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Gym Time: Choosing the Workout Duration & Activities to Reach Your Goals

Published: 8/26/15

Schedules are busy and time is tight, so you’ll want to be strategic in planning each trip to the gym to get the most out of your workout. You’ll also want to avoid time-wasting activities that require lots of effort but don’t do much to get you to your ultimate goal. Making a plan for your upcoming workouts will help you to maximize your gym time.


Build a Workout Schedule

In order to plan the targeted time you need for a solid workout, you need to know what activities will help you most. If your aim is strength training, make a list of the muscle groups you want to work on and plan exercises to target these groups. Make sure to avoid doing too many repetitions with lighter weights because this is wasted time and energy. Remember, your goal in building strength is to build muscles. To do this, focus on increasing the weight and decreasing the reps. If you can handle 15 reps of the same exercise, it’s time to add more weight.

When cardio is your goal, make sure that you aren’t wasting time with a slow jog while you chat with the runner next to you. You’ll also want to avoid sticking to the same incline and speed because your body gets used to it. If you can run at a higher intensity speed for a shorter time, you can maximize your time and amp up your workout.


Consider Combined Exercise for Maximum Effect

If you have limited gym time and want to make the most of it, consider combining multiple steps into one. This will really get your heart pumping. For example, bring a three- to five-pound dumbbell with you to the treadmill to work your upper body as you walk briskly. You can also add squats or wall sits at the end of your run (if you are on a treadmill) or in between laps if you are running on an indoor track.


Find Your Best Window

So much of making the time to workout has to do with building it into your daily schedule. Knowing when you are most motivated to workout will help you to stick to your exercise commitment. Some experts suggest that your body may be better prepared for exercise in the afternoon when your body temperature rises a little and your muscles and connective tissues can better perform. However, there are also benefits to working out at the beginning of your day, especially if your goal is to lose weight. With a lower store of carbs in your body, your body will turn to fat stores for energy first. Early bird workouts may also be easier to stick to because it’s less likely that something will keep you from your workout if it’s the first thing you do in your day.


Have a Back-Up Plan

So you have planned to start with 30 minutes of cardio, but the treadmills are full. It is vital that you know which alternate machine or activity will deliver your desired level of cardio. Keeping your body moving will keep your metabolism from slowing to your pre-exercise state (and risking injury) between machines. Knowing these trade-offs can also be helpful when you are feeling a little bored with the same activity.


Focus on Proper Form

Do you tend to grip the handlebars tightly during cardio, or do you slouch over the machine? These moves not only take away from the value of the workout, but they can lead to injury. Bad form with strength training can also cheat you from properly working the desired muscle group and can lead to strain or nerve compression.


Balance Social Time

Camaraderie at the gym can be a great motivator for mutual support, but don’t let chitchat keep you from making the most of your time at the gym. If you do have a workout buddy or friends you often see at the gym, set some boundaries. For example, if you talk to a friend during your workout, set a rule that you can talk during a warm up or cool down only. If you are pushing yourself on cardio and keeping track of strength-training reps you should wait to continue social discussions.