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Today, everyone is pressed for time to exercise, with constantly busy schedules and endless demands 24/7/365. Despite good intentions, we’ve all had to skip a workout when something unexpected interrupted our plans. But hopefully that is the exception and doesn’t become a habit.



To maintain consistent workouts amidst multiple commitments, it’s good to have some go-to options for busy days, when you may not have enough time to get to the gym or complete your usual 60-minute session. Don’t get into the trap of thinking that a short workout isn’t really worth it. Remember, it’s better to do something rather than forego your exercise session altogether. Resist the temptation to ditch your workout and give it all you have for whatever time you can spare. Every little bit counts, and you’ll be glad that you did it!

That said, some workouts can give you the most ROI for whatever time you have. Consider the following recommendations for the best total-body workouts for busy days. Fit some of these into whatever time you can allocate, and you can maintain your fitness and energy levels to help you accomplish all you have to do!

  1. Tabata – This high-intensity interval training regimen (HIIT) consists of 20-second intervals of rigorous moves, followed by 10 seconds of recovery. Repeat these sets for a total of 8 times, then take a short (30-60 second) break, and repeat. Do as many Tabata sets as you can fit in your time frame. High-intensity moves include squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, high knees, jump rope and more. This format delivers maximum calorie burn both during and after the workout.
  2. Elliptical – Hit your entire body with this low-impact machine. Increase the resistance or use an interval program to challenge yourself so that you don’t simply coast on auto-pilot. On Octane Fitness ellipticals, try Workout Boosters to kick up the intensity, or do CROSS CiRCUIT, which combines cardio intervals with strength training exercises for an ultra-efficient, effective regimen that leaves you invigorated.
  3. Strength training – Target the major muscle groups and the core with machines, free weights or accessories like resistance bands and kettlebells, and do complex moves such as lunges, squats, deadlifts, rows, chest press, overhead press, dips and more. If you have time, hit smaller muscle groups with simple exercises such as lateral raises, biceps curls and triceps kickbacks. Add in bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, planks and crunches for additional variety.
  4. Circuit workouts – Combine cardio and strength with alternating intervals of modalities such as jumping rope, cycling, running or rowing with various strength training exercises. You pick the duration of the cardio intervals and the number of reps and specific strength exercises. Keep your weights and mat handy next to your cardio machine so you can quickly move from cardio to strength. Circuits are a great way to work the entire body in a short time!
  5. Other cardio machines – In addition to the elliptical, if you have access to these, choose total-body options such as alternate motion trainers/cross-trainers, rowers, vertical climbers and fan resistance bikes where you target more muscles for higher caloric expenditure and better conditioning. Add intervals of high intensity if possible for a more vigorous session and even better results.
  6. Yoga – A power yoga session can build strength, balance and flexibility, as well as relieve stress and provide some valuable “me” time on particularly chaotic days. For greater toning and physical benefits, aim for an active yoga style, such as vinyasa, versus a restorative session. Take a class, follow a DVD or online session or create your own flow.