Most everyone reading this works for a living. A select few individuals get by without employment. These individuals may include those attending school, those staying home with family members or those who can afford to do nothing. This article is not for those individuals.
This article is written for the working dogs among us. The one's who toil on a daily basis and still find the time to pump some iron, watch their diet and live a full life. As the popular beverage commercial goes—"This one's for you."
The demands of modern living force all of us to make choices. We can choose, for example, to do a cardio workout or lounge around, work out or stay home, take a nap or become sleep deprived. The choice is ours and we need to make good ones to both optimize our time and live life to the fullest.
I lived the 60-75-hour workweek for the first five months of 2005 and provide my thoughts on maintaining my physique, family life and mental health through it all. Keys to accomplishing this were prioritizing what was important and ensuring I took some time to care for my personal well being.
In this article I look back at my typical week, my priorities and important items for staying healthy. Part II will discuss some nutritional aspects and my tips on saving time.
The key to successfully juggling all the demands placed on you is prioritization. The competition for your time is fierce, and there will be activities that get shortchanged when work is the major activity of your life.
Let's start by breaking down the week:
- One day = 24 hours
- One week = 168 hours (7 days x 24 hours)
- Work week = 60 hours
108 Hours Remaining
As shown, after putting the mandatory work hours in, all that is left is a mere 108 hours - a little over 4 full days. If you are working more than 60 hours, you have even fewer hours to get things done.
Are there options to lessen the work requirement? I kind of doubt it. Most of us need a good source of income to provide a roof over our head, food on the table and future security. Most of the time we are pretty much stuck with the hours we have to work and put up with the increase in work hours as our careers progress.
After you understand that the amount of time you have is limited, you have to determine how the remainder is going to be spent. You can make a list either by day or by week with the activities that require your time. Here are the activities that I dealt with weekly:
I considered these mandatory activities; they had to be done.
Like most people, I commute to work. I could save some time if I carpooled and slept coming and going, but I enjoy the option of driving alone.
Some of you may have public transportation as a viable option to save time.
If available, it is a factor to consider.
Sleep is a mandatory activity for everyone; the amount varies for individuals. I get by with 7 hours per day, less on some days and more on others. The recommendation for 7-9 hours of sleep hasn't changed in many years. The important fact to remember is that you grow and recover when resting, not in the gym. Sleep is an activity you must make time for or your body will force you to do so, with possibly severe consequences.
The remaining items are niceties for some people, but essential for others. Time can be saved during all these activities and I'll discuss some of these timesavers in Part II. Additionally, most of these activities enable you to get your mind away from work and they can be mentally relaxing and refreshing.
For hygiene, I need to shower, shave and take care of my appearance daily. For women, more time may need to be allotted. Corresponding takes time every day, and includes regular and electronic mail, bill paying and record keeping.
Eating and Preparing Food:
Consuming food takes time. You may prefer to "eat on the go," however, sitting down to eat improves digestion and is better for you. Additionally, if you have a family or significant other, it is good to eat together some time during the week.
Food prep should also be considered as an independent activity. It includes food preparation, mixing and measuring and shopping. If you are bodybuilding and dieting, you'll want to spend some time preparing your food. Some of you may be lucky to have a spouse who will do some of this preparation; I prefer to do it myself.
When totaled, these mandatory activities add up to 76 hours. Going back to the weekly breakdown of having 108 hours of non-work time, I was left with 32 hours.
Most of the time I was working 72 hours per week so the discretionary time really got cut to 20 hours. If you are married, have a significant other or have children, many of those 20 hours will be taken by those folks important in your life.
Homework, sports, clubs, dates, sex, concerts and appointments are activities that will affect your schedule.
Your involvement with others will leave you with a small amount of time to call your own. For your mental health, you do need to partake in activities outside of work. Some will involve your significant others and some need to be activities you enjoy on your own. A meal out with the family can be as important as time spent quietly reading the newspaper or surfing the internet.
You probably noted that training isn't on my mandatory activity list. Sorry to say, but at this point in my life, it isn't a mandatory activity. If I get to the gym, great. If I'm forced to miss a day or two, so be it. I am not a professional bodybuilder, don't make a living in the health industry, and I have a family to take care of. My priority will always sway toward them.
Although working out isn't on my mandatory activity list, it is high on my list of discretionary activities that I take the time to enjoy. Based on the hours available, I could only afford 3-4 hours out of the week on training. Even with the limited amount of available time, I still wanted to get bigger and stronger. And, a training session is great for mental health.
For many, this limited amount of time doesn't seem like much, but this amount of time provided me enough opportunity to stimulate growth, remain healthy and stay mentally sharp. And based on having only 20 hours available, training represented roughly 20% of that time (a rather significant investment).
Did my training need to change?—Yes. With the amount of energy I expend at work and my limited recovery time, I needed a workout that was quick and efficient. I knew that I had to combine some muscle groups since I didn't have the luxury of training just one or two muscle groups per workout. With a maximum of 3-or-4 workouts per week, I had to decide on a two, three or 4-way split of body parts.
Intensity level is another factor to consider. If you are looking to gain size and strength, a training regimen with high intensity levels is required. However, if you are burnt out from a long day at work, this may not be practical. Or, if your priority is to only stay toned, lower intensity may be an option. Your lifting experience will also dictate the level of intensity that you can use.
Your training regimen can be as simple as bench, squat and deadlift with an assist exercise for arms and calves. Other training regimes that work well and can be time savers are High Intensity Training, Yates-style training, Max-OT or doggcrapp (DC) training.
I used a modified DC training style. I usually trained M-W-F, occasionally, I added a Sunday training session either in addition to these days, or as a substitute training day. Breakdown of body parts looked like this:
- Day 1: Chest, Deltoids, Triceps and Abs
- Day 2: Back, Biceps, and Forearms
- Day 3: Hamstrings, Quads and Calves
I was doing only one all out, rest-paused set for 1-to-2 exercises per muscle group. Warm-up sets and stretching was also included in the training sessions. With this limited amount of exertion, I met my size and strength goals. Additionally, I was able to get in and out of the gym in about an hour to preserve some time for other activities.
One part of training I neglected was cardiovascular training. I chose to lounge around and recover rather than take additional time for cardio training. The logic behind not including cardio in my training plan was that I got some cardio exercise at work and the limited time I had for training was better spent in the weight room. This supported my goal of size and strength gains.
Avoiding Sleep Deprivation:
Additionally, I often felt the effects of sleep deprivation during the week. Adding cardio training would have compounded those effects. Bottom-line, if you have a demanding job, there will be days that you need a break from physical activity. There will be days that you don't have the energy to train and it will be better to rest. There were 2-or-3 days that I simply went home and slept.
Recognizing when not to train is important when working extended hours. Exhaustion is a condition you must watch if your job entails significant physical or mental demands. Training on days with low energy levels or when you are physically tired will not only be a waste of your time, but also will probably result in overtraining or possibly injury.
Knowing when you are tired is important in maintaining your mental health. You should be vigilant of the signs of sleep deprivation. Some telltale signs of being sleep deprived include:
- Alertness and reaction times are slower.
- Irritability is more prevalent.
- Microsleep or dozing off.
- Constantly hitting the snooze button.
Days off are also essential for mental health. A day off from work allows you to be involved in other activities that you enjoy and are different than those of the workweek.
The activities are often challenging because you do them infrequently. They also allow you to "blow off some steam" that usually cannot be done during the workweek. For example, I went bowling a couple of times and it felt real good tossing the ball down the lane and causing some havoc to the pins.
My day off was truly a day off. I slept in later than usual to repay some of my sleep debt. I didn't do any training—never made it high enough on the priority list. I took care of family and household needs that got neglected during the week. A day off usually meant having a meal at a restaurant and some activity with the entire family.
The day off was often relaxing, but sometimes taxing. A nap was taken when the day permitted it. The nap also helped because the day off activities usually ended later than my normal "go to sleep" time.
The number of activities you can participate in will decrease when you work an extended amount of hours. I presented the simplified life I led while working long hours. There are activities that must be done, and others that are nice to do if your time and energy levels can make it happen.
If you are working a lot of hours, you should set some goals. Mine were to continue gaining size and strength and to maintaining my relationships and physical and mental health. To accomplish this, I had to prioritize my activities and optimize my time when conducting these activities.