There's an old adage that eighty per cent of life is showing up. When I was younger, I would have said that eighty per cent of old adages are a load of crap, including that one. Or in my (self proclaimed) infinite wisdom, I would have suggested that the problem with our society is that there were too many people convinced that showing up was all that was necessary. But as I grudgingly enter “middle age”, that adage rings far more true than it did as a young man.
Life is busy. There's work. Family. The occasional night out with friends. More work. Learning how to hold a sword properly. Chores. Learning a second language. More work. Other kids. More chores. Baseball. More work. And oh yeah, no sleep. (That's why adults are always annoyed with energetic children. Hey, we'd be energetic too if we got eleven hours sleep every night and other people made our meals.) So with all that, hell yes, showing up matters. Whatever bruised, hungover, exhausted state we might get there, when you're older, getting there is a freaking win.
Next to a terrible diet, the inability to find time to work out regularly is the biggest obstacle for people who want to get in shape. They'll find one long window of time during the week, make the commitment, and have a great workout. They find another ninety minutes in their schedule six days later. Another great workout. And so it goes. Unfortunately, you won't make any progress that way. As a trainer, I feel my clients frustration. After seven or eight hours working with crazy loud Grade Sixes all day, my first inclination is not to go to the gym. (Usually, it runs something along the lines of wanting to pour myself a very strong drink, weep softly as I stare into nothingness and wonder why they insist on shouting ALL DAY.)
Even after twenty five years of working out, the only way I get there regularly now is to make a small promise to myself. I call it the Twenty Minute Rule.
It doesn't matter how I feel, or how much time I DON'T have, I can spare twenty minutes. Let's be honest, twenty minutes is a coffee break. It's a stop at the grocery store or a too long conversation with that guy at work who never stops talking about himself. We can all squeeze in twenty minutes. And we can do it three, four, or five days a week. As long as you get there, you'll see progress.
Two things to remember. One, twenty minutes IS enough. Don't start lengthening out your workouts and somehow change the promise. If you go one day for sixty minutes, you still owe twenty minutes the next day. You can't borrow time. Second, make it a hard twenty minutes. Don't stop, don't wait between exercises, and superset everything. Waiting around is boring, and you won't accomplish very much in twenty minutes if you only do seven or eight exercises.
It still surprises me when these old adages are true. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I underestimated how busy life would be as an adult. Or maybe I've suffered minor brain injuries working with young people for nearly twenty years. Whatever the reason, getting to the gym after school for twenty minutes has helped keep me fit and (mostly) sane. I can't make any promises regarding your sanity, but you'll definitely feel better.