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Why 30 Minutes is Enough

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-by Tania Tétrault Vrga

I feel sad. That’s exactly what my two year old would say in this situation. He recently started giving me daily updates on how he is feeling; sad, happy, tired, angry. For him, it’s very cute, for me, not so much. I’m sad because I may have ruined an opportunity to help someone change their life. I recommended 30-minute coached workouts as part of a 6-week transformation plan for a potential new client, but this person chose to cycle and rollerblade on their own instead.  I’ve got nothing against rollerblading and cycling, but my gut feeling is that this person came to me for a reason, cycling and rollerblading never got them the results they wanted in the past, so why should it work for them now?

I don’t regret my recommendation, but what I do regret is not explaining just how powerful properly executed, high intensity, full body movements can be for those who want to look better and feel better.

The first thing I do when a potential client comes to see me is to help them make a plan for the next 6 weeks of their fitness journey.  Why 6 weeks? Because it’s enough to establish some healthy habits, but not too long to be overwhelming at the outset. After 6 weeks, we regroup and re-evaluate goals and progress. For the initial six weeks, the most common exercise frequency recommendation I give is three workouts per week. Sometimes I recommend 30 minute workouts, sometimes 60 minutes. Sometimes I recommend training with barbells, sometimes I recommend bodyweight training. Sometimes I suggest adding in yoga on alternate days, sometimes I suggest team sports or walking. 

I can see why someone might think that a short workout wouldn’t be as effective as traditional long duration, low intensity aerobic exercise. My experience tells me it is as effective, or more effective. The first reason is that a variety of full body movements will illicit a hormonal response that promotes fat loss and increases vitality, especially if those movements are executed at a higher relative intensity. The effect is enhanced when the exercise is done in a setting where the person has accountability via a coach or a community of people they work out with. 

We do not succeed because we are motivated. In reality, it works the other way around, we are motivated when we succeed. Without the accountability of a coach and a scheduled workout and we are left to our own devices. The rollerblades gather dust unless someone forces us to report back. We eagerly await cycling season all winter, only to skip the bike ride the moment something else comes up. The key to success is not duration, but consistency.  A scheduled 30 minute workout you complete wholeheartedly always beats the hour long workout you tend to skip.

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