It’s okay, we’ve all done it. We give ourselves an hour to get in a workout, then end up wasting nearly half of it — running an errand or two, getting dressed at the gym, chatting with acquaintances we bump into along the way. Even with the best intentions, you can sidetrack your progress if you don’t make good use of your time.
Think you might be frittering away precious fitness time? Check out what the top 6 fitness time-wasters are:
1. Watching TV or Reading.
The bottom line is that when you’re focused on other things, your workout suffers. You can walk at a 4 mph pace for 45 minutes and burn 300 to 400 calories. But you could get the same calorie burn in 20 to 25 minutes doing intervals (running or walking as fast as you can for a minute or two) every 90 seconds. It’s the total number of calories burned that counts.
If you need a diversion to make it through your session on the elliptical machine, try music. Invigorate your workout with a fresh mix on your iPod instead of spending your time staring at Fox News.
2. Resting Too Long.
The machine you want to use is occupied, so you grab a towel, get a drink of water, run to the bathroom — and the next thing you know, 10 minutes have passed.
To avoid such time-wasting, rest only 30 to 90 seconds between strength exercises. To maximize time, alternate a set of exercises for your biceps with a set for triceps, he says. That allows you to shorten the rest interval in between — while one muscle group is working, the opposing group is getting active recovery.
You can also save time during your warm-up by mimicking exercises you’ll be doing in the workout. For example, if you plan to work your legs by doing lunges and squats with weights, warm up with high knee steps, butt kicks, lunges with a twist, and sumo squats.
3. Isolating Muscle Groups.
How can you fit in separate exercises for your biceps, triceps, deltoids and lats when you only have 30 minutes to work out? For body-builders, concentrating on two or three muscle groups per session might be fine, but this doesn’t work for the average person. There’s not enough time to get to all the muscle groups in three 30-minute sessions a week.
Instead, choose exercises like squats and push-ups that target several muscle groups at once. You’ll get a better workout in less time and you’ll also be training more functionally (mimicking the way you use your body in daily life).
4. Changing Clothes at the Gym.
Dressing at the gym can be a big time-waster. Change before leaving work or the house and you’re less likely to change your mind about working out once you hop into the car. You’re also less likely to get into a conversation in the locker room that could shave 10 minutes off your workout.
5. Waiting until Afternoon to Work Out.
With determination, it’s possible for late risers to fit in regular afternoon fitness sessions. But there’s no question that people who work out in the mornings are more likely to stick to their routines. There’s less time to make excuses, and fewer things to get in the way of a workout.
If you promise yourself a 4:30 p.m. walk, it’s much more likely something will come up. Before you know it, it’s 5:30, and you’ve missed your window. Waiting until late in the day, is setting you up for a downward spiral.
6. Using Bad Form. Don’t just do the exercise; do it right. Improper exercise technique not only poses a greater risk of injury to muscles and joints, it also wastes your time. You may be thinking you’re strengthening one muscle when in fact you are straining another or stressing a joint. For example, doing bicep curls with your knees hyper-extended and your back muscles shortened could do more harm to your knees and back than good to your arms.
Fitness trainers or floor assistants are on hand at most gyms to assist you with proper form. Use them. Ask for someone to walk you through the equipment, showing you proper technique with machines and free weights.