More isn’t always better.
I’ve seen plenty of long workouts that are just plain bad.
I’ve also seen people abandon exercise because they think they don’t have time to make it “worth it.”
That’s unfortunate, because there’s a way to do less and still get great results.
Gather ‘Round, Children
Back in my day, kids, we didn’t have GPS on our phones. If I wanted to know how long it would take to get from point A to point B, I had to ask an actual person.
Here’s what I learned from this: we all suck at estimating times.
People tend to ignore the first and last few minutes of a trip. So a “20 minute drive” was often closer to 30.
With exercise, you need to be realistic about your time. If you have an hour, does that include time for driving to the gym, changing, showering, etc.?
Once you figure out how much time you really have, it’s not a matter of how long your workout SHOULD be, it’s about how to make the most of it.
Even with unlimited time, you can get just about anything done in 60-90 minutes.
You might feel like that makes this the ideal workout length to shoot for.
If you workout this long, it’d better be because you enjoy doing it. Otherwise you can find a more efficient routine that gets comparable results.
It’s not that this time frame is extreme. If you prefer a slightly longer workout, that’s great. I just don’t want you to think it’s necessary.
One benefit of a workout this length is there’s no reason you’d have to do it more than 3x a week. It’s something to consider if you enjoy it but your schedule doesn’t allow more frequent exercise.
(Is there any reason to exercise longer than 60-90 minutes? Only if you have goals similar to that of a professional athlete and really love working out.)
45 Minutes Max
You wish you had an hour. But by the time you get in, get it done, grab a shower and leave, you have 45 minutes tops for your actual workout.
I have good news.
The main difference between a really good 45 minute workout and most 60+ minute workouts is time management.
You can get every bit as much done if you bust your butt.
For any workout, you should have a plan. In this case it’s even more important to have notes on everything.
You need to move from exercise to exercise without wasting time wondering what you’ll do next, or how much weight you’ll need. And rest times should be kept to a minimum.
If busting your butt doesn’t sound appealing, 45 minutes will still get you a great workout. It’s only a couple exercises less than an hour workout, so you’re not sacrificing much.
Either way, you could still limit this to just 3 times a week and get amazing results.
Let’s say you average 30 minutes.
Sometimes you can do more, but other days your time gets cut short because work went long, your toddler refused to nap, or an important phone call finally came through.
Don’t plan a longer workout and “hope for the best.” Instead do this:
Whatever’s most effective for your goals, get that done in the first 20 minutes. Everything after that is secondary — still beneficial, but nonessential.
On a good day, this allows extra time for working on things you don’t normally get to do. But on days when you can’t get anything done beyond the first 20 minutes, it’s not a failure.
As for efficiency, I recommend combining weights and cardio with things like supersets, circuit training, or a million other possibilities.
Do this 3-4 times a week and, though you won’t get as much done as in a longer workout, the things you prioritize will still see significant progress.
(If you prefer a daily routine, do 6 days a week, alternating weights and cardio each day.)
20 Minutes or Less
If you’re lucky to get 20 free minutes most days, you’re not out of luck.
The best way to capitalize on your time is to have a couple short at-home workout routines and alternate them from day to day. Again, you’ll want to prioritize, but if you can only do 5 minutes some days, you do 5 minutes.
It’s not a waste of time.
Still think it’s not worth it? Rethink your goals.
Yeah, you might not qualify for the Olympics, but is that what you want? Or do you just want to lose some fat and get in a little better shape?
20 minutes (or less) a day can help you do that.
(If this is more your time limit, I recommend our ebook, “Home Workout for Beginners.”)
Not a Cop Out
The thing that makes your workouts effective isn’t their length, it’s doing them regularly.
If a shorter workout is something you can be more consistent with, that’s what you should do. It’s not a cop-out.
I don’t mean, “If that’s all you can do, I guess that’s ok.” I mean, “If that’s what you can do, and you do it well, you’ll exceed expectations!”
It might take a little more time to reach your goals with a shorter workout, but the end result will be the same — or better (when compared to a long workout you give up on).
Of course, “long” and “short” workouts are relative terms.
Whether you workout for 10 minutes or 90, there will always be more you could add to your routine. So decide what’s realistic for you, stick to it, and don’t feel bad about it.
How long should YOUR workouts be?