How Athletic Trainers can Prioritize Health & Exercise with a Busy Schedule

Lack of time is a challenge that many athletic trainers face. All of us want more hours in the day – be it for family time, working out, training, recovery or simply to spend on ourselves. However, life seems to always ‘get in the way’ and force us to skip the things that are important to us. However, choosing to invest in your health and well-being is important, no matter how busy you are.

As athletic trainers, we understand the importance of physical activity, eating nutritious foods, and caring for our mental health. The benefits just can’t be ignored. But when you’re working long hours and don’t always have the ability to cook, taking care of your body and mind is hard. 

These time management hacks for athletic trainers (and anyone, really) can help to navigate and get the most out of every 24 hours.

Remember –  it’s not about the amount of time you have, but rather how you use it. No excuses.

Time management hacks

This is where time management comes in. At the end of the day, it’s all about planning ahead and making the most of the time we have. It’s hard to work around a busy schedule, but it’s not impossible. Even when there appears to be no time, there are ways to get things done. It’s possible to find time for anything if we make it a priority. 

I trained for a marathon once, and it taught me a lot about how to be efficient and include a lot of training in an already busy schedule. Below I’m listing time management hacks for athletic trainers that can be used in both sport and daily life.

Time management is like Tetris. You add tasks & appointments piece by piece until you have space left.

I agree that some of these might seem challenging at first. Most struggle with it because it requires a lifestyle change. After a gradual transition to a new lifestyle, though, I realized how much you can accomplish. And that motivated me.

Train in time, not distance/reps 

One thing that helped me adapt to maintaining an exercise routine with the demands of a daily job was to plan and execute sessions based on the available time. That is, running 40 minutes, instead of 5 miles. Or do 20 minutes of strength training instead of 3 sets of 9 exercises.

A great thing about this method is that it’s a fixed time period. The workout won’t extend if it’s bad weather or if you’re feeling down or taking too much rest between exercises. You can schedule it like any other appointment and it won’t interfere with anything else.

Use calendar effectively

Speaking of appointments – there is wisdom in the saying ‘only what gets scheduled gets done‘.The best way to ensure something gets done is to put it into your calendar.

The same idea can be applied to finding time for exercise or prepping healthy meals. The best way to ensure it gets done even on busy days is to schedule those just like any work appointment. Putting a priority on an activity frees up time for doing it.

Do a little every day

Don’t let yourself go days without moving. You should have recovery days, but not moving does more harm than good. Even on days or even weeks when you truly don’t have time for exercise – figure out what you can do. 

You can pace the sidelines instead of sitting on your golf cart. Or ditch the golf cart as much as humanly possible. If you’re showing a patient a rehab exercise, pick up the heaviest weight you have and do a few reps while you educate them. Coming in on a Saturday for football weights? If you don’t have patients and are caught up on paperwork – go lift with them. It’ll give you a good opportunity to check out their form and make corrections if you see any that could cause injury. 

The body responds best to consistent stimulation, so try to exercise every day. Frequent exercise also promotes small supercompensations and training consistency. Volume and intensity are not as important as consistency.

Have a list of standard sessions & meals

Make a list of your favorite training sessions and categorize them by purpose (endurance, strength, power, etc.) and duration (e.g. 20-40-60 minutes). Once you have some free time, you can pick a session from this ‘shopping list’.

Do the same for healthy meals. What meals can you make in 5 minutes and which can you plan ahead for and make in bulk to pack for work? Keep those ingredients on hand. Take advantage of grocery pick-up if you have it available to you. 


Meditation might not be on everyone’s radar when we talk about saving time. It takes time, after all. Ironically, it’s the kind of thing where you invest a little and get a lot.

Practicing meditation regularly helps reduce stress and improve focus, so we can be more productive. Moreover, reducing stress (both acute and chronic) will save you time and effort in the long run – you’ll sleep better, recover faster, have more energy, etc.

Change your habits

The amount of free time we have really depends on how we spend it. And how self-disciplined we are.

Being honest about why we waste time is one of the most productive time management hacks. Does watching a new TV series or playing video games really ‘relax’ us or is it just a way to postpone action?

We might find comfort in our bad habits or tell ourselves that we’re tired and need rest. Rather than sitting on the couch after a challenging day, take a walk outside or jog for about 15 minutes.

Although we do not need to justify our habits to anyone, we must be aware of them – good and bad. The results we get are ultimately our responsibility. We are what we consistently do – success is a habit.

Carry gear with you

Use your car’s trunk as a portable dressing room. Or keep gear in your athletic training facility. By doing this, you don’t need to hurry home for gym clothes or to get dressed. When you have all the gear you need (sneakers, run apparel, swimming gear, etc.) you are not restricted to a particular location or time for training. 

Have organized nutrition with you

Often getting an exercise session done comes down to whether we have the energy for it or not. Because I hadn’t eaten properly before, I had so many bad sessions where I didn’t feel like myself.

Now I batch-prepare a few overnight oats (my go-to breakfast) and keep some energy bars on hand just in case I have time for an intense session. A trail mix or smoothie (bought or homemade) is a great post-workout treat.

Optimize & automate things you do

We do a lot of repeatable tasks every day. Look for time wasters and ways to automate things to save time every day.

Combine similar activities to save time on preparation and execution. Reduce the time and effort required to start daily tasks by creating checklists or routines.

Here are some of the ideas for automation from my experience:

  • Do a meal prep for the whole week
  • Create email processing filters or unsubscribe from useless mailing lists to avoid spending time reading emails
  • Automate bill payments
  • Have a robot vacuum cleaner to save time on cleaning up
  • Create a standard shopping list and order groceries online to avoid aimlessly walking around the store
  • Create a morning routine and evening routine that helps you get going and wind down

Focus on the goal

Finally, time management isn’t just about getting everything done, but also not doing things you shouldn’t.

Consistently ask yourself whether what you’re doing moves you closer to your goals or just keeps you busy. If it doesn’t matter, don’t do it (drop it or delegate it) – focus on the stuff that matters.

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