How to Work Out When You Don’t Have Time

How to Work Out When You Don’t Have Time

I think we can all agree that December is a hectic time for many of us. On top of work and/or education, we have the added pressure of buying Christmas presents, attending Christmas parties, and if you are brave enough, sticking to a Blogmas schedule (I seriously applaud anyone who is brave enough to attempt it, you are the real MVP).

I’m in quite a fortunate position because the vast majority of my family members live in Russia and do not celebrate Christmas. I can focus on the enjoyable side of the holidays a bit more while taking it easy on my bank account. However, there have certainly been periods in my life – for example, when I was preparing for exams in May earlier this year – when I could not focus on anything other than a particular objective and ended up neglecting my exercise routine, which for me happens to be a vital form of self care.

Working out when busy

And by ‘neglecting my exercise routine’, I do not mean I went to the gym five times a week as opposed to six. I literally did not move from my chair for a wholesome twenty days except for walking to and from the train station, which is a decision that I lived to regret: finding some spare moments each day to get in physical activity would have only boosted my productivity, without being the dreaded waste of time I feared it would become. Moreover, when I eventually returned to the gym, my strength and endurance had decreased by at least a third, and I could not perform even the most basic exercises without a pain in my joints.

Needles to say, I have learnt from my mistakes and nowadays, no matter how busy my schedule gets, I make room for some form of physical activity. Sure, when I have deadlines and work and endless to-do lists, I may not be able to whip out a ninety minute strength and cardio session every day, but even a small amount of movement is better than nothing. There are times in my life when I have the luxury of being able to work out for as long as my heart desires, and at other times I am much more constrained – an expected occurrence given the way in which work can pile up in the blink of an eye. In such cases, I ensure to remind myself of all the benefits of exercise and that sidelining it will only make me feel worse in the long run.

How to work out when you don't have time

How to work out when you don't have time

‘Insufficient time’ is one of, if not the most common fitness excuse. Thus, I have compiled a list of tips that have helped me, and will hopefully help others stay (somewhat) active during those hectic periods in our lives. And as I’ve suggested above, we certainly should not feel guilty for skipping the gym or finding that your ‘fitness goals’ have slid down our list of priorities.  However, as my experience shows, we should avoid becoming sedentary to the point where a lack of exercise starts to have an impact on both our mental and physical health.

Wake up earlier 

Exercise when busy

This may be difficult to hear, but simply waking up thirty minutes earlier may be all you need to squeeze in a yoga session, a run or even a walk around your neighbourhood. I personally prefer working out in the evening because I am at my most mentally productive in the early hours and use that time to tackle the bulk of my work, but many people like to exercise as soon as possible after waking up. Getting out of bed, especially when *sings* the weather outside is frightful, and jumping straight into a workout may be difficult, but it will energise you and boost your metabolism for the rest of the day, while balancing out hours of upcoming sedentary activity.

Improve your time management skills

I will be covering this in more depth in a future blog post, but at times we may think that we are more busy than we actually are because we’re not very good at managing our time effectively and/or struggle with procrastination. People who are more efficient at managing their daily tasks will undoubtedly find more room in their schedules for themselves. You can start by reading my post on procrastination if this is a habit of yours, or this wonderful post by my blogging pal Mia which covers a whole range of techniques on how to find time when all of it seems to be going down the drain.

Extra tip: whenever I am particularly snowed under (in a metaphorical sense because the only actual snow we got in my area melted within thirty minutes *cries*), I like to micromanage my time, i.e., plan my day out in fifteen minute chunks so that not a single moment is wasted: this allows me to allocate time slots to both exercise and leisurely activities. While I understand that this is quite rigid/excessive, it works for me as a short-term technique when rigidity is the only option.

Try HIIT (high intensity interval training)

If you have never heard of HIIT, it is essentially a form of exercise where you alternate bursts of high-intensity activity with periods of rest/low-intensity movements such as marching in place. This can take many forms, such as 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest, 50 seconds on/10 seconds rest, etc. HIIT is personally one of my favourite forms of exercise because a 15-30 minute session can be just as effective as an hour long low intensity workout. An added bonus is that it is a great way to combine strength and cardio (to save you from doing them separately), and distance yourself from the monotony of cardio machines. With just a timer and an optional pair of dumbbells, you can easily squeeze in an effective workout a few times a week without even having to leave the house.

Save time exercising

Wear your gym clothes

Okay, I understand that this won’t be possible for those of you who work in an office with a strict dress code. However, I always underestimate how long it takes to get changed from one outfit into another, especially when I do not have enough time to organise my wardrobe. If you are a student or you work from home, wearing all or at least a part of your gym kit can save a few precious minutes here and there, and can look much more socially acceptable than you’d imagine. Think black leggings with an oversized hoodie and sneakers – this is one of my go-to looks for those days when I want to save myself the effort of returning home to get changed.

Maximise movement throughout the day 

How to work out when you don't have time

Sometimes, if getting to an actual gym or doing an actual workout isn’t an option, you can still make an effort to stay moderately active throughout the day. I find that if I don’t stand up and do a few stretches every couple of hours while working on my computer, I start to feel sluggish and my productivity plummets. Go for a ten minute walk around your neighbourhood, do a couple of squats (once again, I’d avoid doing this in an office environment because it may come across as slightly questionable), take the stairs whenever the opportunity arises. These little things may seem insignificant, but will add up over the course of the entire day and prove much more beneficial than sitting in the same place for hours and hours.

Alright friends, I wholeheartedly hope you found my little tips at least somewhat helpful because I know how tricky it is to balance commitments to your health with other obligations. However, taking care of the former is essential to laying the foundations for a more fulfilling and productive life. Let me know in the comments – are you a regular gym goer? How do you like to stay active whenever life is busier than usual?

How to work out when you don't have time

Lots of love, Maria ♡

Follow me on TWITTER and PINTEREST to keep updated.


  1. Munazza Bangash December 19, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    What an informative, inspiring and well-written post! Thank you for this. I suppose we all needed this.

    • whatismaria December 19, 2017 / 4:00 pm

      Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you like it and that you found it helpful:) xox

  2. hudapervez December 19, 2017 / 6:32 pm

    Time management is sooo important because I often feel I tell myself that I don’t have enough time to excercise or be active but then I find myself laying in bed scrolling through Instagram for hours on end 😅 so that is definitely something I need to work on! xx

  3. hell0chloe December 19, 2017 / 8:26 pm

    This is such a great & informative post, you look amazing as always!! xx

  4. crystalsandcurls December 19, 2017 / 10:04 pm

    Love this…also completely needed this kick up the ass. There’s always enough time – it’s about making yourself BELIEVE that and use your time more wisely xxx

  5. The Style of Laura Jane December 19, 2017 / 10:29 pm

    Ok now I feel like I could have wrote this! I was and still am somewhat a procrastinator. I have to always set deadlines and tasks for myself otherwise I will fall behind. And I completely agree about staying active.
    When I don’t exercise for a long period, I feel really unproductive, lazy and quite insecure. I think because I have now got my body used to working out, when I stop it has a much more significant impact. And it’s horrible when you go back to your routine and realise you struggle to do basic things that you could achieve easily before.
    I love this post and I love that you write what I am always interested in. xxx

    • whatismaria December 20, 2017 / 8:16 am

      I relate to that so much – I definitely do think that quitting exercise for long periods of time when you usually work out a lot is harder than for those people who stop after only going to the gym for a couple of weeks. And for me, planning is so important because unless I do it, I definitely fall into procrastination as well! So glad you liked this post, thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment xox

  6. Jess December 19, 2017 / 11:32 pm

    This is exactly what I need to get into shape – I’ve been trying to get started on my New Years’ Resolutions early but I always make the excuse that I don’t have time… Thank you for your tips!

    • whatismaria December 20, 2017 / 8:13 am

      Ahh I am so glad it was helpful! Well done for starting your resolution early 🙂 I am sure you will do an amazing job xox

      • Jess December 21, 2017 / 9:24 am

        Thank you! I will try ahah

  7. valentinabrenni December 20, 2017 / 12:21 am

    I’ve reshifted my thinking from “I don’t/do have time” to “It is/isn’t a priority” and my gosh has that made a difference. In the mornings I’ll make sure my workout clothes are downstairs so when I get home I can get changed immediately without going upstairs and do a workout straight away. I have a number of videos on youtube ranging in lengths and that really helps. Even if I only do 20 minutes I figure it’s better than nothing and makes a world of difference to how I feel in my body!

    • whatismaria December 20, 2017 / 8:12 am

      ahh this is exactly the sort of attitude that I like to adopt! It is always possible to get in exercise if you make it a priority 🙂 Youtube videos are amazing because they are usually created to be quick but effective and I get so many exercise ideas from there!

    • whatismaria December 20, 2017 / 8:11 am

      Yess it really does and makes us feel so much better:) I’m very glad I started doing HIIT more often because I enjoy it every time! Thank you for your comment:)

  8. shaunkellett December 20, 2017 / 9:52 am

    Great advice. I am definitely in the camp of people who “Don’t have time to workout” when, really, I have plenty of time if I was to wake up earlier, or go straight from work, or even just work out at home without attending the gym. Really it just boils down to excuses and laziness. Thanks for the motivation!

    • whatismaria December 21, 2017 / 7:25 am

      I think we all fall into the trap of making the ‘no time excuse’ every so often, but any step to try to overcome that is a good one:) So glad you found my post inspiring! Best of luck

  9. hopelesswonderer December 20, 2017 / 5:59 pm

    thats such a good point because I always feel more motivated to go when I actually have my gym clothes on haha!

    • whatismaria December 21, 2017 / 7:25 am

      Haha that is way too true! Especially when it’s new gym clothes :’)

  10. caribbeancurl December 20, 2017 / 11:37 pm

    Great tips! I always struggle with finding the time and end up being a lot less active than i’d like to be.

    • whatismaria December 21, 2017 / 7:26 am

      Thank you very much! I think we all struggle with this to an extent, but it’s all about doing our best to stay as active as we can:)

  11. AJ December 21, 2017 / 3:56 am

    Great list!

  12. Rosie December 21, 2017 / 11:49 am

    I love these tips, Maria. I always find that exercise calms me down a lot and makes me feel more enthusiastic to get things done, but ironically exercise is probably the first thing I stop doing when I get busy or stressed. I’m just starting to get back into yoga and I’ve definitely noticed how much my ability has decreased and how much more my muscles ache the day after.

  13. HeyitsLeaa December 21, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    Girl, your abs are to die for. I need to get back into fitness…. after Christmas is over haha.

    • whatismaria December 22, 2017 / 10:46 am

      Ahh thank you so much! And that is definitely a good time to start – especially with the new year right around the corner :’)

  14. Vivien Ayinotu December 22, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    Thanks for the tips Maria. I can incorporate this in my to do daily list. New year, new ideas😄

    • whatismaria December 23, 2017 / 9:38 pm

      Haha it definitely is easy, but it feels great when you beat the temptation! So glad you liked the tips 🙂

  15. hoiyinli December 29, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    I am terrible when it comes to exercise! 😂 I am an all or nothing person (when it comes to fitness) which I think is the problem so I need to find my balance. I do enjoy fitness now though compared to when I was in school. HIIT is my go-to, as well as doing some yoga/stretches, and weights but I just need to get back into routine!! Thank you for this post. 🙂

    • whatismaria December 29, 2017 / 11:04 pm

      Yes I definitely think it’s important to find a routine that you can sustain – not too much and not too little! HIIT really is an amazing way to find some time to get your heartrate up within a busy schedule. So happy you liked this post:)

  16. Sophie January 27, 2018 / 4:27 pm

    Finding time to exercise is pretty difficult! I’m trying to hit 10,000 steps at least 3 times a week and that seems to be doing good. Next time starting exercising on my days off and take some time out from doing college work.

    Sophie xx // One Unique

    • whatismaria January 27, 2018 / 9:11 pm

      It really is, especially among a busy schedule! But 10,000 steps is absolutely amazing and makes an enormous difference. I wish you the best for going further in your exercise routine 🙂 xox

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *