Last year, to celebrate my 30th birthday, I ate 30 Chicken McNuggets my birthday week. It turns out that’s not a good idea (shocker!), especially when it wasn’t the worst thing I did that week. So, I came back from my vacation in North Carolina with at least 10 pounds of extra body fat and a really cool shirt that didn’t quite fit. I didn’t plan on it, but I needed to set some New Year’s resolutions.
Good news: The shirt fit great within 2 weeks, and within a month I was in better shape than I was pre-North Carolina. But, when people asked me what I did they would say, “Josef, I don’t have the time to do all of that.”
Well, how much time did it actually take me to get back in shape?
There are just four things that you need to do to get in great shape and have more energy:
Chicken nuggets and fries are like crack. When you try to get off of them you itch and get cravings. But eating right doesn’t actually take any more time than going to McDonald’s — I was eating anyway.
I’ve timed myself from opening the fridge to plating my food, and to make my normal breakfast of bacon and eggs with spinach and cheese only takes 10-12 minutes. The nearest drive-through would actually take me more time to make the round trip. (No additional time cost.)
Do smart workouts
I don’t have enough down time in my life to be able to physically recover from three resistance training sessions per week. But with my long days and short nights I can recover from two resistance training workouts per week. (1 hour each, 2 hours total per week) On top of that I get the best results from doing two high-intensity interval training workouts per week as well — including stretching, warm up, the actual workout and a cool down. That takes me 45 minutes to complete, for a total of 1.5 hours per week. Grand total for this step: 3.5 hours.
Take some smart supplements
The list of stuff worth taking is pretty short — vitamin D, fish oil and some source of probiotics. Personally I like the fermented tea Kombucha for my probiotic source. I was already drinking liquids in my life before my North Carolina nutrition debacle, so it doesn’t actually take any extra time to simply drink something else. And it doesn’t take any extra time in my life to go get the Kombucha from the grocery store either. I was grocery shopping anyway, so all I had to do was put that on the grocery list.
To parse out all my pills and swallow them only takes 90 seconds. Grand total for this step: 90 seconds every day for a total of 11 minutes per week.
Track your compliance
One of the most useful new things that we’ve started doing with our clients is using a compliance journal. This is a small journal where you can literally check off what parts of your plan you have and have not done. This frees up your mind, and improves your results — no more remembering, and measurement alone improves performance. I think you can get 50-100 percent better results from this step alone.
I don’t just recommend the journal, I keep one. For a week, I need to make 35 check marks or Xs. (Check mark means I did the right thing, X means I did not do the right thing.) Each check or X takes 5 seconds to make if I’m being thoughtful. Grand total for this step: less than 3 minutes.
Put all of those steps together and it comes up to less than 4 hours per week to get it all done and to reap great results. There are 168 hours in a week so that’s just 2.4 percent of your week. But this stuff doesn’t cost time, it creates time.
In the past three years I’ve only had to take one sick day. I used to get sick 4-6 times a year and be out 2-3 days each. So, these habits have saved me 12.5 days per year, or 300 hours per year. The above plan only costs 208 hours per year, so I’m up 92 hours.
I also need 1-2 hours less sleep per night. So these habits save me at least 365 hours per year. In total I’m up 457 hours. This doesn’t even count anything like having more energy, liking how I look, etc.
The time you spend achieving your New Year’s Resolutions (taking care of your body, eating right, exercising, etc.) is not time spent, it’s time invested because it pays dividends in the future.
Josef Brandenburg is a Washington, D.C.-area certified fitness expert with 11 years of experience. In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training fitness program, which specializes in weight loss and body transformations for busy people. Read more about The Body You Want at josefbrandenburg.com.