Gym workout for when you don’t have much time

Gym workout for when you don’t have much time

As I haven’t done a fitness post in a while, I thought I’d share my gym tips for when you don’t have loads of time to spend in the gym.

Adulting is tough. Most of us have to work full time, balance busy social lives and we all have to keep on top of boring stuff like cleaning, cooking and generally being a responsible human. I long for the days when I was a student and I could easily spend the best part of a morning exercising in the gym, taking advantage of the empty equipment and trying out new things without fear of being judged. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I can squeeze three gym sessions in a week, but that’s all part of growing up I guess and hopefully I’ll find the right balance one day.

But as they say, any activity is better than no activity, so don’t feel guilty for only being able to do 20 minutes, or even 5, because it will be doing some good in the long run for your physical and mental well-being. Some studies have found that short bursts of activity throughout the day are actually more beneficial than long sessions, but more on that in another post.

Gym routine when you don’t have time

So here’s what I do when I have an hour, 45 mins or even 20 mins free to exercise. Just to point out I walk to and from the gym so I tend to use this as my warm-up/cool-down when I don’t have time to foam roll and stretch.

1 hour

An hour sounds like a long time but by the time you’ve got changed, filled your water up, set up your weights and waited for people to clear the machines you need your time is limited!

I like to start the session with some interval cardio as it helps my muscles to warm up and works you relatively hard, but not so much that you can’t do anything after (as after HIIT I want to curl up on the floor).  Intervals are great because you can hit high intensities without getting as exhausted as you would if you did the whole session at that intensity.

My cardio of choice is usually the cross-trainer, I’ll do 20 minutes of alternating intervals (3 minutes high level, 1 minute lower level) and I aim to get my heart rate up to around 165/170 bpm. I know most people recommend doing the highest level for 1 minute, but when you’re doing a short session like 20 minutes I prefer to do the longest intervals at a higher level to ensure my heart rate gets high. After this I’ll jump off (clean my machine, of course) and head to the weights area. I choose to do either legs or arms, usually legs if I’m honest because I enjoy doing it more, and start on my routine.


2 x 10 Bodyweight squats with a resistance band
2 x Clams with resistance band

3 x 12 bodyweight lunges (sometimes holding a dumbbell but my balance needs work at the moment so I am generally doing without weight)
3 x 12 step ups with a heavy dumbbell in each hand
3 x 12 glute bridges with a heavy sandbag over me
3 x 10 leg press (machine) at a heavy weight

If I have enough time I will use the foam roller and stretch before leaving, although as I said I walk home from the gym so that helps to relax my muscles and I can do some stretching in the shower once I’m home.

45 minutes

I like to kick start a 45-min session with a 10-15-minute incline walk on the treadmill. I start the incline on a 4 and gradually build up to 10 (or sometimes more if I can) and walk at a fast pace. This gets my heart rate up loads, often as much as the cross-trainer does! I’m aiming for about 160/165 bpm on this.

Then on to the weights, as I mentioned legs last time I’ll focus on arms for this example. I don’t tend to do any activation techniques for arms as it’s more about strength than muscle growth but I make sure I stretch them properly and get them moving before I pick up a weight.


3 x 10 press ups
3 x 12 dumbbell bicep curls
3 x 15 Dumbbell military press
3 x 10 Overhead tricep extensions with dumbbell/ 3 x 10 tricep pull down with cable

20/30 minutes

On days when I’m pressed for time I will complete a HIIT session. This is such an effective workout but the downside is that I quickly transform into a sweaty, red madwoman; which is annoying because my face stays red for hours afterwards (not the best look when you need to go out.)

If I’m in the gym, I do HIIT on the treadmill. I put it on incline 4 and set the speed to 16 and then run for 20 seconds and jump off and rest for 40 seconds until I have completed 20 mins of this. This never gets easier, sometimes I put the speed lower or take a longer rest because I get exhausted and can’t do more, but it’s a work in progress.

I also like doing HIIT at home. This is a good time saver because you don’t have to worry about getting to and from the gym. I use an interval timer app on my phone and created a 25-minute workout ahead of time, including 30 seconds of activity followed by 30 seconds or rest. I do 4 exercises in each set, high knees running on the spot, press ups, squat jumps, and burpees, and then repeat these 6 times.

There you go, these are my quick  workouts. Hope you enjoyed this post and let me know your time saving gym tips if you have any x