The best time to get fit is when you have a full time job

I was talking with my friend Austin recently on a trip out to the mountains.  Like any good car ride, our conversations were well-rounded: life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.  One of the things we touched upon was how to best fit training time into your life.  We agreed that the best time to get fit is while you have a full-time job and a consistent schedule.

A full-time schedule allows you to build in training time, rest periods, and plan well for meals (which I think are just as important as training itself).

Jimmy and I have structured our training over the next year to align with the training schedules outlined in Training for the New Alpinism (post soon to come on that).  I started to work through the “transition period” during January and February, and am working through the “base period” now.  Hitting training goals during both period required careful planning and a little bit of sacrifice but the benefits already seem to be paying off.  I’ll go into full detail about the planning and training I did during those two periods, but in general here are some of the things I have worked to incorporate into my life while I have had a full-time job:

Find a way to make healthy eating a part of your schedule.

Diet impacts your performance much more than you know, and it needs to be a priority.  Most of my caloric intake comes from the meals I outlined in http://chasingmastery.com/the-5-meals-that-keep-me-alive/.  While it took a little adjusting and some planning, I now eat home-cooked, healthy meals nearly every breakfast and every lunch, even on days that I bike to work. To accomplish this, make it a point to set aside cooking time a few nights a week.  This is a good time to let the brain unwind, listen to podcasts, etc.  I typically do this right after work when my brain is a little tired and I don’t want to do much thinking. Cooking can become pretty relaxing!

Build training time into your schedule

  • Make it fun: While you cannot do every workout with friends (scheduling is NP hard), combining exercise with friends can make it a lot more fun to put in a lot of training hours. Try to schedule time at the beginning of the week or to plan a occurring time every week to train together.  This will reduce day-of scheduling challenges.  When I do climb at the gym with friends or get exercise in with friends, I DO still try to stick to my specific goals (i.e. volume versus strength, or sticking to a slower pace).
  • Make it efficient: Know what you are doing for your workout ahead of time instead of wandering around the climbing gym or weight room (I do my planning every Sunday or Monday night). Another way to increase training time without taking a huge slice out of your day is to combine your commute with your exercise.  My friend Dylan likes to run to work (this is roughly 8 miles for him?).  I find that running bothers some of the muscle group imbalances I have, so I bike instead.  More than one day a week, I will take a much longer route. On these days I ride roughly 2.5 hours total (about 30 miles).  This is much farther than necessary but allows me to hit my base training goals.
  • Just like cooking, planning ahead for your training in the week will help to make it a lot more sustainable.  My average schedule looks like:
    • Sunday night: Establish your training goals for the week via spreadsheets and mark up your calendar.
    • Monday: Rest and recovery day as the weekend often included lots of climbing or skiing.  An easy bike to work is acceptable here.  I also try to make sure that I do a little myofascial release and stretching on tight muscle groups.  Plan your training for the week if you missed this on Sunday.
    • Tuesday: Climbing before work (when the gym is empty), then weights after work (when the gym is full). Sometimes weights replaced with yoga.
    • Wednesday:  My friend Dylan and I target Wednesdays for a partner cardio day.  We either go ski touring at Hyak or hiking near Seattle (Mt Si, Tiger mountain, etc).  We forgive each other if individual schedule conflicts come up, but we both have standing events on our calendar.
    • Thursday: Weights before work, climbing after work.  When climbing after work, I try to include friends to make it fun. I also tend to keep expectations of doing lots of routes to a minimum because the gym can be full.  Given that Tuesday was a productive climbing morning, I don’t typically need that much more time in the climbing gym to hit 4-5 hours for the week (especially if I will be climbing on the weekend as well).
    • Friday: Good day to take an easy or walk bike to work.
    • Saturday: Climb with a focus on staying at low heart rate zones during approaches or ski touring.
    • Sunday: Climb with a focus on staying at low heart rate zones during approaches or ski touring.

Here is a map of a long route I take to work when biking.  There is obviously a much shorter route through the city, but this one provides much more exercise.  It also happens to be safer as it follows bike paths and avoids polluted, busy areas of the city.

5 thoughts on “The best time to get fit is when you have a full time job

  1. Okay, I’m a believer.

  2. Tobin

    I’m curious – do you also bike to work on the days you climb and lift at the gym? I have about a 15 mile ride to work, and I find my motivation to get in a workout (and the time required to do so) is often lacking after riding to/from work.

    1. chris

      Thanks for asking Tobin, that’s a good question. I take a shorter ride to work (through the city and only about 3-5 miles) on days that I also workout or climb. I have definitely done days with a longer bike and climb, but if doing so keep the workout short and targeted 45 mins or so. Hopefully that helps

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