Getting Fit in Spite of the 9-5
10 min to read
5 min to skim
If you have a 9-to-5, or even busier schedule it can literally feel next to impossible just to visualize yourself as a regular gym-goer with a consistent, active lifestyle. This guide will make it clear that it is possible to achieve a very healthy balance of exercise and life, with limited time and resources.
In this post we will first identify what type of schedule you have. From there some options will be presented to you on what you can do with that schedule. And lastly some programs that you can follow based on your availability.
Your time is a resource, and you can spend that resource on fitness. Listed below are essentially your "spending options".
1.) TIME - How Much Do You Have?
For very busy people, it is important to start with this question. How much time can you actually spend in a week on fitness? It's important to be realistic and honest about what you can do in an average week, take into account your personal, work, and social obligations. All answers are valid.
It's possible to see benefits even from minimal time spent every week, as long as you are consistent and dedicated. However, benefits will increase with more time spent exercising.
That being said start by identifying which of the following statements most accurately describes you:
- OPTION A.) In a WEEK I could dedicate between 1-3 hours to exercise and fitness.
- OPTION B.) In a WEEK I could dedicate between 3-5 hours to exercise and fitness.
- OPTION C.) In a WEEK i could dedicate more than 5 hours to exercise and fitness.
Here is what you can expect depending on which option you chose:
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
OPTION A.) 1-3 hours
You might be surprised by what you can get done with just 1-3 hours per week. The rate of progress will certainly be slower for this category, but overall it will be a noticeably more active lifestyle, and for a lot of busy people - that is just perfect.
With this amount of time, you'll want to especially focus on eating clean, and maintaining the active lifestyle and turning it into a habit instead of results and outcomes. We've talked about this at greater length in another post.
OPTION B.) 3-6 Hours
With 3-6 hours per week your options open up quite significantly. This is the option I'd encourage most people to gravitate towards; particularly if a balance of results and lifestyle are important to you.
With this amount of time being dedicated weekly, you can comfortably fit in 3 workouts every week, with a rate of progress that will feel satisfying and motivating. Remember, its fine to want results but always prioritize habits over outcomes to ensure you stay in it for the long haul.
OPTION C.) 6+ Hours a week
6+ hours is ample time to achieve most goals for non-athletes. This category is the hardest one to maintain. I would really only recommend it to people who know they want to go all in, without any hesitation. If you are hesitant at all about making this commitment, stick to OPTION B for now.
At this volume you'll be able to fit in at least one extra workout in every week. This might not seem like a big deal, but in a month it's the difference between 12 workouts, and 16 workouts. Because of the increased volume here, progress happens much more rapidly.
2.) GOALS - What Do You Want?
Now that you know how much time you have, you can pick a goal from these options. It often makes more sense to start with asking about your goals, however since this resource is specifically for people with limited time - we started with time instead. However both factors are very important. Below is a list of options available for each time availability.
TRAINING GOALS FOR EACH TIME LIMIT
OPTION A.) SLOW & STEADY CONDITIONING
With just 1-2 days available for exercising the list of appropriate goals isn't long, but it is good. As previously mentioned all of these will occur at a relatively slow rate of progress, and if possible you should aim for OPTION B.
That being said, some appropriate goals for this category are: losing fat, improving overall conditioning, and generally leading a more active lifestyle.
OPTION B.) MUSCLE GAIN & FAT LOSS
This amount of time opens up your options significantly. Of course the other options are still valid, your aim should always be to prioritize long term habits instead of "weekend warrior-ing"
In addition to the goals mentioned previously, some appropriate goals for this category include: increasing physical appearance, burning fat more aggressively, and becoming more muscular/strong.
It should be stated that none of these "goals" are actually limited to one option. There are ways to make goals from OPTION C work with the time available in OPTION B, for example. Generally though in order to pull this off you'd need a specialized program written just for you by a professional (hint: we do this for free).
OPTION C.) SPECIALIZED TRAINING
With OPTION C you'll be able to perform all previous goals at a higher intensity and rate. In addition to this there are some specific training options that open up to you. Beginners should definitely be careful.
New options that open up with this time commitment include specialized training types such as: bodybuilding, strength training, and even niche training styles like speed training.
If you're eager to achieve a very specific goal then OPTION C is probably what fits the bill best. The goals mentioned above are by no means a definitive list either, the actual outcomes you can strive for are much more varied than what's generalized here.
3.) PROGRAM - What to do?
By now you should have figured out how often you can work out in a week. You should also know what you want to achieve from those workouts. The remaining element here is your actual program. The nitty-gritty of what needs to be executed on a weekly basis.
Up until now the goal of this resource has been to, as much as possible, guide you through the process of getting together a complete exercise plan. Creating your own program though is quite involved, and would likely warrant it's own post in the future. For the purposes of this post - you have a few options.
Firstly, Google is always a good resource. Simply typing in "[Your Goal] Program" will give you countless programs that you can follow if you desire. Bear in mind though that it is very hit-or-miss with these programs. Some of them will be great, and some will have issues varying from being poorly written, to poorly designed for 9-to-5ers.
Alternatively, I've created a companion document to this resource that includes 3-premade workout plans. One for each of the above listed time limits - so you can get started regardless of what your schedule is like. It's also formatted nicely as a .pdf so you'll be able to easily read it from your phone while in the gym or during a cardio workout.