how to fit workouts around a busy schedule

Moment of truth. Are you one of those people who says they’re always too busy to exercise?

One of the biggest barriers to exercise is time. Nowadays, everyone always seems to be too busy.

And it’s not our fault.

Society tells us that we need to always be going, going, going. Thank goodness self-care has now entered the spotlight.

Life is so overwhelming sometimes. Every day you need to go to work, look put-together, take care of your dependents (children, furry-children, possibly other family members, or all three), eat healthy and home-cooked meals, run errands, clean the house, pay the bills, exercise, and sleep – if you even can sleep with all of this on your mind!

It’s no wonder anxiety and depression are on the rise. It’s also no wonder why people turn to sugary snacks for comfort and swap exercise for rest.

Life is hard. I get it. I’m living it too. But you know one of the ways I cope?

I exercise.

Exercise does wonders for your energy, your self-esteem, your health, and your sleep. Often when I feel the worst is when a workout will benefit me most.

So you might be thinking, “Yeah that’s great, Cedar, but how do I actually manage it?”

And that’s a very valid question! When facing a long to-do list, there ARE ways you can squeeze in a bit of exercise. And for your energy, your health, and your sanity – you should truly make it a priority.

Keep reading for my tips and tricks!

1. Identify the best time of day

First, take a good, long look at your schedule. When do you have the most free time? Most working individuals have 4 options:

  1. Work out before work
  2. Work out during work
  3. Work out right after work
  4. Work out late at night

We’re looking at your day-to-day schedule. I’m not in the business of making weekend warriors, not unless you want to get injured and just not get much at all from your exercise.

There will be challenges associated with each of these times. Regardless of which one you choose, prepare for those barriers!

Before work

If you opt to exercise before work, you may have to wake up earlier.

And if you’re not an early bird, this may not be a good option for you.

For instance, every morning I face a full-on battle getting out of bed. And if the first thing I had to look forward to was exercise? I’d NEVER get up. Ever.

So for me, the morning is really not a good option. Plus, I get up at 5:00am anyway for work and getting up at 4:00am sounds like the worst idea ever. But maybe that’s just me.

Anywho, if the morning actually does seem like a good time for you, make sure you allot yourself plenty of time. Prepare your clothes/gym bag/work things the night before so you’re not rushed and you don’t have to potentially cut your workout short from running late.

For some people, this time of day is a great option. You get your workout out of the way and can tackle your to-dos without exercise-preoccupation.

During work / commute

Depending on your job, this may or may not be an option. But I’ve known people who this has worked for.

Some options include walking during your lunch break, using a work gym, or biking to and from work. If you walk during your break, you’ll need either a convenient place indoors, a work gym treadmill, or a nice place outside and decent weather. Depending on where you live, outdoors may not be possible. You also have to exercise somewhere cool or have access to showers, as being the sweaty, smelly guy at the office isn’t exactly a fun M.O.

Being a lady who takes a considerable amount of time getting ready in the morning, this would not work for me.

RELATED POST: How to Quickly Freshen Up Post-Workout – Without a Shower!

After work

I’ve already covered some tips for post-work exercise in my Creating an Exercise Habit: 7 tips for working out after work post. If this is the best option for you (as it is for me), check it out!

Late at night

Others may only have time for exercise at night. If you have afternoon commitments or need to pick-up/care for your children after work, this would be an excellent time. Going to a gym, going on a walk/run, and using home exercise equipment are all good options.

For home workouts, consider using YouTube videos. My current favorite fitness YouTubers are Pamela Reif and Chloe Ting.

RELATED POST: Top YouTube Channels for Health and Wellness

2. Identify what you will do

Next, you’ll need to determine what your workouts will be. You may already have an exercise regimen, but even if you do, you need to pay attention to this next tip.

Whether you go somewhere (gym, workout class, etc.) or workout at home, make it something you’ll stick with. Meaning, make it something you enjoy. If your workout is a horrendous chore you face, you won’t stick with it. Period.

So experiment! Try a new class, follow along with a YouTube video, pick a realistic Pinterest workout and find your thing!

And continue to switch it up!

RELATED POST: Fun Ways to Change Up Your Workout Routine – Prevent Boredom and Plateauing!

Running outside after work

3. Make your workouts more convenient

Life can be so freaking inconvenient sometimes – so why make it harder on yourself?

Find a gym that’s on your commute home from work so you don’t have to go out of your way. Or better yet, use your gym at work or your home/apartment gym. Finding ways to save time on workout prep/travel will increase the time for your workout itself.

4. Make your workouts more efficient

Exercise doesn’t have to be extremely long to be beneficial. While I mention in The Basics of a Healthy Exercise Routine that you should strive for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week (300 minutes if you’re trying to lose weight), there are ways to make each exercise session more efficient and thus more beneficial.

For example, you can use compound strength training movements that quickly elevate your heart rate, allowing you to essentially combine cardio and strength training in one. Think of burpees, jumping lunges, and mountain climbers. When performed continuously, all of these get your heart pumping for aerobic benefit while also strengthening your muscles.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another great way to improve the efficiency of your workouts. It incorporates short bouts of vigorous exercise followed by an active recovery and has been shown to increase fat burn.

However, only perform HIIT once you have built a solid foundation of cardiovascular endurance.

RELATED POST: 30 Minute HIIT Bodyweight Workout Without Equipment

RELATED POST: Effective 30 Minute HIIT Running Workout Outside

5. Have a back-up plan

Make sure you have a plan B in case the day’s madness throws plan A out the door.

Overslept? Perform a 15 minute HIIT session and 10 minute ab workout that night after the kids are in bed. Can’t run outside due to weather (snow, rain, heat)? Use a YouTube video instead to get your heart pumping.

We have so many options when it comes to exercise. Just because you can’t get your usual workout in doesn’t mean an alternative is any less effective.

fitting exercise around a busy schedule

6. Workout while doing other things, even if unconventional

I once saw a video of a mom brushing her teeth while her baby was swaddled against her – and she was doing squats. She’s the real Superwoman!

Gotta get that workout in somehow – when in doubt, get creative!

It’s also a great option to exercise with your friends and family. Go on a walk around the neighborhood with your family after dinner. Take the kids on a hike. Go on biking day trips. Do mother-baby yoga.

There are so many ways to incorporate exercise into friend and family time; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

Fitting workouts in around a busy work schedule

The #1 thing to remember when it comes to exercise: being on your feet/walking around at work does NOT count as exercise. Not unless you’re a sponsored marathon runner or something – in which case, yeah sure, that definitely counts.

It’s probably my biggest cardiac rehab pet peeve when someone comes in and says, “Yes I exercised yesterday. I went grocery shopping and walked around the store.” OR “I was on my feet all day at work.”


Guys, come on. Why has our definition of exercise become so misunderstood?

The bottom line: you can’t be lazy about exercise. It takes work – that’s why it’s called a “workout.”

But it can be fun, and it is possible to fit around your busy schedule, 9-5ers included.

So take a moment, make a plan, and go get it! Your body and mind will thank you for it!

How to fit working out into schedule when too busy to exercise

Thanks for reading! 🙂 When do you prefer to work out and what’s your biggest workout struggle? Share in the comments!