How to get the most out of a short workout

Steph Coelho

Lack of time is an oft-cited reason for missing workouts and avoiding exercise. 

We get it. You work full-time at a demanding job. You spend a chunk of your day stuck in traffic during an insanely long commute. Maybe you're a parent struggling to get enough sleep throughout the week.

But don't let your hectic life get in the way of a solid workout; exercise can help with stress relief, improve your sleep quality, and boost your mood. 

Get the most from your workout, even if all you have is a short 10- or 15-minute window. Here are ways to maximize even the quickest workout to get your blood pumping and finish feeling invigorated.


1. Keep it simple

Don't bother with an expensive gym membership if most days all you have is a short time interval to squeeze in a workout. Simplify your routine by sticking to the basics. Perform bodyweight exercises right next to your bed. Jog in place in your basement while watching TV in the evening. Simplify and it'll be easier to get it done even when you have limited time.

Stamina Doorway Trainer Plus: $31.99 at Dick's Sporting Goods 

All you need is a sturdy doorway to utilize this inexpensive workout tool. Focusing on pull-ups is a great way to maximize an arm workout if you're short on time. The bar is padded for added comfort and allows for multiple grip positions. 

Body-Solid Tools Premium Medicine Ball: $57.99 at Macy's (was $64.86)

A 10-pound medicine ball is a versatile tool for time-squeezed exercisers who want to increase the difficulty of familiar movements. Add a bit of weight to your regular Pilates routine to bump up the intensity and increase your sweat rate in no time. 

Manduka PRO Yoga Mat: $77.40+ at Amazon

A high-quality yoga mat is the basis for countless workouts. The supportive Manduka mat provides a comfortable, cushioned surface for all manner of exercises, including yoga, Pilates, and stretching. Simply roll out your mat wherever you intend to work out and get started with this sweat-resistant, non-slip accessory.


2. Focus on high-intensity activities 

Long, steady-state cardio is great for cardiovascular fitness, but it requires a significant time investment. Ramp up the intensity when you're time is limited and reap the benefits of short, intense bursts of activity. Try high-intensity interval training when you've got less than twenty minutes to spare. You'd be surprised at how quickly you start to sweat. 

Men's and Women's On Cloudsurfer Running Shoes: $100.64+ at Amazon

Perform high-intensity intervals during nearly any type of activity. Combine short bursts of effort with limited recovery to maximize the benefits of a quick workout session. Lace-up your On running sneakers and hit the pavement to crush your next interval training workout. The unique CloudTec rubber construction of the Cloudsurfer shoe provides plenty of cushioning and protection from impact. 

Sunny Health & Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike: $235.99 at Dick's Sporting Goods (was $399.99)

If running isn't quite your speed, jump on a stationary bike to complete your next high-intensity interval workout. The Sunny bike features a comfortable step-through frame, an adjustable seat, and a handy water bottle holder. 


3. Try strength training

If you're not a fan of cardio exercise or simply want to get the biggest bang for your buck in a short amount of time, swap out easy runs and rides for weight lifting. Focus on large muscle groups and compound movements to make the most of your limited workout window. 

CAP Barbell 150-Pound Dumbbell Set: $219.99 at Amazon

This full set of dumbbells is perfect for those new to strength training. The sturdy rack comes with multiple pairs of hex-shaped weights. Use them to perform HIIT workouts, isolated movements, and functional lifting exercises. 


4. Have a plan

You've written down your weekly to-dos, but don't forget to include your workout plans in the mix. Having a plan means you're more likely to make an effort to get it done. Stick to it, and over time your workouts will become a habit you'll never want to skip. 

Workout Journal from NewMe Fitness: $14.99 at Amazon

Write down your workout schedule and take note of how you feel and perform each time you exercise. You'll be able to see your progress, which in turn will motivate you to continue. 


5. Eliminate distractions

Your phone is a minefield of distractions, so keep it far away from your workout area when you're short on time. A single notification might completely derail your workout. If you must use your phone as an interval timer, put it in airplane mode until you're finished.

Apple iPod Touch: $194.95 at Amazon

Music is an incredible motivator and really helps turn a tough workout into a pleasant one when you're feeling tired and sluggish. If you love to exercise with music but hate the annoying notifications on your phone, buy yourself a separate iPod just for workout purposes. Don't load any apps that might serve as a distraction from your sweat sessions.


6. Streamline your session

Getting ready for a workout sometimes takes almost as much time as the workout itself, so streamline the process for the next time you're stuck squeezing in a moment of exercise. For example, instead of hunting around your house for your keys every time you want to get in a quick jog around the block, keep a spare tucked away in your running belt at all times. 

Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro Bluetooth Wireless Headphones: $249.99 at Macy's 

Quit spending precious moments untangling the mess of wires your headphones have become and invest in a high-quality wire-free set of headphones like this Bluetooth set that delivers superior sound quality. After a quick, sweaty workout, wipe them clean and charge them up again. 

Steph Coelho is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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