Finding the time to work out

One of the primary obstacles for exercising is the seemingly large time investment and the low amount of free time for a busy dad. How in the world can we make time for a workout when we barely have enough time to sleep? In this article I’m going to discuss this time investment, why the investment is smaller than we think and how to ‘find’ time to exercise.

Where are you investing time now?

You are investing time every second whether you like it or not. You invest time in your children every time you play catch with them, and you invest time in your career when you stay late at work. You invest time when you purchase items, and you invest time in every YouTube video you watch.

We typically consider the money invested in items, but I’m going to talk about the time invested since this discussion is all about being short on time. You invest every time you swipe your card because you previously invested time to earn those dollars consumed. For example, your TV cost $500 and let’s say you take home $1,000 in a week after taxes; therefore, you invested 20 hours of your life to purchase that TV. What about your car? That would be a scary time investment to consider. What about your house? Maybe you have a boat or motorcycle. It is easy to see how quickly that we are investing vast amounts of time to secure other possessions, but still believe that 3 hours a week is too great an investment for a healthier life.

Let’s walk through an example of a home purchase and see how much of a time investment we are talking about. With a salary of $60,000, you will take home $40,000 after taxes. It will then take you 6.25 years of your salary to pay for a $250,000 house. There are 2080 work hours in a year, so 6.25 years of salary equates to 13,000 work hours. That’s 35.6 years of exercise if you worked out every day for an hour. Most people don’t need to work out every day to achieve their goals, so we would be talking about 70 years of workouts for someone exercising every other day.

Description Value Unit
Salary $60,000 Dollars
Pay After Tax $40,000 Dollars
Mortgage $250,000 Dollars
Years of salary needed to pay off mortgage 6.25 Years
Work hours in year 2080 Hours
Total Hours 13000 Hours
Years with 1 hour of exercise per day 35.62 Years

Please note that I didn’t include interest or escrow in the mortgage cost, because this is just a simple example to understand that magnitude of time we are talking about.


Analyzing our Time Investments

So we learned that we are investing a massive amount of time into our house and other items . . . big whoop right? That really isn’t breaking news if we’re honest; the point of that assessment was more to get our mindset right and acknowledge that we are investing time all around us. Additionally, the time required to lead a healthy lifestyle is small compared to most of the expensive items in our lives. Now we need to analyze other time investments, and see what kind of returns on investment we are receiving. I don’t know how you, in particular, are investing your time, but I will list some notes that may help you identify some areas where you could be getting a poor return on your time. One habit I have formed recently, that is weirdly addictive, is checking the news several times a day. Being up to date on world events seems like a great idea, but I’m beginning to conclude that it is a poor investment of time. I take time away from other tasks in my life to read the news, and usually all I get in return is frustration or possibly disappointment when I see an article about some horrendous crime. It is very rare to read an article that leaves you feeling happy or satisfied by the outcome, so I’m starting to question the value of this seemingly good natured concept of being up to date on the news. I’ll come back to this later. Below are some questions to take under consideration when evaluating how you are spending your time and if it is feasible for you to have time to exercise.


  • Are there any successful professionals in your industry that make time to exercise?
  • How many hours do you work beyond 40 hours every week?
  • Is there a TV show that you watch every week?
  • How much time do you spend on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram every day?
  • How many YouTube videos do you watch every week?
  • How much time do you spend on your commute?
  • Are you getting a decent ROI on these items?

If we are honest, there is something embarrassing about admitting that we are on social media or the TV for an hour everyday, but don’t? sweat it because that’s exactly what the average American does each day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average dad with a child under 6 spends 1.9 hours per day watching television. Facebook recently reported that the average user spends 50 minutes on their website. During a Google quarterly earnings call, it was stated that the average YouTube session on mobile is now over 40 minutes. All this to say, it’s no wonder that the average American doesn’t work out because we are too busy checking status updates, watching hilarious kitten videos or the latest sitcom.

So what do we do? We must break away from this American norm by investing time wisely and get better returns on the time we invest.

Invest Wisely

Is this the part of the article where I tell you to stop watching TV or delete your Facebook account? Certainly not, I will say that we have to become masters of our time and deliberately choose how we invest our time. As I’m sure you have noticed, I have been using financial terms to describe our time and what we do with it. Pretty silly right? Well not really, time is a limited resource that is non-renewable, and it needs to be budgeted properly. In the same way we budget our money for the month or week, we need to budget our time. A large part of budgeting is counting the cost; you need to know your time cost before investing in an activity. We have all seen where unbudgeted home DIY projects will have costs that seem to balloon beyond expectations; the same exact thing happens when we don’t budget our time for a task.

Beyond budgeting, we need to understand that we have full control over how we spend our time, and understand that we need to make deliberate choices on what we invest in. Budgeting your time will not drastically improve your life if you are choosing to budget time for task with no returns.

Whenever you click open the YouTube app on your phone, you are expressing that (A) I have time to invest right now and (B) I am choosing to invest this time into this video. Two questions to consider before you decide to invest in that activity is what will the return be, and what is the opportunity cost of engaging in this activity. For example, maybe the video is about learning the stock market which could have a good return for you and your retirement strategy or possibly the video is of an actor’s interview which will have no return.

Getting more for our time invested

Effectively using time is essential to success since we all have the same 24 hours. Just like we need to be smart about what we choose to do, we also need to be smart about how we choose to do it. A good example of a task which most of us can improve on would be spending time with your children, you can choose to watch TV with them or you could do something interactive like a board game. In this example, a board game would be a more effective method of completing the same task which was to spend time with your children. A board game would give you the opportunity to teach them simple but important lessons like how to lose with dignity or how to win respectfully. Sidebar: Don’t let the television be your child’s largest influence.

Another example of being more effective with how you invest your time can be seen in your workout plan. As dads, we can't afford to waste any time during a workout. Sometimes you will see a person move slowly from machine to machine with low intensity or does curls in the mirror for 45 minutes. You need to choose to do a higher intensity work out of 50-65 minutes that will give you the health and strength benefits you need, but also get you to work on time or home for dinner.

Back to my recent addiction of checking the news, how can I fulfill this ‘want’ I have right now, but do so effectively with minimal disruption to my true priorities? I need to stop checking multiple times a day, and just check once each night for a daily recap. This would be a better use of time as it would let me batch all my small checks into one more in depth check. To take it to the next level, I can download a news update podcast and listen to the podcast while I am driving. I would then have eliminated any extra time I would spend consuming the news by pairing it with drive time, but still have the desired end result of being up to date on world news.

What are some simple tricks that can be implemented today and yield you more time in your day? Below is a short list, and feel free to suggest more as I’d love to see this list grow:

  • Don’t watch live TV – Nearly 30% of a TV program will be commercials with very limited return, and the commercials will not add to your enjoyment of that show.
  • Drop an entire TV series from your TV routine – Drop the one you like the least, watch it later in the year when no other shows are on or just pick it up again in a year or two. 
  • Plan & budget social media time – Instead of checking social media 10 times a day, check it once at night. The session will be longer than your quick mid-day checks, but you’ll end up spending less total time on social media. I know this one can be hard, but come on; you’re a father with more important things to do.
  • Consider deleting your social media apps from your phone, and only have the social media apps on your home tablet or desktop.
  •  If you have multiple social media accounts, consider deleting one of them – Do you really need to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram?
  • Don’t spend more than 65 minutes at the gym – 3 workouts per week at 45-65 minutes is more than enough to change your body and keep you in great shape. I’ve seen impressive changes from 2 work outs a week so 3 will ensure you get the results you want. There of course can be exceptions here but it is a solid rule for the average working dad.

But work is too demanding!

One concept I have been trying to push up to this point is the fact that you aren’t too busy to work out because you have time for TV and social media. Typically, we just feel too busy to work out because we fill our day with these tasks that we perceive as being low priority, but in reality we treat them as a priority based on how much time we devote to them. What about the 60+ hour work week dads that really may be short on non-work time? The solution here isn’t as easy and could take 6 months to a year for your situation to improve because work related changes can take time.

What are your options if you’re worked to the max? You need to consider looking for a new job or express to your manager that you need some assistance. Please notice that I said it could take 6 months to a year to sort out a better work life situation, so by rejecting my premise already, you are accepting that you cannot improve your work situation even within a year. Don’t accept defeat so easily.

It sure is easy for me to type out ‘find a new job,’ but it isn’t easy in real life, and I get that. It still holds true that you are ultimately choosing to do that job. I know I’ve spoken to people who feel trapped in their job and almost act like they are a victim of their job. I don’t accept that and neither should you. Is this job really the only job you can have until you retire? Do you want to do this until you retire? What options are in a 20 mile radius or possibly out of state? To say I work too much and there is no other way for me is a defeatist mentality. You are not a victim of your situation, own the situation and then change it. Successful people do not achieve success through inaction and excuse.

A new job may not be necessary to achieve less work hours. Most people that believe they work too much have never approached their manager and expressed their concern. If you take this route, explain to your manager that your workload has been increasing, you can’t seem to hold a predictable schedule every week and it is taking a toll on your family. As a manager, it is much easier to work with and compromise with an existing good employee instead of going out to the job market to completely replace you. In this scenario, your outcome would likely be handing over some responsibilities to another co-worker or new employee. This would take some time to truly shift responsibilities, which I is why I think this option could take 6 months to a year.

Another consideration when it comes to high hour work weeks is Parkinson ’s Law. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill whatever time you budget for it. This concept is most often applied to projects, but I also believe it occurs with work weeks. I have seen co-workers who get comfortable with that high hour work week and accept it as the standard. The work week hours never decrease once the hours have creeped up because the co-worker didn’t want to look like a slacker for not working as hard the next week. I have also noticed that some of the people at the office the longest are the least productive. In a similar fashion, the people who always stay late end up coming in later in the morning and set themselves up to stay late again.

Ultimately, the one thing you can’t do is work excessive hours your whole life, and then cite that as a reason why you never made time to take care of your body.


I enjoyed writing this article, and I left many things unsaid that I want to revisit! Below are a few bullet points to highlight important themes from the article.

  • We invest a lifetime of potential workout hours in our mortgage, but forget to invest time in our physical body that we live in 24/7.
  • Acknowledge that you choose how you invest your time.
  • Own your choices.
  •  Minimize low return time investments, and trade them for high return investments.
  • Determine your priorities, and invest time accordingly.
  • If you aren’t in control of your time, you aren’t in control of your life.