Let’s face it. No matter how much we wish otherwise there are only 24 hours in each day. If you are already having trouble fitting in at least 30 minutes of cardio 5 times each week into your schedule, the idea of incorporating weights might seem impossible. Actually, it is quite possible. Here are some tips to get started.

Build your base

Ankle weightsBeginner’s should schedule at least three strength training dates each week to start. While you are building your base it is okay to cut back on cardio if you are crunched for time. For example, if you typically get in 150 minutes of cardio, opt for 75 minutes of cardio and 75 for strength training for 3 to 4 weeks. If you are worried about losing ground, don’t be. The muscle you gain can give your metabolism enough of a boost to keep extra pounds at bay. Just be sure you maintain your regular eating habits. You will also improve form and build muscle strength that boosts your cardio performance and reduces risk of injury.

After the first month, adjust your intervals according to your fitness goals at the time. For example, if you are preparing for a competition, say a race, you may want to devote more time to cardio. If you are in recovery mode, you may want to add some weight training to your easy workout days.

Don’t overdo

The temptation to get it all in could lead you to an injury that takes you out of the fitness game altogether. The key to weight training safely is form, which can deteriorate rapidly when you are tired from a hard workout. Instead, go for a cross training approach, weight train on light days or reduce your weight training to two days per week once you have built your base.

Keep track

You’re busy. That’s why you keep an appointment calendar. Keeping a schedule isn’t just for work, it is for your workouts too. Make note of your training – for example: did you work arms, abs or the large, lower body muscles. Depending on your goal you may want to distribute your training focus evenly. Or maybe if you are training for a swim meet you want to develop a plan that emphasizes only cardio and arms for a couple of weeks.

Have a destination in mind

Woman running outdoorsKnowing what you want to accomplish can help you determine the best use of your limited time. Making notes of how you felt can also remind you when to take it easy and move into recovery mode or when you need to kick it up a notch. You can also keep track of your progress so your training plan builds logically and you don’t overdo it.

Be realistic

Again, every day comes with only 24 hours. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and be patient as you build your base. When it comes to weight training the quality of the reps (how much weight and how accurate your form) is more important than the quantity. Don’t rush through just to get it in and don’t include it just because it is on the schedule when you are tired. Make weight training work as a complement to your cardio not as a path to injury that eventually sidelines you to the couch.