“Getting a workout in 30 minutes and walking away satisfied with the work you've done is a function of having a plan and increasing the intensity of the work you do during the time you have,” says Jeana Anderson Cohen, an ACE certified personal trainer and founder of aSweatLife.com. Essentially, it’s all about heading to the gym with a well-thought-out plan and working at a higher level of intensity.
But just because you’re cutting down on time, doesn’t mean you can skimp on safety. “Since you are going to be in the zone and moving quickly, make sure that you aren't doing exercises that are very dangerous,” says certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach Henry Halse. “Your heart will be racing and you will be breathing hard, this is not the time to work on your deadlift technique because you will not be able to focus very well. Save those big exercises for when you have more time.”
And another piece of advice that will increase not only the safety, but also the effectiveness of your short and sweet sweat sessions: don’t skip the warm-up.
“While we may be tempted to skip it, warming our muscles and joints is critical to improving performance and limiting injury,” explains Arial Friedman, a New York City based personal trainer and creator of GrooveAnywhere.com.”
Once you’ve got these fundamentals in check, you’ll be ready to get in and out of the gym faster than you can say “But I don’t have enough time.” OK, maybe not that quickly. But with the following expert tips, you'll certainly learn how to keep your gym time under 30 minutes.
The easiest way to ensure you’ll keep your workout within your limited time frame is to make sure you head into the gym with a plan. “This doesn't mean that you have to write your own workouts,” says Anderson Cohen. “This simply means that with an understanding of the resources available to you, you can achieve an efficient workout in the time that you have. Tools like Nike's N+TC app have plenty of guided workouts with video tutorials for each move that will ensure you’ll make your 30 minutes count. Or on, aSweatLife.com, there are dozens of bodyweight workouts that you can use to ensure you make the most of every minute of your workout time, with or without a gym.”
Think about what spaces and equipment you’ll be using while at the gym. “Select exercises that are in the same general area to avoid going all the way across the gym between sets,” says John Papp, a sports performance coach and ACE certified personal trainer at Xceleration Sports in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Part of working out at a gym means you have to share equipment with other members, so if you’re crunched for time it’s important to keep some alternative exercises in mind; moves that you can use in case a certain machine or piece of equipment isn’t available. “For instance, if the squat rack is occupied, use some dumbbells and get your squats in that way,” explains Thea Boatswain, a certified personal trainer and founder of Total Body Finesse. “Of course your weight won't be as heavy but if you're pressed for time, you take what you can get.”
Interval workouts are highly versatile because they can be applied to any sort of exercise. Whether you’re planning a cardio or strength workout, you can use high-intensity intervals to achieve an effective workout in a short amount of time. For example, on the treadmill an interval workout might look something like this: 5-minute warm-up; repeat 10 rounds of 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 60 seconds running at a recovery pace; 5-minute cool-down. (See the next slide to learn how to apply interval training to strength workouts.)
For a quick but intense strength training workout, you could perform three or four circuits of 6 to 8 exercises (like jump-squats, burpees and mountain climbers) performed for 30 seconds each, with no rest in between exercises and one minute of rest between circuits. They key to building a smart circuit workout is creating a cycle of exercises that alternates between different muscle groups. For example: push-ups (upper body), jump-squats (lower body), planks (core), triceps dips (upper body), alternating lunges (lower-body), and then side planks (core).
This is one of the best ways to ensure that chatty gym members won’t cut into your precious workout time. “This sends a message that you aren't down for small talk, which will eat up your time when you are trying to get out in 30 minutes,” says Cassie Piasecki, a certified personal trainer and indoor cycling and Pilates instructor.
“When lifting weights, people usually do one exercise or ‘set’ and then break for 30 to 60 seconds,” explains Piasecki. “Instead, do a set of one exercise and then switch to a different exercise that works a different body part. For example, do lat pull-downs and then switch to squats during the ‘rest’ phase."
Keeping your workout as simple as possible is a smart strategy when you’re short on time. Squats, barbell curls, push-ups, planks and triceps dips are all examples of simple exercises that can be performed in one spot with minimal equipment. The less time you have to spend setting up or transitioning between moves, the more time you’ll have for actual exercise.
Lisa Nordquist, an ACE certified personal trainer and author of “Love Yourself Fit,” suggests breaking a full workout into smaller segments throughout the day. Research has shown that you can reap the same health and fitness benefits by spreading a 30-minute workout into two 15-minute sessions or even three 10-minute sessions. If you’re strapped for time, this might help make achieving a 20- or 30-minute workout more manageable. Try 10 or 15 minutes in the morning before starting your day and then 10 or 15 minutes during your lunch break or after work when the rest of your to-do list is finished.
"Put your cell on airplane mode so you can still access your music but not be distracted by incoming calls, texts or social media,” says David Jeanty, a New York City based certified personal trainer and boxing coach. This tip is simple and maybe even obvious, but it can certainly be a time-saver when it comes to getting your workout done quickly.