Staying fit for busy paren…OMG, CHAOS!

Let me come clean and begin with a caveat that I haven’t done much of anything in the last 6 weeks.  Recently I played Ryan-is-a-competitive-asshole with one of my athletes by racing him 500m on a ski-erg while he had a rower.

Enter the feeling of 1000 knives in my lungs.

This reads like a confession.  I have nutty news. Personal trainers and strength coaches aren’t impervious to time demands, the fickleness of the universe’s curveballs, or cookies.

Especially the cookies. So many cookies.

ngbbs4415a273c39f5We adhere to dogma and rules that thwart action rather.  I believe context reigns king when it comes to programming for busy people. What’s best is more about what’s realistic.

Here’s most parents when I ask them about finding time for themselves.


#1 Intense Consolidation of Focus

(RP note: Does he really drop the single tablet, and not the arm holding two? Discuss.)

The big rocks. 80/20.

There are few big rocks that affect your fitness level.

Should we strength train? Alternate cardio days? What kind of cardio is best? Do choice of shorts matter for chaffing? How deep is too deep for a deep V? The last is, of course, is context dependent. What exercise are you doing and are you making eye contact?

At the top of my list is this: get daily activity.

Do something.  Anything.

Go big if you need to force the hand — light fireworks at and run from the police, build strength by pushing your car up a hill in neutral with no way to bail, test agility by jumping into a pit of snakes, or spiders, or dress up like an opposing political figure at a rally.

A news feed of fitness media can lure you from this principle. You end up debating tactics rather than strategy.

Focus on getting something done. Especially something you enjoy. Worry about the details later.

#2 Cadence trumps perfection

Write down everything you’d do in your perfect workout. Admire it. So pretty.

No take a red pen to it with the fury of 1000 English teachers with a new edition of the MLA book.

Leave 3 things on the list.

What’s the most fun or most valuable? Do that.

There are so many moving parts in my own life that something is bound to go sideways.

Me: Ahhh, good morning!
Universe: Oh snap…Ryan’s up early.  Time to mess shit up. *POOF*Chaos*

I heard it best explained in Triggers: the high probability of a low probability event.

In plain speak: there’s so many things that can go wrong, expect the unexpected.

For example, what are the odds rain causes a pile-up traffic jam next Wednesday? Or the odds of your kid turning up sick the night before you’re leaving town for a big event? Or the odds of a man streaking up the quad?

I can theorize until enough scenarios exist that we know something will happen.

Planning for large chunks of time for exercise is a gamble.  No surprise finding less time is easier than more time.

Instead of 3-4 workouts per week lasting 60+ minutes, I end up choosing to do 5-6 workouts of 30 minutes or less.

I rotate between my main lift strength work and either higher volume density training or conditioning.

Hit singles. Get on base.  St0p throwing your back out trying to jack home runs.

#3 Combine forces when possible

Browsing grocery store aisles has roughly 2-3x the energy expenditure as sitting on your couch.  Low-level daily activity has a more significant effect on body composition than a few workouts.


I value time with family. I value my fitness.  I’m a caged dog without enough exercise.  I do 1000 laps in the living room at 11:59 if I don’t have enough steps for the day.

While we don’t get to do it often, cooking together is a great way to find time to slow down and connect with my wife or hte kids. I can also police their (mis)use of the stove.

The kids can knock out homework while I’m prepping food. Or I just wave the knife around like I’m doing math problems from Goodwill Hunting on on invisible chalkboard.

I’m a realist.  This is rarely perfect.  Equal are the times where I’m mid-roll of a meatball while someone around the corner is drawing on the walls and I have to crane kick the marker out of their hands.

As imperfect as it is, this should give you opportunity to look for easy wins.

While I have the goal of squatting and deadlifting as much as possible, that isn’t the case for most people.  Unless you’re looking to lift a Volvo overhead, this will help you stay fit.

Closing Thoughts

Nothing here should singe your eyebrows from awesomeness. It’s the easy things that get us.  They are easy to do. They’re also easy not to do.

Try it out.