I took on a new personal training client earlier in the summer, and she point blank told me that she “hated exercise, and everything to do with it!”

She said she had slogged away in the gym for years, up to 90 minutes, three times a week and hated every minute of it, and seeing very little by the way of results.

(She was about to sign up to one of my 6 month coaching programmes, so was very relieved when I told her that exercise is the smallest component of the programme and we would be doing just 60 minutes per week. Find out how she got on below)

Hating exercise is very common. (The thought of exercise when you’re already really tired is one of the most intimidating things mentally if you ask me)

The fact of the matter is that most people (including me) dread their exercise sessions. It’s easy to see why too, it’s hard; it makes you feel very uncomfortable and takes lots of willpower and discipline to stick to a routine.

This is a big contributing factor as to why so many people are sedentary these days – they are not mentally tough OR they are tired and weak.

Did You Know? When you are tired that your willpower is at its lowest, and you are mentally weakest.


Willpower and discipline are things which seem to be vanishing from our society with very few people able to delay gratification at all.

I’m interested in this area of willpower and discipline because “modern man” doesn’t seem to posses much of it.

Just a few generations ago people waited for everything they wanted.

If there was a big new purchase they would save up and THEN buy it. Nowadays it’s have it now pay later.

Have you ever heard of the marshmallow test? It’s a test psychologists have done with children for decades, to predict future success.

A child is given a marshmallow and told they can either eat the marshmallow straight away, or if they can wait for 15 minutes they will receive a second marshmallow.

The test basically demonstrates that a child who can wait for 15 minutes to get the second marshmallow (and delay gratification with willpower) will do much better in their life and career, because the ability to delay gratification is related to success. (And the inability to wait was related to failure.)

Even with a TV series, there is no waiting for the next episode, people now watch two or three or more episodes at a time with a box set.

This has an effect on many of us over time, we become mentally weaker, not able to wait or delay gratification – ZERO willpower.

What does this have to do with us exercising?

Well for all those people who hate exercising and dread the thought of going to do a session, the good news is, you don’t have to have as much willpower to do shorter sessions, which we will talk about today.

A recent study has added to the growing body of evidence that shorter exercise sessions are actually more beneficial than longer ones.

There has been a strong degree of movement towards shorter exercise sessions in the exercise world over the past few years. More and more people are starting to cut down their training time without sacrificing their progress or results.

I have done it myself with my personal training sessions, most of my sessions will now last 30 minutes.

Based on what we have said with us ALL lacking in willpower, surely the thought of a 30 minute session is far less daunting than that 60 or 90 minute workout you may be doing?

How can less exercise be better than more?

The research generally agrees that the main benefits of exercise are had in the first 30 minutes of a session, with studies showing no additional weight loss or results for the “second half” of the standard 60 minute session most people do.

Exercising for 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week is much better than going once a week for 2 hours! It’s also a piece of cake to do these sorts of workouts at home – saving even more time.

Although these sessions are “high intensity” they do not have to be high IMPACT. My sessions are all high intensity LOW IMPACT to avoid injury and stress on the joints.

I still advise clients to use slow continuous cardio training more for general health reasons and as a bit of a stress buster, nothing like a nice long walk or bike ride, somewhere scenic.

Research to back it up

Have you heard of Tabata? That’s a form of training named after a Japanese scientist who found that short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by rest, he basically found that this type of training gets you FITTER FASTER compared to moderate intensity exercise.

A study was carried out in Demark (Gram et al, 2013), over a period of 12 weeks, moderately overweight males were instructed to expend 300 or 600 calories a day, which is out about 30 or 60 min of running, (don’t sweat if like me you don’t believe some of the calorie calculations out there, as this is not an important point).

In the study, both groups were found to lose weight, but the interesting thing was the group which did 60 minutes did not lose any more weight than the 30 minute group (in fact it was slightly less).


The males who exercised for an hour mentioned they felt tired and said it was very time consuming.
The males who exercised for half of the time had a very positive attitude towards exercise and didn’t find it a burden.
(IMPORTANT POINT) In the first point above, these are feelings and mental perceptions of the pressure to exercise.

Do you feel under pressure to train, but too exhausted to do so?

If you do it could be affecting your results, I would say don’t be afraid to blow off your sessions if the thought of it is overly stressing you out.

Have you stopped seeing results in the gym? If so things need to change, you may need to do less exercise and have more rest to actually see better results. That should be great news to some of you who are struggling with energy, but still not able to sleep properly (I get this a lot with clients).

A study carried out at a University in Canada testing the effect of bouts of high intensity exercise lasting less than 10 minutes. The results found that the participant’s muscles had improved as much as they would have in longer endurance training.

One of the chief researchers, Professor Martin Gibala said the study proved that it is possible to ‘get more by doing less’.

Another study tested a group of male’s fitness levels over 10 weeks after completing 3 x 4 minute runs at 90% effort per week. The subject’s endurance capacities improved by 10%. Endurance athletes take note – it’s about increasing your VO2 not increasing mileage all the time.

As I’ve said in the past I know it’s not all about exercise there are many things which make you healthy but regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and new research shows it “”switches ON” lots of positive genes which protect us from things like cancer.

Clearly the less daunting exercise sessions are the more you will adhere.

If I knew I had to run on a treadmill at the same pace for an hour tonight I wouldn’t be looking forward to it at all. On the other hand if I knew I only had to spend 20-30 minutes doing a mixed routine, then I would feel much better about it.

This applies to your cardio and your resistance training.

I have recommended shorter sessions from two different angles in this article:

Better physical results
Improved attitude and adherence towards exercise

Reduce your session time and bump up the intensity a bit and get better results, less mental stress about exercise and much more time on your hands!

Thanks for reading,


PS – It’s three months on and the “I hate exercise” lady has been enjoying, two thirty minute sessions per week, and lost over 18lbs, the results help change her attitude, and although I cant say she loves her sessions, I can say she doesn’t dread them and let it spoil her day anymore.


1. Gram AS, et al. Compliance with physical exercise: Using a multidisciplinary approach within a dose-dependent exercise study of moderately overweight men. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health epub ahead of print 16 September 2013

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