Too Exhausted or Busy to Hit the Gym? Check Out These Tips

Feb. 5, 2024 – “Beep — Beep – Beep”: Your alarm clock signals that it’s time to slip on your workout clothes and head to the gym. You’re trying to muster the motivation to get up so your pricey gym membership doesn’t go to waste, like it really did last year. 

Day after day, adults and young people alike find themselves in this scenario. Scheduled exercise seems to fall by the wayside after a few months, weeks, or even days.

According to a recent Forbes Health study, about half (48%) of Americans had fitness-centered 2024 new year’s resolutions. But the study also found that the majority of people either forget or simply give up on their workout goals after a mere 2 to 3 months. 

Maybe you’re a busy mom trying to find ways to fit exercise in between school drop off, work, and cooking dinner. Or perhaps you’re tired of shelling out cash on that costly gym membership. WebMD consulted some of the country’s top fitness experts on simple, realistic ways to stick to your goals and go after that body you’ve always dreamed of.

Where to Start 

Consistency and prioritization are key components of a fitness routine that you can follow year-round, says Gunnar Peterson, personal trainer and former director of strength and endurance for the Los Angeles Lakers. Oftentimes, people say they are too tied up to pencil in a workout. Peterson says schedule it in ink, instead.

“You have to put exercise in as a nonnegotiable — you’re working out whatever time and however much time you have,” Peterson said. “I think that’s where people fall short. They just don’t budget it. You have to. If you don’t put it in your budget, it’s not going to get done.”

Speaking of budget, fancy fitness classes are not required to reach your body goals. Indeed, your body alone can be your most valuable piece of workout equipment, Peterson said. 

He refers to one’s body as “their own terrific gym” and “a built-in cardiovascular machine” they can use for a number of physical activities such as walking, swimming, pedaling, and climbing. Strength training is equally important. Lucky for us, our bodies also have built-in equipment where we can engage in exercises like push-ups and squats, says Aaron Ferguson, a  Los Angeles-based personal trainer who has helped celebrities like Will Smith get in the “best shape of their lives.

“Most times when I do [bodyweight training] with people, they’ll wake up more sore than they would if they were in a full gym,” Ferguson said. “So you can definitely get the results that you want by being away from the gym.”

Working on repping out strength sets — like 20 crunches per minute for a total of 20 minutes — is one effective exercise method, Ferguson says. But don’t worry about the perceived “toughness” of a fitness move. There are many modifications for strength moves — making them both beginner and intermediate-level friendly. For example, performing push-ups on your knees or using water bottles for shoulder presses. 

Time Is Priority

When it comes to timing, look at your schedule and determine how much time you can budget for your workout. If a mere 5 minutes is all you can give, start there, and continue adding time in 5- to 10-minute increments. Try this three times a week for a month, and you’ll find your body and mind will often yearn for more, Peterson said.

Susan Williams, a wife and mother of three in Wichita, KS, has adopted this practice. As a social worker who works 10- to-11 hour shifts, she found herself too exhausted to go to the gym while trying to juggle work, making dinner, doing chores, and spending time with her family. So, she nixed the gym and began doing 20- to-30 minute YouTube workouts that focused on beginner-friendly cardio and strength moves.

“Doing simple exercises in the comfort of my home helps me — knowing that I’m not leaving my house, for one,” Williams says. “Second, I’m not looking at the time because I don’t need to be working out for an hour or two. Doing even 20-to-30 minute workouts can be helpful because the goal is that you’re moving — you’re doing something.”

In addition to her half-hour, at-home workouts, Williams wears a fitness tracker with a goal of 7,000 steps per day. This can be helpful for those, like Williams, who work a desk job. Setting an alarm to get up and walk around or drink water every hour helps hold her accountable to her fitness goals.

No ‘Entitlement’

Be realistic about time put in for exercise and the results you expect, Peterson said. In the grand scheme of things, 5 minutes of exercise, out of 24 hours in a day, is quite low. But people often look at chiseled actors or models and ask themselves, “Why not me?” Peterson calls this an entitlement mentality — which, in fitness, often won’t get you closer to your goals. Take into account the hours upon hours these individuals put into fitness with the goal of perfecting their figures. 

“You can’t expect to have the same results they have if you don’t do what they do,” Peterson said. “There are certainly shortcuts here and there [like surgical or cosmetic procedures], but there’s no shortcut that’s cutting off 90% of [body fat]. You might find a way to shave down 10% being more efficient with your training or nutrition or sleep.”

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