When I surveyed a number of athletes recently and asked them what their number one obstacle was to achieving their goal, many of the responses revolved around making time to train.
“My biggest obstacles are having sufficient time to train on the specifics of trail running and recovery, while prioritizing time with my family and various professional obligations.”
“I tend to let life/family obligations pull me away from pursuits. I suffer from inconsistency and scattered focus at times.”
“Lack of taking time for me because I do “my stuff” last so that it is often what does not get done”
“Just want to get better nutrition and consistency have a family and work full time”
“Not going as many times as I should (4-5-6x per week). Laziness, tiredness”
“deciding what NOT to do so that I can participate in my activity”
“Available time due to family and work commitments”
“Finding a consistent schedule”
“…ability to devote enough time”
If we were professional athletes time likely wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Unfortunately most of us are not getting paid to train and we have many other responsibilities that take up our time. When you have a family, a full time job, other hobbies and commitments, finding time to train can certainly be a problem. There are only 24 hours in the day, and unless someone figures out how to change that, we are going to have to live within that constraint so how can we fix this problem?
The first thing to do is take an inventory of all the responsibilities you have throughout the week.
The first thing to do is sit down and look at what you do in the average week. What we do might vary slightly from week to week, but in general we probably have a pretty consistent list of things we need to get done. Here is what my list looks like
- Get the kids dressed and ready to start the day
- Feed the kids breakfast
- Get the kids off to school
- Work – Software Engineer
- Work – Health Coach
- Cut the grass
- Take my daughter to dance
- Take my daughter to gymnastics
- Make dinner
- Food Shopping
- Family Time
Now that you have your list of what you need to get done, the next step is to plan your ideal week. Remember this is your ideal week, don’t worry about the “what ifs” at this point, just lay out your schedule if everything went the way you want.
There are lots of ways to plan your ideal week. You could draw it out on a piece of paper, or using something more formal like a spreadsheet, it is up to you. Personally, I like to use the Full Focus Planner which has an ideal week in it. I lay out my ideal week using the planner with the things I want and need to get done. Here is what that looks like.
Once your “must dos” are laid out in your ideal week, see where you can add in your training. Remember this is your ideal week, so fit in your ideal workout schedule based on the constraints on your time.
Now we have an ideal week’s worth of workouts, but what about real life?
We all know our ideal week is probably not going to happen every week, so what do you do when your ideal week is not possible?
What would you do if you were injured and couldn’t perform the exact exercise you wanted?
You modify of course!
The same goes with your training schedule. If there are additional constraints on your time like new work meetings, family events, or unforeseen work tasks you will need to modify your schedule in some way.
This is why taking the time at the beginning of each week and looking your schedule for the upcoming week and planning everything out is important. Maybe there is nothing out of the ordinary that week and your ideal week schedule is possible, thats great! If not, and you need to adjust things take the time to make those adjustments and lay out your schedule for the week. Again this is where I like something like the Full Focus Planner because it allows me to do this on a week by week basis.
Often times the adjustments you make to your schedule means cutting back on your training time.
It’s going to be OK, I promise, all is not lost
If you can only workout 4 days out of 6, or if you can only do 30 minute workouts rather than 60 minutes, no big deal.
You are still doing something!
And that is what counts.
The point is that you are going into the week with a plan. You have a rough idea of what your week is going to look like and when you can and can’t workout. It is much better than just getting up each day and trying to figure out when you are going to fit in your workout. Chances are if you take this “fly by your seat” approach you are going to end up missing more workouts than if you planned out your week, so taking that extra time at the beginning of your week to schedule your week will move you closer to your goals than if you hadn’t.
Besides fitting training into their schedule, the other problem many athletes face is sticking to that schedule. Even if you plan out your week, that does not mean that unforeseen challenges on your time won’t come up day to day. For some people this can be more of a struggle than others. Some jobs for example have a lot of variability.
For example, if you are an ER doctor you are going to have very little control over when the emergency room gets busy. The same would be true for a parent of young kids where they often may need to fit in training around irregular child care schedules.
If you find yourself with one of these unpredictable schedules, the best thing to do is to plan your training for when you have the most control over your time. Maybe this means doing your workout first thing in the morning or doing it when your significant other is home and can watch your child for a bit. Whenever that may be it is important that you find that time and fit your training into it.
On days where it seems impossible to find even 20 minutes of consecutive time to get in a workout, think about how you can possibly break your workout into micro-workouts.
For example, maybe every 10 minute block you have of free time try squeezing in a quick set of squats, push ups, lunges, turkish get ups, planks, or just go for a walk.
Yeah you wouldn’t be wiped out like doing your favorite WOD, but if by the end of the day you have accumulated 50 minutes in total of movement it is far better than doing nothing.
You can’t expect to be successful as an athlete if you don’t put in the work, but you can’t put in the work if you don’t put in the work before your train to make it happen. Ultimately the responsibility falls on you, and the best thing you can do is take control of your schedule by planning out your time.
Don’t wait to start tomorrow, do it tonight! Here are the highlights
- Write down your must do items
- Write down how long you would like to work out each day
- Schedule your must do items
- Fit in your workouts around your must do item, be nimble!
- Consider scheduling your training when you have the most control of your time
- On day’s where your schedule is full, try micro-workouts
Do this and track the number of times you are able to train, is it more than less than the previous week? I am willing to bet it is more! If you need any help reach out to me on Facebook Messenger or Instagram and if you want more tips on how to be successful as a busy athlete sign up for my newsletter.