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You’ve heard it time and again: Setting aside time to exercise and care for your body is important. But on busy days, it can be hard to keep that commitment to yourself. The good news is, you don’t have to block an hour or two to reap the benefits of self-care — all you need is 30 minutes.

“We often get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle, and it’s really easy to focus on what we can’t do,” says Sarah Pope, Dynamic Personal Trainer at Life Time in Westchester, N.Y. “I believe in focusing on what we’re able to do, and if that’s finding a 30-minute window to move or take care of your body at Life Time, that’s valuable time spent pouring into your own cup.”

Whether you’re squeezing in a workout or need ideas for a quick active rest day (or total rest day!), Pope offers several suggestions for making the most of your half-hour at the club.

Before You Go

Pope recommends making a plan before you step foot in the club.

“Be super intentional,” she says. “Think about what you want to accomplish and then hold yourself to it. Yes, 30 minutes is enough time to be effective, but 30 minutes can go by in a flash. Make sure your headphones are charged (or that you have a backup pair) and turn your phone on ‘do not disturb.’ This is precious time to enjoy all to yourself.”

30-Minute Workout

Pope has a pre-planned template for a 30-minute workout.

1. Warm Up: When you’re short on time, this can include a few dynamic stretch exercises.

2. Compound Strength Exercise: Pope recommends doing three to four sets of 12 to 15 reps of a compound movement such as a deadlift, squat, overhead press, or bench press.

“If I’m going to the club for a short workout, I still want to make sure I’m getting my heart rate up while also incorporating some strength training,” she explains. “I want to do an exercise that will incorporate total body muscle movement. For example, a back squat works my legs, my form, and helps strengthen my core all at the same time.”

3. Accessory Work: Following that compound movement (and depending on time), Pope adds in two or three more strength-training exercises, often using a machine.

“For a leg day, for example, I would add in a leg extension and a leg curl. Since I’ve already incorporated my total body with that compound back squat movement, I can now focus more on individual muscles.”

4. Cool Down and Stretch: To save time, she suggests hitting the locker room right away and stretching in the shower — just make sure to wear nonslip shower shoes and move carefully!

Learn more: “9 Tips for Great Workouts Even When You’re Short on Time

30-Minute Play Time

Movement comes in many forms, including participating in your favorite sports. This is a great way to get motivated to exercise while having fun. In 30 minutes, you can:

  • Pickleball: Play a game (or two!) or practice some drills.
  • Basketball: Shoot hoops with a friend or start a friendly pick-up game.
  • Tennis: Book court time to work on your serve or footwork.

30-Minute Active Rest

Active recovery activities keep you moving without adding more stress on your body. “An active rest day means you’re still getting movement in, though it may be at a slower pace or lower intensity,” says Pope.

If this is your focus, Pope suggests two options:

Book a Dynamic Stretch Session

Dynamic stretch movements can help get your blood flowing, making them an ideal activity for an active rest day.

“Dynamic Personal Trainers are now booking 30-minute stretch sessions,” says Pope. “A trainer will recommend stretches for your specific needs and guide you through them. Then, you can continue booking sessions or use what you learned as a plan on future active rest days.”

Do Some Light Cardio

Walking, cycling, and swimming are all considered lower-intensity activities you can do to move your body while recovering from a tough workout. Try hopping on a treadmill or stationary bike for 20 to 25 minutes while listening to your favorite music or podcast, or jump in the pool and swim some laps.

30-Minute Self-Care

If your half-hour window would be best spent zoning out and relaxing, Pope offers these ideas.

Take Time in the Sauna or Steam Room

Spending even a few minutes in a heated space is an easy way to boost recovery and experience numerous other benefits.

“I love to sit in the sauna for 10 to 15 minutes and take a really nice shower afterward,” says Pope.

Book a LifeSpa Service

Unfortunately, many of us don’t have time for an entire spa day, but 30 minutes can feel much more manageable.

“You can easily get your nails done in half an hour or choose a 30-minute facial,” Pope says.

30-Minute Full Body Workout

Try this workout — designed by Pope — the next time you need a quick sweat.

Warmup: 8 Minutes

World’s Greatest Stretch

  • Start standing tall and slowly bend down to reach your hands to your toes.
  • Walk your hands out in front of you until you are in a plank position.
  • Bring on leg forward into a lunge position with your hands directly under your shoulders and placed on the floor. Your front leg will be just outside of the hand on that side.
  • Lift the hand on the side of the lunged leg up toward the ceiling, opening up your chest. Then, circle it forward and down to the floor again.
  • Step back into a plank position, then walk your hands backward and stand back up tall.
  • Repeat on other side with opposite foot lunged forward and continue alternating sides for one minute.

 Cossack Squats

  • Start by standing with feet hip-width apart. Step to one side and lean a lunge position while keeping your opposite leg straight to the side.
  • Allow the foot of the straight leg to turn out and the toes to lift as needed. Extend your arms in front of you as a counterbalance if needed.
  • Lower yourself as far as your mobility will allow, keeping both heels on the floor.
  • Stand back up straight and repeat on the other side.
  • Continue alternating sides for one minute.

Prisoner Squats

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Lace your fingers behind your head, keeping your elbows pointing straight outward.
  • Bend at your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Press back up to the starting position and repeat.

Jog or Incline Walk

  • Step onto the treadmill and jog or walk at an incline for five minutes

Workout Part 1: 4-Minute Tabata

Dumbbell Thrusters: 2 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Stand with your feet positioned a little farther than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Begin with a dumbbell that feels challenging for you in each hand, elbows sharply bent so the dumbbells are just above your shoulders.
  • Squat deeply, lowering your butt as close to the floor as you can while keeping your knees positioned as close to over your ankles as possible.
  • With a smooth, powerful motion, extend your hips and knees and stand fully upright. As you’re accelerating upward, use your core muscles and shoulders to transfer your body’s upward momentum to the dumbbells and press them overhead. Pause briefly, lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders and immediately squat again.
  • Repeat for four rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.

Reverse Crunches: 2 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Lie on the ground on your back, with your arms at your sides and your legs straight.
  • Bracing your abs and glutes, bend your knees slightly as you lift your feet until they are above your hips, then straighten your legs while bringing your feet up to the sky, lifting your hips and back off the ground.
  • Return to the starting position in a controlled manner, tapping your feet to the ground.
  • Repeat for four rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.

Rest: 2 Minutes

Workout Part 2: 4-Minute Tabata

Max Effort Air Bike or Treadmill Sprints: 2 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Give your max effort on a stationary air bike or sprint on the treadmill at six to eight percent incline.
  • Repeat for four rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.

High Plank to Elbow Plank: 2 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off

  • Start in a high plank position on your hands.
  • Transition into a low plank, planting one elbow at a time.
  • Return to a high plank by raising back up onto your right hand with arm straight, followed by your left hand.
  • Repeat, this time pressing the opposite elbow down first.
  • Continue, alternating sides.
  • Repeat for four rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest.

Rest: 2 Minutes

Workout Part Three: 6-Minute AMRAP

Set a timer for 6 minutes and complete as many arounds as possible of the following moves:

Kettlebell Gorilla Row: 4 reps each side

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider with two kettlebells between your feet.
  • Hinge your hips back and bend your knees until you can reach the handles of both kettlebells.
  • Grasp the kettlebells, then row them one at a time, alternating sides. As you row up with one side, push down into the opposite kettlebell on the floor.

Dumbbell Clean and Jerk: 4 reps on each side

  • Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold one dumbbell at your side.
  • Bend your knees slightly and push your hips back, lowering the dumbbell toward the floor.
  • Rapidly jump upward by extending your hips and knees to move the weight upward into an overhead press.
  • After fully extending, bend your hips and knees and let your arms bend to “catch” the weight in a squat position with the dumbbell at your shoulder.
  • Extend your hips and knees to return to standing with the weights on your shoulders.
  • Switch the dumbbell to your opposite hand and repeat, alternating sides for eight reps.

Butterfly Sit-Ups: 12 reps

  • Sit flat on the floor with your legs in a “butterfly” position and bottoms of your feet touching each other.
  • Slowly lower your back all the way down to the ground.
  • Slowly lift your upper body back up in a full sit-up motion, keeping your legs and feet where they are.
  • Repeat for 12 reps.
Emily Ewen

Emily Ewen is a senior writer and content editor at Life Time.

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