How Business Owners Can Make Time for Fitness

Wellbeing is a hot topic at the moment, especially with the additional anxiety that has added to everyday life’s stresses thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is told that they should prioritise self-care and wellbeing, however, it’s not always very practical advice – especially if you are a busy business owner.

Vague advice is often confusing, specific tips & guidance are required in this overwhelming world of information regarding fitness. Full of contradictions and paradoxes, making time to filter through the data & advice can be challenging enough, never mind implementing what you find!

With this in mind, we look to give some specific tips that will allow you to be both productive & physically fit.

Disclaimer – Please remember to exercise at your own risk and consult your doctor before undertaking a new exercise regime.

Incidental Exercise

If you run your own business it can be a challenge to make time for lunch, let alone exercising at the gym. If it is difficult for you to fit in a block of, let’s say 45 minutes of exercise, then try splitting things up.

For example, every time the kettle is boiling or you are waiting for something in the oven to finish cooking, can you complete a set of 30 squats?

If you have children, consider joining in with them when they are playing. You can also increase the intensity of exercise with, for example, wearing a weighted vest when you are going on a family walk. Increasing the intensity and difficulty, will, in turn, burn more calories which will help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Another tip for parents is to take an interest or even adopt some of the same hobbies as your children. It’s not for everyone, but for example, if your child has a scooter or a skateboard, could you learn to skate yourself and join in? This will generally work better with younger children, as older ones probably won’t want you around as much! (if my kids are anything to go by).

Other ways to accumulate ‘significant amounts’ exercise over the course of the day include:

– Bodyweight or band exercises whilst TV or TV adverts are on

– Running rather than walking back home after dropping the kids off at school

– Cycling or walking to work

– Do housework and gardening whilst wearing a (relatively light) weighted vest

– Take the stairs instead of the lift

Think of physical work as an opportunity, rather than a pain or an inconvenience!

High-Intensity Interval Training

If you are a gym regular (or you were in the past), then you will probably have heard the term “the fat burning zone”. Well, research and protocol have moved on since then. If you work at low intensities, you will burn more fat as your fuel, however – you won’t burn many calories and there will be no post-exercise increase in metabolism. Also, you won’t build or maintain muscle mass – something that’s crucial as we age beyond 35.

So what is HIIT? I hear you cry.

A HIIT workout typically involves intense ‘intervals’ or bouts of exercise, followed by a rest period – or a period of low-intensity exercise. Much like a traditional circuit class, HIIT can involve different exercises that are undertaken from 20 seconds, up to 3 minutes. However, with HIIT, the same exercise is often repeated, hill sprints are a good example of this – sprint up the hill and ‘actively recover’ by walking back down.

Some examples of HIIT include:

– 30 seconds of sprinting, followed by 30 seconds of rest, completed 8 times

– 40 seconds of squats, followed by 20 seconds of rest, completed 10 times

– Tabata intervals, involve 20 seconds of ‘work’, followed by 10 seconds of rest, completed 8 times – a total of 4 minutes of exercise (including the rest).

For example, on an exercise bike, sprint as hard/fast as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat this process until 4 minutes is up.

– The Norway 4 by 4 involves completing a warmup, and then 4, 4-minute intervals of high-intensity exercise with 3-minute rest or active recovery intervals in between.

So for example, you may warm up with a 10-minute jog, then run at a high intensity for 4 minutes, then rest or walk for 3 minutes – then repeat the 4-minute high-intensity run and 3-minute rest/walk 4 times.

HIIT can be done with almost any exercise or combination of exercises. Press-ups, sprints, jumps, skipping, boxing, kettlebell swings etc.

Rest intervals can include complete rest, dynamic stretching or walking.

Benefits of HIIT include:

– It takes less time than traditional cardio-based exercises like running long distances

– Maintain or build muscle

– Improves cardiovascular health

– No equipment required

– May reference some signs/markers of ageing (see study here)

One Set Training

back in the 70s and 80s, bodybuilders would typically work out for hours at a time. However, there have been several pioneering bodybuilders including Mike Mentzer and Dorian Yates, who would do much shorter workouts, at higher intensities.

In addition to bodybuilders, many athletes would adopt a single set exercise protocol. The reason for this being that they could reap a large proportion of the benefits of weight-training, without it interfering with their sport-specific training. If, for example, a 200m runner did a 2-hour weight lifting workout on Monday, it’s very unlikely that he or she would be able to do sprint training at high intensity the following morning.

Some strength training experts will argue that it doesn’t matter whether you push your muscles to their maximum with a single set or multiple sets – the goal is to overload the muscles to force adaptation.

A study in 1998 first publicised the possibility that single sets may be as effective as multiple sets.

“In fact, the preponderance of evidence suggests that for training durations of 4 to 25 weeks there is no significant difference in the increase in strength or hypertrophy as a result of training with single versus multiple sets.”

Study & Quote Source here

Unfortunately for those of us looking for a quick way to gain or maintain muscle, several studies have since concluded that in trained/experienced weightlifters, multiple sets garner a superior increase in strength compared to single sets.

For beginners, however, single sets are ideal. They allow someone to train hard and recover faster. In addition, it is thought that if single set training does not produce further strength and muscle mass gains for some, they will at the very least, maintain muscle mass in experienced trainers.

With this in mind, a bodyweight workout, done at home, could be completed in 10 minutes; as opposed to a multiple set workout, done at the gym, which could take hours.

Tips for single set training:

– Warm-up

– Train to muscular failure (if safe to do so)

– Focus on good form/technique

– Consider adding single sets of plyometrics& negatives

One set of training can also be done at home, so you can save time going to the gym. A chin-up bar and maybe a heavy kettlebell for exercises such as one-arm-rows are usually enough to get a high-intensity strength training session done.

If you find press-ups and other exercises easy, then you will need to look at some more advanced exercises for one set training to work well.

Bodyweight strength exercises include –

– Hindu press-ups

– Handstand press-ups

– Plyometric press-ups

– Chin-ups

– Single leg squats

Strength and power training always carries a relatively high risk of injury, so make sure you warm up well if you are trying out any advanced exercises, especially if you are doing them for the first time.

Spend Less Time Working on Your Business

There are two logical ways to make time for exercise:

  1. Reduce the time required to exercise
  2. Free up time by being more productive during the working day

An entrepreneur is always likey to prioritise work over wellbeing. However, by outsourcing several tasks, a substantial amount of time can potentially be freed up.

A good starting point is to record all the tasks that you perform in a working week.

Then next to each task, attribute an approximate monetary value to the business.

Creating a pitch for a contract could potentially be worth thousands, whereas spending hours looking through emails, might be worth virtually nothing.

You could also make a note of the approximate cost to hire someone else to do each task. Answering calls, filtering unwanted emails, carrying out admin tasks may all be outsourced for less than $10 an hour, especially if you look to hire someone overseas (thanks to geo arbitrage). A virtual assistant in the Philippines for example, could filter emails, book appointments and carrying out other administrative work and can typically be hired for less than $5 per hour.A virtual receptionist app can be used to filter out unwanted sales calls, reducing interruptions which can mess up your ‘flow’.

Other ways to free up more time include:

– Scheduling and prioritising

– Using the 80-20 rule i.e. look at the 20% of tasks that produce 80% of your profits focus on these

– Say “no” more often

– Block social media websites

– Find your most productive hours – these might be 5 am till 8 am when others are asleep

– Automating tasks. For example, using Google Ads scripts.

However you find time to exercise, try and make it a necessity, like cleaning your teeth every day. If you are unable to find time, three or four times per week to complete a 4-minute Tabata interval, then many people from fitness experts to business consultants, would likely agree that your life is ‘out of balance’. Take care of your business but take care of yourself too.