Maybe it’s because I spent most of my life in New England where we only have about 12 weeks of un-sucky weather, but I’ve always felt like time moves faster during the summer. One day, you’re sitting around enjoying a Memorial Day BBQ, then you blink and you’re putting the patio furniture away for the winter on the Tuesday following Labor Day.
That’s always been the most depressing day of the year for me. Well, other than the day after the Super Bowl if the Pats lose. Luckily, the latter doesn’t happen often.
While I don’t have to deal with short windows of nice weather any longer being in SoCal, I still have a serious case of FOMO in the summer and don’t want to waste a single second not being outside enjoying it. If you’re anything like me, here are a few quick tips on how to maximize and streamline your training time, so you have more time for the other important stuff in your life:
1. Prioritize with the 80/20 rule.
Without giving a complete history lesson, Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who figured out that 80% of the land and wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Over time, that 80/20 breakdown has been extrapolated to a number of other situations, and it generally holds true that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities.
What does an Italian economist have to do with squatting big wheels?
Quite frankly, everything. The things that are going to give you the biggest results are the big compound exercises like presses, rows, chin ups, and squat and deadlift variations, so you should spend more time on these than on the secondary stuff like bicep curls and calf raises.
Spending the bulk of your training time on the big rocks and minimizing the fluff is always a good idea, but especially so during the summer.
2. Utilize complexes after your main work is done.
A complex is probably what I gave my mother growing up as an idiot kid, but it’s also a series of exercises done in succession without putting the weight down. These can be done with barbells, kettlebells, or dumbbells, and they are great for getting a metabolic effect, getting extra training volume in, and for time efficiency.
The big key is to make them flow, so the implement you’re training with ends up in the right position for the next lift somewhat smoothly-you don’t want to have to pass a barbell back and forth over your head too many times.
One of my favorite complexes is 3 hang cleans + 3 front squats + 3 push presses + 3 RDLs. After all 12 reps, drop the bar, wait for your heart to get back in your chest, and do 3-5 rounds. Here’s a PDF of Dan John’s favorite barbell complexes.
This is a lot of work to be completed in a real short amount of time, which beats the hell out of doing a set of leg extensions and sitting there for 3 minutes between sets looking out the window at all the people getting their vitamin D levels jacked up, and it’s going to be a lot more effective too.
3. Time your training.
Give yourself a window of time to train, start your watch the second you walk into the gym, and get out when the time is up. This will radically improve your efficiency. Often in the summer, I’ll set the watch for 45 minutes, do some mobility and warm up stuff for 15 minutes, then front squat and do chin ups until my time is up. Sometimes I end up going heavy on one or both, sometimes i get more volume in at lighter loads, but I don’t sweat the details, and just focus on getting quality work in. Knowing that I have limited time forces me to make the most of each set and stay focused. You don’t just have to pick 2 exercises either, I’m just a mental midget and it’s easier for me to put all of my energies into fewer things.
4. Train outside.
Grab a kettlebell, barbell, or sled and get outside. Maybe your program calls for something else that day, but if the sun is shining and you would rather be outdoors than in the gym, like a normal human, then call an audible and get out there and just have fun moving.
Fitness, strength, wellness, or whatever you want to call it doesn’t have to happen within the 4 walls of a building that charges you a monthly dues. Some of my best training of the last few years happened in my old garage in Boston during the summers. It would be hot as hell in there, so I’d bang out a set, then walk out the door to do some mobility work on the lawn in the sun. It felt great.
If you have a yard, great, buy a kettlebell on Amazon and get out there. If you don’t, find a friend that does or a local park. Just get outside and get fresh air and some sunlight.
Now, I’m definitely not saying that training isn’t an important endeavor and that it should slid down the priority list or anything just because the weather is nice. Just realize that the combination of fresh air and sunlight can absolutely magnify your training effects, so it’s important to utilize it for an overall healthy life.
Be flexible with your training, strive to get 1% better in some capacity each day, and enjoy the process!