Ask Stew: Don’t Have Time to Work Out? Stop, Drop and Exercise

A contract specialist works a desk job at Fort McCoy.
Contract specialist Eric Mainu with Mission Installation Contracting Command (MICC)-Fort McCoy works at his desk Aug. 22, 2019, at the MICC building at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. (Scott T. Sturkol, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy, Wis./U.S. Army photo)

I love to see people getting creative with ways to add physical activity into a busy day. Squeezing in small bits and pieces of stretching, movement and exercise is a remarkable way of accumulating significant calorie burn, repetitions, miles or steps into your day when you do these activities several times a day, even if it’s for only a few minutes at a time.

Here is a great question from a man trying to fit exercise into a very busy schedule:

Stew, I made great strides with my fitness because I didn’t have to commute during COVID. Now that we are back in the office, my 90 minutes to train has turned into two 40-45-minute drives each day. The only days that I can do a full 60-90-minute workout session now are weekends. Any suggestions? I do not want to lose my progress made when I “just had more time” to train. Thanks – Bill

Bill, Great job getting and staying healthy during the past year and a half. As many of us get back to normal, we are finding that the business commute has the biggest effect on fitness, health, time and overall stress.

I do have some ideas at least to help you maintain what you have accomplished and keep you moving in shorter bursts of time.

Workweek Schedule

The workweek means shorter workout sessions, but you also can place your rest days or “easier days” into the middle of the week instead of the weekend. Save your weekend workouts for the longer and harder events that you enjoy.

Weekend Workouts

My advice is to make Saturday mornings a tough upper-body day, followed by the type of cardio you prefer. Get these 60- to 90-minute workouts done in a session and have the rest of the day to enjoy with friends and family or for doing typical weekend chores around the house and yard.

On Sunday, get a solid leg day done along with corresponding cardio you like. You will have shifted typical weekend “rest days” to days in the middle of the week when you are too busy to get in a full workout.

Monday: Mobility

Focus on Monday as being an easy day of stretching, foam rolling and walking. If you have a short period during your lunch break, get on the bike or walk to loosen up from a tough weekend of workouts.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

The middle of the week can be full of shorter workouts or impromptu PT sessions when you literally “stop, drop and exercise.” When you have a minute, walk the steps at work or drop and do a big set of push-ups, squats, yoga or abdominal exercises on the floor.

If you get creative, you can bring in some dumbbells to your workspace or find a place to do pull-ups to add to your exercise selection spread throughout the day. You will be surprised at the total volume you can accumulate by adding in small sets of exercises every hour on the hour.

Friday: Day Off or Mobility Day Again

Since your harder days are coming during the weekend and at the end of the week, most of us are spent. Take it easy today and add some stretching and walking spread throughout the day to keep the juices flowing. You may find that a nice walk or stretch is great after a 45-minute sit-down commute.

The other option is to shorten your lunch break, if possible, or wake up 30 minutes early to get in your longer cardio, lifting or calisthenics session before the workday begins. Look for gym options either at work or near work where you can get done quickly, shower and be at work in a few minutes.

The best piece of advice I ever received was to find ways to keep moving instead of sitting too long whether you are at home or in the office. Drinking water all day will keep you hydrated and require you to get up regularly to use the bathroom, so you’ll be moving every hour or so.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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