How To Train When You’re Time Poor

Short on time? No problem! Here's how to make the most of your sessions and maximise your fitness gains.

While we might dream about being able to spend the best part of a weekend getting lost along winding trails or dedicating hours to training each week, the reality for many of us is that life gets in the way. Work, family commitments and general life admin often leave us with far less time to spend in our running shoes than we’d like. But if time is tight for you, all is not lost. Spending even just 10 or 15 minutes exercising is still worth it.

“Exercise, regardless of how long it is, will always be worthwhile and contribute to your health,” says health and exercise coach Bernadette Dancy (bernadettedancy. “Immediate physiological responses to exercise include a raised heart rate, which essentially means your heart muscle is being conditioned like any other muscle in your body. It also facilitates the uptake of blood sugar into the working muscles, meaning better blood glucose management and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Better still, more and more women (and men) are experiencing problems related to bone health, such as osteopenia and osteoporosis, which can be eradicated by weight-bearing exercise. Just 10 minutes of exercise – walking, jogging, stepping – could help prevent or improve these conditions.”

And of course, if you can manage to get out for a short run once or twice a week, this will start to become part of your routine, making it easier to continue and even giving you the confidence to try to run even more.

“Ten to 15 minutes of exercise will help with the process of habit forming, routine and maintaining your identity as an ‘exerciser’,” says Dancy. “Also, who knows where it might lead? Ten minutes can easily become 15 minutes, which can become 20 minutes and, before you know it, you’re doing a 5K run!”


If you want to get the most from your few short runs every week, the key is to plan each session effectively, to maximise the benefits. Check out these four great short sessions, suggested by Dancy, which will not only increase your fitness and love of running, but also add variety to your routine, helping to eliminate boredom!

Fartlek for fun

If you’re into running, you may have heard of a type of training called fartlek, which basically means ‘speed play’. Simply start off with the intention of having fun – then, as and when you decide to go faster, pick a marker (a lamp post, another runner or a tree) in the distance that you’re going to run to at about 90-100 per cent effort. Keep going until you get to that marker, then high-five yourself! Walk or jog until you feel recovered, then go again. It doesn’t have to be the same distance every time. Change it up, play with it and have fun.


Make a decision before you leave your house about exactly how many sprints you’re going to do. Then stick to it! For example, you could choose to do 10x 30-second sprints. When you sprint, try to relax and focus on form. If you tense up, you’ll slow down. Allow yourself to recover completely, then go again! One-mile


How fast can you go? We all know Roger Bannister was the main man when it came to smashing the four-minute mile record. But can you smash yours? Warm up well, then start your watch, get yourself into a pace that is about 70-80 per cent effort, where you’re breathing hard but still just about able to talk. This won’t be comfortable, but it’s sustainable. Then simply hang on and see how fast you can run a mile. Lots of people have a mental block about their minute-mile pace but, with practise and consistency, they are often surprised how fast they can go for just one mile.

Recover, reconnect, rest

Slow recovery runs are just as (if not more) important than hard and fast training sessions. When we rest, we rebuild and get stronger. So leave your watch at home and run at a pace where you could chat comfortably. It doesn’t need to be for very long – even just 10 to 20 minutes will help with recovery, and also remind you why you love running. Bring a friend along with you if you think it will help. After all, there’s nothing quite like a good chinwag to make you slow down and simply let your legs tick over.


Bernadette Dancy offers one-to-one health coaching packages as well as workshops. To find out more about how health coaching could be of benefit to you, please visit:

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