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      Exploring alternatives.

      how long should a workout be | kourtney thomas fitness & coaching

      I take a lot of notes when I work out, and one of the things I write down is the duration of my strength training workouts.

      I’m not exactly sure why I started doing this, and I honestly don’t remember when I did. But for whatever reason, somewhere a few years after I started regularly strength training, I started tracking time. And as soon as I did, that became a data point to fixate on.

      For instance, the typical split routine I used to do in the gym took me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen, my favorite sweet spot being somewhere right around an hour, including warm up and mobility. If I went way over that, I knew I was dawdling. If it was quicker, I had to have missed something, not gotten a full workout.


      Now, that same workout takes a little less time at home because I don’t have to walk around or wait for anything. Exact same workout, and yet – if it only takes me 30 or 40 minutes, I’m convinced it’s not enough.


      As I’ve started to play around and mix up my workouts, switching to a lot of total body strength, sometimes higher intensity, sometimes choosing shorter Peloton workouts, I’ve really noticed just how conscious I am of time. And how if the time spent on these structured workouts is less than 30 minutes, in the back corner of my mind I never think it’s “worth it” and always seek to “add more.”


      There’s a reason for this: the government.

      No, seriously. Our government, through the Department of Health & Human Services, puts out physical activity guidelines – a 117-page treatise, if you can believe it, updating them every so often (also, not frequently enough). For years, that magical 30-minute marker has been a bit of a Gold Standard, and it’s gotten into our heads. Interestingly, 30 minutes is not something that’s explicitly laid out as a guideline. As far as I can tell, it never was.

      The recommendation – well, one of them – is actually 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity throughout the week. Naturally, we think to split that evenly. And because our world is so centered around the Monday-Friday 40-hour work week, we automatically break those 150 minutes into five 30-minute blocks of time. Seems reasonable enough, doesn’t it?


      Of course, somewhere along the line, I suspect it was the fitness/diet industry, potentially the medical community too, that took this and ran with it, and that’s how we ended up here.

      Get fit in just 30 minutes a day!

      Lose 20 pounds in just 30 minutes a day!

      Everybody’s got 30 minutes a day to work out!



      How’s that going for everybody so far?

      Eh, good for some. Not great for others. Because really, no, not everyone does have 30 minutes for fitness. Also, a lot of the messaging around the whole 30-minute requirement ends up communicating rigidity and rules. Black and white. All or nothing. And that? That leads to feelings of guilt and shame. And it often leads to feeling frozen and frustrated and giving up. So then it’s more like zero minutes.


      How many times have you had the same thought in your head as I did – this 15-minute workout isn’t enough. I have to do more. Or if I only do this, it better be intense enough I’m about to puke. And if you’ve had that thought, have you ever stopped to reflect on it? Where it came from? Why you think 30 minutes of exercise is a requirement? If it’s a belief or a rule that even fits your life?

      That’s something I ended up reflecting on, deeply, over the past few months of quarantine. You might guess that I came to the conclusion that there is no minimum requirement for a workout, or for fitness in general.

      Take that, government! Maybe I’ll write my own 117-page dissertation on exactly why that guideline sucks for the average person.

      Anyway, it’s also something that we work through in . We reflect on and talk about our ideas and requirements for fitness and exercise, where we came up with them, how they have shaped our attitudes and approaches, also results.

      And then we unravel that.

      In a flash, everyone’s barriers drop out of the picture. As soon as that big rule goes out the window, fitness feels easier. Motivation is all around. Inspiration is everywhere. Comfort is constant.

      When you can pick apart bogus stories and give yourself permission to do what works for you, the things you’ve been fighting and forcing for so long become a lot less of a struggle.

      The other day, I thought of this part of the FU process specifically when a friend commented on of my Facebook posts. I about motivation, and lo and behold, what pops up but the 30-minute rule.

      I struggle with this! My only goal is to move at least 30 minutes a day. Mow the grass, walk, lift weights, yoga – doesn’t matter just move. And I always feel amazing when I am done but it is so hard to take that first step!

      This friend is absolutely part, or perhaps most, of the way there. Understanding that the method of movement doesn’t matter is huge! But hanging on to that minimum requirement also becomes huge, in the opposite way. Clearly, it makes it tougher for her to do what makes her feel amazing. And I have to imagine that if she were to give herself permission for five or ten minutes a day, some of the struggle would disappear, and she would feel equally amazing, and probably more often.

      Listen, some rules and minimum requirements and guidelines can be beneficial. (Sometimes. I guess. I’m not totally sure I’m convinced, actually.) But we can’t apply them blindly – especially when it comes to our bodies, our lives. We must be critical thinkers. What is this guideline based on? Who created it? Who was consulted throughout the process? What kinds of bodies were included in the studies that make up the “evidence-based” foundation?

      More importantly, do I care about this? Does it make sense for me? Is it aligned with what matters most to me? Does following this requirement actually contribute to the way I want to feel? Does it do the opposite? Am I willing to explore alternatives?

      What I’ve found, both for myself and for every single one of my clients, in Fitness Unraveled and , is that exploring alternatives is the biggest difference-maker. For their fitness and workouts, for their body image, for their mindset, their perspective, their work, their rest, their self-care, their confidence. Everything, everywhere.

      Basically, once you take the guidelines away? The ones that were supposedly leading you toward all the things you want in a structured, controlled, straight-line fashion? When you remove those guidelines and create your own, that’s when you can actually make your way to all those things you want.

      For a practical, tactical summary of this conversation: You don’t have to do 30 minutes of physical activity. Everything counts.

      For a little more imaginative, unscripted summary: It’s your body, and it’s your life. Who writes the guidelines for that?

      To your new rules.

      If you’re ready to explore alternatives and write your own guidelines, . It’s a really small group, and I don’t want you to miss out. You’ll get first access to the 8 available spots made for explorers like you.

      its your body its your life | kourtney thomas fitness life coach

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