Training When Busy

Image by Fabiola Rebello

There are times in our lives when for either work commitments, personal commitments or a combination of the above, we become very busy. This can be short term where we just have a busy day or it can be prolonged where we become busy for a period of weeks or months. Time becomes of the essence. Often, the first thing we cut back on is training.

Training with a Busy Lifestyle

Training can mean different things to different people. For readers of Low Tech Combat it will generally mean two things. Strength and conditioning training along with martial arts or fight training. Either or both of these areas will be neglected as we become busier as priorities are juggled around. In today's day and age, the requirement to be able to fight off an attacker can seem far fetched and is really a luxury and past time that is easily dropped for many people.

For those who really enjoy training, when we skip sessions, we often feel really bad about it and can regret the decision later. Obviously, this is not really healthy. What I intend to do is list some things which make it easier to maintain our training when going through some busy periods in our lives. We can cut back on the time spent training whilst maintaining the benefits or even improve ourselves with less time!

A Personal Experiment

I've written this post partly because I am going through a busy period myself right now and have been thinking about training effectively with little time. I want to maintain my training but at the same time I need to make sure I use my time well and make it as productive as I can. I have less time to train but want to maintain all of the benefits of training for longer. It is time to get efficient!

The following is a list of some considerations when making our training as brief and productive as possible:

  1. Know why you are training. Have a goal. Have goals. There must be a reason why you train. Each of us must know precisely why it is that we train. This must be clear in our minds. We must train for our own reasons. It is truly a waste of time to train for the reasons that others train. Our own goals are just that. Our own goals. No-one else's.

    When we are training for a reason we are really happy with, it is much easier not to go to a training session. But if we are very clear in our own minds of why we are going to training, we are more likely to go. Also, having our own goals and understanding what they are, it gives us more drive. We are much more likely to give more of ourselves to our training. Many people train without really asking why we are doing it. Often we start because someone we know trains or because it is close by.

    It is important, particularly long term, to understand our motives and our goals for our training. Without having goals, we will just drive along at night with our lights off. Goals are like a road map. With goals, we know where we want to go. We can plan the best route to get there and avoid unnecessary dead ends and problems along the way.
  2. Utilise the 80/20 Rule. I remember when I first heard about the 80/20 rule. I was amazed. It seemed so true. I almost think of this as a secret to success. The 80/20 rule is also known as Pareto's Principle. Vilfrado Pareto was an Italian economist. He created a simple mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country. He observed that 80% of the wealth was held by 20% of the population.

    Now that doesn't sound relevant to the martial way at first glance at all does it? But wait, there is more to it. Others began to observe the same phenomenon in different areas of life and the world at large. Basically, it comes to this. 20% of something produces 80% of the results. This is the 80/20 rule. For us, this means that 20% of what we do produces 80% of the results. I hesitate to go into it too much further as I will begin to generalise. This will come back to your goals. What ARE your goals in training?

    For example, say we have someone who's primary goal is to be able to defend themselves on the street. Now, they may also enjoy the classes and get some side benefits for health and fitness, but really, this persons main goal is self defence. Over a period of a week, this person may spend time in class going through inner and outer forearm blocks, short and long stances, kata, non contact sparring, hitting the shields, hitting the heavy bag and perfecting technique. This persons goal is self defence.

    It can be reasonably assessed that hitting the heavy bag and shields and the non contact sparring (the 20%), will be producing 80% of the wanted results. All of the other things spent time on are not contributing to his goals. This is a basic and crude example of the 80/20 rule and how it works.

    Each of us have different goals. And each of us study different martial systems and undertake different types of physical training. What we each need to do, is look at what it is we want, have a look at what we are doing, identify those key things we do which make up only 20% of our training, and change. We need to do MORE of those key 20% activities which give us such a great return on our time invested. When we are short of time, ONLY focus on those really important 20% activities.
    Basically, we identify what those things are and turn around those percentages so we go from only spending 20% of our time doing them to 80% or even 100% of the time! This is the secret! This is a very efficient and productive use of our time. Doing this alone will dramatically move us along the path towards our goals.
  3. Work Smarter. After we identify what it is we are trying to achieve with our training, identify that key 20% of activities, and increase the percentage of our time we do them; we need to look at bettering those things even further. Be critical of our current activities. Learn better ways to do things. If we want to develop our ability to defend ourselves and currently do non contact sparring along with hitting the heavy bag, we need to be self critical and ask ourselves if there is something even better we could be doing.

    Is non contact sparring enough? Should we take up boxing? Should we learn how to fight on the ground? Should we learn relevant weapon defences? Is the style of martial art you are practising right now the best use of your time? Is there something better out there?

    Ask this of yourself. If there is something better and proven in what you are trying to achieve, have a look at it. Go to a class and check it for yourself. Is the knife defence you are learning the best it could be? Is there better out there? Could you be making a better use of your time? Many many smart people have gone before us. We need to really track down the best system for what we are trying to achieve.

    Reinventing the wheel is THE biggest waste of time around. That is not working smart, that is being very stupid. Look for people who have already invented the wheel years and years ago. It is likely that they are now inventing race cars to make full use of those wheels. Use what works, use what has been proven to work.

    If you want to become strong, it is pointless following a typical body-building program. These programs isolate muscles. They are designed to totally fatigue a muscle with the particular goal of having it get bigger. This type of training is not designed to improve strength in any particular movement. Work smarter. Use compound movements, fewer reps and more sets. To get stronger, train the movements not the muscles. By training the movement, the muscles will take care of themselves.

    Find the best system and use it. This will be a much more effective use of time spent training. Work smarter.
  4. Short of time? Increase Intensity. When strength and conditioning training, it is unwise to increase both volume and intensity at the same, or increase volume and weight at the same time. This will likely lead to over training. For continued growth, it is best to increase one area at a time. When short of time, the very best thing to increase is intensity.

    Many times, decreasing the time available will force us to get rid of some things. This can be a very good thing. Done correctly, decreasing time available can force us to drop those things which are time wasters in themselves. This comes back to the 80/20 rule. Identify those key 20% activities and drop everything else. Now, of those remaining 20% of important things, train them with intensity and train them hard!

    Crossfit is one example of short and intense workouts. Short on time and want to stay fit or get fit? You could do much worse than follow the Crossfit workout of the day (WOD). This is short on time and high intensity to the core. It works. Short and sharp.

    Another example? Some good Reality Based Self Defence (RBSD) courses. No fluff. Not even skills development. It is expected that you already know how to kick and punch. All that is focused on is realistic scenarios. You are put into a realistic scenario of which you do not know what will happen and you are forced to make quick decisions. You will also be required to use your head and think. Do I run now? Do I hit the big guy first or the little guy? Should I be aggressive when I speak or passive? Should I strike or should I grab hold of them? This is stressful it is hard and it is realistic. No formalities, no endless inner and outer blocks, just specific scenarios one is likely to encounter in the real thing. A very productive use of time.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many things we can do to utilise our time efficiently. I hope the above list assists in prioritising what it is you want to achieve along with some strategies for doing it in the shortest time possible.

Strength and Conditioning on Little Time

I am currently using these principles myself. I have decided to undertake the Crossfit WOD's as this allows me to simply go to, have a quick look at what I will be doing, and go and do it. There is a new workout each day. The workouts are generally quite challenging and effective at producing good strength, power, anaerobic and aerobic levels of strength and conditioning in the shortest amount of time possible.

Martial Training on Little Time

For my martial training, I am primarily interested in maintaining a certain amount of fight skills. Unfortunately I have no-one else to train with at the moment and am totally unable to go to any classes due to the times I am required to work. Therefore, I cannot spar or wrestle with another human being. Instead, what I do is hit the heavy bag whenever I can. What I am also doing at the moment is working on my straight thrust with a knife. I do this against the wall from as far away as I can. I want to work on lengthening my range. I am still looking at other things to do. I don't have much time, but I am really looking at that key 20% and focusing on that.

Less is More

As regular readers of Low Tech Combat will have noticed, I am also posting less regularly. Rather than post up some lower quality stuff and some regurgitated links more often, I will be posting less, but will focus on only posting a higher quality original content. It will be less, but more. It will be a better use of both my time, and yours.

I hope you enjoy.

Happy training!