How long should you workout? How well have you fuelled up?
If you don’t have enough fuel in the car, you can’t go on a long journey without stopping for additional fuel.
If your nutrition was at a sub optimal level, the drop off in energy and focus will be more rapid.
Similarly, if the quality of your nutritional intake is not aligned well with your training goals, or is lacking in nutritional value, shorter workouts will be more beneficial as the level of CNS stress and level of recovery from each individual session should be lessened. Thus, a less than optimal nutrition strategy is going to cope with that a lot easier.
On the flip side, if your poor nutrition choices involve ‘cheat meals’ or days or simply days where you lose control, your next workout is likely to be sluggish, as you deal with your ‘food hangover.
In this scenario, having an extra day to re-activate yourself before a full workout or having a longer workout to build into it might just be what you need.
Sleep is also a nutrient
Even if your nutrition is on point, if you are not rested enough, that, in itself, is a stress.
Depending on the level of deprivation, it could even be dangerous to workout as your focus will be poor and there is more likelihood of injury.
If you are Too Tired to Workout it may be worth approaching your training differently altogether (though it is rarely going to be bad enough that it’s an excuse to avoid exercise completely).
As with poor nutrition, your level is likely to drop off faster, compromising the end of your workout, so the shorter, but more frequent option may be more beneficial.
And if your lack of sleep is due to insomnia or restlessness, having more frequent workouts may help you sleep better too.
Whilst on paper, there is probably more benefit to the idea of shorter, more frequent workouts and there are many scenarios that support that approach, it is far from cut and dry.
Varying, individual, circumstances must be considered.
But I would still suggest that, a good rule of thumb would be, more frequent exercise will trump less frequent but longer workouts.
There are many more possible scenarios.
The merits of either approach will have many more arguments favouring one over the other that I could possibly include here.
And clearly these 2 scenarios are not the only options available. They are no more than random illustrations, used to illustrate the effect of different approaches.
Perhaps you can only workout twice per week?
Then again, maybe you can train every day.
You may have a very specific goal in mind that requires a slightly longer workout approach involving larger rest periods. Or perhaps you are working on intensity that could not be sustained for long periods without lowering the effectiveness.
The scenarios outlined here are simply looking at how best to break up your week when considering how frequently to workout and for how long each time. It is not considering the impact of an individual workout session length on specific goals.
Balance is key!
Simply dragging out a workout to make it longer doesn’t make it more beneficial.
By the same token, rushing through exercises because you just want them over and done with, is a false economy as the effectiveness will suffer.
Finding the right balance to your training approach is crucial to making the most of your efforts.
So, the next time you are wondering how long you should workout, consider the effect each option will have on you and how your current life and habits beyond the gym will affect your workouts.
Science and research are useful tools to compare things in an ‘all things being equal’ scenario, but you don’t live in a laboratory and life doesn’t give you such conditions to work with.
You are choosing to exercise for a reason. Whatever you are aiming to achieve, select the schedule and approach that best suits that goal, but only when considered alongside the realities of your day to day life.