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Wednesday Workout Tip: Leave the gym in 30 minutes

I strongly dislike working out at the gym. Unless I am in a class or working out with a friend, I get bored. And when I get bored, my work to rest ratio becomes slightly unbalanced. So how do I maintain my attention when I am at the gym or at home? I perform high-intensity interval training, followed by weights and stretching. I can typically accomplish what I want in 20-35 minutes. Sounds awesome, right?

Yes, it is awesome and for many reasons. I am not stuck in the smelly haven that is the gym for hours upon hours. I am not required to listen to grunts and groans for an extended period of time. And more importantly, I have a lot more free time to do other things that may be a little more fun than working out.

The only downside to working out in this fashion is that my workouts are intense, challenging, and very muscle-fatiguing. To me, these should go in the benefits section, however, if you are new to working out or do not like experiencing an intense muscle burn, this may not be the workout for you.

So what do I do?

1. 5 minute warm-up on a bike. And not, the recumbent or the other one that uses buttons. I am talking about the bike that you manually twist the knob to increase or decrease the resistance.

2. Begin your cardio session. Increase the resistance on my bike and begin pedaling for 20 seconds as hard as I possibly can. I am aiming to work at 80-90% of my maximal oxygen uptake. What does that mean? I am basically pushing myself to maximal exertion.

3. I follow this intense pedaling session with 40 seconds of active rest (1:2 work to rest ratio). What this means is that I am still cycling, but I have lowered the resistance level on the bike and am pedaling at a much lesser intensity.

4. Increase the resistance level back to where you started and pedal for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of active rest.

5. Once again, increase the resistance level and pedal like a madman or woman for 45 seconds, followed by 90 seconds of active rest.

6. Repeat the 45 second mad cycle and then go back down the pyramid (from 30 seconds to 20 seconds). Please note: you are going to be sweaty (or should be) and rather fatigued after this pyramid set. Take a 2 minute rest before moving to weights. Total time spent doing cardio (including rest) = 9.5 minutes.

7. Move to weights. Now, you can choose to do your weights after or before your cardio workout – it’s a matter of personal preference and what your goals are for the workout. If you’re legs feel like jelly after that intense 10 minute workout, than I would encourage you to save weights for another day. If you feel OK, do the brief weight-lifting routine listed below.

If you are stretched for time, I would encourage you to do squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. I would encourage intermediates to select a weight that is challenging (i.e. by the time you get to the 12th repetition, you are struggling). For intermediates, aim for 10-12 reps per exercise and 2-3 sets. If you are beginner start with a lighter weight, higher reps and fewer sets. These exercises utilize a number of muscle groups and will give you the greatest bang for your buck. You should aim to spend 10-15 minutes doing weights.

8. Stretch. Please, please, please make time for flexibility. Flexibility training is crucial, yet under-performed. Each stretch should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds. Take time to stretch out muscles that were used during your cardiovascular and resistance training program. The more flexible you are, the better your range of motion, ability to respond to emergencies (e.g. running to catch the bus without pulling a hammie), and you will likely experience a reduction in muscle aches/pain. This should be about 5-10 minutes in length.

Total workout time: 26.5 – 36.5 minutes (includes that 2 minute rest between cardio and weight-training).

Happy training.



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  1. * Jess says:

    Stretching is so critical. I find that even stretching between sets reduces my recovery time dramatically, especially for my legs, which I find are easy to fatigue when doing supersets. Also love the interval training. I do take a little longer to do weights, as I perform sets of 2 muscle groups back to back… But interval cardio is very much key to efficient exercising!!

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago
  2. The quick workout is great. I go in, and I always find that I’ve done 3-4 sets in the time it takes some guys to do 1 since they spend half of their time chatting.

    I would strongly suggest that readers check out the culture of their gym. I used to work out at a YMCA that was great and people were very focused when they went there. I switched to a nearby Goodlife, and most people were there to chat and hang out – not train.

    Great post 🙂

    | Reply Posted 6 years, 3 months ago

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