My Go-To 30-Minute Workout

Spend more than 30 minutes in the gym? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I work out six days a week, without fail. On days I skip  – even that seventh day of rest my legs definitely need – my whole day gets thrown off. I get cranky, can’t sleep and eat weird (totally unhealthy, carbo-loaded) things. As Josh Steimle sums up perfectly, exercise is more important than anything else in my life. Without it, my world starts crumbling around me.

But here’s my dirty little secret: I rarely spend more than 30 minutes working up a sweat every day. Yes, I have days where I end up in the gym for an hour, but I have to really crave those extra endorphins. I easily get impatient, tired and bored.

Doubtful you can still get a good workout accomplished in 30 minutes? Here are a few tips to getting the most out of your 30 minutes and ensuring you waste no time in burning off some serious calories.*

1. Try Interval Cardio Training

When I work out, I focus on burning calories fast. My knees can’t really handle a slow trod, so I try to put more of my weight on my toes. I also think running is boring and want to get it over quickly. Interval training is my solutions to all of these problems.

Interval training is basically switching between different speeds or levels of effort, typically without stopping in between. Go fast, then “rest” by running at a slower speed, then fast again, then rest. This on again, off again sprint workout burns calories faster than running at the same speed for 20 minutes, and even better, it gives your heart a great workout. Go hard or go home!

2. Strength Train Faster.

First of all, I rarely use machines for strength training anymore. They make my muscles lazy due to guided movement, which puts me at risk for injury. I also can’t stand waiting in line for my favorite machines – an inevitable roadblock during the evening gym rush.

I complete most of my strength and resistance training using my own body weight and the floor. To keep it short – usually to 10 minutes or less – I don’t rest in between sets. I move between muscle groups to allow certain muscles to rest, but I don’t actually stop moving. Check out my sample workout below to get an idea what I do to hit every muscle group.

3. Stop Socializing 

If you exercise better and more often with a supportive friend by your side, by all means, don’t stop. Personally, I pretend other people don’t exist when I workout. It’s my sacred alone time.

However, I don’t think anything annoys me more than seeing five guys** standing around a machine talking. A set gets put in about every five minutes, but mostly, they just talk without actually doing anything. I’m fairly positive these are the same guys who brag about spending two hours a day at the gym. If you want to chat, do so while exercising – it actually gets your heart rate up. And it makes you less of a machine hog.

4. Get Organized

When I first started working out daily, I used to wander around the gym, looking at the machines, trying to determine what I should do. My workouts were put together haphazardly, usually on the fly. Now I go with a plan beforehand. I know which muscles I want to work, which exercises I’m going to do, the amount of reps and sets I’d like to complete and a general calorie count and time to shoot for.

Get something written down before you step foot in the gym. It will help keep you motivated to get through your checklist of exercises and will eliminate the time-wasting “what-next?” moments of your workout.

My Go-To 30-Minute Workout:

Need a sample exercise routine to get you started? Here’s my go-t0 30-minute workout:

First 20 minutes: Treadmill Interval Training/Sprints
Target Calorie Burn: 250-300 calories, depending on your speed
0:00 – 1:00       6.0 mph
1:00 – 2:00       7.5 mph
2:00 – 3:00      8.5 mph
3:00 – 4:00      8.0 mph
4:00 – 5:00      9.0 mph
Repeat from the top four times. On your fourth set, spend your last two minutes at a slow run (6.0 mph) and then a walk (4.5 mph) to allow your heart rate to slow down.

If you’re new to running, please don’t start here. Work yourself up to this. I recommend toggling between 6.0 mph and 7.0 mph to start. If you do this every day, the sprints will get easier. After a few weeks, you’ll need to move faster to get your heart rate up.

Last 10 minutes: Body Resistance Training and Stretching
30-second toe-touch hamstring stretch
10 pushups (arms)
30-second plank (core)
20 squat jumps (legs)

Repeat this circuit 3-4 times depending on time. As I mentioned above, I don’t rest between exercises.

A Few Other Things to Consider

1. If you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, I recommend aiming for 45 minutes until you reach your goal weight and can dial it back a bit. I spent my first six months of adjusting to daily workouts by walking at an incline on the treadmill for 45 minutes a day. Once I dropped my freshman 15 and built up my leg strength, I slowly started running so that I could focus on maintaining my weight loss and spend less time at the gym.

2. I was in the best shape of my life during my marathon training in 2011, when I was running at least 60 minutes a day, 6 days a week. My long weekend runs took hours. (Oh my, how I miss the core I had during those few months.) People who look phenomenal and are the shining example of perfect health have to work at it. I promise you they’re spending more than 30 minutes at the gym. I know if I spent more time at the gym and didn’t consider pizza a crucial food group I could be in much better shape. But I really like deep dish and binge-watching Netflix shows. Compromise.

I hope I’ve motivated you to get moving more often!

Have some questions, or want to share some quick workout tips of your own? Contact me anytime. I love hearing from all of you!


*I’m not a health expert or exercise professional, so please don’t follow this as gospel. This routine consistently works for me, so I stick to it. If you’re seeking ways to lose a lot of weight or have injuries to consider, please see a personal trainer or medical professional.

**I don’t mean to sound sexist, but I’ve never seen women do this at the gym. Just bros.

2 Comments
  • Brian Sirimaturos
    August 13, 2015

    Great details Allison! I’m also testing out your subscribe to comment feature. Great idea putting that there… #allisonarchived ***** Review. Great customer and feature service!

    • Allison
      August 16, 2015

      Haha, thanks for the review! I’m going to follow up with you in a day or two to make sure you received a notification.

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