A Quality Workout in 20 Minutes


Find 20 minutes, and you can energize your body and mind with a quick, efficient workout. The key is to progressively up the intensity using “perceived effort” as your guide. This short workout involves pushing yourself a bit harder with each set. The idea works with walking, running, cycling, rowing, basketball—almost any activity.

Divide your 20-minute workout into five sets. Each set is 4 minutes. Start your watch and get moving!

Set 1: 4 minutes
Begin with a functional warm up that involves moving the muscles that you will use during your workout. Start by moving your spine with cat/cow tilts, bring movement to your hips with bent knee leg circles, gently swing your arms and legs, circle your neck and roll your ankles. Think movement rather than static stretching. (Read this article for a great example.)

Sets 2, 3 & 4: 12 minutes

For the next three sets of 4 minutes you will increase the intensity with each set, with the 4th set being the hardest. This is where perceived effort comes into play. Walkers start with an easy pace for 4, pick it up for 4, and push the pace on the last 4. Runners may walk the first set, run easy for the second, and lose their breath a bit on the last set. Use this same principle with a basketball. Dribble around easy for 4 minutes, practice lay ups for 4, and aggressively shoot for the last 4.

Set 5: 4 minutes
The last set is reserved for cool down. Bring your heart rate down by moving easily with walking, light running, etc. Save a minute or two to stretch or sneak in a few stretches later in the day.

You don’t need an hour or a fancy gym to get in some exercise. Vary it up by dancing in your basement, walking the dog, commuting on bike or foot, hitting the tennis court, or heading out into the snow. Find 20 minutes, plan, focus and get it done!