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A Fitness Guide for People With No Free Time (And Who Really Hate the Gym)

This installment of The Normal Person’s Workout sees a guy try to get over his loathing of every exercise besides team sports

Don’t have three hours a day to spend at the gym? Not interested in bulging like a bodybuilder? Unmoved by promises of “fat-blasting, ab-chiseling monster workouts”? This is the column for you, fellow regular human with very little free time.

The Man

Name: Kevin B., Chicago
Age: 30
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 172 pounds
Goal: To find a way of working out that doesn’t make him hate life

His Time Commitment (or Lack Thereof): “I work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms,” Kevin tells us. “From January through March I work 80 to 100 hours a week, which usually means six days a week. The rest of the year I’m working 50 to 70 hours a week. But from April until late October is when I actually consider myself extremely busy: This is when work, wedding season, intramural sports and vacations become my life. This year alone I played for four softball teams, three co-ed kickball teams, a volleyball team and a flag football team. I also have an indoor volleyball and bowling leagues starting in a couple weeks.

“In addition to sports, my fiancée and I were invited to 16 weddings in 2017. Since many of these weddings were close friends and family, I also attended seven bachelor parties that ranged from Montreal to Amsterdam.

“With all that in mind, I have limited time to work out, especially during the summer months. This doesn’t mean I have zero time. I could work out before going into the office, or just on the off days from activities, but I hate waking up early and passionately look forward to nights with no plans. Therefore, I can honestly say that I haven’t worked out in more than three years. Never gone for a run, went to a gym or even done a few pushups at home in three years.”

Exercise He’s Actually Willing to Do: “I have no injuries that would prevent me from doing any workouts, and I consider myself relatively athletic overall. The problem is that I just don’t like working out. I don’t like the idea of going to the gym or going for a run. I love playing sports, but I can’t stand other types of exercise.”

What He Wants: “I’m well aware that my metabolism won’t hold up forever, so I’d like to eventually have occasional workouts or runs become part of my life. More importantly, I would love to not hate doing it so much. How can I turn non-sports exercise into something I actually enjoy?”

The Plan

Get Class-y: “It looks like you love structure and filling your schedule with activities that are created for you, like work and organized sports,” says personal trainer Lalo Fuentes. “So I have a feeling that I could come up with a full workout for you to do at home, but you won’t end up doing it because nobody is there to make you do it. And of course, as you say, you don’t like to work out in the first place.

“In that case, the best advice for you will be to get a membership to the best gym in your city (maybe Equinox?). They’re known to have pretty decent classes with good instructors teaching them. Once you get your membership, go over their class schedule and start fitting some of them into your morning or afternoon schedule.

“The game plan here is to bring variety and structure into your life, which is what you dig. The only thing you have to think about is how to mix the classes. Then you just have to show up, just like work. Movement is the key, so don’t feel bad if you don’t break as much of a sweat in one of those classes. And change them around if you don’t like a class or an instructor until you find the sweet spot.”

Ask for Recs: “I see that you’re a very social guy, so ask your classmates for recommendations on instructors of other exercise modalities so you can highlight them on the gym schedule. It’ll help you decide which classes to take, and sometimes it’ll push you to give the night workouts a try. Sometimes you can also emphasize a modality for the week: Maybe yoga three times per week, spinning once and a running class once. The following week, go for spin class three times and so on. Plan your schedule for the week every Sunday night and make sure to show up.”

Pump Your Brain: “Don’t treat your workouts as a way to enhance your appearance, but rather as a way to make your brain a high-performance machine at work. That’s why I put plenty of emphasis on everyday movement: You want to break a sweat once per day no matter what the activity you choose to participate in. Look at exercise as your brain-enhancement pill, and you’ll find more enjoyment tuning up your workout schedule.”

Eat Less: “Regarding your diet: You’re about 15 pounds on the heavy side. Since I don’t know anything about your current eating habits, I’d say start by reducing your portions by 10 percent every two weeks until you see a difference on the scale. Our stomachs are elastic by nature; they can expand and decrease in size depending on the amount of food or liquid we put in it at a time, just like a balloon. The 10 percent per week is going to help you reduce the amount of food you put in your body per meal without feeling hungry.”

The Reaction

Will This Get You Into the Gym Any Time Soon? “Lalo’s point about keeping to a schedule and creating structure is extremely helpful,” says Kevin. “It seemed so obvious once he said it: All the sports played in the nicer weather months provide me with a rigorous and definite plan each week, so I believe some sort of pre-established workout routine will be my only chance to stick to anything.

“That said, I have tried joining a good gym before, but after a couple bad weeks/months of not working out much, I started to feel bad about the membership fee. Even with a structured plan, I’m not sure I trust myself enough to fork over the sign-up fee, so I won’t be going to a gym any time soon. I just don’t think I can create the motivation to go there, not to mention to a class.”

Are There Any Classes You Might Want to Take? “My fiancée has been strongly suggesting I join her for a hot yoga class, and I’m more inclined to join her now. Other than that, no. Most of my male friends in Chicago don’t attend any classes on a regular basis, which doesn’t deter me from trying one, but it is does makes it a little easier to dismiss the idea. I plan to try a few free trials to see if anything catches on.”

What Do You Think About This Meal Portion Size Business? “I enjoy my current diet of eating whatever and whenever I want, so hearing I was 15 pounds overweight was shocking. I thought I was just ‘soft.’ The part about the stomach being a muscle that can learn to contract really made sense, and I’ll take that into consideration.”