Getting it Done: Training on a Time Budget

12th October 2017

By Melissa Campbell

Time poor. It's the phrase du jour of the 21st Century.

Secretly, I think we all thrive a little bit from being time poor. It narrows our focus, helps us prioritise our non-negotiables from our nice-to-haves.

So where does training and exercise fit into the timeline for you?

Is it in the too-hard basket? Or in the ‘maybe tomorrow’ file?

For me, training and exercise is a non-negotiable. So much so that it is scheduled in as an appointment in my weekly calendar. So when asked “what are your top tips for training on a time budget?” my initial reaction is ‘um, I don’t know. I just do!’

After giving it a little more thought, it comes back to that question of priority. For me, training has never been a chore. In fact, it’s an essential part of who I am. Aside from the physical benefits, it gives me clarity, makes me happy and opens up my world to a host of extraordinary like-minded people I would otherwise never meet because I was tied to a desk or was ‘stuck’ at home with the kids.

It also occurred to me that unless you’re a full-time professional athlete, all of us exercise on a time budget. If it’s not work, it’s kids, or family, or life that gets in the way of training in ‘pro-hours’. We all have it in us to balance work, family and kids. It’s time to get organised.

My top tips for training on a time budget:


My general rule is train before you start the day, then nothing can get in the way. No meetings that run overtime, no pop-up appointments. Have your gear laid out ready for the morning, your GPS watch charged and your water bottles full. If you’re cycling, make sure your head lamps and rear lights are charged and working, tyres are pumped, water bottles in their cages and cash is in the back pocket for the post-ride coffee.

Never make the decision while you’re still lying in bed. Being accountable to a friend or a training group is also a good motivator.  Studies have shown that only 25% of people who exercise will stick to a program. Of that 25%, 75% are early morning trainers!


It’s all about quality vs quantity.

I read that you get as much or more benefit from 60-90m of high intensity interval training on the trainer or at the bike track, than you do on a long ride. Same goes for running. By constantly pushing your anaerobic threshold limits with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), your increasing your metabolism as well as burning more calories.

To prove my theory, I tell the story of the different ways I’ve come back from 3 pregnancies.

Baby #1 – general training, no real intensity, just fitness when I could. Body shape back to pre-baby ‘normal’ in around 9-12 months.

Baby # 2 - same as baby #1, but then started trained for a marathon. High volume of running, but at medium to low intensity. Long runs all about getting volume in the legs. No real change in body shape.  

Baby # 3 - training for a world title 6 months after my son was born, followed by an Australian Title and then a 6-day charity bike ride. The high intensity training for middle distance running is insane. Coupled with a targeted strength program, I have never been fitter, leaner or stronger than I am now at the age of 41. By comparison, during that initial 6-month period after Roy was born, the total hours of training per week was equal to or less than 1 session during my marathon training! Quality vs quantity.


Excuses are no good to anyone, and only affect you. The best motivation I’ve ever been given at training session was from my coach/husband: “Don’t think of it as a training session. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to improve.”

This is your valuable time alone and to do something for yourself. If you’re a mum, forget the mothers guilt. It’s always going to be there. At least you’re better equipped to handle it if you’re feeling better within yourself. Exercise is your insurance policy – an investment in yourself.  Get mum or sis to look after bubs for an hour. Hire a babysitter.


Your goal can be anything. Get busy for something (or someone).

  • Qualify to represent Australia in your chose sport
  • Fit into that summer dress/pants/bikini/mankini
  • Train regularly simply to work off the things you love to eat. Pain au Chocolat come at me!

Time to gather yourself, get organised and get moving. The dishes can wait. So can that budget report that’s due tomorrow.

What’s the worst that could happen? 

Melissa Campbell is the General Manager and 'Head of All Other Important Things' at Jock Athletic, a Level 2 Running Coach and the current 2km Beach Run World Champion. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @_melcampbell.