Busy work periods and exams are usually the periods where we completely lose control of our nutrition and training plans. Of course, fitness isn’t going to be at the forefront of our minds when more important things are ensuing. However, as with all these ‘life events’, they can all be managed as long as sensible steps are put in place to deal with them.
I will go over the importance of Not Stressing, Planning Ahead, Getting Enough Sleep and Adjusting Training Split to help you stick to a reasonable fitness protocol during these busy and stressful times.
- Not Stressing
A lot of this guide has focused on ‘not stressing’ and there is a reason for that. Not only does stress hinder you psychologically but when you’re stressed there can also be negative physiologically affects.
In a stressed state, the hormone cortisol is released in the body at irregular times which can affect your mood, your alertness and studies have shown for it to prevent fat loss.
In short, trying to be as relaxed as possible during these stressful times is key to moving forward. Although you may be under pressure, remember that chilling yourself out and not being overwhelmed can help both your physical and mental well-being.
- Planning Ahead
One way to reduce a stressor is to plan ahead. For instance, if you’ve got a busy week coming up then plan your meals and training ahead of time.
Whether that be you prepping all your meals on a Sunday evening for the week so you don’t have to worry about it on the week days, or planning the food you’re going to eat on-the-go on MFP, just make sure you have an idea of where your free time lies and where you’re going to fit in your fitness plans.
A good tip is to carry lots of protein based snacks with you, so you can get a protein hit on the go if there isn’t time to cook or buy food that is high in protein.
Options like protein cookies/bars and whey protein in a bottom of a shaker are good options that don’t need to be refrigerated or heated and that can be taken in a work/school bag.
In regards to training, find spaces in your day where you have the largest free time. These periods are usually the best times for you to train without feeling rushed. Having access to a 24/7 gym can be very useful during these times, especially if you’re working late or have exams scheduled at irregular hours.
- Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is another key step to ensuring you manage your fitness plans around busy and stressful times.
“Several studies show that sleep deprivation elevates cortisol and makes it more likely that you’ll get fat and develop diabetes.”
Try to aim for around 8 hours sleep per night (more if possible) during these periods. Not only will sufficient sleep help prevent the elevation of cortisol but It will help your muscles recover, raise your mood, improve your training intensity and make you more productive on the days that you are busy.
If you’ve got exams on during this time or big work projects, then adequate sleep will be key to ensuring you’re prepared for the day ahead.
- Adjusting Training Split
Time is obviously a huge factor during these busy periods. Adjusting your training split is a good way to make the most of your time and ensure you’re hitting all muscle groups.
For instance, if you’re training 6 days per week on a ‘push, pull, legs, rest, repeat’ split, then look at reducing training frequency to 3 days of just push, pull, legs.
If you’re in a rush, add some super-sets and drop-sets on the end of a few exercises to help ensure you’re getting enough volume when you’re pushed for time.
If you can only make the gym for 2 days on that week, opt for an upper, lower split, where you have one upper body day and one lower body day.
Focus on compound movements for these days, with a small bit of isolation and accessory work at the end. Compound movements will use multiple muscle groups at once and you’ll therefore be getting more bang for your buck in regards to muscle groups hit per exercise.
If you’re undertaking cardio, opt for HIIT (high intensity interval training) instead of LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio as you can burn more calories in a shorter period of time doing HITT than LISS.