The Best Workout for Weight Loss When You "Don't Have Enough Time"

I’m always amazed at how many people I meet don’t have time to “work out” but want to lose weight. More often than not, it’s simply their ideas about working out for weight loss that are holding them back from making terrific progress towards their goal. 

I’m here to let you know that you CAN DO IT!

I was at the optometrist this week and was lucky enough to get into three separate but similar conversations about fitness with some of the employees.

When you come in wearing gear from the fitness and wellness club that’s a quarter mile away that’s just going to happen…  The great part is that I love getting a chance to hear what people who don’t have time to work out think about what “working out” is.

The essence of the first conversation came from the misconception that one must work out every day to get results.  In this case, the person was looking for fat loss and had heard that she had to work out for an hour a day every day to lose fat.  This is, of course, hogwash…  (It was real to her though!) I was delighted to let her know that this level of commitment was unnecessary.  Not sure if she took me seriously, but it was fun to help dispel her misconception!

When I mentioned that it wasn’t necessary to work out that frequently, or for that long, the next misconception came up about fat loss; the need to run.  The two front office employees both expressed the same goal; to lose weight (which I assume to mean lose fat) and they both had to let me know that “I can’t run because of my knees”.

Who said anything about running?  I sure hadn’t…  In fact, I hadn’t said anything about any form of exercise at all…  This is an extremely common misconception, but is completely untrue.

Fortunately, our bodies just don’t differentiate between hard work of any kind from a fat burning standpoint.  This is great news for just about everyone I know.  Additionally, because the runners I know are so “good” at running, it’s not the best way for them to lose weight anyway.

When I got back to the exam room, the assistant who got me started on my exam told  me about all of the things that she couldn’t do because of lack of time or resources.  When we got to talking, I helped her uncover some things that she could do to get moving in the right direction.   Turns out, she had the answers at her immediate disposal, but just needed a little clarity. 

When looking to find that clarity, my goal is to find out what skills that person has and help them use those skills to get them closer to their fitness related goal.  Kettlebell training for fat loss is fantastic, running (fast… like sprinting) is great too.  These things are terrific for fat loss, but if you can’t do a swing, or you can’t run, it doesn’t matter!

What I can say, though, is that any exercise that works for you, and helps you to be active is a step in the right direction.  The best exercise we can do for fat loss is on either end of the “intensity” spectrum. 

The long, slow work is great for weight loss because it effectively burns fat (yes, this is the “fat burning zone”…) as its fuel source, but generally does not make us hungrier or require our bodies to make changes that could gear our bodies to get better at storing fuel, rather than using it. Just remember, it’s easier than you think!

On the other hand, the “relatively” high intensity training helps really ramp up our metabolism and can help us hold on to our oh so precious muscle!  I say “relatively” because everyone has a level that constitutes “high intensity” for themselves.  I have to admit though, that IS really hard for ALL of us!

Not only does this type of training leave us burning extra calories for hours after completing it, it should be short enough that it won’t make us hungrier!  Do remember, that this is harder than you’d think!  

Whatever you choose on this end of the spectrum, it should be something you are confident in and feel safe going at a “blistering” pace for a minute or less (ideally 20-40 seconds) followed by a bit of recovery (10 seconds-2 minutes).  These sessions can be as short as 30 minutes including the warm up and cool down!  

My favorite tools here are high resistance elliptical training, the nu-step machine, kettlebell swings (once you’ve got proper form, that is!) and sled or treadmill sprints.  I’ve worked with people who’ve seen tremendous success by doing 10-50 kettlebell swings in their office before and after calls, before meals, etc.  It’s quite possible to get a few hundred swings in per day this way, and you’ll stoke the fat burning furnace all day long!

So, if you’re really hard up for time, you’re going to benefit from focusing on the opposing ends of the spectrum.  Three to five of those “hard and fast” workouts per week and one (or two) long walks with your family, friends or the dog will get your body going towards sustainable and effective weight loss!


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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I stay physically prepared for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.