Workout of the Week: 5 Quick Workout Options When Time Is Short

army pullup challenge
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Connie Jones

When your workday is hectic, it is easy to forgo your workout. But quick workouts can provide high impact with minimum time and minimum equipment.

This happened to me the year my mother was in and out of the hospital fighting cancer and then went into hospice care. There are times when your life is uprooted, and you spend much of your time and energy taking care of a loved one. It's high-stress times like these when you need exercise more than ever. Even if the activity is simply taking a walk and practicing deep breathing to help you unwind and de-stress, you have to do something.

5 Quick Workout Options

Repeat any of the days from last week as much as possible but, if you can't, here are some good minimum goals for you:

OPTION 1. If you are a runner and need to maintain your cardio conditioning, try this cardio day: Run 3 to 4 miles, then stretch.

However, if you are not running and have no cardio equipment, go for a walk. If you do not have time to do it for 30-45 minutes at once, break it up during the day, even if only for 10-15 minutes. Fifteen minutes of activity at mealtime is a good way to get moving, focus on breathing and get more oxygen into your body. This will help you physiologically deal with some of the stress you are experiencing.

OPTION 2. For Mobility Day, a non-impact cardio option includes 5 minutes of stretching or 5 minutes on the foam roller, repeated as many times as you can. If you have access to a few non-impact cardio pieces of equipment, take 10 minutes and do 5 minutes of cardio following by 5 minutes of stretching or foam rolling. If all you have time for is one cycle, that's still great. Get it done. Spread this 10-minute workout throughout the day or try to take 30-40 minutes and do it 3-4 times first thing in the morning or in the evening, when the day is not so hectic.

OPTION 3. Upper Body Day Pyramid: You cannot go wrong with the Pullup x 1, Pushup x 2, Abs x 3, Dips x 2 (if no pull-up bar, skip it or use the TRX and do deep rows in place of pull-ups). If you want to make it harder, wear a weight vest or do TRX pushups. This is a classic even if you have time to do only half of this workout. You will feel better because you did it. You can also replace pull-ups with lunges/leg, replace pushups with squats, and still do the abs x 3 and make this a leg day as well.

OPTION 4. Lower Body Day: Squat pyramid 1-10 with 100m runs in between.

Run 100m -- 1 squat, Run 100m -- 2 squats, Run 100m -- 3 squats … up to 10 squats. BUT if you have no space to run, just do a set of the pyramid and replace any running with jumping jacks.

OPTION 5. Combination Ideas: Mix in a few of the options above with each other and run every set of the pyramid, or mix in an exercise into the mobility day stretch/foam roll section for 1 minute. Here are some more ideas:

Repeat 3-4 times

Run or bike 5 minutes

Stop and do 20 squats


Walk/run up/down a flight of stairs

Mix in squat pyramid 1-10

(1 squat - up/down stairs; 2 squats -- up/down stairs … up to 10 squats/10 flights of stairs)

Keep going if you have time.

The goal is to focus on stress relief as it can overwhelm you when you do not have a de-stressing outlet. Even if it is not as intense as your normal workout, take it as your daily minimum standard. You will glad you did and not feel as guilty for missing your normal training day.

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