How Long Should I Plan to Workout?
Any fitness professional has heard this question a million times, myself included. And there are a ton of different credible answers floating around the fitness world. The truth is: there is no right answer. This is so dependent on your current fitness levels, your goals, and your workout pace. So if you come to me and say: How long should I plan to workout? I will come back and say, do what you can. Let me explain…
Unless your daily schedule has a very set: I can only workout for X amount of minutes, it truly does not matter how long your workout plan is. When it comes to exercising it is often a matter on quality, not quantity, and it is always a matter on what is best for your individual body and lifestyle. If you have an incredibly busy day and can only fit in 10 minutes of exercise, you bust out the best and hardest work you can in those 10 minutes and your body will still benefit much more than if you had spent that 10 minutes complaining that you didn’t have time to fit in your 45 minute exercise regime. If you have the day off and want to go spend an hour and a half at the gym doing a little bit of everything, that’s A-OK too.
The most important factor here is consistency and balance. If you follow the Gwenyth Paltrow regime of working out two hours six days a week, you might get burnt out or not even see the results you want. That’s because you can easily over train your body, which can have the opposite effect. Your body needs rest in order to recover and build muscle and prevent fatigue. That also goes to say that if you bust your butt in the gym for 30 minutes doing HIIT for one day, you won’t see that big of a change, and that’s because consistency is uber important.
One reason I don’t like to nail down a set length of “working out” is there can be a lot of ambiguity with this. Are you counting from the moment you enter the gym, until the minute you leave? Are you only counting your literal time spent on the treadmill? Or are you lifting weights and counting your rest time between sets, or leaving it out?
People workout at different paces, doing different types of workouts, with different goals. Some people like to stretch for 25 minutes at the end of their workout. If I tell them to workout for 30 minutes a day, I certainly am not saying they shouldn’t exceed 5 minutes of cardio before they start their stretch routine.
The best advice I can give is to make sure your workout plan is tailored to your specific needs and goals and that you are working up a sweat and pushing yourself, without overdoing it. I always say, sweat your butt off, push yourself further than you feel comfortable with, and just keep going. The set time is less important. The key here is consistency!
If you are the person who likes to meet up with their girlfriends at the gym, catch up on the latest gossip, answer email and texts while you’re on the elliptical, take the time to pick out the perfect song on your iPod before you start each new exercise, and spot your friends between sets; you definitely need to plan on a MUCH longer workout than someone who likes to get in, work hardcore, and get out. While I must caution against this type of workout becoming a regular habit – are you really getting in a full workout or are you preventing yourself from really getting the full results you desire? – If you have the time in your schedule to allow for an extra long gym session that includes both a full workout AND plenty of play time at the gym as well, then more power to you and do what works best for you!
That being said, some people just REALLY want a number. And while I still believe the best workouts are individualized, there are general guidelines that can help you structure your workouts.
The basic guidelines that everyone should aim to meet is:
- At least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (30 minutes 5x/wk) OR at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week (25 minutes 3x/wk)
- Do strength training exercises AT LEAST two to three times a week
If your goal is to lose weight: In addition to your focus on eating healthy – up the cardio to 300 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per week. If your goal is tone up: Leave the aerobic activity at the basic guidelines but up strength training. Try to hit each major muscle group twice a week, but don’t forget to give yourself a rest day each week to recover.
Just try not to pigeonhole yourself into 1 type/duration of workout. Add variety and find what is best for YOU. If you are meeting the basic requirement and seeing results – you are on the right track no matter what your numbers say. Comment below and let me know what workout routine works best for you!