How to Workout When Time Is Not On Your Side

credit: Instagram @chrissy165

The days are getting shorter. The Holiday Season is rolling around. Family is visiting. There’s less and less time for the things you know you need: like exercising.

Many people use time as an excuse and, like it or not, it’s just that: an excuse. We find the time for television, checking facebook, and playing Words With Friends on our phone, right? If exercising is important to us (which it should be), we should find the time for that, too.

I know what you’re thinking. When you do have time, it’s not enough time. Fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there. You can’t get anything done with that, right?


In some ways, short, intense workouts can be more beneficial than longer ones. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), for example, is a strategy of alternating high-intensity with low-intensity, so that by the end of 10-20 minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve been working at it for an hour!

And that’s only one strategy for getting in effective workouts in short amounts of time. Here are some helpful resources for working out when time is not on your side:

How to Get Fit in 10 Minutes or Less by Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield knows what it’s like trying to fit in workout time in a tight schedule. Earlier this year he wrote an article for The Huffington Post and offered three 10-minute workouts that require little or no equipment. Here they are:

10-Minute Workout #1: Full Body Burn

Equipment: 1 pair of dumbbells and a chair, step, stairs, or box.

Instructions: Warm up with 25-50 jumping jacks, then complete 10-12 repetitions of each set of exercises twice, back-to-back with minimal rest, before moving on to next set.

  • Set 1: Dumbbell Squat With Overhead Press to Bent Side Raises
  • Set 2: Dumbbell Push-Up Row to Single Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Set 3: High Knee Step-Ups to Reverse Lunges

10 Minute Workout #2: Butt, Abs, Thighs

Equipment: none

Instructions: Complete this routine as a circuit, one time through, with minimal rest between exercises. No warm-up required.

  • 25 Body Weight Squats
  • 10 Lunge Jumps per side
  • 10 Side Plank Rotations
  • 10 Front Plank Taps
  • 10 Lateral Lunges per side
  • 10 Squat Jumps
  • 25 Kickouts per side
  • Finish with 60 second Squat Hold

10 Minute Workout #3: Maximum Calorie Burn

Equipment: none

Instructions: Complete this routine as a circuit, three times through, with minimal rest between exercises. No warm-up required.

  • 25-50 Jumping Jacks
  • 5 Push-Ups
  • 10 Squat-Thrust Jumps
  • 5 Push-Ups
  • 10 Vertical Jumps
  • 5 Push-Ups


Many of our readers and members are avid CrossFitters. For those who aren’t, you’re in for a treat! CrossFit (which is the name of the company and the workout-style) refers to itself as a ‘constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement.’ For people with tight schedules, the best thing about CrossFit is the short duration of the workouts, anywhere from 5 minutes to a half an hour (sometimes they go longer, but those are rare). But don’t let the short times fool you! If you do them with utmost intensity, they’ll leave you on the floor!

A typical CrossFit warm-up consists of:

  • 800m run at a leisurely pace (should take about five minutes)
  • 10 of each of the following: neck circles, ear to shoulders, arm circles forward, arm circles backward, over-unders, over-back, wrist and ankle circles both ways, squat hip bends, good mornings, push-ups, sit-ups

If you’re new to Crossfit, here are some sample workouts, some of which you can do at home with no equipment, others you can do at the gym, and a special treat for those who like gymnastics:

*The gymnastics workouts come from Gymnastics WOD, a useful site which has a slew of CrossFit-style routines.


  • WOD means Workout Of the Day
  • Max rounds in Xmin‘ basically means, how many rounds of the workout can you do in the allotted time?
  • X rounds of‘ means how fast can you complete X number of rounds of the workout described.
  • For workouts with rep schemes, just apply each corresponding number of reps to the round number.
  • For example, 10 rounds of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 (a popular ladder scheme) means that Round 1 will involve 10 reps of each exercise, Round 2 will involve 9 reps, etc, etc, until you get down to one 1 rep of everything.
  • For workouts with weights listed, the first number is the prescribed weight for men and the second is for women.
  • CrossFit is all about scalingso be sure to take down the weight to something you feel comfortable doing. This is essential when first starting out.

High Intensity Interval Training Sample Cardio Workout

The short, intense workouts of HIIT provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning. Here’s a simple HIIT workout that will kick your butt! The speeds listed are for an individual where 10mph is a full-out sprint and 5mph is a light jog, so adjust accordingly.

20-minute HIIT run:

  • Minutes 1-2: 5mph
  • Minute 3: 6mph
  • Minute 4: 7mph
  • Minute 5: 8mph
  • Minute 6: 9 mph
  • Minutes 7-18: Repeat Minutes 3-6 3x
  • Minute 19: 10mph
  • Minute 20: 5mph’s 20-minute Workout

The workouts we’ve listed so far are great for overall fitness, but maybe you have a slightly different goal. For those out there purely trying to pack on the muscle mass, here’s a sample workout from

Exercises should be preceded by one warm-up set of 12 reps. In between supersets, rest for 30 seconds, perform either of the cardio exercises, then rest another 30 seconds.

  • Jump Rope x 30-60 Seconds/Burpees x25
  • Bench Press: 3×6-8, Superset With Bent Over Row: 3×6-8
  • Sprint x 30-60 Seconds/Jump Rope x 30-60 seconds
  • Shoulder Press: 3×8, Superset With Lat Pulldown: 3×8
  • Burpees x20
  • Ab exercise of choice (Sit-up, Romanian Chair, Reverse Crunch)x 25

They also give some advice on how to maximize time efficiency at the gym.

  • Don’t waste too much time socializing
  • The mirror is not there for admiring yourself (well, maybe it is….but it shouldn’t be!)
  • Supersets and stripsets can up the intensity in a short amount of time. A superset is when you do one exercise right after the other without rest, and a stripset is when you lower the weight on the same exercise so that you can keep going without rest.
  • When short on time, ditch the isolation workouts (i.e., curls, tricep extensions, etc). You want to focus on big, compound movements like the squat and deadlift.

Also, here’s an interesting article on how to get a killer workout in just using one movement: 20-rep Squats.


After all that working out, you’re probably sore! But that’s not the only thing you should worry about. Taking care of your joints and muscles to ensure maximum mobility is important in preventing injury and getting the most out of your workouts. That’s why we recommend checking out MobilityWOD, the blog of coach and physical therapist Dr. Kelly Starrett. Here’s a snippet from his site:

MobilityWOD is the ultimate guide to resolving pain, preventing injury, and optimizing athletic performance. Humans have been evolving for 2.5 million years and the human body is extraordinarily engineered. While people are born with this incredible machine, they aren’t born with the right software to run that machine. The MobilityWOD is designed to help you hack your body’s mechanics and provide the tools to perform basic maintenance on yourself.

The best place to get started? The beginning. Check out the first post and a video on how to do the 10-minute squat test.

Exercise Bank

We listed a lot of exercises, and it’s understandable if you didn’t recognize them all. Here’s a list of all those mentioned here with links to guides and/or pictures:

Bench Press

Bent Side Raise

Bent-Over Row


DB Push-Up Row

DB Row

DB Squat to OH Press


Double Under
Front Plank Tap

Front Squat

Hand-Stand Push-Up

KB Swing


Lat Pulldown

Lever (Front/Back)

Lunge Jump

Mountain Climber

Prisoner Squat



Reverse Crunch

Reverse Lunge

Romanian Chair

Shoulder Press

Side Plank Rotation


Squat Jump

Squat Thrust Jump


Sumo high-pull



Walking Lunge

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

You can always find an extra 15 minutes somewhere if you want it badly enough!

Agree! Recommendations were vetted by our own team – a group of fitness nuts

DML says:

Great post! There’s really no excuse is there?!?