Blog Posts, Fitness myths, Videos

Myth #22: Longer Workouts Are More Effective

Let me take this opportunity to make a public service announcement.  The time you spend in the gym does not necessarily equal the time you spend actually training.  When I’m on the gym floor, I see it all the time. People come in, look at the clock, head to the locker room. Get changed.  Chat with their friends. Check their messages.  Adjust their ponytail. Get their earphones and music ready. Survey the gym.  Actually do an exercise, or two.  Check their messages.  Fast forward to the next song, or maybe the next fifteen.  Get some water.  Chat.  Actually do an exercise.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that this goes on for an hour or more.  Many people spend an hour and a half in the gym, but their actual workout time is 20-30 minutes.


Spent. 28 minutes.  

Some people actually do workout for an hour or more, and think they need to in order to achieve their goals. They pedal on a bike or walk on a treadmill or maybe they are even lifting. Buuuuut…few people are able to sustain any real intensity for more than 15-20 minutes. If you don’t know what I mean when I say intensity, check out Myth #14: Intensity is Irrelevant.  90% of the really great workouts I’ve had with my trainer have all been under 30 minutes.  And I was completely, “crawl out the door”, puddle of sweat, spent. I don’t think I’ve ever had a memorable or spectacular workout that lasted over an hour.


Why You Should:

Here are some reasons why shorter workouts might be your new BFF.

  • You’ll actually do them: So often people tell me they “just don’t have the time to exercise”.  Some how realizing that an hour workout is only 1/24 of their day isn’t enough to get them to the gym. But a half-hour is only 1/48 of their day, and that sounds better.
  • You’ll stay focused: When I was a pastor, I noticed a trend. Once someone missed worship once or twice in a row, they started coming a lot less.  Same thing with workouts, once you skip a few, it becomes easier and easier to weenie out on yourself.  Aristotle said something I love, “Excellence, then, is a habit.” Keep yourself in the habit, and you won’t have to fight “to get back on track.” Shorter workouts can help.
  • You won’t get bored: To have an effective workout in 30-45 mintues, you’re gonna have to push and hustle. There isn’t time for your brain to zone out and become disengaged.
  • Reduction in stress: Ok, almost all exercise helps reduce the symptoms of stress you’re feeling, but a shorter workout where you’re upping the intensity may give you even more of an endorphin boost.
  • Not stressing your body even more:  One of the things that a pro is doing when they design a workout for you is taking into account your lifestyle.  If they know you are in a period of stress, the last thing they want to do is give you a super long workout. As my trainer says, “The body doesn’t know the difference between mental stress and physical stress.”  A long workout can actually elevate your cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which has the exact opposite effect of what you want.


Make it Happen:

  • Make a circuit: I teach circuit style classes at my gym, and I love them for a lot of reasons. (And it’s also how I train most of the time.)  Pick a few exercises that focus on the parts you want to work that day, write them down, and then do the exercises one after another with no rest until you’ve done them all.  Do the exercises for a set time (say 30 seconds) or do a set number of repetitions. Rest 30 seconds to a minute, and do it again, until you’re spent.  If you’re not spent in 30-45 minutes, increase your weight, or increase your time or repetitions.  This video was from a class I taught this week.  It was only 6 stations (alternating between a cardio exercise and an abs exercise) and the girls did each station for 30 seconds. You’ve never seen so many “ugly” faces– or heard so many awful thoughts being broadcast in my general direction.​

  • If you’re a little more advanced, add in some cardio and abs stations.  You can pick up a jump rope for under $10, and asking The Google will lead you to tons of core exercises that require no equipment.  Or set up your circuit by the stairs, and go up and down until the timer says you may stop.  Bonus: If you live in a house with a dog that wants to do everything you do, they either find this game great fun or very confusing.  Either way, you have a partner and Fido gets some exercise.
  • If you’re in a gym, you can make a circuit including some of your favorite equipment, just don’t use things that takes a long transition time.  You’re trying to keep your heart rate elevated.
  • Decrease your rest.  Unless you’re power lifting, you do not need 3-5 minutes of rest time to let your body recover. (And you’re sabotaging your workout if you’re taking that much!) If your training program is laid out correctly (hire a pro if you need some help here), your muscles are getting some “active rest” while you’re working other muscles.  Rest doesn’t mean butt sitting. Rest just as long as you have to.  Get some water, and get back to it.


In tomorrow’s post:

Heard that women only need 42 grams of protein and men only need 56 grams? I’ll tell you why that’s so, so wrong!


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