How To Get In Shape Around A 9 To 5 Job

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Sean Wilson

Sean Wilson

Having a 9 to 5 job that takes up time is one of the main reasons why people fail to reach their fitness goals. But what if there were strategies to help you work around this?

There are many reasons why people fail to reach their fitness goal. It could be down to nutrition, such as their diet not being sustainable, or it could be training, such as not having structure or intensity to their workouts, as well as not knowing what to train, at what times. One very common reason, however, is that the classic 9 to 5 job is filling their day and leaving them with little space or time to do the work required to get in shape.

This can be an overwhelming problem for people. Not only can they not find the time to do the workout, but they also don’t have the time to research everything they need to do reach their fitness goal. As a result, they give up easily and feel bad about themselves and the way they look. But what if there were ways around this? Here are some strategies that you can implement to make sure that your 9 to 5 job does not get in the way of your progress.

Decide when you want to train and eat

The most important point is to organise your time. Planning is key to progression in any walk of like and getting in shape is no different. Take some time and decide which time is best for you to do your resistance training. This is dependent on individual preferences – some people like to train first thing in the morning or during their lunch break, while others like to get their work out of the way before a session in the evening. If you are not sure what time is be best for you, then experiment. Try different times and see which one is the most favourable for you and your situation.

What time you train at will also affect the timing and content of your nutrition. For example, if you are training first thing in the morning in a fasted state (limited or no food in your system), it would be a good idea to make sure that you include carbohydrates in your evening meal the day before so that you have a source of slow releasing energy in your system. If you really want something to eat before your morning session, a light snack, such as a protein bar and/or a banana, will give you a boost of energy and not massively upset your digestive system while you train.

If you want to train in the afternoon or evening, make sure you are fuelled up. This means having a filling breakfast, full of protein and carbohydrates, micronutrients (vegetables, fruit), and even fats too, if you prefer, so that you have can give maximum effort during your training sessions and keep strength levels high. An evening workout will mean that the majority of your food consumption will be beforehand. So, it is important to plan when and what you are going to eat around your selected training time and make sure that you are still hitting your calorie and macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, fats) targets for the day and week.

Make your sessions count

It is so important that, if you are going to make extra time for exercise, you make sure that your workouts are as effective and efficient as possible. This means having the right plan in place, such as what muscle groups you are going to train, how long you are going to train for, what exercises you are going to do, and making sure you are executing movements with the right technique and intensity. You do not have to train every day (I usually recommend 3-5 sessions per week) but when you do, you have to make them count.

A good option is to do one or two sessions during your working week and then doing two big sessions on the weekend when you have more time to yourself. This would reduce the strain on your working week, make your training sessions more manageable and therefore make your goal much more achievable. At the start of your sessions, prioritise compound movements (heavier lifts such as barbell squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead barbell press, which are the most demanding exercises and work multiple muscle groups at once, therefore giving you more value) before moving to isolation movements (less intense exercises which target one muscle group) at the end. Give everything during your workouts and make them high-quality sessions.

Prep your food

As mentioned before, planning and preparation is also going to be key when it comes to nutrition. Take some time to figure out what and when you are going to eat. Due to a busy lifestyle, many people struggle to get in the required food and instead turn to less-healthy options from the shops and can easily under-eat or overeat, meaning they do not hit their calorie and macronutrient targets which are essential to reaching a fitness goal.

However, if you plan what and when you are going to eat, things become clearer and more manageable. Having a balance between cooked meals and healthy snacks can be a very good, sustainable option. For example, you could have breakfast before you go to work, consume a protein shake, protein bar, a sandwich, and some fruit throughout the day, and then have a cooked meal when you return home – this could be a post-workout meal if you go straight to the gym after work on training days. Experiment and find out which way works best for you. Just make sure that you are tracking what you consume and hitting your calorie and macronutrient targets regardless – this is essential.

Find room for cardio

Finally, adding some form of cardio into your day is going to be important, especially when it comes to weight loss and fat loss. As mentioned in my free Weight Loss and Fat Loss Framework (free to download here –, some form of cardio is necessary to burn more calories in combination with your resistance training workouts but it needs to be sustainable. For example, walking is a popular form of cardio as it is low-intensity, enjoyable and less taxing on your central nervous system. If you do opt for walking, you should aim to be getting in at least 10k steps every day (around 1h15-1h30min) in order to achieve this balance.

Similarly to the previous points, you then need to work out how and when you want to do the cardio. Firstly, if your work is not too far away, you could walk there and back, which will go a long to helping you reach your step count. However, if you can’t do this, then aim to wake up earlier so that you have more time in the day to complete these tasks and that you do not become overwhelmed.

You can then decide to do all of those minimum 10k steps in one go during the morning, or you can divide it into two, such as 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon or evening (this is my personal preference). Again, this is totally dependent on you but make sure you reach this target consistently every day – the calorie deficit (burning more calories than you are consuming, which is how you lose weight and body fat) is going to be created by hitting your calorie targets and doing the required exercise (resistance training 3-5 times a week and a sustainable form of cardio every day). Also, cardio is great for getting fresh air, learning (podcasts), clearing your mind, and thinking about goals. This is all essential for mental health too.

So, the keys to doing what’s required around a 9 to 5 job are planning, structure, and organisation. Know when you want to train, know what you are going to train, make your sessions count, be smart and clear with your nutrition (prepare your food and snacks) and make time for a sustainable and enjoyable form of cardio. If you adopt these strategies, you will find that consistently doing the required tasks becomes more manageable.

Photo Credit: Envato Elements

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