I’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.