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'How Long Should A Workout Be?' – Fitness FAQs, Answered By Personal Trainers

Beat Gymtimidation, once and for all.

Exactly how did anyone do anything before Google?

We've heard about the yellow pages, the library, phoning a friend — but how did anyone ever find the time?

And what did you do about a question you were too embarrassed to ask someone? Just never ask it? Luckily, we don't ever have to know these woes anymore because Google will answer anything for us, with absolutely no judgement (though we can't say the same for the targeted ads that may follow).

And just in case we needed any further confirmation on just how much we desire to be fit, Google has announced the top 10 biggest searches across trending gym-related topics – including ‘how to lose weight fast’, ‘how to stay motivated’ and ‘what is the best time of day to exercise’. 

The only hitch? Not every immediate result is as straightforward as the question posed.

So we've done the hard work for you and turned to the experts at Gym Plus to provide all the answers to your most frequently-typed queries.

Q: What's The Best Time Of Day To exercise?

"There are a lot of theories about the best time of day to work out to best suit your metabolism and maximise strength or fat burning gains, but the best advice is to go at a time of day when you feel most energised and are most likely to be consistently available.

"If the thought of hauling yourself out of bed to go to the gym fills you with dread, you're unlikely to do it regularly, if at all. Scheduling a workout at lunchtime might make a consistent exercise habit more achievable.

"Similarly, if you enjoy a very busy social life it's probably best to steer clear of evenings as it'll be hard to prioritise your gym sessions overseeing your friends and family. If you're a busy person, schedule the gym in as a meeting in your work diary, making a physical space in your schedule means you're more likely to stick to it."

Q: How Do I Stay Motivated In The Gym?

"Monitoring your results and setting achievable milestone goals is the best way to stay motivated. This might mean tracking your body composition or metabolic age on our special monitors, recording run, row, swim or cycle times and distances, or perhaps the amount of weight you can lift.

"We're naturally inclined to get a kick out of seeing progress and this will inspire you to keep up the habit. Another thing is to keep trying new things, whether that's talking to a trainer to get ideas for a different workout or trying a class you haven't been to before. Training with a friend, doing stuff you really enjoy and rewarding yourself with new kit if you stick with it are also ideas that work."

Q: How Long Should A Workout Be?

"There's no set answer to this one, but you don't have to necessarily do a full hour to see the benefits. A short 20 minute HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workout can realise the same physical benefits as an hour of steady cardio. The length of your workout will usually be defined by your available time and then the workout's intensity.

"Generally we'd recommend shorter, more regular sessions over a mammoth two hour stint once a week that'd leave you exhausted and not as motivated to come back. Don't forget to build in some recovery sessions and "you time" try a swim followed by time in the sauna or chatting with a friend in the jacuzzi to reward yourself for your hard work."

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Q: How Long Should I Exercise For In A Day?

"There's no set answer to this. What can help many busy people is trying to do 30 minutes or an hour a day, but broken up into smaller chunks to make it easier to fit in.

"A 15-minute walk to and from work and a 30 minute class at lunch may be more achievable than trying to find an hour each evening to spend on the gym floor."

Q: How Often Should I Exercise? 

"You can do gentle exercise like walking or swimming every day, but if you're doing more intense cardio or strength work you don't need to work out daily to see the results you're looking for. Overtraining with no rest days for your body to recover can actually be detrimental, putting you at risk of injury or burnout.

"Training two or three times a week and taking some gentle exercise like a walk or yoga on other days is plenty to achieve most health and fitness goals."

Q: How Often Should I Change My Gym Routine?

"Depending on how often you're working out, increasing what you ask of your body every 4-6 weeks will see you continuing to get results. Perhaps more importantly, you should change things up when you feel your motivation levels start to flag or you change the objectives of your health and fitness programme.

"Keep in touch with the trainers in your gym for help and advice on when and how to change. Taking up fitness challenges, for example, a charity run is a great way to give yourself the chance to train differently and get renewed purpose in your fitness efforts."

Q: How Long Does It Take To See Gym Results?

"You'll get a positive feeling from the very first session and you'll start to notice differences in what your body can do and how you feel in the first few weeks. Visible changes can take a bit longer, depending on your starting point and other factors like diet, but by six weeks you should start to see the difference as well as feel it.

"If you're looking for a total transformation, give yourself 6-12 months to realise your goals, trying to achieve drastic changes over a shorter period is usually unsustainable and can lead to you burning out and stopping your workouts, leading to a return to your starting point."

Q: How Do I Build Up My Strength? 

"Weight-bearing exercise where your muscles have to work to resist a force is the best way to build up strength, but if the thought of "pumping iron" leaves you a little cold, don't worry. There are lots of different ways to exercise your muscles that don't involve dumbbells.

"Bodyweight bearing exercises, bikes, rowing machines and tools like resistance bands can give your body the stimulation it needs to get stronger without a weight insight."

Q: How Long Should I Wait Before Lifting Heavier Weights? 

"This is one where you need to listen to your body. As a general rule, when the weight you are lifting seems relatively easy and doesn't tire your muscles after 30 reps or more, it's probably time to try something a little heavier.

"Make sure you check in with a trainer that you're using the right lifting technique to avoid injury. If you're looking to build muscle and strength, you need to challenge your body over time, but this may not just be heavier weights.

"Some people, especially women, feel more comfortable increasing the number of reps they do with a weight rather than stepping up to heavier and heavier weights. Lifting heavier weights isn't going to instantly turn you into She-Hulk though, so there's no need to be scared off from trying to achieve more!"

Q: What Should I Do In The Gym To Lose Weight Fast? 

"HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to burn fat as they provide a great boost to your metabolism and encourage fat burning. Other forms of cardio work well too, as does pairing cardio with strength training as muscle burns more calories just to exist than other tissues.

"Track your results using body composition scales, check-in with trainers to make sure your programme is still working for you. The key to losing weight is to use the gym as part of a suite of tools, rather than the only way to lose weight.

"If you pair your workouts with a balanced, calorie-controlled diet full of healthy, natural ingredients, drink enough water and get a good amount of quality sleep and rest, you'll lose weight much more quickly than if you only try one tactic at a time. You want to be shooting for whole-person wellness, feeling great in your mind and body and the weight loss will come as a by-product of that."

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