When Life Gets in the Way: Training Hacks for the Busy Bee


Those who live for training find it hard when some time life gets in the way of training.

Work, family and social commitments can take over and ruin our routine.

So how can you keep up your skills even when you are busy?

Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to get in even one or two sessions a week. When that happens, it can be very hard to get started again. That feeling of knowing that the first session back is going to hurt is hard to overcome. Not only will you be sore and tired, but chances are that if you haven’t trained in a while your skills would have deteriorated and you are going to get your bottom soundly kicked in your first session back.

This can all be very daunting and can lead us down a cycle of procrastination and excuses, which can result in not progressing or even stop training altogether.

Over the past three years, I’ve been stuck in cycles like these more than I’d like.

Running two businesses, moving house twice and a string of bad injuries have made it hard for me to establish a routine. Yet I found that by implementing small changes and being persistent with certain things, I’ve managed to still grow in skill. I’m not training as much as I’d like, and my fitness is not at its peak, but overall I’m still growing and improving.

I’d like to share with you some of the things I found worked for me over the past 3 years. These are tips I have given to many students who have gone through injuries or were struggling to make it to training because of life commitments, and the results are unanimously positive.

Training Hacks for the Busy Bee

  1. It’s the Little Things: One of the common misperceptions in training is that you have to train for an hour, or two, or five to really get benefits. While that may be ideal, we don’t always have the time. When you are time-poor, you’ll find that often you will improve more by doing little bits consistently than not doing anything for a long time and then doing a long session. In other words, in order to build muscle memory, you need consistent repetition. That means that you might be better off doing 10 minutes every day then doing one hour once a week.

    You might be able to improve by doing as little as 2 minutes of something – anything – when you get a chance. It doesn’t have to be a full, hard workout. All we are trying to do here is get some reps to get the muscles moving the right way. For me, it’s usually shadow boxing or Filipino stick drills. I don’t really need any equipment and can do them anywhere. I’ll find somewhere quiet (or not, I don’t care if people stare…) and just run through the movement for 2 minutes. If I have more time, I might do 10, or 15, or 30 minutes, but that’s not always the case. Just go with what you’ve got. Pick something and drill it for a couple of minutes every day!

  2. It’s All in Your Head: Visualisation is a powerful tool. Some research shows that when visualising we still build the correct neural pathways, just like in training. There is a lot of research that suggests that athletes who regularly use visualisation outperform those who don’t.But this has to be done correctly. We need to be careful of visualisation that turns into day-dreaming. When using visualisation, go through the movements, or scenario, or fight in your head as closely as possible. Try and engage as many of your senses as possible, as the more of them you can involve the better the results. If you are imagining a sparing session, don’t just visualise but try to also hear the bell and the sound of the gloves thudding; smell the gym (or not, if it grosses you out), imagine the physical sensation of landing a good shot, etc.

    I do this often when I have a minute or two to myself, or even in my bed at night before I go to sleep… although I’ll admit I’ve been known to ‘sleep fight’ when I do it.

    Funny anecdote: I once fought so fiercely in my sleep that I managed to throw a punch, get caught in the blanket and dislocate my elbow. Not the best way to wake up.

  3. The Pen and the Sword: I am a firm believer that writing about training can help you learn. When you have to explain something in writing it forces you to think about how it works and how to explain it. That in itself is a powerful learning tool and one which you can do for a minute or two here and there. While I think this is incredibly important (I do this in addition to training regardless of how much I train), I will not write too much about this here, as I have discussed this in detail previously. If you need more help with this, you can read more about this here and here.
  4. The Bare Necessities: One of the perceived problems of training at home or by yourself is often the lack of equipment. But guess what – you don’t need any to run through a few basic moves when you get a minute. Equipment can be a hindrance as much as a benefit. Yes, we like to train with good equipment, but that also involves time to set up or put it away, etc. If you don’t have time, do stuff you can do on your own and with nothing. Shadow boxing, kata, bodyweight exercises, and functional movement, anything that means you are not relying on another thing or person. You will find that once you are comfortable with doing this, you will find creative ways of doing exercise as well as using what you have available next to you. For example, I use pens in my office to run through knife movement pattern. Don’t worry – I work in a martial arts gym so it’s (mostly) acceptable and no one thinks I’m (too) weird.
  5. Keep in Touch: Even if you can’t make it to training regularly, try and keep in touch with your training buddies and teachers. Ask them what they’ve been working on. While it may be frustrating to not be able to do it, you will find that it will get you thinking about it. That in itself will get you visualising or be doing 2 minutes here and there, which will yield results. It will also help encourage you to get back and stay motivated. In much the same way, if I can’t train I like to watch some of my favourite martial artists to keep in touch and find inspiration. Maybe I’ll watch a Roy Jones Jr. fight or a quick youtube video about stuff I missed in class while doing the dishes. Maybe I’ll listen to a podcast while putting out the laundry or driving to work (Whistlekick Martial Arts Radio is my favorite). All of these things will keep you focused while you are busy or injured.


But Wait… There’s more!

The benefits of doing this go beyond your martial arts or training. By learning how to find a little bit of time for yourself, you will feel more motivated and content. Being able to switch to ‘training mode’ for a few minutes here and there helps you recuperate and re-focus. I have found that by doing these little things, I have increased my productivity in other areas of my life quite substantially.

My favorite tip is this:

I have a round timer, much like a boxing one, on my computer. It’s set to 20 minutes on and 10 minutes off. During the 20 minutes, I focus and work. But when the buzzer goes off, I do whatever I need to do that is NOT on the computer. I’ll go and make some phone calls, go to the bathroom, or get a glass of water… and usually will sneak in a couple of minutes of training while I’m doing this.

There are many, many more ideas for this. These are just my favourites.

Before we finish off a quick disclaimer; Watching youtube videos or doing 2 minutes a day will never replace a good training routine. Not ever.

But when life throws some curve balls at you and your routine is disrupted continuously or for a long time, these things will help you to keep in touch with your training, stay motivated and focused, and improve. Remember – any improvement is better than nothing. If you are doing 2 minutes a day, you are still doing more than the person who’s doing nothing.

Stay tuned, stay safe.


Ron Amram
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Ron Amram

Director and Instructor at Combat Arts Institute of Australia
I'm a martial artist and school owner from Perth, Western Australia. I hold a 2nd Dan in Krav Maga, Shodan in Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, Brown Belt in Dennis Survival Jujutsu and am also a dedicated boxer and a keen BJJ and Escrima practitioner. I love meeting other like-minded martial artists, and always happy to talk about all things martial arts! Osu
Ron Amram
Follow me
Ron Amram
About Ron Amram 10 Articles
I'm a martial artist and school owner from Perth, Western Australia. I hold a 2nd Dan in Krav Maga, Shodan in Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, Brown Belt in Dennis Survival Jujutsu and am also a dedicated boxer and a keen BJJ and Escrima practitioner. I love meeting other like-minded martial artists, and always happy to talk about all things martial arts! Osu

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