How the hell do you do this every day?

March 11th, 2009  |  Published in OMGBFFA's blog  |  7 Comments

In a comment on my last entry, someone asked:

Do you have a job? Hobbies? How the hell do you do this every day?

“How the hell do you do this every day?” is a fair question, and I have gotten a version of it for a couple of years now.

Yes, I have a job. It’s a full time, professional, relatively high-profile job in downtown Toronto. I live in the city, but I do have to cycle or take public transit every day.

Yes, I have hobbies. (Though my main hobby is jiu-jitsu.) I like to read, cook, talk to my best friend and my roommate, have occasional (Precision Nutrition-friendly!) brunches with other friends, watch documentaries, surf teh Internetz, tidy my house–yes, tidying is a hobby for me–etc.

It really doesn’t take as much time as people think. My training volume on this program is–depending on where I am in the program–somewhere between 13-16 hours a week. That’s significantly less than the 20 hours week (including teaching) that I was averaging last year. As I have said before, if the average person attempted to train as much as I do, I think they would be horrified and would hate me forever for recommending this program to them. But the reason for that hatred would not a matter of the time required: it would be the intensity with which I am training.

If you train smart, you don’t have to train for a long time. My training is specific targeted to address my goals of improved functional strength, drastic fat loss with muscle sparing, world-class conditioning, and advancing my grappling technique as much as possible between now and May 23rd.

But you don’t have to be an international athlete to find the same program useful. Fifteen minutes of interval sprints will do far more for fat loss and conditioning than the “regular” long cardio session. See Krista’s article on Fartlek training,  details about Alwyn Cosgrove’s afterburn training, Dan’s article on Tabata training over at T-Nation, or Alex Koch’s article on Tabata training from Men’s Fitness (don’t laugh).

So those are some specifics on training. But there’s a different thing that lets me do this, too. It is, in fact, the more critical component.

Wanna know what it is? It’s the way my life is prioritized and structured.

I live close to where I work and train, and I don’t have a car, so transit time between home and those places is reduced: it takes me about 20 minutes to get from my house to work or the gym, and ten minutes to get from work to the gym. I don’t watch a lot of television (but I do watch a couple of hours every week; I don’t want to be completely pop culture illiterate). I’m not really a bar or club person. I don’t eat out much. And I prioritize my training, health and fitness pretty highly compared to things that aren’t good or fun for me. If I break down the stuff I am obligated in some way to do during a week, it looks like this:

  • 56 hours sleeping
  • 40 hours working
  • 25 hours training (including changing, showering, hanging out at the gym on the weekend acting like a jiu-jitsu bum, etc.)
  • 8 hours in transit (public transit, walking, cycling)
  • 12 hours morning prep (cooking meals, tidying the house, catching up on email, reading the news, getting ready for work, etc.)
  • 6 hours evening prep (grocery shopping, packing food for the next day, catching up with my roommate, getting ready for bed)

That totals 147 hours. With 168 hours in a week, that still leaves another 21 hours of free time a week – three hours every day of the week including weekends – for me to do whatever I want. This might include walking home or to the gym from work a couple of days a week… as long as the weather is nice. It might also include watching television, taking a nice vanilla bath, hanging out with friends, or contemplating my navel. It could be anything! My time is my own! Ha ha! Suck on that, leisure!

Most people, even very active people, train two or three times a week for maybe an hour, even two hours. Let’s say that’s ten hours a week with showering, etc. Compared to my 25 hours a week, that’s nothing… and with the 15-hour weekly difference in our training schedules, you get another two hours a day that I don’t have. You get five hours a day. I get three.

I sympathize with people who say they don’t have time to work out. Believe me, in my late-1990s dotcom days of 80-hour work weeks, it was challenging for me to find time to work out, too. But I usually did, even though I hated it and was terrible at it. Everybody has time to work out.

What I discovered was that if I make training a priority, it’s easy to fit it into my schedule. Parents will leave work on time because they have to pick up the kids from hockey practice. Me, I leave work on time because my appointment with Geoff is at 6:30pm, and Mark’s class schedule doesn’t change. There’s no way I’m wasting those opportunities.

I don’t know if that was useful, but it was informative for me to write it out so I could see exactly why I never feel stressed about training so much.


  1. HalcyonNwar says:

    March 11th, 2009at 3:16 pm(#)

    Thanks for the collection of articles on interval training. I was more motivated after seeing your response yesterday, and I went and ran sprints. I am not at the point where I can do 30 on 20 off, more like 30 on 90 off, but the power of sisterhood carried me through :)

    I can’t believe I used to do 60 or 90 minutes of cardio a day. Switching to 3 days of weights and 2 days of intervals has given me more of the fat loss than I would’ve gotten in like a year with my old system.

  2. Katie says:

    March 11th, 2009at 3:17 pm(#)

    Your blog has been very interesting so far, I am enjoying it very much! This entry was particularly interesting. I wonder how much time I spend laying about that could be used more productively… although fitness is already a priority in my life.

  3. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach says:

    March 11th, 2009at 4:43 pm(#)

    Your point:

    “What I discovered is that if I make training a priority, it’s easy to fit it into my schedule.”

    is spot-on. Even more so, make *yourself* a priority. It’s sad how many people take care of others while letting Number 1 (ie, themselves) fall by the wayside.

  4. anonymous says:

    March 11th, 2009at 7:40 pm(#)

    Great response to the question – now no more excuses for me!

  5. Bonnie says:

    March 12th, 2009at 1:38 pm(#)

    Follow-up question: How do you fit in enough recovery time with two intense workouts a day?

    For a lot of people it’s not the training time, but recovery from training that can be difficult. Of course this is highly dependent on the intensity of the workouts, as well as work capacity. Can you comment on how intensity and recovery are accounted for in your program?

  6. OMGBFFA says:

    March 12th, 2009at 3:38 pm(#)

    Good question, Bonnie. Basically, I’m using SCIENCE! :)

    I asked the same question of John, except I asked it excitedly, like: “You mean I don’t have to take rest days? Awesome!” I have exactly one full rest day every four weeks, which to an athlete is like opening a Christmas present and finding the Punk Rock Barbie you had been bugging your parents for all year.

    Basically, the training program is periodized over the short term (week) and the medium term (month), and it’s matched up with my nutrition program. I have seven kinds of workouts: low-intensity cardio (walking), strength, power, high intensity intervals (sprints), conditioning circuits, grappling technique and live grappling. The way that my training is scheduled, even if I have two or three sessions a day–and there are some three-session days in weeks two and four, including one tomorrow–there’s plenty of variety and enough time between similar workouts that I don’t kill myself. Each session (well, except for the walking) is quite intense, but I did work up to this over the last year and a half. Still, I don’t feel like I’m training THAT hard – training smarter definitely increases your ability to do work!

    Also, I am focused on recovery as an essential part of my program. I get regular massages, show big love to my parasympathetic nervous system, get plenty of sleep, take the right supplements, eat a perfect diet, and am fanatical about my post-workout nutrition.

    When I was overtrained, I was grappling ten times a week: seven days a week, at least two hours a day, and three out of seven days I trained grappling twice a day. My body just gave out on me. This program should avoid that result. It’s looking good so far.

  7. jalal jamal says:

    May 14th, 2009at 6:14 am(#)

    I usually do interval wind sprints that have breaks of half a minute between each sprint (which lasts anywhere from 7 seconds to 11 seconds). I commonly do 7-8 such sprints and the whole procedure takes me about 10 minutes.

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