Will my new job make me unfit?

Jane mugshot for JQAI’ve recently taken on a demand­ing job, work­ing long hours. Before, I was going to the gym four times a week but I can only see myself man­aging twice a week from now on. How can I avoid los­ing my hard-​earnt fit­ness?

Don’t panic! Scaling down from four workouts a week to two may feel like a big drop but if you are smart about it, you should be able to main­tain your fit­ness. As a rule of thumb, to gain and main­tain decent heart and lung fit­ness needs three 20-​minute bursts of car­dio activ­ity a week. For mus­cu­lar strength and endur­ance we recom­mend two weight-​training (or sim­ilar) ses­sions a week.

Because you have only two ses­sions avail­able, you are going to need to com­bine your car­dio and muscle work. The most eco­nom­ical – and I think the most fun and flex­ible – way of doing this is cir­cuit train­ing. Most gyms run cir­cuit classes, usu­ally last­ing 45 to 55 minutes, dur­ing which you cover the full menu of a gym workout from warm-​up to cool-​down stretches. For the main bulk of the workout, though, you move through dif­fer­ent pieces of equip­ment or aer­obic tasks, spend­ing only a minute or two at each “sta­tion”. Most teach­ers vary the format reg­u­larly to keep you on your toes.

It’s an intens­ive form of exer­cise which is nat­ur­ally aer­obic, but the beauty of it is that you can work as hard as you choose accord­ing to how you feel and what res­ults you are after. You’ll prob­ably feel as though you’ve packed more effort into two cir­cuit classes than you did in your pre­vi­ous four gym workouts!

So that leaves you need­ing one extra aer­obic ses­sion some­where else in your week. This is where you’ll have to think cre­at­ively. For instance:

• Why not cycle /​jog /​power-​walk to work? All three activ­it­ies can give you a great workout if you do it right. For cyc­ling, you need a few hills en route. If you’re walk­ing, it should be proper power-​walking done at a sus­tained fast pace. Jogging might need you to be organ­ised (eg, keep­ing a change of clothes and toi­letries at work). If you’re not a morn­ing per­son, try jog­ging or power-​walking home instead (it’s actu­ally ener­gising).
• Why not set up a lunch­time fit club at the office? High-​pressure jobs all too often involve skip­ping the lunch break, but if you start a weekly 20–45 minute group park jog /​walk or swim, you’ll find it much easier to ring-​fence the slot. Group pres­sure will keep your excuses to a min­imum, and you’ll earn the appre­ci­ation of col­leagues for get­ting them out and about, too
• Use the week­end to stay fit: fam­ily hikes or bike rides, swim ses­sions, car-​washing (by hand), some kinds of DIY and garden­ing can all rack up valu­able exer­cise credit. With dis­cip­line and ingenu­ity, you could even end up gain­ing in fit­ness and energy.

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