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5 Tricks To Keep Working Out (No Matter How Busy You Are)

Last updated on October 19, 2020

There's no question you already know you should be working out on a regular basis. After all, exercise will not only keep you fit and feeling full of energy, it'll also help you live a long, healthy and active life.

But if you're like most people, you're also probably really good at making excuses not to work out. Because let's face it: you're busy. And although you know that working out should be a top priority, life too often gets in the way. So, here are five tricks to keep a consistent workout schedule, even if you're really busy:

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Do shorter workouts.

If the belief that you need to spend an hour or more in the gym to get in shape is the reason you're not working out consistently, here's some good news: it doesn't actually take that long.

All you really need is 10 or 15 minutes of intense exercise, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), to get fitter than you ever thought possible. HIIT workouts take away all your excuses that you don't have time to work out. Alternating periods of working really hard and shorter rest periods, this incredibly efficient style of training lets you get way more done in less time.

HIIT is the perfect solution for anyone who's ever avoided the gym just because they didn't have an hour to work out.


Start small.

When you're trying to establish a new habit, it's never a good idea to commit to too much right away. Trying to work out five days a week, cook all your own meals at home and go cold turkey on sugar can only result in one thing — failure.

Trying to change too many things at once means you'll soon be too sore from working out, too energy deprived, and too bitter about your new lifestyle that your efforts will probably backfire.

A better approach? Start small by building one healthy habit at a time. Begin by committing to working out two days a week. When you're comfortable with that, then start cooking at home five days a week, giving up your daily soda to lower your sugar intake, and so on. Small steps equal long-term success.

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Commit for just 30 days. 

Another way to create a lifelong exercise habit is to start by committing to just 30 days of consistent exercise. Pick a number of days you want to work out, then tell yourself you'll stick to that for an entire month, giving yourself permission that if you don't like it at the end of the month, you don't have to continue.

More likely than not, at the end of the 30 days you'll notice you feel stronger, more energized and like the way your clothes fit better, and you won't want to stop working out. If you get to this point, congratulations — you've created an exercise habit.


Make it a ritual.

When you have a ritual, like brushing your teeth and washing your face before bed or making oatmeal and coffee for breakfast each day, you no longer have to think about it. You just do it. At this point, the habit becomes so ingrained in your mind there's no longer any decision-making involved.

That's what you want to happen with your workouts. Because when you have to think about whether or not you're going to work out, your clever (and not always helpful) mind is much more likely to come up with excuses. You're too tired, too sore from the previous day's workout, too busy, etc. But if your workout is part of a ritual, all the thinking is taken out of the equation. Your mind and body will expect to work out, and you'll just do it rather than waver about it each day.

So, for example, if you decide you want to make it a habit to work out in the morning five days a week, you can create a ritual that includes getting up, brushing your teeth, eating a small bite of breakfast, doing a quick HIIT workout, making a protein shake, and going to work. The same goes for if you want to create an afternoon or an evening workout habit: just build it into a ritual, and it will become much less difficult to keep your workouts consistent.

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Schedule it.

If you're still having trouble working out consistently, another trick is to actually build your workouts into your schedule. This should come naturally to you if you're already used to scheduling your time in meetings, soccer practices, appointments and other activities.

So if you ideally want to work out three times a week, but life always seems to get in the way, just take out your calendar, your phone, or whatever you use to keep track of your time and actually schedule your workouts. Put it in a time slot, then treat it just as you would any other appointment: as non-negotiable.

This will make it much more likely that you don't let something else get in the way of your workouts, and eventually help you build a workout habit for life.

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Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Certified Personal Trainer

Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the author of The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness. She currently lives in Venice, California, and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

From trying her first push up in college, to teaching herself to do pull ups and handstands, Krista is living proof of her philosophy that everybody is an athlete. She has helped tens of thousands of people to unlock their full athletic potential through her 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts app and 12 Minute Athlete blog. You can find her @12minuteathlete on all social platforms.