Time Management for….Everyone

“Finally, I got to the gym.”


I have this odd belief that we have very little actual free will or self-discipline. Oh, we certainly have some, but once you hit a certain age, life conspires against you. It seems that a lot of things begin to pile up on you after a certain age.


Maybe in high school, you and your friends would play basketball for hours, chase around for a bit, go to practice and have mom hand you a “Sunny D.” Then, life happened. Rolling out of bed and making yourself one of those egg white omelets with six herbs and five vegetables that your fitness trainer recommended might happen a few times. I never have the spices that go with the recipe and I end up eating the yolks because I can’t crack an egg right to save my life. After that, off to work and maybe even a few hours on top of that because of a glitch, error or meltdown.


Finally, you got to the gym. Frankly, I applaud you for walking into the door. I often recommend home gyms, calisthenics workouts, or local parks for busy guys, but recently I have begun to realize that many of us don’t have exercise issues, we have time issues.


A few years ago, I began compiling this little “list” of things to do that save me time, energy and effort. Obviously, the list, these Ten Commandments of Time Management, have little to do with exercise, but let me give you one or two ideas about training when under the time crunch, too. Feel free to ignore any and all of these suggestions, but do so at your own peril.


  1. Fill up your gas tank whenever it comes to half-full. When you have half a tank of gas, there is always a gas station. There is no line at the gas station, too, and moreover you are just cruising around doing a few items. When the “Gas Empty” warning light comes on, you will be in a desert with a woman giving birth. So, be proactive and always fill up before you need to fill up.
  2. I visit the local lube and oil shop every three months. I always have someone go with me then we go to lunch. I drop off the car, listen to all those annoying things that need to be replaced (always replace wipers and filters when prompted), I go each lunch and the car is always waiting when finished. It keeps the car running longer and safer and you will never notice the time strain.
  3. One last car issue: replace your tires and battery long before you need to replace them. Perhaps it is because I drive on snowy roads and deal with cold mornings, but NOTHING kills a day or two or three like a flat tire or dead battery.
  4. Start compiling a house list. For your furnace filter, write down the exact measurements. I have two, so when I buy (and buy them in bulk, too) filters, I have my little card that says “20 x 20 x 5” and “16 x 20 x 1.” No other size will fit, by the way. Any time you replace an item, check to see if you have a replacement
  5. Have a Master House (or Apartment) List. If you have weekly chores, right down the day you do them. Tuesday night is garbage night as the garbage man comes on Wednesday. You only want to forget that once. If you have annual items, right them down. In April and May, you might have chores to prep the cooling system, write them down. In October, you may have winterizing chores…write them down. Clearing this list clears your brain.
  6. And while you are at lists, make a shopping list that relates to you and your needs. There are going to obvious ones most of us will buy: “Eggs, Butter, Veggies, Fruit” but I would also include items that you should always check off when you go to the store. Toilet paper, paper towels, Ziploc bags and garbage bags are easy to forget and really, really hard to substitute for one another. Most experts in time management usually say to shop once a week and never go back to the store after that. Josh Hillis, fat loss expert, argues that the hardest workout of the week should be shopping for food and food preparation. The harder you prep your food, the leaner your waistline.
  7. This leads to a key time management tool: learn to “touch” everything just once. When you open your mail, try to just have three options. My first option is always the garbage can. Next, if a response is need, respond immediately. If you don’t have time now, don’t open the mail yet! When you open the mail, keep paper, envelopes checkbook and stamps nearby to deal with anything that comes up. Finally, if it is something to read or look at later, keep a large manila envelope to pop in the magazines or letters or catalogs. Empty that on the first of every month.
  8. The same applies to e-mail. E-mail was once considered the cure to inefficiency in the work place. This was before kitty videos, fantasy football and sexting. The same rules apply to e-mails: delete it, respond to it, or file it. Try to respond in five or less sentences, too.
  9. Where is you workout gear? I live an interesting life where I can basically roll out and train any time I want. I suggest that most people keep two packed training bags. If you commute or drive you car a lot, always keep one in there, packed and ready to go. If you go from work to home before you go to the gym, there is a really good chance you won’t go to the gym.
  10. Finally, it is okay to rethink the way you train if life is getting cluttered. I applaud the Weekend Warrior mentality where you train hard and heavy on both Saturday and Sunday. Kick in a moderate or even easy workout on Wednesday and you have a pretty good training template. Use some of the weekend for shopping, food prep and training and it will leave your weekdays more open for the realities of life.



Take a few small steps in organizing your life and proactively attempt to deal with life’s issues. Things will come up, but some preparation will do a lot to head off losing weeks instead of days. Time management in life opens up time to train in the gym.


Corrective Work: Still Focus on the Fundamental Human Movements!


In the past decade, corrective work has exploded in the health and fitness industry. As always, and this is true about most things in life, we went way too far in one direction and now we are seeing the pendulum swing back to the point that some are saying it is “all” a waste of time. If you don’t know, corrective work can be anything to “hands on” work like chiropractor adjustments and massage to rolling on a lacrosse ball. Of course, it can also simply be basic stretches as old as the yoga tradition or simple gliding mobility moves.


Let me be candid: I think that doing mobility work is important for everyone. Now, telling me that your special brand of mobility work is going to cure cancer or disease is a bit suspicious, if not downright idiotic. So, yes, I want to know how to better move my neck, but closing one eye and moving my wrist is not going to cure a necrotic hip, no matter how much you spent on that cert last weekend.



So, with corrective work, the best coaches and trainers are doing it. And, generally, they are doing it very well. The problem is with “enough is enough.”


Corrective work can go too far with bands, sticks, bells, wheels and whistles. If the fundamental human movements are key, then demanding them will start the process for many towards the goal of moving better and moving longer. The key to correction is to have a toolkit of regressive movements that allow one to deload and destress the person so that can move comfortably and pain free.


As a young football player, I was shown to use my helmet as a weapon. This “face tackle” was considered “better” as it would hurt the opponent. And, unreasonably, I could break my neck. The funny thing is this: it wasn’t a good way to tackle a runner as it was difficult to “wrap and roll” with your head in the way.


The old stand-by, the shoulder tackle, is not only safer but it is better. Safety is part of performance. Over time, putting a weight correctly back on the ground is going to do more for your back health than all of the correctives I can teach you after you haphazardly lower the load and hurt your lower back. Performance in the weight room should be like gymnastics: you should be striving for perfection the moment you begin until the moment you finish.


The first step to correcting problems is to avoid them. Proper coaching and proper techniques are much less expensive than surgeries.


It’s pretty simple, statistically:


  • Don’t smoke.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Learn to fall and recover.
  • Eat colorful veggies.
  • Exercise about half an hour a day.
  • Don’t let your weight get over 300 pounds.


And…that’s it. That’s all valuable and good and correct. Grandma knew/knows this.


When it comes to correctives and corrective work, we must first make sure we are dealing with the basics of risk. After that, we have to get a bit smarter. As I always tell people: “sure, YOU can do this and that and this and that, but what about the rest of us with these things called “lives?” So, before you spend two hours a day with your magic tape and magic wand, try the basics.


Strive for balance in terms of volume in your push and pull work. Learn to squat deep and master the movement. Be reasonable when you deadlift. Find softer paths for your running workouts when you can. If you bicycle, wear appropriate protective gear. If you decide to do water sports, learn to swim and wear gear that floats. And Grandma probably knows this, too. Let’s start the new year with a focus on less injuries and more success.




The Five Pillars of Training

I always joke that the coach who trains himself has an idiot for a client. I was self-coached for years. So, if you studied math or logic, I fully admit I am an idiot. The problem with self-coaching is that it is so hard to study the person in the mirror and see the whole picture. Sure, you can look over your shoulder, but the reflection is going to be twisted.


Friends can help. John Price used to remind me daily that “you are only as strong as your weakest link” and we would search and seek them out. Every preseason, I would chart out my weak points and note them. Then, I would ignore them.


Hiring a personal trainer gave me the great insight: I simply don’t have enough energy or free will to work on my weak points in favor of not only what I like to do, but what I am good at doing.


I’m not alone.


As I saw my own success improve under the guiding hands of others, I came to these simple conclusions about success in training.


The Five Pillars of Successful Training


Proactive, not reactive


As important as movement is in embracing fitness, a few minutes of planning each meal for the upcoming days is just as valuable. Therefore, we will take a few minutes each workout to “X” out those upcoming parties, festivities and general dietary disasters that await us each week. Our goal will be to face these events with a body full of clear water and clean food. “Thou shalt not go to a all you can eat dessert bar with a hungry belly!”


Also, a review of the food journal of the past week will give some clues about how to deal with upcoming events. Remember, the more honest you are in your food journal, the more success you have on your journey towards your goals. It is tempting to write “Small Salad with an apple” versus “Two pizzas,” but, long term, success rises with honesty.


Master my movements


There are basic human movements (Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, Loaded Carries, and “Floor” work) and life demands that we use these daily and, hopefully, more often than that, too! All the terms tossed around in the fitness community from flexibility and mobility to cardio and core spin around the basic concept of “movement.” Mastery of movements brings back the spring and joy of youthful play.


“Practice will make you good at anything you do. And…we are practicing all the time.” George Leonard


Strength is the glass


When in doubt, get stronger. Absolute strength is the master quality. Imagine a large glass and a small glass, like a shot glass. Absolute strength is the glass and every other quality (mobility, flexibility, cardio and all the glorious rest) is the liquid. The bigger the glass the more liquid you can hold.


If you or your client has a tiny glass, you need to keep an eye on every calorie, every nibble. But, If you have a pitcher, you can enjoy an occasional good time and know that the large load that you have will have to deal with in the gym is going to strangle those extra calories. If there is a truth in training it is this: the stronger you are the easier it is to achieve all your other goals.





Not now, later


Never say never. Cookies, cake, beer and bagels are not “off” your low carb diet. It’s just “not now” time. Experience teaches us this: if I tell you that all your dreams will come true if you simply stop eating rutabagas, I promise you I know what is going to happen next. I’m not a prophet; I am a coach. You may have never eaten a rutabaga in your life, but from now on, you are going to crave, demand and insist upon rutabagas. Change rutabagas to anything you like but know this truth about human nature: not now, later.


Whatever it is that you need to put off in terms of diet, time or short-term pain and discomfort, you need to remind yourself that “soon and very soon,” you can submit yourself to a virtual orgy of feasting. The funny thing is this: that day may never come as you realize that this temptress has long been forgotten.


Celebrate Success


If there is a forgotten art in the fitness industry, it is taking a moment to enjoy achieving any and all goals. Now, I am the biggest sinner of all when it comes to this point, but please learn from my mistakes here: celebrate any and all successes. Now, it is true that in some elementary schools we tend to go far overboard with any and all achievements. Simple goals need at least a moment of congratulations or a small ceremony of ritual. If I could do it all again, I would have celebrated every minor victory and every tiny win.


Dance and sing with every success as you go through the arduous challenge of training yourself to and from health and fitness. Enjoy!

The Eagle


I enjoy an “Intentional Community” of like-minded trainers. Each morning, we agree to gather at 9:30 and train together. Often, we eat meals after the session but every session is encouraging and educational.

Recently, one of the guys who frequents our sessions had a client do a very difficult workout, “The Eagle.” The problem was this: he had NEVER done it. We all called him out and insisted that he finish it before he ever considers this to be a workout for a middle-aged client again. There are many lessons to this story: don’t eat before doing an Eagle and never listen to someone who tells you “I know how this feels” unless they know how this feels!

A few years ago, I discovered the combination I call The Eagle. The school mascot where I was teaching at the time was the Soaring Eagle, so the name was a natural. It combined the simplest of the loaded carries—the patterning movement of the farmer walk—with the basic grinding squat, the double-kettlebell front squat.

I am going to say ‘simply’ here, but the workload is incredible. Simply, the athletes do eight double-kettlebell front squats, then drop the weight to their sides and farmer walk for 20 meters, then do another eight squats and repeat until completing eight circuits.

That goal was often not met.

There are some hidden benefits to this combo. The athlete needs two kettlebells and never puts them down. The metabolic hit is accelerated by the grip work, the wrestling with the kettlebells and the sheer volume of carrying the load. It was this Eagle that made me think about the ideal combos.

There is nothing magical in the choice of exercises; it is the patterning movement of loaded carries mixed with the grinding movement of squats. For whatever reason, those two kettlebells are also a sign from heaven that this is going to be a hard workout.

If two bells are an issue, you can do a simpler version of this with the Suitcase Carry and the Goblet Squat. This will take only one bell; in this workout, you can use Kettlebells or dumbbells or whatever you have with a handle.

The Goblet Squat became famous in an article I wrote for MH a decade ago. Hold the bell with both hands, descend until you can push your knees out with your elbows, squeeze and stand up. The Suitcase Carry (it’s funny to think that this was the third article I published in MH after the Deadlfit and the Goblet Squat) is simply walking with a bell in one hand, like a piece of luggage.

Strive for eight squats again and keep switching hands on every walk. This workout is about a third as hard as the actual Eagle. It can be used anywhere and I have done it on beaches and parks without any problem. If you have a bell, you can do the workout. This variation, let’s call it the Goshawk for fun, is much more appropriate for a typical fitness client.

The Eagle is a great prep program for a football player or fighter. Keep that in mind when you attempt the challenge.