Episode highlights

00:40 – You are more inclined to follow your plan if it’s scheduled into your calendar 

03:57 – Use your circadian rhythm to identify the best time for training

06:26 – Short, sharp workouts are easy to plan and execute

10:10 – Apply the HIIT format to prepare for an Ironman and other events

15:00 – Don’t make training a priority over family or career commitments

16:22 – The capsule menu, meal prepping and other time hacks for nutrition


Fitness Guide


Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast, where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way, without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby. 

Darren: This is Episode 16 of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. In today’s show, it’s a slightly different format where it’s just yours truly. Today, I want to talk about time. Time is our most finite resource and so I want to talk about how we can adapt and managed to fit in fitness and nutrition when we already have and are already struggling for time around career and families. So let’s dive in. 

First off, I want to talk about when we’re considering either exercising or improving our nutrition, how important it is to kind of sit down and plan all of that out. Now, this kind of follows on a little bit from the other solo podcast I did around timelines and deadlines and to people listening, it may feel like this kind of big thing that you need to do and maybe you don’t want to sit down and plan it all out. But just by spending five minutes planning it out, specifically when you’re new to this and you’ve maybe not done it before, or you have done it before but you’ve struggled to stay consistent and you’ve struggled to get results. 

To give you an example: what I tend to do is on a Sunday, either in the morning when the kids are doing their homework or maybe in the afternoon when we’re just at home, is I’ll just take five minutes out to plan out, during the week, when I’m going to exercise. And I’ll put that in my calendar so that maybe when I’m traveling or maybe when I first get up in the morning, all I need to do is just go into my calendar and say, “Right, what have I got to do today?” At eight o’clock, which is a time that I normally train, I’m going to go and do a run, I’m going to do a HIIT session in the park or I’m going to go for a swim. 

And by having it already planned in your calendar, you’re more inclined to do it in the first place. But more importantly, you’re more inclined to stay consistent at it because it’s the psychological aspect of having it already there planned in your calendar, you kind of get this feeling like you can’t miss it or you don’t want to miss it. It’s an appointment that’s been put in there and you want to meet that. 

The other thing around it is that even when life challenges do come up, and maybe it’s eight o’clock on a Wednesday morning and you’re supposed to go for a run but something has happened with the kids are or something has happened at work and there’s just no way you can do it, that doesn’t then mean that that’s it. You just ditch it and you don’t do it. What you can then do is you can just think, okay, I’ll look at my calendar and when can I actually do this run session? Okay, well, I might be able to do it later on this evening, either when the kids go to a club, or they’ve got football training or something like that, so you can just move it.

And, again, I’ll keep reiterating this because some people might think that it’s just another strain on my time. It actually doesn’t take five minutes and if you stay off social media for 20 minutes, you’ve got more than enough time to look at your calendar, either do the workout or reschedule it. So that’s the first thing that I want to discuss: is planning around your training.

The second thing that I want to discuss is around time of training. Some of us are morning people, some of us are evening people, so it’s understanding when you’re… Not at your best, but when it’s better for you to train. For me personally, it’s in the morning. Quite often in the summer, I’d get up at five o’clock in the morning and do a run or about six o’clock I’ll do a quick HIIT session in the garden or go for a swim. And that works for me because I’m a bit of a morning person. This comes back to what we call our circadian rhythm, which is our natural body clock that we have and it’s when our body kind of wakes up and wants to go to sleep. 

For some people, it’s in the evening. For me, I just can’t stand training in the evening, I don’t like it, doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for the family either in terms of routines and when the kids are here, so the evenings are no good for me. So it’s understanding when your best time is to train. A lot of that is obviously going to be dependent on the family, it’s going to be dependent on when the kids need to be going to school, or on the weekend, what clubs and sports the kids have. Again, that can come back to your planning and you can understand when the best time for you to train is. 

It might well be if you work in the city or work in a city, you could squeeze it in lunchtime. Now, I know the majority of people listening to this will probably think, well, I don’t have a lunch time–I don’t have time–but you can carve that time out. Just like you carve out time for meetings in your day, in your diary, you can carve out maybe half an hour, maybe 40 minutes for you to go for a swim at a local gym, you could go for a run outside, you could do a spin class, and then you can just do a HIIT session either in a gym or in the park. So, yeah, you can fit that in, you’ve just got to make a conscious decision and a conscious effort to plan that time into your day. 

The third thing I want to talk about is about how long, how much time you need to train. I’m a huge advocate of doing short, sharp workouts. Obviously, it’s going to be dependent on your goal. If your primary goal is either to drop a bit of weight, to drop a bit of fat, and that is your sole goal, you can 100% do 12 to 15-minute HIIT workouts and that will give you enough of a workout to actually achieve that goal. The reason for that is because when you’re doing short, sharp workouts, what happens in the body is that you’re going to raise your heart rate to 85–95% of its maximum. And when the body’s working at that level, it is working in it’s anaerobic state, so really high heart rate, it’s something that you can’t sustain for a long period of time. What’s happening inside is that your body is burning glycogen from the muscle. Now, glycogen is derived from carbohydrates that we eat and that’s what happens: the carbohydrates gets broken down by the body into sugars and then it gets stored in our muscles for then energy when we do really high intensity stuff. 

Then what happens is once you’ve finished your HIIT workout, the body then obviously is calming down, your heart rate’s dropping, but for then the next eight hours, your body will then be in a fat burning state. So that’s a lower level of energy that it is using and it will start using fats as fuel. There’s a whole kind of “another” podcast that I can do around this, around how it works specifically, but essentially that’s what it is. 

Coming back to the timing, if that is your goal, which is weight loss and fat loss, you can absolutely do a 12 to 15-minute workout. You can do that in the gym, you could do that outside, you can pretty much do it anywhere. I’ve even just shot a video fairly recently around how you can do it when you’re traveling, you can do it in a hotel room. Now, what you do is you can do four exercises with a 10-second rest in between each exercise, and then a minute rest at the end of each set, and you do that four times. I can guarantee you, you will be puffing, panting, very much out of breath, and very much sweating at the end of it. And that will have achieved your goal. So yeah, 12 to 15 minutes. 

And that’s perfect if you are really strapped for time, whether that’s in the morning, whether that’s at lunch hour, whether that’s in the evening. One of the huge benefits that I found, from a family perspective, when you do this specifically at home in the evenings or you do it in the morning at weekends, is the kids like to get involved. And it’s quite cool actually, when the kids get involved. They don’t obviously do the whole thing and I’m not ever suggesting that you should get your kids to do a 12 to 15-minute HIIT workout, but it’s their way of actually supporting you. It’s their way of getting involved and it’s a bit of fun as well. You can have a bit of a laugh and a joke with the kids whilst you do that. So yes, 12 to 15 minutes. 

If you are training for something else, so that could be, from my perspective it’s obviously triathlon or Ironman. And that is, if you’re doing swimming, cycling and running, that can take a little bit of a longer period of time, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. You can still apply the same HIIT format to swimming, cycling and running. To give you an example, specifically running, you can go out and do a 10-set 100-metre sprint workout. The way that that works out, you can either do on the flat, you can do it in the local park, or you can do it anywhere where there’s a slight incline. 

Essentially, what you do is you jog out to where the area is to give you a warm up, you then get to your position, you sprint for 100 metres, and then your recovery is a slight jog back to where you started, and you go again. And again, that should take 15–20 minutes, whatever, depending on what level you’re at in terms of running. That is far, far better to do than just a 5K run, specifically if you’re looking to lose weight and you’re looking to lose fat. Obviously, if you’re looking to improve your endurance because you’ve signed up for a half marathon, or you’re doing your first sprint triathlon, or you want to do your park run, then the training can be slightly different. But the sprint sets are still very, very important even if you’re doing endurance running, because that builds your anaerobic capacity. 

Now again, if you are wanting to do more endurance-based running, then you can do… rather than just going out and doing a 5K, you can go out and do 3 to 4K and at the end of it, you can add between four to six little sprint sets in there. So you can sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 40, and you can do that four to six times. Again, you can do all of that within a 20-minute window and by the time you’ve come back and you’ve showered, that’s a workout of half an hour. That’s really important. 

Then swimming, you can do a similar scenario. I’ve got a blog on the Fitter Healthier Dad website and we’ve got an infographic on there on how you can do a pyramid set. A pyramid set is exactly what it is. It’s almost like an up-down pyramid where you start from. You do maybe a little 200-metre warm up in the pool. If it’s a 20 metre pool, that’s 10 laps and obviously, if it’s a 25 metre pool, then it’s eight laps, and then you go into your pyramid set. So you do 100 metres and then you rest for 30 seconds; do 200 metres, rest for 30 seconds; 400 metres, rest for 30 seconds; and then you do your 200 metre cool down. 

Depending on what level you’re at as a swimmer, that could take you 20 minutes, it could take you half an hour, but what I’m trying to demonstrate in terms of the length of time you need to train, you can do all of these disciplines in under half an hour and that’s from start to finish: from when you get changed to when you’ve got showered and you’re dressed again. You don’t need to be training hours and hours and hours. 

If you’re listening to this and you have been doing sprint triathlons and you are doing Olympic distance, you are doing a half distance and then full distance, that’s a very different story because you’re going to have to do a lot more endurance-based workouts which are time dependent. You need to be doing a lot more time. But again, it’s all still doable. Obviously, in the week it’s going to be a bit more challenging and that’s why I specifically picked the weekends to do my longer rides. And again, to fit that in around the family because you don’t want to be disappearing away from the family for hours and hours and hours.

I, because I’m a morning person, I tend to get up early in the morning. Even at winter, I’ll get up at 5:00–5:30. I’ll either go out to do the run or I’ll jump on the turbo trainer to do the time on the bike or I might even go to the gym to do the time on the bike, and obviously the local pool to do a swim. But just do it earlier or do it later. Work in around the family: don’t make your training a priority over family, career commitments, and all the rest of it. All of this is adaptable in terms of training. 

That’s hopefully given you some insight on to how you can adapt your training. Like I said previously, just to recap, one of the things is being adaptable. It’s really, really key. If you have scheduled in your calendar that you’re going to do even a class, like a HIIT class or whatever, and you can’t do that because of family and because of work, don’t not do it–just move it to another day. Maybe move your rest days around. And that’s something that again, we can talk about on another podcast, but it’s very important that you have rest days as well. 

So yeah, just be adaptable. Move it around, work out when your best time is to train, so it’s morning, lunchtime, or evenings, make sure you put it in your calendar, and then move it around if you can’t do it at the time you wanted to train. And then in terms of length of workout, like I said, you can do some pretty good workouts in 30 minutes if you’re taking the kind of interval training approach.

On nutrition, there’s lots of different time hacks you can use on nutrition. One of the biggest things is prepping your food. Now, I know for a lot of people listening, it’s probably going to sound like a real pain in the ass to prep your food. But simple things like when you’re cooking an evening meal, you could cook a slightly larger portion of an evening meal and then you can store that over in the freezer or take that for lunch for the next day at work.

The reason I advocate doing meal prep is because at least when you’re prepping your food, you know exactly what is in your food. The challenges that we have when we buy food either when we’re out or when we’re at work is you obviously pick up the most convenient type of food off the supermarket or wherever and a lot of it is processed. I’m massively against processed food, it’s not good for us, there’s lots of different chemicals and stuff in there that are not good for our overall health and obviously if we’re trying to achieve a specific goal.

Create stuff when you’re doing your evening meal and then even if you’re not, once you’ve done your evening meal, just prep your lunch for the next day and understand what it is you want in accordance with what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re trying to achieve losing weight, making sure that you’re having small portion sizes, making sure you’re having your proteins, your fats and your carbohydrates in there. 

In the morning, if I know I’m going to be out for the day, when I’m doing the kids breakfast, I will make sure that I’m prepping my lunch. If you don’t… And I advocate another thing of delaying breakfast, so don’t have your breakfast as soon as you get up, have it two hours after you’ve got up and that’s for fat-burning reasons because the body is in a high fat burning state when you first wake up so you want it to start burning fat, you don’t want to feed it with food because then that will obviously reduce that fat burning process. 

But yeah, when you’re doing the kids’ breakfast, make your breakfast, put it in a Tupperware, make your lunch, put it in a Tupperware, so you know the portion sizes, you know the types of foods you’re going to be eating and you don’t have to just grab something randomly which is not going to suit what you’re trying to achieve for your nutrition. 

Then the final thing that I want to talk around about nutrition is I have something that I call a capsule menu. One of the biggest challenges that I found was whilst I like cooking and everything else, particularly when you come in in the evening, the last thing that you have time for is to break out a recipe book and then start cooking a meal. Now there obviously are recipes that you can do in 15 minutes and I have that in the 90-day programme, and also I’ve got a seven-day meal planner and a lot of those recipes in there are 15 minutes long. But that’s assuming that you have the ingredients for those recipes. 

I developed something called a capsule menu. Basically what it is, is I have seven meals which I cook every single week and they don’t change. Like I’d cook steak and vegetables or I would cook a salmon dish or I’d cook some really basic meatballs with a tomato sauce. But all of it takes a short amount of time. But I know every week what my seven meals are. Now, you might be thinking, no, I’m just going to get so bored of that. And, absolutely, you do. What happens is once you get bored of one meal, you just swap that meal out for a new meal. You don’t need to change the whole menu and that helps for a number of reasons. It helps with your weekly shop so you can buy the same thing every week. If you do online shopping, you can pretty much just copy and paste your basket over. That saves you time.

Then when it comes to cook, you know that if you’ve done these meals for the last few weeks, you’re going to have the ingredients in the cupboard. And then the third thing is, when you’re actually cooking them it takes you a lot less time because you haven’t got to look up the recipe; you can just pretty much, once you’ve done it a few times, you know exactly what you’ve got to cook and you know exactly what the ingredients are. The benefits of all of that is you already know, without thinking about it, that you’re going to get a nutrient-dense dinner so that saves you time. 

Just to recap, it’s called a capsule menu and it takes a little bit of time to set up in the beginning. So you have to just sit down, map out your meals and when you’re mapping out your meals, you’re making sure that you’re getting the right nutrients in there. So your proteins, your fats and your carbohydrates, put it on a little piece of paper or post-it note in the kitchen or whatever, and you now know, from Sunday to Sunday, exactly what you’re going to be eating. Obviously if you’re eating out, that’ slightly different but doesn’t matter, food keeps, you can put it in the freezer for the following week. I hope the capsule menu concept helps and will save you a lot of time. 

So I just wanted to go through all those kind of time hacks this week and if you have any questions, then you can go over to the Facebook community. If you’ve not signed up, it’s a free group, you go in there and I’m active in there. If you have any challenges about what I’ve talked about or you want any further advice specifically relating to your situation, then put a post in there and I’ll come back and answer you. We’ve also got the Facebook page, and we’ve got the contact page on the website. I hope that helps and I look forward to speaking to you next week. 

Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com