period of time.

Use your whole body: When you’re strapped for time, start combining muscle conditioning movements. For example, instead of doing one set of squats and then one set of overhead shoulder presses, try doing a squat with an overhead shoulder press. Or, instead of a separate set of lunges and bicep curls, do them at the same time. You’ll save a ton of time.

Less rest: Sequence your exercises so you don’t need any rest periods. So for example, instead of doing 3 sets of bench press with a minute rest between, try doing your core training between your bench press sets. Or, perform lower body and upper body exercises back-to-back with no rest in between.

Less reps: Instead of doing high-endurance muscle conditioning, which takes longer, increase your weight load and keep your repetitions between 8 and 12.

Have a plan: One of the biggest time-wasters is not really knowing exactly what you’re going to do, so you find yourself just wandering through the gym seeing whatever equipment is available. If you want to be efficient and effective, know exactly what you’re going to do and stay focused. That’s why personal training is so popular: you don’t have to worry about anything. Just show up and the workouts are ready to go.

Manage your chit-chat: It’s good to have friends to work out with, because it helps with adherence. But if you notice half of your time is spent gossiping, you’ll get a lot more done in a shorter period of time if you keep the conversations short.

Early morning workouts: Really busy people have a much better time adhering to a workout program if they do it first thing in the morning — before other responsibilities get in the way.

Quality time with others: Schedule workouts and active adventures with friends and family so you can get in your workout while spending quality time with your loved ones — it’s positive multi-tasking.

Too busy is not an excuse! Exercise will actually give you more energy so you can be more productive. Instead of exercise taking up too much time, it will actually give you more time and energy. And we could all use a little of both.

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at or