Short on Time? Workout Anyway


“I don’t have time to workout!”

You’ve probably heard this before and I know I’ve heard it a thousand times. It’s the go-to excuse for people who lack either the proper motivation or discipline to get their asses in the gym and train.

One of the biggest problems I run into as a coach is juggling a busy training schedule with the real lives of my clients and athletes.

This is especially true with my military and law enforcement folks who not only work long hours but can be pulled away from their normal daily routines fairly frequently.

Lack of time is probably the number one reason people give as to why they neglect a number of things in their lives when it comes to health and fitness but 9 times out of 10 it isn’t lack of time holding you back, it’s having screwed up priorities.

“Oh, my diet is terrible because I don’t have any food in the house, haven’t had time to shop.”

“I had to work late so I didn’t have time to go to the gym…”

Sure, you may actually be pressed for time occasionally but if you sound like one of the examples above more often than not then you’re probably wrong.

However, I get it.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a fully stocked gym in your garage like me then going to the gym can be a pain in the ass. Getting changed, driving to the gym, working out for 45-60mins, driving home, and showering not only take a significant amount of time but also provide a dozen tiny mental hurdles to slow you down and even stop you from going in the first place.

So, what if I told you that there is research out there that shows that 15-minute workouts can be just as beneficial to improving your muscular strength, endurance, and VO2Max as a 45-minute workout.

Would that help you change your priorities?

Which is better: Longer or Shorter Training Sessions?

A study by Klien et al. (2015) noted that when the training programs are volume matched (i.e. The same amount of work is being conducted) then it doesn’t really matter if you train a few times each week for a longer period of time or every day with shorter sessions.

This study actually looked at 21 military members in an attempt to find out if shorter, more frequent or longer, less frequent training sessions had a great effect on improving fitness as measured by a number of tests. Researchers looked at VO2max, muscular strength, and muscular endurance using some very common fitness tests including one that is probably very familiar to you: 2mins of Push-ups.

The study participants were split into either a short, frequent training or a standard training group.

The short, frequent training group performed 9 workouts per week each lasting 15-mins each and the standard training group performed 3, 45-minute workouts each week.

The results?

There was no significant difference between the groups… Pretty boring huh?

However, what this does tell you is that if you don’t have the time or mental energy to go through your normal go to the gym routine mentioned above then just get 15-minutes of training in right where you are.

I get that not everyone has time to knock out a comprehensive 90-minute training session each and every day but you cannot use that as an excuse to not work on your physical fitness.

I could probably list off a few dozen bodyweight workouts right now you could do in 15-minutes and it would feel like you were hit by a truck when you finished.

If you’ve been around here for a while then you know that I continuously preach a minimal effective does style of training and don’t believe that more is necessarily better, it usually isn’t.

The bottom line here is pretty simple, although training volume and intensity matter, it may not really matter when/how you get that volume and intensity in.

So this should be good news if you’re strapped for time and can only get in 5 20 to 30-minute long lunch workouts in each week or if you’re traveling and only have a small window of time to knock out a quick workout.

What ultimately matters is that you’re training.

Some practical considerations

This article was inspired by a number of messages I’ve gotten recently from our Strategic Foundations Training Team as they are trying to plan their training around the holiday season and being away from their normal gym or facility.

My first piece of advice to them is this: Don’t stress out about missing a few workouts over the holidays, the rest will probably do them good anyway.

But after that, all of your previous training won’t be ruined by a week-long holiday travel interruption. If you only have a small amount of time each day to train, get something done.


Kilen, A., Hjelvang, L., Dall, N., Kruse, N., & Nordsborg, N. (2015). Adaptations to short, frequent sessions of endurance and strength training are similar to longer, less frequent exercise sessions when the total volume Is the same. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29, S46-S51.

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