Keeping your workout short and sweet

You can actually reach an optimal fitness level in just 20-30 minutes of planned movement, a few times per week, says Tanja Shaw.

Keeping fit does not require a lot of time

As I write this, it’s 6:20 a.m., and I just returned from my morning workout.  From start to finish, it took me 27 minutes.  I love exercise, but mostly because of how I feel after the workout is over.   Whether I workout for an hour, or 27 minutes, I experience the same post-workout benefits: I feel energized, alert, focused, strong, happy, motivated and excited for the day.  Because of the increased clarity, creativity and productivity you get with a sweat session, I will also write this article in record time.

The point I want to make is that keeping fit does not require a lot of time.  I’m not just saying that some is better than none, but that you can actually reach an optimal fitness level in just 20-30 minutes of planned movement, a few times per week.

This morning for example, I did about seven minutes of warm up exercises to get my heart rate up and increase my range of motion.  For the workout, I set my interval times (I use, and highly recommend, the Simple Interval Timer app on my iPhone) for one minute and 15 seconds.  In that time I did five burpees with weight, five squats with weight and five rows or pulls.  I rested until the one minute and 15 seconds was up, and went through the circuit 10 times.  To finish off, I did a few minutes of bridging (the exercise where you lay on your back with your knees bent and lift your hips off the ground).  Finally, I stretched.

While any movement is better than nothing, getting the most out of your workout time takes some planning.  Here are six tips to get fit in record time:

1. Focus on strength exercises.  Strength exercises, especially done at heavy loads or in a circuit will get your heart rate up and also stress the cardiovascular system.  You will get the benefits of a higher metabolic rate, stronger muscles, better posture, and a fit cardiovascular system.

2. Do multi-joint exercise to get the highest return on investment.   In other words, skip the thigh machine and opt for squats, lunges, pushes and pulls.

3. Use your rest time wisely.  While you recover between exercises, do light range of motion, core or balance exercises.  For example, you can do bridging, single leg balance, or trunk rotations.

4. Plan your workout ahead of time.  If you don’t have a plan, you’ll likely spend some of your precious workout time wondering what to do, procrastinating, and frankly, wasting your time.

5. Think quality over quantity.  Focus on what you’re doing and make the most out of it.  Focus on what muscles you’re using, and keep the chatter in your brain geared toward motivating yourself to work hard.  Avoid distractions and time-suckers like checking your email or Facebook.

6. Be honest with your ability.  If you’re new to exercise, ease into it.  If you’re a seasoned gym goer, make sure to challenge yourself.  Sometimes we get complacent and lift the same weights over and over again because it’s comfortable.  There’s nothing wrong with maintaining, but if you want to improve, it may be time to kick things up a notch.  Not all workouts need to be hard, but when you’ve planned a training session, see if you can up the ante.  Can you lift slightly heavier?  Can you do a more advanced version of an exercise?  Just be sure not to sacrifice form.  Doing a harder exercise incorrectly is not the goal!

Here’s a short circuit you could try to get started:

1. 8-15 squats (carry weights to increase intensity)

2. 8- 15 push-ups (wall, knees or floor)

3. 8-15 rows or pull-ups (use a band or machine for the row)

Rest 30-60 seconds (practice a single leg balance at this time)

Repeat 3-8 times.

Whether you are busy and don’t have much time to workout, or simply don’t want to spend a lot of your time working out, you can get the benefits of exercise in very little time.   Plan your workouts, focus on basic strength movements and enjoy the benefits of a fit, healthy you!


Tanja Shaw is a healthy-eating enthusiast, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness Inc. Tanja and her team of expert fitness coaches inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  Visit Tanja  at and

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