Do you wonder if you’re “just wasting your time” working out?
Recently, I read a post online from a woman who was told by a guy at the gym that she’s “not serious enough” since she’s not at the gym for more than an hour (she does 3 50-minute workouts per week).
What a jerk, right? But… is he right?
You might not have your own guy at the gym who talks down to you, but I’m willing to bet you have the equivalent of that guy hanging out in your head…
…that nagging voice that tells you “it only counts” as a workout if you’re covered in sweat, go longer than X minutes, feel sore after, and/or have terrible gym music violating your eardrums.
It’s totally normal to doubt whether you’re doing enough or to internalize different messages about what “counts” as a workout.
Luckily, just like the guy at the gym, most messages we get about how we “should” be working out – or what “counts – are wrong.
First, show me 100 people “working out” for more than an hour, and I’ll show you 99 people who are wasting a ton of time. It depends on how advanced you are and what specific type of workout you’re doing, but generally, if a workout exceeds an hour, that’s a sign that time is not being used wisely.
But what is “enough”?
I’ll answer your question with a question…enough for what?
Enough to improve your health? Literally, every minute counts. If you sit all day and move for 1 minute, you are improving your health. If you increase your movement from 1 minute to 2 minutes, you are improving your health.
Enough to get stronger? Likewise, every set counts. If you go from performing no resistance training to performing just 1 set, that’s an improvement. You will become stronger than you would be if performing nothing at all.
Enough to lose weight? That’s mostly a matter of nutrition habits, but a little bit of daily exercise or a few 20-minute workouts per week go a LONG way in helping that along.
“Is it enough?” is the wrong question.
The question SHOULD be… “is it optimal?”.
To a certain degree, the more you do, the effort you put in multiplies. If you start off with one 30-minute workout per week, and then you double it to 2 30-minute workouts, you will most likely MORE than double your results.
But everything also has a point of diminishing returns. The increase from 2 workouts per week to 3 workouts, or 3 workouts to 4 workouts, won’t be nearly as dramatic as going from 1 workout to 2 workouts (or from 0 to 1).
Just like asking “what is enough?” is the wrong question, we also don’t want to be pursuing the “perfect” workout routine.
“Optimal” isn’t about being the best person in the world at exercising, it’s about striking this balance:
1) Your exercise program provides results, relevant to your goals, at a satisfactory pace.
2) Your exercise program fits in properly with your schedules and priorities.
If your goal is to win American Ninja Warrior and you have sponsors that make it so you don’t need to work a regular job, 3 20-minute workouts per week is probably not optimal.
If you just want to see yourself get a little stronger every week and lose a little bit of fat, work 9-5, and also be able to bring your kids to their different activities every night, 5 90-minute workouts per week is probably not optimal.
F*** anyone who doesn’t know your goals and priorities and tries to tell you what is or isn’t “enough”.
Everything counts, and some things produce better or worse results in relation to the effort you put in.
And it’s up to YOU to decide what optimal time investment is for your current situation.
Does that all make sense?
By the way, 3 50-minute workouts per week is right in the optimal zone for most people. You can make noteworthy progress while having your other priorities in place. If you want my program for getting the most out of 3 50-minute* workouts per week, click here.
*Exact length of time depending on rest intervals, equipment availability, and how long you like to warm up and jibber jabber.