Cutting down your fitness regime might just be the answer to improving your fitness, building muscle and burning fat, faster and more effectively! Here’s why…

Old-Fashioned Clock

A really common problem I often get asked about is how to “find the time” to get enough training in. I get told things like; “I tried following a program but I just didn’t have the time to spend a whole hour in the gym, 4 days a week, so I gave up”. Here’s the thing… a well put-together fitness regime that contains many different exercises and maximal volume, packed into 4 x 1-hour sessions per week, could very well be the optimum programme to achieve your goals in the quickest time, but guess what? Not if you don’t have that time!


Here’s the other thing though… the programme that will 100% ensure that you do achieve the goals it is designed for, is the one that you DO have the time for! The mistake that I often see being made here is a huge over-estimation of the minimum amount of work needed to improve. So, lets talk about why you might not need to be doing as much as you think, why doing something is almost always better than doing nothing and why doing less in some cases can actually be more effective then trying to do more! It’s all to do with the absolute, fundamental key principle of making improvements in physical fitness and it’s called the “overload principle”.


The overload principle can be defined as; Inducing physical adaptations that enable the body to function more efficiently, by exercising at an intensity higher than normal and manipulated using intensity level, exercise frequency and duration.


In simpler terms, doing an exercise harder, more often and/or for longer than you normally would, will stimulate your body to become better at doing it. Note that in neither of these definitions does it imply that the minimum amount of effort required to execute the overload principle is a 60-minute heavy, vigorous weight training session or 45 minutes of running as hard and fast as possible, for examples. It simply says “an intensity higher than normal”. It is not particularly “normal” within my day-to-day life, for me to do as many push-ups as I possibly can for 1-minute. Therefore, if I do as many push-ups as I possibly can for 1 minute, I am technically invoking the overload principle and I would expect my body to provide the appropriate adaptations to become more efficient at performing maximum push-ups in 1-minute. Voila! Overload principle applied and improvements in fitness expected to occur, from just 1 minute of exercise. Now if I perform this regularly enough to maintain and develop the improvements, say 2-3 times a week, I’ve just put together an effective push-up regime that takes me 2-3 minutes a week.


I hope it’s clear that I’m not suggesting that 2-3 minutes of exercise a week is all you need to achieve whatever your health and fitness goals might be! I’m simply reinforcing the fact, that enough stimulus to provide fitness benefit can be achieved in a very short space of time. Which means that if you are short on time, that doesn’t spell the end of being able to programme a manageable fitness regime into whatever time you can devote each week, and still make considerable improvements in fitness as a result if executed correctly.


You may even have to come to terms with the idea that you’re lifestyle simply may not allow you enough time to complete the optimum programme for your specific desires, within the time frames you’re hoping for, however, seeing some progress is undoubtedly better than none at all and most people would be very surprised by the level of improvement that it is possible to gain from a minimalist, time-friendly but intelligently crafted training schedule. It is important to remember also, that many people spending 60 minutes or more on their average training session are not particularly efficient with their time. The duration of actual exercise effort within the average gym session is probably around 30% of the total time spent in there by most gym goers. If you were able to switch that up from 30% to 80%, then the total time you’d actually be exercising during a 30-minute session would exceed the average 60-minute session by an extra 6 minutes! So that’s more of the overload principle applied in less than half the time!


A much better option is accepting how much time you DO have and constructing a programme around that availability, or at the very least implementing strategies to ensure you don’t completely miss a workout on those days when you’re short on time. A back-up plan such as a 20-minute bodyweight training session that could be done at home instead of the gym is a perfect example. I would even be willing to argue that I could easily programme a week’s worth of 20-minute home-training sessions with little or no equipment that would see better results than a week’s worth of 60+ minute sessions from the average gym lifter.


In summary, when it comes to the time you have available, more definitely doesn’t always mean more and even very short windows of time are opportunities for significant positive results. Giving up on training because you only have 10 or 15-minutes to spare is like not banking any savings unless you’ve got 10k spare, anything in your savings will earn interest but keeping the cash will give you nothing and over time all that interest adds up to more than whatever you had before! Work with the time you have, make your training sessions manageable and have back-up plans ready for when that time gets short – smart, simple, sustainable.


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