30 Minute Workouts For Endurance Athletes

30 Minute Workouts For Endurance Athletes

This question popped up on the Google+ Triathlon Community, and I figured it would be an excellent topic for this week’s Ask The Coach.

What do you do if you only have 30 minutes to exercise?

Even though endurance athletes tend to prefer workouts longer than 30 minutes, sometimes between family, work, and other obligations, it’s just not possible. Rather than skipping a workout if crunched for time, crank it up!

When time is limited, intensity is your friend. Short bouts of high intensity with brief recoveries can provide solid fitness benefits, and work your “high end” fitness. This is your chance to incorporate “HIIT” or high intensity interval workouts.

You may have heard of Tabata workouts, which is one type of high intensity interval workout that has become popular. These workouts are typically very short in overall duration (4 minutes) with 20 seconds all out (yes, ALL OUT) and 10 seconds rest.

There is research that shows this type of interval training has a positive effect on VO2max. It’s a very anaerobic, and you really do need to go hard. It can’t replace all your endurance training, but if it isn’t possible to get in your workout, a high intensity interval session can be a good choice.

So let’s look at some quick examples of workouts to do.

Spend 5-10 minutes warming up your whole body with with dynamic warm-ups. Some good dynamic warm-ups are (google these/search on YouTube for tons of videos):
Walking lunges with a twist
Arm circles
Knee to chest
Tin man (or soldier march)
Body weight squats
Side lunges
Skipping (A & B skips)

After the warm-up, it’s time to hit it hard.

Try these intervals running or on your bike:

  • Standard Tabata (20s on / 10s recovery)
  • 30s on / 30s recovery.1min on / 1min recovery, 2x 30s on / 30s recovery, 6x 10s on /10s recovery, recover & repeat!
    • You can start with sets of 5, recover, then do another set of 5. Or try doing a set of 10.

The possibilities of mixing it up are pretty much endless. Even mix up strength (like body weight squats or push ups) and swimming, running, or biking. Just remember that you need to go really hard! (Of course make sure you are ready for that level of intensity and if anything doesn’t ever feel right, stop!)

If you aren’t able to run or ride – maybe you are stuck in a hotel, you can still do high intensity sessions.

Ever done burpees? Do as many as you can, rest, do as many as you can again.

Or mix up push-ups, jumping jacks, and squats. Set a number of each (like 15 push-ups, 20 jumping jacks and 30 squats) and rotate through as many times as you can in 10 minutes. You’ll feel it. I promise.

A good reference for body-weight exercises is You Are Your Own Gym from Mark Lauren. His workouts are great for short but effective strength workouts if you are trying to incorporate strength training into your routine but don’t have time or don’t want to go to a gym to lift.

Being crunched for time doesn’t mean no workout, it just means you need to be efficient with the workout.


Another session that you can do if you are time restricted, but maybe aren’t wanting to go high intensity, is a drill session. Work on technique. If you are near a pool, get in a session where you just do a bunch of 50s, drill 25 and swim 25.

Want to work on your run technique? Warm-up a bit, do dynamic warm-ups (which often also serve as run technique drills – high knees, butt kickers, skipping, etc). Then do some 20-30s accelerations, focusing on great technique – light on the feet, tall posture, good arm swim, driving the knees.

How about the bike? Warm up a bit and then do a series of spin-ups where you gradually increase your cadence. Recover for a few minutes with easy spinning at your natural cadence, then spin up again.

So for all you athletes that think a thirty minute session isn’t worth it, think again! Happy Time Efficient Training!

What types of short workout sessions do you like to do?

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Nicole Odell



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