I stay so busy that I never seem to find enough time for normal physical activities and even less for fitness training or fun social pursuits like casual sports competitions, group hiking, camping and water-based pursuits. Sitting behind a desk and connecting almost 24/7 with friends, business associates and customers were taking a toll on my health, weight and appearance.
Just three years ago, I was the most valuable player in my local AAU baseball team. I received a promotion at work to management that involves sitting at a desk and taking on more responsibilities. I began putting on weight until I was forty pounds heavier than my MVP weight.
Weight gain and loss of muscle are hard to notice when they gradually creep up on you, but I really noticed when I was picked last in a pick-up game during a holiday gathering of office staff. I was humiliated and became even more alarmed after getting a routine exam from my family doctor.
My blood pressure and cholesterol were at dangerous levels, and I wanted to feel the way I did three years ago.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to train as hard as you did in high school or college to get in shape. You don’t have to qualify for the Olympics or beat anyone’s strength and endurance to get in better shape, even if you only spend 20 minutes a day for exercise.
Making Health and Fitness Mandatory
Only you can make concerns about health and fitness essential parts of your lifestyle, but you can get in shape if you choose to do so, regardless of how busy your life is. At first, I wondered whether I could find the time, but I found that making exercise an integral and scheduled part of my routine ensured that I followed through on my obligations.
I’m a bit OCD, by the way, and always complete my to-do lists religiously. By scheduling my fitness sessions a week in advance, I was forced to keep or reschedule each session.
So what is a good fitness plan for someone who is extremely busy? First, you should realize that everybody is different and that no single plan will work for everyone without making adjustments. I found the time by making time in my schedule, and now I’m so close to my original goal that I’ve probably already reached my MVP weight target by the time you read this post.
If your goal seems overwhelming, break it down into manageable levels to keep from getting discouraged. Your goals can be revised, based on how fast you’re getting in shape. I’ve long since revised my ideal-weight goal lower to promote good health while working in a sedentary job.
Food and Nutrition
Before we begin discussing exercises for busy men, I need to mention nutrition. Unfortunately, sugars, fats, starches and calorie-laden foods tend to make people lazy and cause them to gain weight. Changing your diet is the first step to motivate you to exercise regularly.
Good nutrition supports physical activity, and exercise helps you to cut down on eating fatty, unhealthy foods. You can even get some exercise in the kitchen by chopping fresh vegetables and preparing healthier meals.
A progressive approach to nutrition involves gradually incorporating healthy foods into your diet. As you become more fit, you’ll find it easier to cut back on the salty snacks, fatty foods and sugary treats.
Exercise and good nutrition support each other to help you break the cycle of sticking to sedentary habits, eating fattening foods and snacking too often.
Creative Scheduling and Multitasking Tips for Finding the Time to Exercise
Don’t make the amateur mistake of trying to cram all your workouts into Sundays or other days when you have time off from work. Rest is just as important as exercise to ensuring good health and keeping you motivated to earn your reward of relaxation.
You can, however, exercise while doing other things or use short breaks in your schedule to work in five minutes of physical activity.
Example of creative scheduling and multitasking with exercise include:
• Using short breaks for resistance training, using a treadmill or running on in a nearby park
• Walking outdoors with a friend to combine spending quality time with people and getting exercise
• Exercising while catching up on the news or favorite television broadcasts
• Planning your exercise and exercising your plan
• Limiting time spent surfing the Internet or flipping through cable TV channels
• Delegating tasks that don’t require you to perform them
• Socializing while commuting to clear more time for exercising
• Ditching your car and riding a bike, walking or jogging to accomplish routine errands
• Relying less on automatic devices and remote controls so that you stay more active
• Cutting back on media, such as spending time on Facebook, playing video games and watching tv
• Getting up earlier to help you sleep better at night while providing a little extra time for staying fit
• Combining your recreational and work reading with exercise
• Walking or jogging while waiting for kids or attending their games
• Climbing stairs instead of using the elevator
• Taking care of household chores like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow
• Finding a coach, cheerleader or workout buddy to keep you motivated
• Staying active while supervising children by taking part in their games, pushing a wagon or jogging while they ride their tricycles or bikes
Simple methods of multitasking and creative scheduling can easily provide enough time to exercise for 20–30 minutes each day. You’ll feel better, look better and become healthier by incorporating exercise into your daily schedule. You’ll also reduce the stress that high-powered work and social obligations generate.
Best Exercises for Busy Men
Exercising in microsessions usually won’t make you sweaty or unpresentable when you work in an air-conditioned office. You can incorporate hard sets of 12 or fewer repetitions while on a coffee break or between appointments. If you need to return phone calls, walk around the block while chatting with family, friends and business associates.
These sessions won’t wear you out, but they will keep you fit.
Include as many full-body-movement exercises as possible to decrease the time you need to stay in shape. Bodyweight training is an ideal solution because you can train anywhere in real-world situations by moving in sagittal, frontal and transverse directions.
As you become more fit and further at ease, you can add weights to your routines. Remember that your real goal when exercising is to fail by pushing yourself to the limit.
Effective exercises and fitness habits for busy men include:
• Using available resources for exercising, such as books and your own body’s weight in place of weights and chairs, stairs, nearby greenways and parking lots in place of gyms and equipment
• Trying high-intensity interval workouts to get fit in less time
• Starting small and gradually increasing repetitions
• Performing push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups
• Doing plank exercises utilizing a chair
• Completing tricep extensions from a wall
• Simulating rowing motions by using brooms, poles or baseball parts
• Executing lunges and squats with or without weights, no matter where you are
Sample Fitness Plan for One Week
I recommend sticking to a 20-minute exercise routine on Mondays through Saturdays and resting on Sundays. However, you can still take walks, play sports and indulge your favorite forms of recreation on your idle day.
You can also change your resting day to match your work schedule, and the sample plan I’m providing below can easily be adjusted to match your goals, lifestyle and fitness level.
Monday: Work Your Upper Body
Three of the best workouts for the upper body are the classic sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups. All you need for pull-ups is a bar, and sit-ups and push-ups can be done anywhere. You can also work the upper body with impromptu weights or easy-to-carry resistance bands.
• Diamond Push-Ups
Doing push-ups correctly is more difficult than you’d expect. Form is everything, and regular push-ups involve keeping your arms shoulder-length apart and your back straight.
Diamond push-ups involve keeping your hands close to the body with your fingers spread on the floor. Your index fingers and thumbs should touch their counterparts and form a diamond shape on the floor. These push-ups are more difficult than regular push-ups.
• Plank Exercises
Good for upper body and core workouts, plank exercises are variations of push-ups where you hold your position to imitate an angled plank. The exercise provides a powerful isometric workout that strengthens the core.
Start by kneeling on the floor with your hand extended in push-up position. Lift your knees, and extend your feet until your body becomes straight while resting on your hands and toes. Hold the position for a few seconds or up to two minutes. Be careful to keep your stomach from sagging and your back from arching.
Tuesday: Exercise Your Core
Core exercises include crunches, lunges, plank exercises, reverse crunches, flutter kicks, segmental rotations, knee-ins, torso twists, aerobics and bodyweight exercises that include movements in all directions to strengthen your core and improve balance.
Plyometric push-ups involve doing a standard push-up and then exploding off the floor and hanging for up to 10 seconds. You can always use your body’s weight for effective exercises that stabilize and strengthen your torso. Some basic descriptions of simple core exercises are:
Quick series of movements in various directions lengthen muscles, increase blood flow and warm you up for other exercises. You can do forward lunges, backward lunges and lateral lunges. Do between 8 and 12 reps for each set.
These exercises come in many varieties and work like sit-ups, but you only raise your back partially off the floor and hold the position for a few seconds. This process exercises abdominal muscles without getting help from the hip muscles.
You can keep your legs flat on the floor or raise your knees to a 90-degree angle. Cross your arms over the chest to prevent using your arms to help you raise your upper body. You can also intensify the routine by bringing each bent leg toward your torso.
• Chair Dips
These exercises work the triceps, legs and arms and provide exceptional workouts for the core. You begin by standing in front of a chair as though you were preparing to sit down in an imaginary chair that’s directly in front of the real chair.
Sit on the real chair’s edge with your hands on the chair behind your hips. Lift your torso off the chair while walking your feet forward. You can vary this exercise by lowering your buttocks to the floor and alternately extending one leg while you dip.
Wednesday: Workouts for the Lower Body
Squats, leg deadlifts while holding weights, leg extensions, dumbbell lunges, standing leg curls, seated leg lifts and Bulgarian split squats are good exercises for strengthening the legs. Walking, jogging, running and cycling are also effective exercises.
You can run around the neighborhood, use a treadmill if one’s available or run-in-place to get ensure you’re getting enough exercise. Climbing stairs is a great way to exercise your legs, and most men have access to stairs at work. Some simple lower body exercises that don’t require equipment include:
• Squats and Squat Jumps
Regular squats provide powerful exercise for your legs, feet and hips, and you can perform these routines in countless ways by holding weights, using one leg and varying the distance between your legs.
Squat jumps begin as a regular squat, but instead of rising slowly, you explode off the floor in a jump while reaching as high as possible with your arms. The secret to getting potent results from the exercise is keeping your feet flat when jumping.
• Scissors Box Jumps
Place one foot on a bench, platform or sturdy piece of furniture and the other leg on the floor with your knee slightly bent. Jump up suddenly, and switch leg positions in the air like a pair of scissors. Hold the reversed starting position for one second before repeating the exercise with the other leg.
• Leg Raises
Lie on the floor on your back with your arms out to the side. Keep one leg bent with the sole of your foot on the floor and the other leg straight. Lift the straight leg until it’s as high as your knee, and pause before lowering it. Alternate legs after several repetitions.
• Squat Thrusts and Burpees
You probably remember squat thrusts from school. You start the exercise in the standing position, squat and put your hands on the floor and then jump backwards into the push-up position. You can jump back once or several times before returning to the standing position to complete one exercise.
Repeat as often as desired to complete one set.
Burpees are similar to squat thrusts but more challenging because you lower your chest to the floor from the extended position as if you were doing a push-up. However, you can let your knees fall to the floor, so it’s not a true push-up. You immediately jump to standing position, and most people clap to punctuate completing the exercise.
Thursday: More Upper Body Work
You can return to your Monday routine or try something different. You can vary exercises by increasing repetitions, speeding completion times and changing your grips to include overhand, underhand and neutral grips. Variations on lifting weights and exercising the upper body include:
• Spiderman push-ups
• Chair dips
• Declined chair push-ups
• Diamond push-ups
• Feet-elevated push-ups
• Exercises while wearing a weighted vest
Friday: Work the Core Again
Using a fitness app is a good way to get coaching anywhere and anytime. Your core exercises can be varied by increasing repetitions or adding weights to Tuesday’s exercises. You can vary the standard crunches with bird-dog crunches, standing bicycle crunches and modified bicycle crunches.
Plank exercises include endless variations by resting on your forearms, doing them sideways and raising one leg while holding your position.
Saturday: Work Your Lower Body
Lower body variations include increasing your reps or speed, holding weights while exercising and trying different routines, such as Bulgarian split squats and wall sits or just riding a bike. You can use your Wednesday workout, change your set order and vary doing exercises with and without weights.
Sunday: Rest, Relax and Give Your Body Time to Build Muscles
It doesn’t matter how busy you are—you can stay healthy and get in the best shape ever by using your time wisely. Drop the fat, strengthen your core and even body-sculpt your physique by staying more active and exercising on a planned schedule.
So what is a good fitness plan for someone who is extremely busy? It’s any plan that gets you some much-needed exercise and physical activity to mitigate the effects of hectic lifestyles that don’t provide much time for working out at the gym.