How long should your training session be?: Part 1

I used to think that the only way to train was “by the book.” Follow the research, and do what’s suggested as being the best or most effective strategy for you to reach a specific goal every time. I’ve learned a lot over the years – and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know about what I’m trying to solve for. The human body is nothing new to me – as a kid I would pick my parent’s reference books off the bookshelf and browse the pages when bored. As a medical transcriptionist and surgical technician, my mom and dad had plenty of thick medical books filled with hundreds of pages for me to explore.

As I grew older, I got hooked by the allure of football and strength training from watching my favorite team playing on Sundays, to watching the older students at school go to the weight room to workout and then play on Fridays. When I finally got my chance to lift weights, I initially thought there were only 3-5 exercises: bench press, back squat, power clean, and bicep curls. After high school, I began playing rugby and was exposed to so many other movements, including pull-ups, and dumbbell snatches, among others. 

As my competitive sporting career drew to a close, I began leaning towards the world of bodybuilding, and discovered a multitude of variations to movements that I originally thought were carved in stone. As a new trainer, I began to look towards other certifications and methods of training that would help me navigate the multitude of accumulated more aches and pains in my body. Some less conventional training methods, like kettlebells and gymnastics, became my new focus. 

The one thing that was pretty consistent through all of these exercise and modality shifts was this: training should last 60-90 minutes. When I was younger, had fewer responsibilities, more time, and no children, this was fine. Nowadays, committing to that time block on a weekly basis is unrealistic. It’s often led me to avoid training for days and weeks at a time. Mainly because I could tell myself “You don’t have the time.” While the intention behind this statement was to make sure I did everything in a workout from the warm-up, through the cool down, the result was that I lacked the consistency in my training.

Where do you come into this picture? Well, we’re a year into the lockdowns and at this point, you’ve either found a new routine that works with your schedule or not. Or you’re waiting for gyms to open back up and cases to go down before you feel comfortable stepping back into one. Of all the training lessons I’ve learned during the lockdown, the most important one of them has been: you don’t need an hour to workout. Not even 45 minutes. If you don’t have the time for a traditional session, how about we shorten the amount of time needed? How about 10 minutes? 

Oh, is that not enough time? But it is enough! It’s enough to get your momentum moving in the right direction. You see, whether it’s 60, 90, 45, 30, 15, or even 10, the amount of time itself is less important than your intention and consistency. Progress is made from repeated actions, intentionally practiced. So if you don’t have time for 60 minutes, then book yourself for 30. If 30 minutes is too much, then book yourself for 10.

It’s likely that when you learned about training, or fitness, or exercise, or working out, you were taught to warm-up, prepare your body for the training session, and subconsciously that your workout should take somewhere around an hour. 45 minutes if we’re gonna do a quick one. Keep this in mind – the number is arbitrary. Once you understand the performance goal of your training regimen, it no longer needs to be tied to a time frame other than what’s required for your body’s physiology to react to the workout.

Later, I’ll share more about how I’ve missed the ball when it comes to training times and what to do to fit training into your current lifestyle that’s somehow become busier over the past year.

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Chris Gaines

I help people discover the impact of athleticism in their everyday life. With that clarity, they navigate misconceptions around fitness. With that focus, they pursue movement skills with intention and a larger purpose. All so they can face life's everyday challenges and grow with confidence.

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