An Article By Idai Makaya (written for the March 2018 ElliptiGO Newsletter):
This article is about fitting in your training around tight time constraints and busy schedules. I meet many people who tell me they are too busy to stay in shape – or people who tell me they love the idea of riding an ElliptiGO bike to get in shape, but they can’t justify the investment because they think they are too busy to make use of it.
I hope this article can help dispel some of the ‘myths’ around “not having enough time to exercise” and I’ll share a few tips I have learned over the last 30 years which have helped me or other people I know to always make time to stay in shape, despite a heavy personal and work schedule, or despite a heavy physical training schedule.
Before we launch into the strategies that you can use to keep your fitness training progressing regardless of your other commitments it’s worth tackling the context of why we need to do this and why we must prioritise it. The first question I ask when I meet with someone who tells me they’re facing the challenge of lacking time to train is to ask if they have time to have a bath, or time to eat, or even time to brush their teeth every day. In other words, is it reasonable to say you’ve dropped your basic personal hygiene because you are too busy?
The reason I ask this is that when we look at the need to stay in shape as being part of the normal requirements for a healthy, normal life it then becomes clearer to us that the same life skills which we already use to enable us to keep the bare basics going can actually be translated to our exercise and fitness needs as well. This understanding will take us a long way towards achieving what needs to be achieved with fitness, because it helps us to look at the challenge in the correct (holistic) context.
You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve – and fit into your day – when you believe it needs to be done and when you accept that it is important. So the most important step a busy person needs to take, in order to develop a sustainable exercise routine despite their busy schedule, is to give it the correct priority. We pay attention to whatever we prioritise – and if we cannot fit something in it could be that we just don’t rate it as being important enough. Please think deeply about this, because it applies to everything we have to do and also to our relationships with the people closest to us.
However, simply prioritising exercise does not make it any easier to fit in, if you are really busy. So there are still a number of skills which we need to develop – and options we’ll need to consider – if we are to fit our training needs into a busy life. Much of the approach I will describe simply relates to our goals and our schedules. So I’ll split up my suggestions into different categories, to suit the various different situations many people deal with. I’ve had to deal with many of these scenarios myself, being very busy and working long days, and so have many other close friends I know who all still maintain the highest levels of physical fitness using their ElliptiGO bikes.
If you are generally home-based, but are also very busy while you are at home (and are simply unable to get out for a long ride alone) there are a number of possibilities which you can consider. There are many reasons for being home-based. For some it relates to work, whilst for others it relates to childcare. The approaches to both situations are very similar.
For the home-based worker, one of the most obvious options relates to going for a ride during your lunch break. Remember that you do not need to do lots of long rides in order to be fit. If you can free yourself for one long ride on the weekend, if you like doing long rides (or if your training goals require them). And you can keep your fitness ticking over on weekdays by simply doing shorter but more intense training sessions.
If, like many ElliptiGO riders, you also participate in another sporting discipline – it often helps to use that discipline as part of your cross-training. I follow this approach myself and have done for many years. I do one long ElliptiGO ride on the weekend, but on weekdays I am not committed to any specific fitness training sessions (apart from my weekly gym workout – which I tend to do late at night, after the children have gone to bed).
Because I use a 24 hour gym it allows me to workout at any time that suits me, so I just need to find 45 minutes somewhere in my week for that single gym session. For the rest of the week I can rely on walks, scooter sessions, indoor bike sessions and various other low-level cardiovascular activities to maintain my general aerobic fitness. Note the mention of a 24 hour gym – that’s a strategy in itself because gyms make a range of fitness equipment available to us (and doing nighttime workouts may not suit everyone as an ideal, but it’s a great default if your time limitations mean that is your only free time).
Likewise, if you are also a runner, during the week when you are pressed for time you can use short lunchtime runs to keep your fitness up during the week (and then do your long ElliptiGO ride on the weekend). The fitness ‘crossover’ means that the running feeds into your fitness on the ElliptiGO and vice-versa. Both activities actually support each other. “But what if I cannot get out during the day?” I hear some of you say. That’s plausible and, like all other challenges, can also be overcome.
One option is to invest an indoor piece of fitness equipment – to use whilst ‘housebound’ – with the view of getting out just once or twice a week on your ElliptiGO bike when you are free (and trust me on this, everyone is free for a little while at some point during every week). It’s just about being aware of your timings and being more organised, so you can plan your training in advance. Ideal pieces of indoor equipment, which you can use without leaving the front door, are indoor trainers for the ElliptiGO, indoor elliptical machines, treadmills – or even indoor exercise bicycles.
Below is a 5-second video of one of my home-bound ‘compromises’ which allows me to do workouts without leaving the children unattended and which also allows me to work on writing my fitness articles as I train. It’s an ElliptiGO 8C on an indoor trainer, incorporated with a laptop desk (which is actually made from cheap DIY shelving). Using your imagination can often come up with great solutions to unique challenges!
Using one of the indoor modalities which I have outlined will keep your fitness going while you are unable to get outdoors. Then, when you get your ‘opening,’ you can hit the road and ride ‘free’ on your ElliptiGO. Be sure to make the few outdoor ElliptiGO rides that you do get each week really count, so that you are committed to doing them.
I personally do this by making the rides quite intense, as well as making them quite long, because I know my one weekly ride is the only opportunity I have to genuinely progress my fitness. But I still mix it up a bit, so that I can also enjoy the rides. So make sure the few rides you do will still tick all the boxes you need to tick.
What I mentioned in the last paragraph is quite important, you must enjoy your training. If your rides are always hard you might not look forward to them – and that might make you less likely to do them. So the golden rule is to make your ElliptiGO rides enjoyable for you, whatever that actually means to you as an individual. But don’t lose sight of your goals and your fitness needs.
To meet some goals you might have to train hard – and that’s something you need to engage with even if you are not keen on hard riding. Similarly, to meet other goals you might need to ride long distances, even if it is something you find daunting. Decide which is more important to you – your comfort or your goals. Usually both can be achieved to a reasonable extent, but the easiest way is often not the best way. Also remember that the easiest thing is to do nothing at all (in other words – to just be unfit). Hopefully that’s not an option you’ll tolerate!
And the reason most people invest in advanced (expensive?) fitness equipment, like an ElliptiGO bike, is to get an engaging workout. Yes, your hard-earned money (for which you might be sacrificing so much of your free time) can also buy you fun! So invest in good equipment that makes hard exercise more fun – like the ElliptiGO. What you save on cheap uninspiring equipment is meaningless when you don’t use the equipment (and when you are unable to reach your goals because the equipment isn’t up to the task).
It’s important to be able to justify your investment in high value fitness equipment. I sometimes hear people telling me they cannot use conventional bicycles because they have a back or knee problem which rules out conventional cycling for them. They know an ElliptiGO will work for them, but because it is a high-end machine (and costs more than some cheaper conventional bicycles) they feel they cannot justify it and they will still try to use totally inappropriate variations of cheaper conventional bikes. Yet the same individuals may have expensive cars and may take expensive holidays. For such individuals it is probably a priority issue (not an affordability issue).
So don’t go cheap on your fitness equipment and hope that cheap equipment (which isn’t suited exactly to your needs) will work for you. It usually won’t. Very cheap fitness equipment often lacks the versatility, reliability and also the fun-factor of more advanced fitness equipment and sometimes we need to be prepared to invest in better equipment simply to fully meet our needs. If we cannot justify investments in our own health & fitness then what can we justify investments in?
I know quite a few people who work a good distance away from where they live. In fact, I am one such person myself. We have all been able to meet our training requirements in different ways – and for the person who wants to maintain a high fitness level (or perhaps for individuals who use their ElliptiGO bikes to train for endurance sports) it often makes sense to actually use the bike to travel to work. There are a number of ways to do this, depending on how far you need to travel.
Here are a couple of example scenarios:
1 – You live too close to work to justify riding there as a training session, but traffic congestion means your short trip to work can still take some time by car. A great option for someone in this situation is to take the scenic route and ride to work using a lengthened route that still fits within the available travel time.
Riding short distances twice a day can often equate to greater fitness gains than riding exactly the same total distance just once a day. So if you ride 7-miles each way you can often gain similar or better fitness improvements than simply riding 14-miles in one ride. Part of that might relate to the fact that you can ride harder over shorter distances, but it also relates to the ‘double exposure’ to exercise in a single day.
2 – You live a decent distance from work and it is ideal to ride there and to ride back. Many people think the ideal commuting distance for an ElliptiGO rider is 10-20 miles each way. In most urban areas it takes the same amount of time to ride 15-miles as it does to drive 15-miles in rush-hour traffic. So why not kill two birds with one stone by training and simultaneously commuting to work.
3 – You live a great distance from work. Too far to ride twice. That does not mean you cannot ride to work. There are two options I have seen people use successfully. The first is to ride one way and to use motorised transport to get back at the end of the workday. The other option is to use motorised transport for part of the way and then to transition to your ElliptiGO from a more reasonable distance – and still ride to work (from either your car or a train station, depending on how you travel).
4 – You live a great distance from work but you are training for long distance endurance sports. In this situation, I have seem many people use motorised transport on some days and riding to work once or twice a week, even if the combined daily distance is over 70-miles. It’s doable when planned well. And it does not need to be done regularly, because the training distance is so long.
The other secenario related to the ones above is a long-distance commuter who simply cannot take an ElliptiGO bike along to work – and for that reason simply cannot train during the working day. I myself have 12-hour workdays at the moment (leaving home around 7am and getting back home around 7pm). And I work 50-miles from home, requiring me to use the train to travel to and from work. That’s not an uncommon scenario for many people and it can be worked around in a number of ways.
One way that some runners will use to get around this is to run to the train station from home and then to run from the destination train station to work. If those distances are not ideal, the other option is to get off the train early – when you are within reasonable running distance of work – and then to run the remainder of the journey.
The other way around this situation is to travel to work and then to do a lunchtime training session at a gym (or to simply run from your workplace for half an hour during lunchtime – and then return to work and freshen up for the remainder of the day).
Yet another option (which I sometimes use myself) is to train at night, after I get home from work and after my children have gone to bed. I can fit in a 1-2 hour higher intensity training session on the gym cardio equipment mid-week (usually on a Wednesday evening) and then I can supplement that gym session with a longer training session on the ElliptiGO, over the weekend. That approach is sufficient to train me for the longest endurance events and I am actually using a once-weekly riding plan currently, to train for my longest ElliptiGO ride ever.
The options covered above, when combined with a long ride on the weekend (or two medium distance rides on Saturday and Sunday) can allow an athlete to develop a very high level of fitness. These options also show that we don’t necessarily need to give in to our circumstances, busy as we may be, because we can adapt and make sure that what needs to get done in our training still gets done. It’s about our priorities, as I have said a number of times earlier.
You’ll probably have noticed that the strategies outlined above can be applied to many different situations which make exercise time hard to secure, so try to think about compartmentalising your exercise needs into ways that suit your goals and also suit your availability. I’ll demonstrate this concept with a few examples below:
Example 1. Cross Training Runners:
Consider a runner who is using the ElliptiGO to add impact-free volume to his/her training and still needs to do 2 or 3 runs a week (and also needs to get in some ElliptiGO training and a weight training session, every week). If each different type of training session is addressed as a stand-alone training unit/block this becomes easier to do.
Consider that 3 runs of about 45-60 minutes duration need to be done each week. The only rule is that the runs cannot be done on consecutive days, but they can otherwise be fitted anywhere in the weekly schedule. 45 minutes can be found early in the morning, during a lunch break, on a treadmill at home, or running to and from the bus stop or train station. So that’s how the 45-60 minute runs should be addressed. Find a convenient time to fit them in, plan in advance, and get it done.
The gym can be addressed in a similar way, but is usually a fixed location, so consider possibly going to the gym in the evening – if that’s the time you are free – or very early in the morning. Again, a runner only needs about 30 minutes in the gym and can travel there and back in under 30 minutes, meaning only an hour needs to be set aside for this. The gym can be done on any of the days between runs. Andy you can get a gym membership near work, allowing you to pop out at a convenient time for your workouts during the working day.
And finally the ElliptiGO sessions. The runner will benefit from a high volume ElliptiGO session, which is best done on the weekend. This session can actually be done directly after one of the runs, so it need not be an extra training day in the calendar, saving even more time. A shorter ElliptiGO session can also be fitted into one of the non-running weekdays, but it is important to always have at least one complete non-training rest day, so always keep this in mind.
Example 2. The ElliptiGO Fitness Enthusiast:
If you are using the ElliptiGO to get generally fit you will want to ride about 3 or 4 times a week. A good way to do this is to have a short ride, a medium ride, and a long ride. The long ride best fits a weekend, or any day when you have more free time (or have support from a friend, family member, or spouse).
The short and medium rides can also be done indoors, if finding a reasonable time to get out on the road is tricky. Space out the rides as much as possible, to get the best fitness benefit, so there should ideally be a day off between your rides. On training days ensure that your sessions get done – it means finding 1 hour in your 24 hour day and if you really want to do it you will find that one hour.
I hope these examples have given you ideas which you can incorporate into your own fitness training. Remember: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution and each individual needs to consider their own unique situation and to simply find the time required. Sometimes we may feel that we are not getting ENOUGH time to train, but if we are not finding any time to train at all we really need to explore our priorities, rather than our diaries…
Until the next time – train smart, train hard, and train safely!