How long should I work out for?

How long should I work out for?

This question probably comes up more than any other one out there. And yet I was shocked to see that I hadn’t had my say on it on this blog. Needless to say it isn’t as easy as, “you should be training for x minutes”. It is all about assessing what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it, then setting your workouts accordingly. 

Let me explain that last bit a little more clearly. Wanting to lose weight is completely different to wanting to build muscle. Similarly, wanting to run a marathon is completely different to wanting to bench 180 kg. So when you hear people saying that you shouldn’t be working out for more than an hour, or less than 30 minutes, then you really ought to take no notice of it.

Remember, every workout routine that you do should have been specifically tailored to your needs and this includes the duration. So if you can’t use a hard and fast rule to determine what everybody in the gym should be doing, then how can you use one for how long they should be doing it?

Then there comes the problem of defining what a workout is. One person might say stick to 45 minute workouts and be talking about time spent completing different exercises and somebody else might be referring to the total time spent in the gym. So even before you want to set a time, confusion can already exist.

The way that we vary our exercises is by deliberately changing (programming) volume, intensity and frequency; terms that you have probably come across a lot while training. In simplest terms, volume refers to the amount of work done, intensity covers how hard you are working and frequency is all about how often you repeat that work. So obviously your workout lengths depend upon these. A workout that scores highly in each category cannot be maintained for nearly as long as one that scores lower.

Time and results are not directly proportional. Just because you train for twice as long doesn’t mean that your results are going to be doubly as impressive. This is because you are overlooking over training, which will have a negative effect on what you are trying to achieve.

What stage you are at is important too. If you are just starting out and trying your hand at some body building then it is possible you could maintain 120 minute workouts without over training for a while. But then if you take somebody who is more advanced and give them the same length workouts, the possibility of over training is far more likely.

Even once you have considered all those things, it isn’t always easy to know how long to work out for. It isn’t like you can just fill out a questionnaire and it will give you an exact numerical answer. But considering the things mentioned above will give a better idea.

Then there is an element of logical thinking involved. If you want to lose weight then your cardio workouts will need to be longer than somebody who is just trying to keep at a healthy weight. Applying that logic to every aspect of your training will help to keep it as simple as possible.

You also want to consider how your body feels. You will soon realise if you aren’t working out for long enough because you won’t feel tired when you get in from the gym. On the other hand, if your workouts are too long then you will find yourself being constantly injured.

There are success stories of people who work out for 8 minutes every day and there are success stories of people who work out for 3 hours every day. How long you need to work out for is a question that can only be answered by one person – you!

Ollie Lawrence