The Good Enough Workout: What to Do When You Only Have a Little Time

Ride Like the Wind if you've only got a few minutes to workout!

Your day got away from you.  You only have 10 minutes, or 20, max 30 to workout and that includes throwing on your sneakers and sweats.  What should you do?  Here’s a guide to work with the time available.

10 minutes (Choose One)

Fast Cardio: Run in place, jump rope, or rock out to your iPod; do something that gets you moving right away.  My personal favorite is dancing to tunes because you’ll have a good time and since you’re pressed for time, you could use the stress release.

Fast Weight Training: Do crunches for one minute.  Do oblique twists for another minute.  Do 10 to 15 pushups from either the knees or the toes (whichever method you can do).  Do wall squats for 90 seconds.  Repeat.  Don’t rest; go immediately from one to the next.  This assumes you don’t have time to dig out weights or bands, so just use your body weight.  You don’t even need to strap on your sneakers.

20 minutes

You can combine the two 10 minute cycles above or …

Run around the block: Head out the door and walk briskly for two to five minutes to get warmed up.  As soon as a bead of sweat forms on your forehead, start running.  You don’t have a ton of time, so push yourself a little here.  Head up a nearby hill or go a little faster than your normal pace.   You can also do this as a power walk.

Weights Training: I’m going to assume you have some free weights or bands around your house so this lets you incorporate some resistance training.  Do squats while holding onto medium free weights.  Two positions, one with legs open wider than hips and parallel to each other, and one with the legs turned out.  Squat slightly deeper on the turn out position and really stick out your butt!  Work through the heels and don’t bend your knees past 90 degrees or send your knees out further than your toes.  Do 15 in each position.  Lean on a chair and with heavy weights do lat pulls, 15 on each side, just one rep.  Do hammer curls (thumbs up) and regular bicep curls (palms up), one set of 15 in each position. Don’t rest between the bicep curls, instead use the rest period to do overhead tricep presses (two sets, one after each bicep set).  Lie on the floor for a chest fly, keeping the elbows in line with the bottom of your rib cage as you move the weights up and down.  Do one minute of crunches and one minute of obliques.  That should get you to 20 minutes.

30 minutes

Cardio:  You can get a solid cardio workout in 30 minutes.  Just don’t dawdle.  Lace up the sneakers and start your favorite activity: running, biking, a video from YouTube or your TV’s OnDemand system.  There are a lot of options here.  Pick one, commit, and go!

Weight Training:  Do the same exercises as listed in the 20 minute section above, but only do one set of triceps and repeat the whole routine twice.  You’ll go faster the second time because you’re used to the pace.  Do not pause!  Keep moving and you’ll work up a sweat.  It should be enough to get you into cardiovascular levels, so you’ll get a “two-fer,” cardio and resistance training at the same time.

For the 20 and the 30 minute weight training workouts, you can do the exact same routines but with a set of bands. You’ll need three resistances: light, medium, and heavy.  This is subjective, as it’s what feels light, medium, and heavy to you.  Target always sells three packs and you can get bands online at numerous retailers.  They’re particularly easy to shove into a bag when you travel.

Let me know any time-saving tips you have.  I’d love to share them with everyone!

If you’d like to get even more information about health and fitness, please sign up for my newsletter.  It’s a peak behind the blog … and it’s over in the right hand column, right at the top!

Thanks,

Lisa

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About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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13 Responses to The Good Enough Workout: What to Do When You Only Have a Little Time

  1. Fitness Expert October 21, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    Very nice tips. Every little exercise helps in the long run. Cheers.

  2. Emily @FitTwitEmily October 21, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    GREAT post – I was just talking about my struggle with finding time. But 10 minutes? I have 10 minutes!

  3. Lisa October 21, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Great topic! When I’m short on time, weight lifting is the biggest “bang” for my buck. It used to be running but I’ve seen such progress with my new weight lifting routine I’d rather do that!

  4. Lisa Johnson October 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Lisa & Emily thanks for stopping by and sharing. And Emily you’re right, everyone has 10 minutes! You can eek out a little something and that can start a positive domino effect. A little exercise means you might skip the brownie and go for the carrot sticks instead :-)

    L–

  5. Sherry October 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Lisa,

    Great tips! Sometimes when I am short on time, I do what I refer to as “the tens”. I do ten squats, ten box pushups and ten ab curls. Each rep is done to a count of ten so it’s slow….hits all major body parts and makes me feel that I accomplished something for myself!

    Love your blog…keep up the great work.
    Sherry

  6. Lisa Johnson October 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    thank you Sherry and nice tip on the box pushups, I hadn’t thought about those in a while. :-)

  7. Kris O'Connor October 21, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    Great post! For me, I do squats or lunges with all my upperbody stuff. Squats + curl/shoulder press/tricep or Lunge w chop/curl/or shoulder press. For me that bumps the intensity and doubles up on the exercises. I’m a big fan of reps for time – 1 minute for 5 exercises x 3 sets – no rest between exercises, little rest between sets. That’s a 15 – 20 minute session and BAM!

    Thanks again Lisa!

  8. Lisa Johnson October 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    that sounds awesome Kris. Just watch your form while your banging our reps. Form first, speed and strength second. :-)

  9. Kris O'Connor October 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    Form first – ALWAYS! Great point ;-)

  10. Karen October 22, 2010 at 7:53 am #

    I appreciate these tips because some days I just can’t get in the time I would usually spend and it is all to easy to then say I won’t do any at all.

  11. Tricia October 22, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    What fantastic suggestions! These are things I know, but I’m a schedule person. It has to be down “on paper” or in my Workout Manager or I won’t do it! I can plug these in and have no excuses!

    Thank you!

  12. Lisa Johnson October 22, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Tricia and Karen, thanks so much for stopping by and adding your comments! This is the “when things go awry” back up plan, I hope they helped :-) L–

  13. Rick J. November 14, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Good tips, things have been getting very busy for me with work and other projects at home my workout time is extremely limited. On a good day I may be able to spend an hour at the gym. I can’t wait until my schedule frees up a little.

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