1. Health

Want to shape up? Try a 30-minute workout three times a week

Justin Rueff, personal trainer director at Anytime Fitness in South Pasadena, demonstrates the leg press.
Justin Rueff, personal trainer director at Anytime Fitness in South Pasadena, demonstrates the leg press.
Published Jan. 7, 2016

Local gyms will be packed this month with New Year's resolutionaries kicking off fitness programs. But come February, the crowds will be gone.


Most will say they just don't have the time to work out.

Some people will only stick with a fitness program if they have someone to hold them accountable. If you fall into that category, find a workout buddy or hire a personal trainer.

If you are the type of person who can go it alone, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your workout routine.

First, remember the four corners of fitness: flexibility, strength, cardio and nutrition. You can spend all day in the gym, but unless you stretch, you risk injury. If you do injure yourself, you'll be back on the couch watching Star Trek reruns. Big muscles look great, but unless your heart and lungs get a workout, too, it doesn't much matter. Good nutrition, the fuel that feeds the body, is probably most important.

You can write a book on those four basic principles — and people have, dozens of them.

Usually when people join a gym, it's to lift weights. The first mistake many resolutionaries make is thinking that they have to spend an hour or more to see results.

Wrong. Repeat after me: Something is better than nothing. You don't need to spend 90 minutes in the gym to start feeling and looking better. Thirty minutes, three or four times a week, is all you need to be well on your way to a new you.

But before you get started, remember this: Convenience is key. You are more likely to stick with a fitness plan if it becomes part of your daily routine.

Are you a morning person or an evening person? A gym that opens at 6 a.m. isn't a great choice if you want to get started at 5. Figure out when you want to work out and then decide where.

An ordinary, everyday gym across the street from your office or on your way home will probably be more practical in the long run than that state-of-the-art compound clear on the other side of town.

Then again, maybe a set of free weights in the garage or on the back porch is all you need. You can get a used set of weights for $100 or less if you shop around. In the next few months, you'll likely find plenty of bargains online and in stores that sell used fitness equipment.

Once you know when and where you'll exercise, you have to decide how. When you're allotting yourself 30 minutes to work out, you need to be efficient. There's no time to waste. Before you begin your workout, ditch the cellphone. Return those texts and check Facebook after your exercise session.

(We'll presume you've loosened up a little bit beforehand, so time spent stretching preworkout isn't part of your 30 minutes. And to reiterate: Stretching is very important.)

A good rule of thumb is to kick off any regular fitness program with a little cardio (jumping jacks, stairs, the stationary bike, a run) — say 10 minutes or so — and make it count. Your goal is to get your heart and lungs pumping. Sure, it would be better if you could do 30 minutes of vigorous, sustained cardiovascular exercise three or four days a week, but this is a start.

Now that you have that out of the way, it's time to hit the weights — or exercise machines. This is where a personal trainer comes in handy … to demonstrate the correct form. If you don't have somebody to help you, examine the diagram on the machine. It will show you the proper technique. (Justin Rueff, 27, personal trainer director at the South Pasadena location of Anytime Fitness, demonstrates some exercises in the accompanying photos.)

Pick a weight that you can lift comfortably 10 to 12 times before your muscles fail. Do a set, rest for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat. Aim for three sets. As you get stronger, add another set or two.

Now head to the next exercise machine with no more than your standard 30- to 60-second rest. No talking. No socializing. Keep track of your exercises in a notebook or in your head. (It really doesn't matter which method you choose. The important thing is to stay focused and keep going.)

As you progress, add another exercise or cut down on the break time between sets. If you start with 60 seconds of rest between sets, drop it to 50, then 40, then 30, keeping your total workout to 30 minutes each session. After a few weeks, you'll be huffing and puffing and sweating as if you had just run a marathon.

Want to mix it up? Do upper body on Monday, lower body on Wednesday, upper body on Friday … and continue with that rotation schedule.

Keep your exercise regimen convenient and consistent, 30 minutes, three times a week, and you will still be at it through 2016 and well into 2017.

Contact Terry Tomalin at