How to make training fit into your busy life.

When you have a busy schedule, it can feel impossible to fit workouts into your week, but the key is to be flexible and creative in where and when you make time for physical activity. With these eight tips, you can build a training schedule that fits your time and goals:

1. Determine how much time you have for training

Look at your schedule and find blocks of time that you can reserve for workouts. Whether your schedule allows for an hour of training every day or only 30 minutes a few times a week, you can find a workout plan that makes the most of your time.

If it seems like there’s no free time in your schedule, ask yourself a few questions: can you train before work in the morning? Can you train at night? How about during your lunch break or on the weekends? Look for anywhere you might be able to squeeze in even a short workout and write it down.

2. Defend your training time

Once you’ve found spaces in your schedule for training, defend that time fiercely. Schedule it on your calendar and treat it as you would any other appointment. Let your friends and family know that this time is important to you and is critical to your efforts to live a healthier, more active life. When you block out your calendar, make sure you include time required for changing and showering. And say no to other activities to keep your workouts a priority.

3. Decide how aggressive you want to be with your training

Consider your training goals and how much time will be required to meet them. If you’re new to fitness or want to perform maintenance workouts, you’ll likely want to schedule three to four workouts per week. For example, people who work day jobs on Monday through Friday may find that evening training sessions on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays work well.

If you’re an experienced athlete or training for an intense event like a marathon, you’ll require a more aggressive training schedule that includes five to six workouts per week. Come up with a plan based on your goals and available time. Keep in mind that it’s best to be realistic with your expectations, so take a long, hard look at your schedule and your life. Don’t set lofty goals if you won’t be able to put in the time – that will likely lead to disappointment. Figure out the type of commitments you’re able to make and hold yourself to them.

4. Aim for three to five 25- to 60-minute workouts per week

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week for adults. How you decide to parse out your training sessions is up to you. For example, you could schedule three 25-minute high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts per work to hit the recommended amount, or five 30-minute moderate-intensity workouts.

Also keep in mind that your workouts don’t have to all be the same length. You could perform three 30-minute training sessions and one hour-long session per week to reach the same total. Find a combination that fits your schedule and try to incorporate muscle strengthening activity into at least two of your weekly workouts as well.

5. Commit

Now that you have time reserved for training, make a commitment to yourself to follow your training schedule. Track your workouts so you can see over time how consistent your training is every week. If you need help with motivation, ask a friend or family member to keep you accountable. Working with a personal trainer and knowing that someone is expecting you at the gym at a certain time can also keep you from bailing on workouts.

6. Don’t work out the same muscle groups two days in a row

Instead, stagger which muscle groups you focus on. For example, perform an upper body workout on the first day, lower body on the second, and schedule a rest day for the third. Basically, you don’t want to put a lot of strain on a particular muscle and not give it a chance to recover. If you choose to do full-body weight training (for instance, a strength-based group fitness class), make sure you have one day off in between.

7. Don’t forget to include warm-up and cool-down time

Always perform at least five minutes of a warm-up and cool-down at the start and end of every workout. This can include active or dynamic stretching, mobilization exercises, and light cardio activity, such as brisk walking. Warming up can help reduce the risk of injury and increase your range of motion during a workout by gradually revving up your cardiovascular system and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Cooling down, on the other hand, helps your body gradually return to its pre-workout heart rate and blood pressure. Both can minimize stress on your heart. For more details on why and how to do a dynamic warm-up, check out this.

8. Include at least one or two rest days per week

Many people follow a pattern of two days on and one day off when scheduling their workouts. This ensures that you give your body the recovery time it needs to repair muscles and keep up with the energy demands of an intense workout. You don’t have to follow this pattern, but make sure that you schedule at least one rest day per week.

No matter what, if you make a plan for your week of fitness, you’re much more likely to get in the right amount than if you try to wing it. Plan to succeed this week!