Why a 30-Minute Workout is Better Than No Workout
Some days, you just don’t want to work out.
I get that.
I’m a big believer in rest days. Every Sunday is my day to be completely off—not the “Oh, I’ll just do a yoga class,” or “Well maybe I’ll just do a couple reps of air squats or ten minutes of abs,” kind-of-off. On Sundays, I do absolutely nothing.
And you know what makes my Sunday rest days so satisfying? Earning them.
I make my workouts a priority during the week so I can enjoy my rest days. Actually, scratch that—I make my workouts a priority so I can enjoy EVERY day. Getting a workout in each day (no matter what my schedule looks like) makes everything else fall into place. I move better. I eat better. My whole day is just…BETTER.
I’m not saying you need to put your body through hell every workout. And I certainly don’t think you need to spend two hours at the gym each day (more on this below). I’m saying that you need to make movement a priority, each and every day. If you have just thirty minutes to spare, those thirty minutes could be the difference in your mood, choices, and priorities.
You don’t need to spend two hours at the gym to get a solid workout in
Some people think that in order to get a “good” workout in, they need to spend two hours at the gym (or more) on any given day.
To me, that’s so unnecessary. And here’s why:
Remember when you were in college, and you didn’t have time to read an entire book for the exam, so you just read the CliffsNotes? Just me? When I was in college I had an internship, job, and a social life, and frankly I wasn’t planning on a reading a book that was due in two weeks. Instead, I read the CliffsNotes so I had everything I needed to prepare for the test.
If I actually read the book cover-to-cover, I became distracted. Chapters blurred together and I actually remembered LESS than if I’d just read the abbreviated highlights.
Two different strategies (CliffsNotes vs. actually reading the book) got the same result, or test score. But one method required a lot less time.
MAJOR DISCLAIMER (that probably should have gone at the beginning of this section): I am not telling you to not do your homework. I’m just offering an analogy we can all relate to.
What my mind did while trying to read an entire book is what your body does when trying to complete a two-hour workout. The urgency isn’t there. You don’t put everything you have into the workout. And don’t tell me you do, because I SEE YOU checking your phone and reading a magazine halfway through a workout.
Instead of mindlessly wandering through a two-hour elliptical session, you could crush a thirty-minute circuit. Again, two different methods, both getting to the same end result—but one takes a lot less time.
How to maximize your results in a 30-minute workout
If you only have thirty minutes to workout, you need to make the most of those thirty minutes. Here’s how to do that:
#1: Add some weights
Muscle is denser than fat. Here’s how why that matters:
Picture this: Two, 150-pound females are sitting next to each other. One lifts weights (and therefore has more muscle) and one does cardio. The one who lifts heavy shit is burning more calories per minute than her friend, even when both are sitting still. To burn more calories each day, throw some weight on the bar.
#2: Spike your heart rate
Have you heard of “the afterburn effect”? When performing a HIIT workout, you can potentially burn calories 4-6 hours after your circuit ends. On the other hand, if you run at a slow and steady pace, your calorie burn would be limited to your time on that treadmill. This is because your oxygen expenditure is far greater when you spike your heart rate, as in a HIIT circuit.
To do this, I like to alternate between 40-45 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest. Example: Do jump lunges for 40 seconds, than take a 20-second breather.
#3: Alternate between weights and cardio
Combining cardio with resistance training is the best way to cut fat.
To be clear: “Cardio” does not have to mean ellipticals and treadmills. You can get creative here. I might alternate between deadlifts and burpees, standing squats and squat jumps, then box jumps and lunges.
What are the best workouts to do in 30 minutes?
Here, it really comes down to personal preference.
Do the workout you will actually DO. If you know you’ll procrastinate hitting the weight room because resistance training “isn’t your thing,” screw it! Go do Barre. Or boxing. Or whatever workout gets you moving.
That being said, I do have two workouts I recommend when time is not on your side:
The TL Method requires minimal equipment and can be done anywhere. Every single workout is under 60 minutes, but you'll find some 30-minute workout videos in the program. Driving to the gym DOES take time, and these workouts can be performed in your living room. Dumbbells, resistance bands, and a makeshift bench is all you need.
By the by, want a 30-minute workout to do at home—today? Try a FREE day of the TL Method.
I have never done a total body workout that honestly makes me want to cry more in 35 minutes than the VersaClimber. If you live in the Denver area, I highly recommend Transform—I burned more calories in that class than any other workout, ever. Plus, if you’re injury-prone this is suchhhhhh a good workout for you, really sparing your joints.
How to motivate yourself to find time for a 30-minute workout
Here’s the hard truth: You just fucking do it.
Every time you find yourself thinking, “Do I reallyyyyyy want to go to the gym?” Ask yourself this: Have you ever once regretted a workout? Will hitting the gym be worth it? Will it make your feel good about yourself?
You don’t need to spend a crazy amount of time at the gym to reach your goals. I workout for roughly an hour, 4-5 times per week. There is a mental shift you will achieve every single time you get after it. Getting a good sweat in makes you feel better about yourself and puts you in a better mood.
What do you do when you have 30 minutes to spare? What’s the hardest 30-minute workout you tried? Share your ideas below.