12 Ways to Make Your Gym Routine So Much Faster
For most people, the biggest obstacle getting in the way of their commitment to the gym is finding the time in their busy schedule to get there. But when you really think about how much time you need to get in a solid workout — anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour — it’s not that big of a commitment.
The main problem is all of the other time involved in getting up and out of the house, signing in at the gym, hitting the locker room, filling up the water bottle, and so on. So how can you quickly complete a decent workout? We asked top trainers to share their secrets.
1. Pick a gym that’s convenient
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s important to choose a gym location that fits into the natural flow of your day. “If you have to drive way out of the way or it’s an inconvenient trip, your chances of consistency plummet,” Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., a Houston-based dietitian, and founder of eatrightfitness.com, said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet. “Having a gym in proximity to work or home speeds up your day, minimizes time wasted getting to the gym, and helps maximize your efforts in the gym.”
2. Prep the night before
The best way to set yourself up for an efficient, time-sensitive workout? Do all of the prep work the night before so your only goal in the a.m. is to get up and get out. This means laying out your gym clothes and ensuring you have all the essentials, including toiletries, your water bottle, a change of clothes, headphones, etc.
It also means setting up the coffee maker and even prepping breakfast. “Getting ready for work can take time, so save precious minutes by having your bag packed and ready to go, and your coffee ready to grab and go as you set out for the gym,” Adams said.
3. Leave your phone behind
Your number one goal when you’re at the gym is to get in a workout — not to browse your Facebook feed. While it might seem like a welcome distraction when you’re hitting the StairMaster, it’s likely to distract from your routine and either cost you an effective workout or tack on more time.
“Even a few minutes here and there of checking your work email, texting your friend, or scrolling through your social media feeds in between sets is a huge time waster,” Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S and founder of Chris Ryan Fitness told us. “Take that temptation out of the equation and leave your phone in your locker or gym bag so you can have an amazing workout without any distractions.”
4. Avoid the gym during rush hour
There’s a reason everyone tends to head to the gym at the same time — work schedules. But, while it might be most convenient for most people, it can cause serious traffic jams. “Waiting for equipment between sets is not only a huge time waster, but it can also prolong rest periods and make your workout less effective when it comes to burning calories and building muscle,” said Ryan.
If these popular gym times end up working best for you, Ryan suggests getting there ahead of time to claim your go-to machines. “Also, be nimble in your choices — just because all the treadmills are taken doesn’t mean you skip cardio, opt for the row machine and switch it up,” he offered.
5. Know the lay of the land
Depending on the size and layout of your gym, you may have to go up and down sets of stairs or walk several minutes . Try to have some sort of idea of where you’ll need to be and when in order to maximize your workout and minimize the time it takes you to complete it. “You don’t want to be running all over a 10,000-square-foot gym trying to find the rope handles for the cable machine,” Ryan said. “Knowing the layout and storage areas of the gym like the back of your hand will shave precious minutes (and a lot of frustration) off your workout time.”
6. Do an active warm-up
While most trainers will say this is the most important part of your workout, and it very well may be, you can still cut some of it short. “Unless you have a nagging knee or hip that needs extended time to warm up, you don’t need more than 3 to 5 minutes to really get your body warmed up,” Adams said.
Simply incorporate active warm-ups into your resistance training, the same way you would in an aerobics, spin class, or yoga class. “For example, grab a light set of dumbbells (or even just using your own body weight) and perform a few minutes of deep squats, front lunges, push-ups, and jumping jacks.”
7. Do supersets
Supersets, aka doing two exercises back to back with no rest in between, are some of the best exercises to do when you’re in a time crunch. “Supersets are usually designed to target set muscle groups, build lean muscle mass, and tone up,” Brooke Taylor, creator of TF Ignite Program and Taylored Fitness NY LTD, told The Cheat Sheet. “This saves you time because you create a flow from one exercise to the other with minimal rest.”
8. Minimize rest periods
If you aren’t doing supersets, set the timer on your watch or smartphone to 3 to 45 seconds so you can stick to a consistent rest interval between sets. “Everyone thinks they rest shorter than they really do, so a timer keeps you in check and ensures your workout moves along in a timely fashion,” said Adams. Keeping rest periods short can really increase the intensity of your workouts, too. “While short rest periods aren’t best for all workouts, like power lifting, it’s essential to get you in an out of the gym quickly without sacrificing the quality of your workouts,” he added.
9. Do intervals
Intervals consist of intense bouts of exercise followed by short periods of rest, then repeating the combo all over again. This type of training, also known as HIIT, is a simple but incredibly effective way to get a great workout in a short amount of time. “The hard/easy method of interval training helps you burn more fat and calories than one, consistent, slow and easy or moderate effort would,” Ryan said. “You can usually finish interval workouts quicker and enjoy the EPOC effect, or excess post oxygen consumption, that torches calories for hours after your workout.”
10. Opt for circuit training
Circuit training is often overlooked as an old-school form of body conditioning or resistance training, but it’s actually one of the most streamlined methods of achieving strength and muscle endurance. “You basically pair a few different, yet complementary, exercises together into a fun, yet challenging circuit,” Ryan said. “You can’t really go wrong here if you pick functional movements, so just try and avoid machines when possible.”
The most efficient way to go after circuits? Opt for full-body movements that focus on a range of motions and varying intensities.
11. Think in time, not reps
When you’re really in a crunch, everything from the time it takes you to commute to the gym to the time it takes you shower matters. “It helps to think about all facets of your workout in set time periods from beginning to end and doing components of your workout for time instead of reps with aimless rest periods,” said Ryan. “For example, instead of doing 10 reps with a one-minute rest period, work with the clock instead and aim for 30 seconds of intensity, then resting for the rest of that 30 seconds in that minute.” This will keep you honest with your rest periods and deliver better results as the intensity will almost certainly be higher.
12. Use a shower caddy
Showering after your workout and getting ready for work, or whatever comes after, can be a huge time suck — especially if multiple stops are involved. Instead of hopping from place to place, pack a small shower caddy in your gym bag, load it with travel-size toiletries, and you’re all set, says Adams. “This makes traveling from your locker to the showers easier and quicker; plus, you’re not apt to forget anything since you have all your supplies with you.”