Don’t have two hours to hit the gym? No sweat. Here’s how to make the most of a quick workout.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated April 30, 2019
Credit: Getty Images

If you’ve ever had only 30, 20, or even 10 minutes to break a sweat and wondered if it’s worth it—it is. There’s a common misconception that hitting the gym for hours on end is the only effective way to exercise. Not only is that completely unrealistic, but it makes working out seem like such a chore. It basically makes “I don’t have enough time” the perfect excuse not to exercise, when the truth is, a brief, but high-intensity session can be all it takes to get your heart pumping, boost your energy levels, and help you feel awesome.

Whether you’re trying to squeeze in a quick sweat before work or just can’t stand the thought of spending an hour on the elliptical (again), here’s how to optimize your workout routine when you’re pressed for time.

RELATED: 8 Body Weight Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Don’t Obsess

Beating yourself up over not having enough time for a long, drawn-out workout is the opposite of what you need. Life is busy, hard, and tiring, so be kind to yourself. “Sometimes my schedule only allows for 20 minutes, but my whole motto is to be flexible with your life and your workout,” says Amy Rosoff Davis, a celebrity trainer, health and wellness coach, and HALO Sport advisory board member. “Obsession never got anyone anywhere, so don't put pressure on yourself to stick to a certain workout schedule.”

Mix It Up

If you’re traveling or particularly short on time, you’ll have no choice but to deviate from your usual workout routine—and that might be a good thing. “If you keep your same old routine, you’ll most likely get bored and wind up skipping the gym,” Davis says. “Working out should be a part of your lifestyle, not an obligation or burden. Make your workouts fun by keeping it fresh and doing something different each day.”

Take It on the Road

If you’re craving exercise, but don’t have any equipment or gym time, you can still make it work. Davis recommends pushing yourself with a mini HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout when you’re on the go. “Do some kickboxing moves, go down to the mat for some mat pilates, get back up for jumping jacks, do some yoga, then some planks, and so on,” she says. Keep yourself on your toes—no fancy equipment necessary. You could also sneak some resistance bands into your suitcase.

Focus on High-Impact, Multi-Purpose Moves

“Every minute counts,” Davis says of a quick workout, so you don’t want to waste it. “If you only have 10 minutes, I suggest vinyasa yoga, jumping rope, or a jumping jack series.”

A few of Davis’s favorite moves to try:

Planks: “This power move works everything. There are so many good variations you can do—lift your legs, lift your arms, twist your hips, or simply hold it. It’s such a versatile move.”

Jump Rope: “This give you a lot of bang for your buck—you only need 10 minutes on and off for a killer workout. Try one minute on and one minute off to turn it into a HIIT workout.”

Jumping Jacks: “Put on a good song (or two or three—three songs is almost 10 minutes) and you can dance around or do jumping jacks with arm variations.”

Yoga Sun Salutations: “Do this yoga series slowly as a warm up or quickly with power to get your blood flowing and heart pumping.”

  • Start standing in mountain pose, feet together, arms by your side.
  • Inhale arms up, exhale fold forward and release your hands, head, and torso to the ground.
  • Inhale lengthen and lift your torso halfway and flatten your back, exhale step back to a plank and then flow through a chaturanga.
  • Inhale upward dog. Exhale downward dog.
  • Inhale, step right foot to right hand and lift your arms and torso up to a lunge.
  • Exhale, step right leg back to a plank, chaturanga.
  • Inhale Upward dog, exhale downward dog.
  • Inhale left foot to left hand, lift arms up overhead and come up to lunge.
  • Exhale left leg back to plank, flow through a chaturanga.
  • Inhale upward dog, exhale downward dog, hold for three breaths.
  • Inhale step forward lengthen, exhale fold forward release your head.
  • Inhale stand up reach your arms overhead, and then bring them down to prayer.
  • Repeat three times or more.

Always Hydrate

The only thing you absolutely must do during any workout, short or long, is hydrate. “This is essential for replenishing electrolytes and minerals that are lost during a workout, no matter how short or long your activity of choice is," Davis says.

RELATED: Simple Exercise Moves to Help You Eliminate 6 Annoying Aches and Pains