I recently shared some tips about training around a busy schedule. Within that entry, I stressed the idea that doing something is better than nothing. Unfortunately, while few would argue against that statement, many readers seem to be struggling to accept and embrace the concept. I’ve received numerous emails from individuals who are frustrated by their inability to do everything they’d like. Between work, family, and school, many people can’t find enough time to accomplish each of their goals. With that in mind, I believe a follow up entry is needed.
Do What You Can
As a business owner, father, and coach, I know all about busy schedules. The days literally fly by. There’s never enough time to get everything done. I don’t view the chaos as a problem though. While my younger self was often stressed about time, I’ve grown to accept and appreciate my reality. I’m okay with the fact that I can’t always do everything I’d like. I would rather be busy than have nothing to do. So, while I’d gladly workout for hours upon hours if I could, I’m aware that I don’t need so much time to be healthy, strong, and vibrant.
Unfortunately, recognizing the potential of something over nothing is easier than applying the concept when needed. Many hard working people have an all-or-nothing mentality. If they can’t do 100 percent of the job, they often struggle to do anything. They don’t understand that even the shortest somethings will accumulate much faster than the most well thought nothings.
“Don’t let your inability to do everything stop you from doing anything.”
Life Is Hectic, Deal With It
As much as I try to plan my days, I never know what the next day will bring. For instance, my daughter recently got sick in the middle of the night. I naturally woke up to help and found myself awake for several hours afterward. I couldn’t fall asleep, and when I did, I accidentally slept through my early morning workout time. By the time I woke up, I had to rush to get ready for work.
I worked all day in a location where I couldn’t squeeze in any exercise. I then went straight from work to the baseball field to coach my son at night. By the time we were done, the day was long gone. I wasn’t done working though, as I had to rush home to respond to an urgent message. I didn’t finish until after 10PM. I was running out of time with another 5AM wake up planned for the next morning.
I could have easily gone to sleep and been fine, but I enjoy exercise. It is part of who I am. Therefore, rather than hopping into bed, I opted to perform a few sets of pushups and pull-ups. I went as hard as I could for 15 minutes. It might not sound like much, but I gave each set all that I had. I couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do, but I still did something. I went to bed feeling satisfied. I didn’t beat myself up over what I couldn’t do. Instead, I took comfort in what I could do. It felt great to push myself through 15 minutes of exercise. I woke up feeling much better the next morning.
You Don’t Need Everything
Contrary to what the internet might lead you to believe, you don’t need to perform hundreds of different exercises to be healthy and strong. When it comes to fitness, the information age can be a double-edged sword. It’s great to have access to so much material, but there is such a thing as information overload. You don’t need to perform every exercise known to man to become a stronger version of yourself.
Many of the strongest people in the world focus the bulk of their training towards a small number of exercises. They know what works and never stray too far from the basics. They don’t seek out endless variations for each muscle group or movement. Busy people can learn from their example. When time is limited, perform a few compound movements and don’t stress about your inability to target each of the hundreds of skeletal muscles that exist within the body.
Assuming you live to see another day, you’ll get another chance to do the things that you couldn’t do today. What you won’t get is another chance to do something instead of nothing once today has passed. So, even if today only allows for a few sets of exercise, you’ll become a better version of yourself by working diligently for a small block of time. Rather than complaining about what you can’t do, embrace what you can.
Something beats nothing.
“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” – George Patton
This is so true. 5-10 mins of intense exercise is better than nothing. I am currently doing 12 hours nightshifts all weekand I make time to either workout before I go to work or do sets of pushups whilst at work.
As always Ross Training speaks the absolute truth
Thanks Ross’ this so true. For my job I need to travel a lot. One way or the other I always manage to squeeze a work out in. Either I find a local Boxing gym or go for a run. Even in a 20 min run you can give it all you got and feel satisfied afterwarts.
Hey Ross, another powerful post! You certainly lead a full life, juggling many activities, and yet still wake up early. Speaking of which, I am curious whether you have a morning routine. Are there certain things you try to do, personally, in order to start your day, such as reading, listening to music or motivational stuff, cold water dousing, any foods or drinks you enjoy, etc.?
@Peter – Thanks, but my morning routine isn’t much different from most parents. I’m usually busy making them breakfast, getting them ready for school, etc. Nothing too fancy. They are all the motivation I need!
Love this sentiment but it often comes with maturity – my younger self had a hard time wrapping my mind around this concept. I’m currently recovering from piriformis syndrome so heavy weight training is out along with several movements that require good mobility. HOWEVER, I can still perform pull-ups, push-ups, seated or kneeling lat rows with a band, planks, etc. Upper body muscles can still be maintained while I am healing. Many of these are performed on the kitchen floor while dinner cooks. It’s not a full routine by any stretch but keeps me moving and equally important it keeps my mind on a physical routine while my body heals. A body in motion….as they say. My 25 year old self would have pouted and catastrophized about my current injury but my 42 year old self moves steadily along within it’s capability and that is success, in my book.
I found the concept doesn’t just apply to exercise either. A consistent 10 minutes per day, or a few reps here and there, can go a long ways towards accomplishing many goals.
Great article as usual Ross. If you dont mind me asking, what is that you are using as a platform for the L sit in the picture?
@Thomas – Thanks, I’m using a pair of homemade parallettes (made from PVC).
I was taught: “Everything that deserves to be done deserve to be done well.”
An author and speaker named Kent Hughes caught my attention when he said: “Everything that deserves to be done deserves to be done poorly.”
My initial shock went away when I heard him explain the wisdom that you are sharing here: it’s silly not to do anything just because we are not able to do it perfectly. It literally changed my life.
It also reminds me of an old church-going lady who told me (referring to herself): “Perfectionism is a sin!” 🙂
I agree and this is definitely true Ross. Being busy is not an excuse on being fit, if we don’t have time then let us make time for fitness and don’t wait for the time that our body will ask for the payment of not being fit.
Ross, your article is great except for the fact that you said “I like to exercise”. Therein lies the problem with most people. They loath exercising. They will always find excuses not to do it because they don’t like to do it.
Explaining to people that they should exercise for their health is a waste of your bountiful energy.
Instead you should help people realize how exercise can be fun and rewarding – in the immediate sense. Only then will society as a whole exercise on a regular basis.
My days are normally busy. If I am not at work, I am at home cleaning after dinner or preparing myself for the next day. Squeezing a workout at the end of the day is out of the question. Instead, I get a good, intense workout going between 3:30 and 4 am. There is a steep hill a couple of blocks from where I live for the conditioning, and during winters my bathroom becomes my gym (is the only place in my apartment where the floors don’t creak). I feel that this is all I need to get me going through the day, plus I am satisfied for the work that i put in. I realized also that are other benefits of a morning workout. Thank you for the putting the word out there, for your inspiration and for emphasizing that when it comes to fitness “simple is better”. Thank you again.
Dynamite insights Ross! Same sentiments for dealing with a hectic sched and incorporating at least a few workouts in between to complement a busy day. Creativity takes us to places and in this case, to better health. Thumbs up for a great read! 🙂
Spot on and reminiscent. When my kids were younger, most of my training was done at lunch, or right before a shift. In the warehouse, I was allowed to have some weights in an unused back corner, and on the construction site, I have often thrown a smaller barbell or dumbell in the back of the truck. (there are always plenty of odd objects around too). This raised some eyebrows, but also had fun times and some friendships made as I invited guys to join. Kids are older now and enjoy lifting, so we have many good and longer workouts at home.
You really communicated a much needed to message to many well meaning, but overwhelmed people in this one.
I agree with you. I have two children, work and no enough time to do “full” training, so I do excersises pull ups, push ups, dips before work. Of course it is connnected with awakening earlier when everybody are sleeping but then I have calm to practice;) An at the evening I try to find about 20 minutes per day for running. Sometimes during the work I’m makingo short breaks for pushups and squats or etc. I have to acommodate to conditions if I want to do what I like;)
As @Sylvio and @Chris said, these lessons apply beyond the gym (as always, lessons learned in the realm of physical training can be applied outside of it).
Regretfully, I gave up martial arts in my mid-20s, just because life had gotten busier with marriage and a demanding job, and I gave in to the “all or nothing” mentality when I found it harder to keep up with the younger guys that were training every day. I literally said to myself, I would rather quit than not be able to train as much as I used to. I still always worked out, but went on a martial arts hiatus for over 15 years.
I like to think that, as I have gotten older, I am a little more comfortable knowing that I can’t get everything done. For example, at work I know that no matter how late I stay there is going to be an infinite list of stuff to do, so it is completely unrealistic to think that “staying late” is going to make a dent in it anyway (so no reason to stay at the office and miss a workout!)
But even at the age of 47 I battle the all-or-nothing mentality. I got back into martial arts about 5 years ago by studying BJJ for the first time. I still struggle with doubts about whether it is worth it, training just 2 or 3 days per week while others are there every single day. I still wonder if going all-in on just one thing – BJJ or weight-training – if I would be better off than splitting my time between the two like I do now (I already set aside my stand-up martial arts so as not to dilute the time between that and BJJ).
In my professional life, while I do better living with an uncompleted to-do list, I still struggle with being a perfectionist. I still have to constantly remind myself that it’s OK (and preferable) to just do SOMETHING, to make some progress toward solving a problem, rather than wait until I find the time to analyze the entire situation and redesign a whole new process. I particularly like the insights @Sylvio shared in this regard.
My old family Doctor used to that tells his patients….”if you can’t find time to exercise, then find time to be sick, because that’s how life is”.
Love your work Ross.
I really enjoyed this post as I struggle significantly with this mentality myself.
So glad to hear so many people finding wisdom in this outside of exercise. I’ve had to start applying this to personal time as well, because I started to get into the habit of giving myself nothing instead of giving myself some emotional time that I could.