Try These Fallback Plans When Your Normal Routine Fails

Marine pull ups 3000
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maribel A. Castaneda, an aviation operations specialist with Drill Instructor School, Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, conducts a pull-up before a physical training session at MCRD San Diego, May 23, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

Maybe the gym is closed, your day has been cut short or you are on travel and have limited time, facilities and equipment for physical exercise. We all have those kinds of days. But what do you do when everything fails to fall in line?

On a recent morning I had many excuses for putting off my workout for another day after inclement weather forced schools to close and the gym to not open until after my normal visit time. Instead, I chose to persist.

Here are a few recommendations for when you are pressed for time, have little or no equipment but want to get a workout into your day.

Run and Calisthenics

On our bad weather day, we found an area that was not covered in water puddles and ice and did a classic pyramid that may have started off like a warmup but ended up as a tough challenge. We did find a flight of stairs and a pull-up bar, so the workout evolved to fit our situation.

You can follow what we did by doing the following:

  • 1 push-up. Run 50 meters.
  • 2 push-ups. Run 50 meters.
  • 3 push-ups. Run 50 meters.
  • 4 push-ups. Run 50 meters.
  • 5 push-ups. Run 50 meters.

Keep going up as high as you can but every 5th set of the pyramid, do the following:

  • Bear crawl about 50 meters to the pull-up bars
  • Max pull-ups

Continue up the pyramid until level 20 and stop. You’ll do a total of 210 push-ups and 4 sets of bear crawls and max pull-ups if you get that high.

Once you finish that, do a cooldown reverse pyramid from 10-1 with only pull-ups and push-ups, adding in another 55 pull-ups and push-ups with some dynamic stretches between sets.

Because we were outdoors in the cold air, we needed to keep moving quickly through this workout. Depending on your time available, you can opt to stop along the pyramid because you need to or you have reached a failure point.

Leg Day Option

If you prefer to do a leg day version of this, you can replace push-ups with squats and bear crawls with lunges, and do hanging knee-ups from the pull-up bars.

Just Run or Walk and Stretch

Another go-to is to run or walk, even if only for 15-20 minutes. I personally like to do the same during lunch breaks with a short walk and stretch before getting back to my work desk. You cannot go wrong when you’re doing some form of movement, regardless of the intensity. Keep moving!

Use an Exercise Video to Work Out at Home

On bad weather days many will opt to go with P90x, Bas Rutten’s Workout Video, or search YouTube and follow a recorded workout. From yoga to boxing in your living room, you can find many ways to get moving when all else fails.

Home Gym

Investing in a home gym does not have to be expensive. Most exercise equipment in my home gym was given to me after people grew tired of their cardio machine becoming a clothes hanger instead of a piece of exercise equipment. You may find some great deals in the used fitness equipment sales channels available in your area.

A common denominator for piecing together a workout is that you can always do so much with less than you realize – less space, less equipment and less time. Having backup workouts that can replace your normal routine is always better than skipping and doing nothing. You will agree if you have made that decision in the past.

You will always feel better having done something versus having done nothing. Remember that key point before you decide to call it quits due to unforeseen circumstances.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article