I have been teaching group fitness classes and doing personal training for 16 years. The standard class and session length is an hour, and in that hour we do a lot of great things for our bodies. But sub-60 minute workouts can be just as effective, or often MORE effective, than the longer ones. I recently started offering my personal training clients a 45 minute session option, which the majority of them take. They get a great workout, they are less likely to want breaks except for needing the occasional hydration and it’s so easy to fit into their schedule.
We are so often bombarded by the message that we’re not doing enough. We’re not making enough money, not eating enough vegetables, not spending enough time with our kids, etc. And sometimes my clients ask me if the 45 minute session is enough. The truth is that I could get most of them results in 30 minutes. We just have to work smart.
Working smart means checking in on your goals with regular frequency. It means you’re questioning the purpose of each exercise you do and make sure it’s the best one to meet your goals. I train almost exclusively with functional exercises: all the work translates into doing daily activities more safely, with more ease and less pain. I add resistance that’s hard to work with, but possible; this ensures that muscles are being challenged and changed, but that injury risk is low. When I develop home workouts for my clients, I give them a range of repetitions and sets, knowing that some days are just way tougher than others and that even doing 15 minutes of something is far far better than zero minutes.
To challenge your cardiovascular fitness, interval training is a great option. Doing intense interval work for a shorter amount of time has been shown to yield as good or better results as steady state endurance work. So, you may want to run for an hour (and that feels great to me sometimes!) but if you don’t, you can do a 25 minute HIIT workout and not feel like you’re cheating yourself.
My favorite smart workout is circuit training. I alternate between cardio sets and strength training sets of higher reps (12-18) at a lowish weight (maybe 25lbs for rows and lunges) to keep my heart rate above resting. After 30 minutes, I’ve hit every major muscle group a few times, challenged my heart and increased my range of motion. Twice a week, I’m in and out of the gym so quick, but still seeing results.