Don’t have time for the gym? You’re probably not the only one. Lack of time is one of the top reasons most individuals skip out on their sweat session. Despite the numerous benefits like reduced stress and improved mood, workouts often get moved to the backburner, replaced by chores and errands. Between packing a bag, driving to the gym, and actually getting moving, workouts seem to take a large chunk of time. But with the proper tactics, it’s more than possible to get an effective workout in a short amount of time.
In fact, according to CeCe Marizu, a trainer for Daily Burn’s new DB10 program, short-but-intense workouts “are essential for cardiovascular strength.” So rather than skipping out on a workout when running short on time, use the following tips to get in and out of the gym in 45 minutes or less.
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7 Time-Saving Workout Tips to Get Fit Fast
1. Superset exercises.
Supersets are one of the oldest tricks in the book — because they work. By performing two exercises back-to-back, lifters can not only get a workout done in a shorter amount of time, but they can also bump up the amount of calories they burn. To maintain a high intensity and get the most out of pairing exercises back-to-back, alternate between upper and lower body movements. That way, one muscle group is always recovering while the other is working.
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2. Time your rest periods.
With so many distractions in the gym — including television, friends and cell phones — it can be hard to stay on task. Try bringing a timer to your next session and start it during rest periods. Typically, most gym-goers will want to limit rest periods to 90 seconds or less, though times should be adjusted up or down depending on specific goals. Determine the appropriate rest time for you and stick to it. When the timer goes off, it’s time to get back to work — no excuses!
3. Keep it moving.
A rest period doesn’t have to mean sitting idly on a machine. If you’re not supersetting exercises, stretching and foam rolling — often-neglected aspects in most workout routines — are perfect to include in between sets. When incorporating stretching, focus on targeting areas not incorporated in the current workout. For instance, during an upper body workout routine, stretch the hamstrings and hip flexors during short breaks. Foam rolling is also a great mid-set activity — provided there’s adequate space to roll out.
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4. Try high-intensity interval training.
Interval training has seen a huge surge in popularity with workouts like the Tabata protocol, which has users working all-out for 20 seconds with only a 10-second rest in between sets. Although these workouts may be shorter than usual, don’t mistake them for a walk in the park. By ramping up intensity, they promise huge improvements in cardiovascular health. To get started with interval training, begin incorporating some short, intense bursts during a normal cardio session. Push the pace for 20 to 30 seconds before recovering for the same amount of time at a lower intensity. Start by repeating that sequence three to four times and build up as you get comfortable with the high intensity!
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5. Plan your workout ahead of time.
Of all the distractions in the gym that compete for attention after a set, perhaps the biggest time-waster is simply wondering what to do next. Not having a workout planned out can kill efficiency. To solve this problem, jot down a workout in advance. Or, screenshot it on your phone (if you promise not to text!). If the workout requires special equipment like TRX straps or a stability ball, try snatching them up ahead of time to speed up transition time.
6. Have a back-up plan in case machines are taken.
Particularly during busy hours after work, finding an open machine can be difficult, especially in a smaller gym. Instead of waiting on a fellow gym member to finish up, have a back-up plan in mind for each exercise. (Also, keep in mind not all workout machines deliver results!) If the squat racks are busy, substitute with dumbbell goblet squats or walking lunges. Both work the same muscle groups but in a slightly different way. The key is to keep moving rather than stand around waiting!
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7. Ditch technology.
Although apps and music can be a key companion when it comes to tracking workouts and pushing through hard sets, technology can also be a major distraction in the gym. Instead of carrying a phone or tablet throughout a workout, consider wearing a simple watch to time sets, and bring along an iPod or music player that doesn’t have Internet access. That way, there’s little temptation to check Facebook (or post a selfie to Instagram!) in between sets. Still want to track sets and reps? Try using a pen and paper or switch electronics to airplane mode if they have to come along for the ride.
Workouts shouldn’t have to gobble up hours of time in order to be effective. With the right methods in place, lifters can get in and out of the gym in record time so they can tackle the rest of their to-do list feeling refreshed and invigorated!
Originally published March 2014. Updated June 2017.