It's Not About The Length…

It is all about how effective you make the time.
How long it is doesn’t matter nearly as much as how good it makes you feel.
What am I talking about?
I am talking about the length of your workouts.

I have spent some time thinking about this – how and when did workouts become set at 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Most of you are nodding your heads – yes obviously – workouts are an hour. Quick ones are a half an hour. Really hardcore people workout for 90 minutes.
Why? Where did this come from?
It isn’t based in science. There is no physiological rule that states maximal positive results occur at 60 minutes of training time. There is no physiological rule that proves training over 60 minutes will diminish your results and increase your injury risk.
When we examine the scientific literature you might be inclined to argue that we see these time intervals for workouts used regularly. Yes you will but that is because researchers simply use the standard protocols for fitness in the industry in order to conduct the research.
Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.08.51 PMYour body doesn’t work in 30, 60, and 90 minute intervals. These are limits imposed on our fitness programming because of the typical way we break down our lives. Appointments, meetings, school sessions, and pretty much everything else we do is based on a 24 hour interval divided into easy to schedule blocks. Don’t get me wrong, our lives have to be scheduled like this in order to keep everything running smoothly.
But don’t confuse these lifestyle induced time blocks with any kind of meaning towards how long your workouts should be.
The goal of training is to fatigue your body. To push it a little harder than you did the day before so that it is forced to adapt. To get a little stronger and be a little better for the next time you put it through a training session.
Physiologically, we are looking at using up all of your glycogen storage and challenging your cardiovascular system at higher than previous levels in order to make it adapt and become stronger and more efficient.
Time is not the most important variable here. Sure, you have been told that it takes 30 minutes to burn up your glycogen storage. That is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
Maybe not the stupidest, I have heard a lot of dumb shit.
But 30 minutes isn’t a set and hard rule. If you go on a 30 minute walk or you spend 30 minutes rock climbing you will go through glycogen at VASTLY different rates. Someone with a very low amount of muscle will run out of glycogen LONG before a well trained and highly muscled individual will. Why? Because glycogen is stored primarily in muscle – the more muscle you have the larger the tank. The larger the tank the longer you can go.
So, no – there are NO time limits on good fitness. Everything is a variable and none of the variables are time.

Obviously, your workouts will have to fit into your schedule, so 30 or 60 minutes is probably what you will allot. Do not confuse this with the EFFECTIVENESS of your training!
You can get a far more beneficial training session in 20 minutes if you put in the intensity than you can in 60 minutes if you half ass it.
The effectiveness of your training is not based on the length of the training session; it is based on:

  • The intensity that you put into the workout
  • The quality of exercises you are performing
  • How experienced you are
  • The quality of the program design
  • Your attitude towards training

If you are putting in 30% effort to a few reps and then checking your snapchat you are going to have a vastly different training session than if you are working at 80% of max effort and focused on the proper breathing techniques between sets.
Quality of Exercises
What exercises you choose are WAY more important than how longScreen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.09.34 PMyou train. Train. Trust me. Get on the leg curl machine for 4 sets of 12 with 60 seconds rest between sets. Next grab a kettlebell, say around 24kg and do 150 swings. Divide it up however you want, rest as long as you want. Just get it done.
Tell me which was a better workout.
Yes, that is right, the more experienced you are at training the better the workout you can get. Novice sprinters are learning technique and adapting the body to the demands of the activity. World class sprinters can put out max effort in under 2 seconds. Both people get a great workout, however, the more experienced sprinter gets a better workout faster.
Quality of Program
Not all programs are created equal. Old school exercise programs that divide the body into specific parts (shoulders, arms, legs, etc.) are terrible for the average person. They are designed for bodybuilders. If average Joe who plays pickup basketball on Saturdays follows this program they are NOT getting useful results and are setting themselves up for increased injury risk.
For most people a quality program consisting of full body complex movements is vastly superior for their life and overall health. Old school type programs usually take an hour or more, while a well crafted complex movement full body program can crank your fitness through the roof in workouts that take under 30 minutes.
Your Attitude
Yes, this is a huge factor. Your attitude towards your training has far more effect than the amount of time the session takes. If you are pumped up and feeling a session your body will respond! If you are depressed, don’t feel like training, and hating every minute of it, your body won’t respond as well.

What is the purpose of your workout? Is it to fill time or is it to make your body work hard. Because I can tell you that they are two totally different things.
If you are judging your workouts effectiveness by how long the training session is you need to sit back and re-evaluate.
What should you be looking for then from your training session?
You should feel tired by the end. You should be breathing hard and aScreen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.07.59 PMsit down rest should seem like the best idea ever. You shouldn’t have enough energy left to add another 15 minutes of exercise. Your clothes should need to be washed because they smell like a gym locker. You should be leaving sweat angels on the floor. A blast of cold air in the face should be the next best feeling to a great sneeze.
Those are the markers of a great training session. It doesn’t matter how long it is, as long as it made you feel good.
-Coach Taylor

  1. Linda says:

    Hey Coach,
    I appreciate your blunt and “to the point” posts. I got back into the fitness world (5-6 days a week) about 5 years ago. What I’ve noticed is my hour workouts that I though were amazing – really didn’t give me 100%. I no longer hit the stair climber & elliptical for 45 minutes; my cardio health has strengthened tremendously with bursts of exertion and lifting. Thanks for you help!

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