I used to spend my days bouncing from one thing to the next. 5am wake-up calls, 6am workouts, 9-10 hours hustling at my corporate job….and then hitting the gym in the evenings to either fit in more of my own workouts, teach classes, or continue my studies to become a better coach and instructor.
At one point I was working seven days a week….for two years! I knew I was on the path to burnout but I felt like I had to do it all if I wanted to achieve the life and body of my dreams.
Only problem was, this type of hustle was killing my chances at achieving anything. I couldn’t focus, I had no social life, my athleticism was okay at best, and I never actually felt productive.
It was not until I left my corporate career and started cutting back on all the busyness that I found some clarity.
I didn’t have to train 6-7 days a week to improve my physique or get stronger.
I didn’t have to wake up at 5am to hit the gym to get results.
There was no need to fit in hours of cardio on top of my strength training to “fit it all in”.
Once I removed all the unnecessary hustle out of my day, I actually got more productive, stronger, healthier, and I stopped feeling frantic 24/7.
Now, I don’t recommend that you quit your job here, but I do recommend that you take a good hard look at what you’re doing now and ask yourself:
Am I hiding behind all this busyness? Can I actually improve my fitness and health by cutting back?
What can you eliminate? What is absolutely necessary? What can you outsource? What is urgent? What is unavoidable?
Do more by doing less
When it comes to achieving a health and fitness goal, doing less is usually the key to accomplishing more.
That’s likely contrary to everything you heard out there. There are so many experts telling us to overhaul our diets, workouts, and do more of this and that.
Less gluten! More veggies! Less cardio! More weights! Less beer! More HIIT! and on and on it goes.
As a recovering corporate hustler turned solopreneur, I can guarantee you this:
In order to achieve anything meaningful, you must focus on one single thing. This is true if you want to start a business or if you want to lose 20lbs.
For example, once I started focusing on building my business, I had to kiss those 5-6x training days good-bye. No more 6am workouts, two-a-days, or two hour gym sessions.
I had to focus my training in a big way, and the only way to do that was to cut back.
I went from six-eight workouts per week to three. I cut back my cardio sessions to one hour per week. I spent a little extra time on recovery by walking in nature a lot, doing a Pilates FloWOD session, and getting a crap load of sleep.
If you are stuck in the trap of exercise “busyness,” trying to get in as many workouts as possible and aren’t seeing results, here are four changes you can make right now to do less while gaining more from your workouts.
Four Rules To Do More By Doing Less
1.) Train at around 60-80% of 1RM
I love the go-getters in fitness who want to go all out each training session. Only problem is, that level of intensity is unnecessary at best, and detrimental at worst.
To avoid injury, burnout, and to build strength, you don’t need to go balls to the walls every time. The majority of your lifting will be around the 60-80% mark.
As someone who loves lifting heavy, this is a hard rule for me to follow at first, but doing so allowed me to get the most out of my training without crushing my body in the process.
There is room for hitting 90% or more during a training session, but make sure it’s planned and deliberate. Don’t just walk into the gym and decide “Hmm, think I’ll max out my squat today.”
2.) Time management like a boss
Training 5-6 days per week is an old-school belief that does not and should not apply to everyone, including you.
The majority of the population can get in a solid three to four sessions a week without it interfering too much with their lives. It’s the “Do less to accomplish more” principle of fitness.
If you’re a first-time parent, new business owner, or in the middle of a major life event perhaps two sessions a week is your sweet spot, and it works as long as these sessions are purposeful and focused.
Here’s how I like to break up training sessions depending on how many days are available to train:
Two days a week
- Full body sessions
- Start with a compound movement at 60-80%, 4-5 sets, 5-10 reps
- 4-5 exercises in a circuit
Three days a week
- One lower, one upper, and one total body session
- Start with one of the big three compound lifts (squat, deadlift, press) at 60-80%, 4-5 sets, 5-10 reps
- Circuit of 3-4 exercises OR two supersets of opposing muscle groups
- End with a hard finisher of 5-10 minutes
Four days a week
- Two upper body days, two lower body days
- Compound movement superset with a corrective exercise
- Circuit or density set
- Hard finisher 2x a week
There’s nothing fancy about this, but it does enable a solid, purposeful training session for myself or my clients without demanding more out of them. If you can make your workouts productive then you only need a few days per week.
3.) Smarter cardio with finishers
With efficiency in mind, adding a finisher at the end of a workout replaces traditional, steady-state cardio.
As a former cardio queen, this was tough for me to do at first. But now, I’d rather push myself hard for 5-10 minutes at the end of the session than have to plan for yet another 30-45 minutes of traditional cardio during my week.
My favorite finishers include:
- 10 minutes: 150m row / 15 wall balls non-stop
- 3-5 sets of Prowler/Sled drag (ughhhhh the pain)
- Snatch or power clean combo with some form of box jump, rowing, burpee, or crying (just kidding…there’s no crying allowed).
- For time: Kettlbell swings until you vomit
4.) Walking….lots and lots of walking
Walking is the most underrated de-stress and weight management method on the planet. If you want to accomplish more while doing less, get your butt outside for a walk.
But wait, Trish, this sounds like I’m doing more exercise, no?
Not exactly. My walking recommendation is this: Do it whenever you can for however long you can.
There’s no need to plan it out the way you might need to plan your lifting sessions, and usually it’s easy to squeeze in even if it’s just 15 minutes around the block during your lunch break.
As a business owner, my daily walks actually offer me time to catch up on a podcast and walk my dog (still a multi-tasked at heart), it gives me breathing room from the day so I can get more focused and creative later on. It also serves as recovery time — the unsung hero of fitness.
Find a way to get some walking in, even if it’s just a few minutes at a time or just throughout certain seasons (depending on where you live).
You’ll increase your productivity, improve your overall fitness, and stop being so bat-shit crazy to everyone else. Get outside!
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