Exercises for the Terminally Busy

Post written by Leo Babauta.

I’ve been out walking all day in New York City with my daughter, and haven’t found any time for my usual workouts in between museums and fabulous restaurants.

And yet fitness doesn’t require hours of your time every day.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite quick exercises. It’s not meant to be a complete fitness program, but something to sneak in when you’re too busy to get a longer workout or a visit to your gym.

If you’re working hard, or stressing out over all the things you have to do for your family, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

If any of these exercises is too easy, rest for 30-60 seconds and do a second one. If that’s still too easy, add something with weight.

Exercises for the Terminally Busy

1. Bodyweight squats. These are some of my favorites. Sit back, then squat down like you’re sitting on a toilet seat, until your thighbones are about parallel to the ground. Stand up and flex your glutes, repeat as many times as you can. Rest 20-30 seconds, do a second set, then another. If that’s too easy …

2. Jump squats. Same as above, but explode into a jump as high as you can from the squat position. Land lightly on the balls of your feet and go straight back into the squat. Do as many as you can ‘ aim for 20-30 reps, 3-5 sets.

3. 300 lunges. You can do walking lunges if you have space, or just alternate legs and stay in the same spot. Try to rest as little as possible. If this is too easy, do 400 meters of lunges. If this is still too easy …

4. Jump lunges. Same as lunges, but jump up and switch legs in the air, land lightly on the balls of your feet, go right into the lunge. 200 reps, in as little time as you can. If you’re not in good shape, start with 50 or 100 reps.

5. Pushups. If you’re in decent shape, see how fast you can do 100 pushups. Last time I tried I barely did it in under 5 minutes. You might be much faster. If pushups are too hard, do some of them on your knees. You can also just do sets of 10-20, and repeat this througout the day as you can find time.

6. Stairs. Walk up the stairs as often as you can. If this is too easy, run up them 2-3 stairs at a time. Go up and down and do several sets if you can.

7. Burpees. Squat, put your hands on the ground, thrust your feet out behind you so that you’re in pushup position, do a pushup, jump your feet so that you’re back in squat position, jump up in the air as high as you can. Repeat. See if you can do 20 or 30, or at least 10 if you’re not in great shape. Do 3-5 sets.

8. Pullups. Set up a pullup bar in your house, or find a tree branch outside you can reach. Do as many as you can, do 3-5 sets. Or just do as many as you can every time you walk by the bar. If you can’t do pullups, try jump pullups. Or do negatives ‘ use a chair to get yourself at the top of the pullup position (chin above bar), then lower yourself to the bottom position (arms fully extended) as slowly as you can, and repeat as many times as you can.

19. Hindu squats and Hindu pushups. You’ll have to do a Youtube search to find the method for these, but they’re excellent. I also love dive bomber pushups, Spiderman pushups, and mountain climbers. Again, do as many reps as possible, 3-5 sets.

10. Jumps. Mark a spot on the wall about a foot higher than your highest reach, then jump and touch that spot as many times as you can. Repeat 3-5 sets.

11. Bounds. Run by bounding (leaping as far as you can). Alternate this with jumps and squat jumps.

12. Handstand pushups. Stand with your back to the wall, put your hands on the ground about 6 inches from the wall, then walk your feet up the wall until you’re in a handstand position, but with your feet leaning on the wall. Try to do a pushup so that your head almost touches the ground, and push your arms straight again. See how many reps you can do, repeat for 3-5 sets. If you can’t do a full rep, just do a partial rep ‘ bend your arms a little. You’ll get stronger with practice.

13. If you have the equipment, other good workouts would include kettlebell swings, dumbbell snatches, sandbag throws and sandbag cleans, and fireman’s carries of your spouse.

14. Rounds. If you find the above exercises easy, try combining several exercises in as many combinations as you can ‘ for example, do 15 squats, 10 pushups, 5 pullups. That’s one round. See how many rounds you can do in 5 or 10 minutes. There are tons of ways to combine the above exercises.