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4 Cardio Workouts Under 30 Minutes For Busy Days

Time-Crunch Workouts That Work

Is it just me, or are we all busier than ever? I don’t think it’s me. I think we are all over-scheduled, and let’s not even discuss our poor over-scheduled children. Life is busy! I must say that, even as busy as I am, prioritizing my workouts and running is not usually that big of an issue—as long as I make it one of my top five or so priorities. If the workout, however, falls below the priority line, then nothing (and I mean nothing) gets done.

I am very “all or nothing” and have long felt that if I cannot do the “whole” workout or run, I shouldn’t bother at all. With age comes wisdom, however, and I have recently learned the power of just 20 minutes (or even just 10 minutes) of movement.

The whole idea of these short workout bursts started for me in the evenings. After dinner and after the kids were in the bed, I would slow down for a precious one or two hours of “down time.” But during this time, I was either doing laundry or chores, sitting in bed with my laptop or perhaps eking out an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Instead of doing some form of work, I forced myself onto my yoga mat. Not for yoga, but for a simple stretching, rolling and mobility routine. Sometimes I found myself on the mat for 10 minutes, sometimes longer than an hour. When I was finished, I felt that I had done something good for my body and my mind—and I also slept better.

I began to take that theory outside to the gym—to my running workouts. I didn’t have to run for hours to be a runner! When I didn’t seem to have the time, I thought, What if I just do 10 minutes? It turns out that 10 minutes can feel just as good as an hour. I feel that I have worked out, and I am proud of myself for getting sweaty.

Here are four beneficial running workouts that I have cultivated over the last few months that pack a time-crunched punch.

Scatterbrained Run (10 Minutes)

Also known as the “fartlek,” these types of runs can be super fun and intense. Try this one:

Start with a quick dynamic warmup followed by these sets:

  • 10 seconds hard running, then 90 seconds easy jog
  • 15 seconds hard/75 seconds easy
  • 25 seconds hard/60 seconds easy
  • 30 seconds hard/45 seconds easy
  • 45 seconds hard/30 seconds easy
  • 30 seconds hard/45 seconds easy
  • 25 seconds hard/60 seconds easy
  • 15 seconds hard/75 seconds easy
  • 10 seconds hard/90 seconds easy
  • Two- to three-minute cooldown

Hill Climb (20 Minutes)

Perform this on a treadmill for controllability. Warm up for five minutes with an easy, flat run. Increase the incline on the treadmill by 1 percent at every minute on the minute while running efficiently and keeping your breathing controlled, ending at a 12-percent grade. Cool down with an easy, flat run for three minutes.

Run And Squat Pyramid (25 Minutes)

Start with a quick, dynamic warmup. Perform 10 air squats (perform bodyweight-only squats while maintaining good form; squat below parallel) and run one minute at an easy level. Then follow the following sequence:

  • Run easy for one minute; perform air squats for 30 seconds; recover for 30 seconds
  • Run easy for two minutes; perform air squats for one minute; recover for 30 seconds
  • Run hard for three minutes; recover for one minute
  • Run easy for four minutes; perform air squats for 30 seconds; recover for 30 seconds
  • Run hard for three minutes; recover for one minute
  • Run easy for two minutes; perform air squats for one minute; recover for 30 seconds
  • Run easy for one minute; perform air squats for 30 seconds; recover for 30 seconds

Out And Back (20 Minutes)

Warm up with an easy run for two minutes. Run easy for eight minutes. Turn around and run hard (at a 5K pace) back to the start. Cool down for the remaining time, or until you reach 20 minutes.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a weekly contributor to Women’s Running. She is a four-time IRONMAN triathlete, recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is also the host of the hit podcast The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith has two books coming out in the Spring and Fall of 2019. Read more at SwimBikeMom.com

Related:

When Motivation Wanes, Rely On Discipline Instead

Just Keep Moving Forward: Drawing The Suck Line

Are Two-A-Days Worth The Effort For Recreational Runners?