Only Have 30 Minutes to Train? Here's How to Get the Most Bang For Your Buck

No matter how dedicated you are to your training, sometimes life gets in the way.

Even the most committed athletes can find themselves short on time. You may find yourself wondering: Is it even worth spending 30 minutes to train? Will such a short effort really keep you moving towards your goals?

Believe it or not, you can accomplish plenty in half an hour if you take the right approach. Turning that short, 30-minute window into a productive training session is all about being adaptable and finding a workout—or maybe even an off-the-bike activity—that fits your training plan and your schedule.

Here are 3 key things to keep in mind when you find yourself crunched for time:

1. Shorter can be better, depending on your objectives.

As important as longer efforts can be to your training, a 30-minute workout can slot in perfectly to your schedule without simply being a compromise to meet time constraints. Knowing ahead of time that you will only have half an hour to spare can make all the difference. Take the opportunity to plan ahead and mark that day for a targeted, intense workout. If you need some active recovery, schedule a relaxed spin and turn what may have seemed like a short workout window into just what your fatigued legs ordered.

Need to work hard? A short, high-intensity session can be an effective entry in your training plan all by itself. Take one of the new GCN Real Time Training sessions available in The Sufferfest app: GCN Strength Endurance, GCN Sprint Efforts, and GCN Power Torque Intervals are all 30 minutes or less. They’re a great way to boost your Maximal Aerobic Power and Neuromuscular Power without having to log a ton of time on the trainer.

Feel like you need a break? As challenging as it can sometimes be for endurance athletes like you to pump the brakes, turning what is meant to be an easy spin into a longer effort might defeat the purpose of active recovery altogether. Take advantage of a 30-minute window by actually (gasp!) doing a recovery ride rather than pushing it farther than you should. (Related: Active Recovery - A Sufferlandrian’s Best Friend?)


2. Something is usually better than nothing

While a short, high-intensity session can be an excellent way to fill your 30 minutes, it's not always going to fit well into your training plan. The reality is, you won't always know when you're going to be faced with a time crunch. What if you are coming off of multiple days of big efforts (The Shovel followed by Nine Hammers?) and have a long, lower-intensity session planned? While you don’t need to mark the day down as a total loss, don’t just swap in a short, intense session if it doesn’t fit into your training plan.

Even if you don't have the time for that full, two-hour endurance session you had planned, you will still benefit from a lower-intensity 30-minute workout. Sure, the longer ride would be ideal, but even a shorter session can tax your system in a meaningful way. Something is better than nothing.

You might even see it as a golden opportunity to skip right to your favorite part of a longer workout. That way, you can come out of your session happy, knowing you’ve gotten something from your half hour without derailing your training plan.

3. You can be productive with 30 minutes off-the-bike

Sometimes, the circumstances that squeeze your availability down to just 30 minutes could very well be circumstances that leave you not able to ride at all. Getting ready to ride may eat up valuable time that you simply don’t have. That's okay, but don’t waste that time: there are plenty of ways to make productive use of your time off the bike.

A half an hour of yoga, for instance, might help get you in a better place—mentally and physically—than an intense effort on the bike. Something like the Recovery Booster or Taking the Soreness Out of Suffering sessions found in The Sufferfest app. Alternatively, you could spend your half hour doing something less physical that will nonetheless benefit you down the road - listening to the Positive Thinking module in The Sufferfest app is a great way to boost your confidence.

If none of that interests you and you want to satisfy your inner tech geek, then you could spend your time checking batteries, updating firmware, or downloading a video for your next session. Getting ahead of the curve for the next day will make your upcoming workouts run more smoothly.


Assess and adapt

Whatever your circumstances, you might want to make sure that you don’t get so time-crunched again in the future. A good question to ask yourself is, "Why was I limited to 30 minutes on this particular day?"

A bit of reflection will help you utilize your time effectively. It might also help you be better prepared in the future. Every now and then, an unavoidable event might just derail your schedule. That’s just a fact of life. But if it was procrastination or a lack of organization that left you short on time, acknowledging that and adjusting accordingly can go a long way towards preventing the time crunch from happening again.
(For those who want to dig deeper, check out the Successful Training Habit module in the Mental Toughness Programme in the app.)

With a little planning and the right approach, you can take a small time window and change it from an obstacle into an opportunity. You’ll be more motivated, more focused, and ready to recommit to your achieving your goals.

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