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How Long Should My Workouts Be?

​0:00:03.6 Kim Schlag: Welcome to episode 91 of the Fitness Simplified podcast. I’m your host, Kim Schlag. On today’s episode, I’m taking your questions about workouts and exercise, so I’m not hitting nutrition at all today, gonna talk all things workout. These are questions that you sent to me via DM on Instagram, or when I throw one of the question boxes up in my stories. I’ll do this again periodically, maybe we’ll do nutrition next time, so whenever you have a question, be sure to hit me up over there, you might hear the answer here on the podcast. Let’s go.


0:00:39.3 Kim Schlag: So before I jump into your questions about workouts, really quick announcement, super excited about this. The menopause weight loss course that I’ve been talking about for some time now is going live this month, March 29th. Monday, March 29th, mark your calendars. If you are a woman over 40, struggling with belly fat, lack of energy and diet fatigue from years of trying and failing to lose weight, this course is for you. I’m so excited to bring it to you, it’s gonna have nine modules, you’ll get one module each week dripped to you so you’re not overwhelmed with the content, and the important thing about this course is it’s not just gonna give you knowledge, it’s not just gonna be like, “Oh, I learned some things about how to lose weight in menopause. I learned some things about how to lose weight over 40.”

0:01:26.3 Kim Schlag: It’s going to be doing the do. So you’re gonna have weekly action steps to take with each module so that you actually lose weight over the 60 days. In fact, it’s going to be a 60-day challenge, we’re gonna have cash prizes at the end, we’re gonna have a very active Facebook group, I will be in there doing live Q&As just for the group every single week, cheering you on, giving you support as you make all of the changes that I suggest in the modules. So be looking for that you can… Best way to make sure you do not miss that announcement is to be on my email list, you can get on that list at my website,, there is one title called email list, click on that, you will definitely not miss it there. Keep your eyes peeled on my Instagram for the announcement. Card opens Monday, March 29th.

0:02:20.1 Kim Schlag: Alright, let’s jump into these questions. I have a handful here. Question number one, do I really have to take rest days? I like to work out. Common question. Here’s the thing: What is your goal, is always an important question. And number two, are you sure that you want to not have rest days because you like to work out? Or is it possible that you are worried if you don’t work out, you’re not gonna get results? I think that’s a really common occurrence. In your mind, look, it’s not that you don’t like exercise, if you’re working out every day and you say you enjoy it, I believe you do. Do you really love it so much that you just don’t wanna use that time for anything else, you really wanna work out seven days a week, or is it more, “I feel like I need to do this to get my results, to maintain my results, if I don’t do this, I’m gonna not lose weight or I’m gonna even gain weight.”

0:03:17.2 Kim Schlag: I think that is a big factor in people feeling this drive to work out every single day. So that’s piece one. Piece two, the results you’re looking for are likely gonna be found in your rest days. Rest day is when the magic happens. So we go in the gym, we strength train with intensity, that doesn’t mean jumping around, that means we tax our bodies, we use a weight appropriate to be hard enough for us, and then while we’re resting is when our muscles are repairing. That’s when that new tissue is being built, so if you wanna look glean, toned, defined, yes, you gotta take your rest days. So minimum one rest day a week, one full rest day per week. I personally prefer people to have at least two.

0:04:06.1 Kim Schlag: I work out four days per week and take three rest days. My clients all train either two, three or four days, more of them train three and four versus two. Two is really for people who are like, “Look, I just am busy and I can’t commit to more.” Frankly, I’d rather have somebody solidly hit two workouts every week, than not quite get the three, so I will program for two. Ideally, I’d like to see them training three times a week. Four times a week is amazing, really you don’t need to be in the gym more than four times a week, you just don’t. You could be there five days a week. If you really love it, you could have a fifth day that’s just a little accessory day, maybe you’re working on a little extra glute work or a little extra shoulder work, totally fine. You should have those days off though.

0:04:52.3 Kim Schlag: And when I say days off, what you should be doing on your rest days is resting, that means don’t take days off from your strength training and do a HIIT class, don’t take days off and do a power yoga class. You can do some stretching, you can absolutely walk, every day is a good day for walking, you can certainly do recreational activity, so I’m not saying you have to literally sit on your butt all day, so if you like to go paddle boarding, go for it, but don’t count your rest day if you’re going for an eight-mile run. You see what I’m saying? Don’t trick yourself into thinking like, “Oh, that’s my rest day.” Actually take some days for your body to recover. You’re gonna see better results. If the results you are looking for have anything to do with optimizing your body composition, you wanna build some muscle, you wanna look toned, defined, glean, fit, you need your rest days, and also if you want to be healthy, our body needs that time to recover, your joints need that time to recover, you’re gonna just feel better if you’re taking appropriate rest. Question number two, what are the best workout shoes?

0:06:04.5 Kim Schlag: So it depends, what kind of workout you’re doing. If you’re doing some kind of running workout, obviously, you should be wearing running shoes, if you are not… If you’re in the gym lifting, you should not be wearing running shoes, and here’s why, they’re cushioned. If you think about that cushion in a running shoe, that nice squishy part to absorb all of that shock, to absorb that force you’re putting into the ground, that’s actually the exact opposite of what you want if you’re trying to lift. So if you’re doing dead lifts, if you’re doing squats, you are trying to put as much force as possible into the ground, you don’t wanna do that standing on a pillow. Imagine… Think about how cushioned your running shoes are, think about a cushion on your couch. Imagine taking your couch cushions off and standing on them and trying to do your squat or your deadlift or your lunge, that would be really hard. It’s hard to transfer that force, it’s hard to maintain your balance, that’s essentially what you’re doing if you’re lifting in those squishy running shoes. So take those squishy shoes off and you can lift barefoot if your gym allows or if you’re training at home, so many people training at home, I do train at home, and I train in my socks, that’s what I usually wear. Otherwise, you can wear a hard-soled shoe. So a couple…

0:07:16.7 Kim Schlag: One of the most popular you’ll see most people wearing are Converse All-Stars, so the Chuck Taylors, just a hard flat-soled shoe. Perfect. My favorite is the Nike Metcons. Again, a nice hard-soled shoe, If I’m not barefoot, I’m wearing those. You might have seen people wearing Lifters, so if they’re doing squats, they have a heel lift on the shoe that also are a hard-soled shoe, a little bit of a lift can help to get deeper in the squat. If you have some mobility issues, this can be one way around that, so those are good. The big key is not wearing big squishy runny shoes to… Runny? I don’t know why I said runny, running shoes to do your lifting in. Alright, I do HIIT four times per week. Is that good? So my question back to you would be, is that good for what? What is your goal? We always have to think in terms of what is the goal I’m trying to achieve, to see if our methods are going to get us that goal. So if your goal is… I just… I wanna be a person who moves, great, go for it, you can do whatever you want, that’s gonna get you moving. Frankly, we’re a very sedentary society, so if what you enjoy, you like moving around a lot, you like jumping around, go for it. You wanna do one of these classes that are really high-energy, go for it. If your goal lies in body composition, so you want to look defined, you want to look like a fit person, that entails building some muscle.

0:08:57.9 Kim Schlag: So that fit look is two things, it is fat loss if you have extra fat to lose, so it’s losing body fat, and it is building muscle. HIIT is not actually the way I would go for either of those two goals. So fat loss, the main driver of that is going to be your nutrition. No matter what you do in the gym, no matter what you do with your workouts, gotta nail your nutrition. The other piece of that is we want to make sure that the weight you are losing is indeed fat and not muscle. So we do that in two ways, the nutrition piece of sparing your muscle in a calorie deficit is going to be eating enough protein. Okay. So you eat enough protein, you also don’t go stupidly low with your calories. We’re not gonna slash your calories down to 1000 or 1200 or 900, something ridiculous, so you eat in the moderate deposit and you keep your protein high. That’s the nutrition piece of making sure you’re actually burning fat and not muscle, but there’s also a workout piece to make sure that you are burning fat, not muscle, and that workout piece is using your muscles so that your body knows it needs to keep it. We do that through what’s called progressive overload. It just means doing more work over time. Easiest way to think about that is lifting heavier weights over time, getting stronger over time. It’s not the only way to progressively overload, but it’s a good way to think about it.

0:10:22.3 Kim Schlag: So when you go into the gym, you pick up a weight, you do your set of squats. Next week you come in, and you can do those same squats with a heavier weight, that is progressive overload, and you need to do that in order to keep your muscle. HIIT is not set up to do that. Okay. Those classes where you’re just jumping all around, it is not meant to do that. So keep that in mind, what is my goal and is the exercise modality I have chosen actually designed to get me the goal I want? So if you enjoy doing that high-intensity stuff, do it one, maybe two times per week and stick with the lifting for those body composition goals. Next question, I’m new to lifting, what are some good beginner exercises? So here’s the interesting thing, good exercises are good exercises, whether it’s day one of lifting for you or day 3097. You’re gonna be doing the same types of exercises, so you’re gonna wanna do squats, deadlifts, lunges, bridges, upper body pushes, both vertical and horizontal, so overhead pressing and chest pressing. You’re gonna wanna do upper body pulls, so again, both vertical pulling and horizontal pulling, so we want you to do variations of rows, we want you to do pull-ups, pull-downs, and we want you to do some core.

0:11:54.2 Kim Schlag: Again, whether it’s day one, you’re gonna do varieties of those exercises, or whether it’s day one million, you’re gonna want to do varieties of those exercises. There are certainly a few advanced exercises that I’d be like, “You’re not starting… I’m not gonna have you start with speed deadlifts versus bands, I’m not gonna have you start with the barbell snatch,” but beginner exercises kind of makes it seem like… Well this exercise is gonna be for beginners and eventually I’m not gonna do that exercise. That’s not actually how it works. So I have been doing one-arm rows since I started training seven years ago, still do them today, still got a great training effect from them. I am doing them with way heavier weight now, and that’s the big difference. That said, there are certainly some varieties of those exercises that might be really good for you as you’re beginning. So when we think about squats, I’m not gonna wanna start you with a barbell back squat, I’m gonna wanna start you with a body weight squat, my favorite variety of body weight squat to start a total beginner off with is a squat to a box with a reach. So get a step stool…

0:13:05.6 Kim Schlag: A bench, and you’re gonna squat down, put it right up behind you and think about just sitting in a chair, you can actually use your chair, think about sitting down between your legs to that chair, at the same time get something very light, even like something like a water bottle, and as you sit down, press that weight out straight in front of your chest, that counterbalances you to help you to keep your chest up, so that’s a variety I use a lot with a lot of beginners. Alternatively, you could just do a bodyweight squat start. When it comes to deadlifting, the first thing I would have somebody to do is make sure they know actually how to move their hips in a deadlift, you’re going to want to hip hinge, a deadlift is not a squat, it’s not so much up and down as it is back and forth, and so I have people practice hip hinging drills, so that’s why I’d start there and then move into a Romanian deadlift. Push-ups, the best way to learn how to do push-ups is to do a hand elevated push-up, so you could start at your kitchen countertop, you could start even on a wall and do the push-up motion, make sure you’re getting a full range of motion, so all the way down, all the way back up, when you come to the bottom, whatever you are hand-elevating on, so if it’s a countertop, your nipples should be touching the edge of that countertop, I was training my daughter recently and she [chuckle] was laughing, she was like, “You use the word nipples a lot, giving me directions.”

0:14:25.5 Kim Schlag: And it is really true, “You say the word nipples a lot when you’re training someone.” So make sure your nipples hit the edge of the countertop. So those are a couple of exercises to start with, doing a single arm row, a perfect place to start, when we’re talking rows, if you are at a gym doing a lat pull-down is a good exercise to start with, user, really user-friendly to begin with, if you’re at home, you can rig up a lat pull-down with a band over a pull-up bar, I always tell all of my trainees who are starting with me, my clients, grab a pull-up bar, put it over the door, and if you’re like, “I don’t have any possibility of doing a pull-up anytime soon.” It’s totally fine, you can use that chin-up bar with those long loop bands to do lap pull-down variations in your home, so definitely get one of those and eventually we can work you up to doing a chin-up or a pull-up. There’s not a single reason why you can’t do those over time, I know they feel really advanced but you can for sure get there.

0:15:27.0 Kim Schlag: So remember, no beginner exercises, just certain variations that might be better for a beginner, but you’re always gonna squat, deadlift, hinge, upper body push-up, upper body pull, lunge, literally forever, your training programs, should be stocked with those exercises forever. Alright, next question, I struggle with single leg RDLs, my balance sucks. Oh, this is such a common, [chuckle] this is such a common problem, look, my balance, quite frankly, is terrible, it’s not… It is not something I’m super skilled with, so there are things you can do. The number one thing I would say is, unless balance is your main goal, so you want to improve your balance, which is not a bad goal, if that’s not the main goal, if your main goal is strength or muscle building, let’s not turn this into a tightrope act. So the easiest thing to do in that case is to brace, and what I mean by that is you’re gonna do a single leg Romanian deadlift, holding a weight in the hand of the free leg.

0:16:28.5 Kim Schlag: So the leg that’s gonna go back, you’ll hold your weight in that hand with the stance leg, you’re gonna take the hand on that side and you’re going to lightly touch the wall or a piece of equipment, whatever you’re standing next to, lightly touch it, so don’t get a death grip on it, but just put your fingers on it, and then as you come up and down, that little tiny bit of touching is gonna stabilize you enough so that you can actually concentrate on overloading this move with weight so you can actually concentrate on performing the move rather than balancing in space.

0:16:58.9 Kim Schlag: So that’s my number one tip with that, along with that, some things you can do, you can look at a spot on the ground out a distance away, so maybe like 10 feet away and just stare at that same spot, you want it to be down low, so that you keep your body in alignment, you don’t wanna stare up at the ceiling. So that’s one thing you can do. Another thing you can do if you’re not going to touch the wall, the second best thing I could tell you to do is to take that free arm, hold it straight out to the side, make a fist and squeeze it as tight as you possibly can, I’m doing it right now, and that is going to transfer into helping your whole body feel rigid, which is gonna help with your balance, I really do prefer the bracing, if at all possible, but I think that’s a better way to do it, but if you can’t for whatever reason, if you’re in the middle of the gym floor, there’s nothing to hold on to try that, arm straight out to the side, free arm, hold the weight in the hand, if the leg is going back and then pretend you got a steel rod going through your arm, so ram the rod straight and you make a fist and you just squeeze really, really hard.

0:18:04.0 Kim Schlag: Another one, and this one sounds so bizarre, and I have zero idea why it works, my coach told me about it one time, and I’ve done it for years, and it really does help, you take your tongue and you press it, press it. [chuckle] You press it up against the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth, so I’m gonna do it right now, so something like this, and you press it hard and for whatever reason that helps with your balance, I literally don’t know why it works, but I can tell you from experience it does, it works so you can use that in combination with the bracing. Alternatively, you can, if it’s just still, if you’re just like, “I do all of that and I feel like I’m still just wobbling around,” you don’t have to do a one-leg RDL to still get the benefits of unilateral training, so working one-leg, you can do some other things. One variety that’s really good for that is a one-leg wall press RDL, so you stand in front of a wall, you take your foot that would be the free leg, and you push it into the wall, so you bend your knee, put it up against the wall, and then you perform your deadlift, it feels more stable with your foot in that way, but you’re still…

0:19:13.0 Kim Schlag: Favoring that one leg, that working leg that’s on the ground, so similar training effect there, and then the other variety is B stance RDL, this has some… So to do a B stance, you stand in the position that you’d do a Romanian deadlift, you take one leg and you use it as a kickstand, so you’d come up on your toes of that foot, and you’d put it in line with the heel of your stance leg, your heel is up off the ground on the kickstand leg, and then you do your reps that way, and then you’d switch legs and do it the other way, so you’re favoring the stance leg, not the kickstand leg. That’s a really, really good variety that’s similar to a single leg RDL without so much of that balance component that people can really, really struggle with. Alright, next question, is this my last one? No, I got two more. Three more. So how long should my workouts be? I get asked this a lot, it’s an interesting question, and I will tell you that the length of your workout is not the determining factor in how effective your workout is. It’s not like a 50-minute workout is superior to a 40-minute workout.

0:20:27.0 Kim Schlag: That’s not how it works, what is really important is the quality of work you put in while you are doing your workout, okay? So… And when I say quality, I’m talking about the intensity of the work you’re doing, if you’ve heard me talk about intensity when it comes to lifting before, you will know I am not talking about intense as in, “I got my heart rate up, I’m sweating, I’m out of breath, I feel like I’ve wiped the floor with myself,” that’s not what I mean by intense. I mean that you are lifting heavy enough so that at the end of each individual set you feel like you could do one, maybe two more reps of that exercise, okay? So if you’re doing a dumbbell row and you’re supposed to do eight reps, when I say, “You should be working intensely,” when you get to reps seven and eight, it should be freaking hard, and on rep eight, you should know like, “I could do one really clean more rep,” like, “It’s not gonna be a trashy rep, I could do this one more time. I don’t know if I could do it more than that.” If you’re getting to the end of your sets and you’re stopping just ’cause you’ve counted to eight but it… That has no bearing on how you actually feel like you’re just like, “I’m fine, like I can keep going.”

0:21:33.8 Kim Schlag: You’re not working intensely enough. Pick up a heavier weight, okay, so doing that for each and every set of each and every exercise you have, is the important part, not how long the workouts last. That said, most of my clients train between 35 and 55 minutes, and this involves also taking dedicated rest periods, so it’s not a giant circuit, it’s not like, “I do exercise A, right to B, right to C, right to D, keeping my heart rate up, moving, moving, moving,” it is, “I do the first exercise, I take a 60-second rest, I do this… Then I do that exercise again, I take a 60-second rest,” okay, and then you’re moving on from there. I do employ what’s called supersets for some of the exercises, it can really help if you’re really busy and you just don’t wanna spend a ton of time in the gym, using supersets can help for you to get more work in, in less time. And what a superset looks like is this, you take two exercises that are not competing with each other, there’s lots of ways you could do, if… For the purposes here that I’m explaining to you, take two workout… Two exercises that aren’t competing, so they’re not using the same muscle, so if you’re doing an upper body day, you could do a pressing variety, matched with a pulling variety.

0:22:57.2 Kim Schlag: So let’s say you do a dumbbell chest press. And you do one set of those, you do all your reps for the one set, and then you immediately go into doing a set of your rows, so let’s say you do eight chest presses, then you do eight rows, then you take your minute break, okay. Then you do that again, chest press, rows, then you take your minute break and you do it again, chest press, rows, take your break, move on to your next set or superset. The reason this helps is you didn’t have to take a minute break between every set of chest press, then every set of rows, okay, you took a minute break after doing them together so that saves you some time. It’s something that I… It’s a strategy you can use to have your workouts be shorter. The goal when you’re doing your workout is not to blast through and try and get in and out of the gym, I’d rather have you do fewer exercises, concentrating on them, and like I said, really working intensely, than shove a whole lot into your 30 or 40 minutes. You can get a really good workout with six exercises done with proper intensity and proper rest times, and I’d rather have you do that.

0:24:10.8 Kim Schlag: Alright, next question, what is better for fat loss, cardio or weights? Popular question this one. So remember, the best thing for fat loss is nutrition, it is to be in a calorie deficit, nail that… Nailing that is the most important thing. Over and above that, when we talk about workouts, and I kinda touched on this earlier, the number one thing we wanna think about with our workouts is supporting keeping our muscle while we’re in that deficit. Remember, when you’re eating in a calorie deficit, you are literally forcing your body to use the tissue that it already has for energy. And we want it to choose the fat not the muscle. And the workout component of doing that is using your muscles. You have to use your muscles to keep them, and that’s why we do progressive strength training, so that’s why I say weights are more important for fat loss. Cardio is way overused for fat loss, actually people prioritize it even over nutrition. We see these people are like, “Oh, and it’s the New Year, I need to lose weight, I’m getting on the treadmill,” and really they would do far better to be like, “Oh, it’s time to lose weight, let me write a good grocery list and figure out what I’m gonna eat,” that’d be more important.

0:25:29.5 Kim Schlag: So I do feel like cardio is way overrated for fat loss, it is not pointless, it is not bad, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do cardio, I’m saying it is not your number one tool for weight loss, it is way low on the list, following a calorie deficit, enough protein, proper strength training with progression, getting enough rest, as in sleep, managing your stress and getting your need up. So that’s just general walking throughout the day, moving more, all of those come in the list before I say, “Add in a cardio session.” Cardio is great for your heart, I’m not telling you not to do it, I’m just saying it is not your best tool when it comes to fat loss. Alright, last question here today. I am super sore after my workouts, what can help with that? So first of all, it’s normal to be sore sometimes after your workouts. Totally normal, you don’t have to try to avoid that, there’s no way to avoid some soreness, you also don’t need to be chasing that. I know a lot of women are like… They’re concerned if they’re not sore enough. They see that soreness as the sign that they got a good enough workout, which is actually not a good gauge. The level of how sore you are is not proportional to the gains you just received from your last workout.

0:26:54.2 Kim Schlag: It doesn’t work that way. So don’t chase soreness, don’t fear soreness. I will say you can… If you’re sore all the time, that’s a clue that something’s not right, you should not be super sore all the time. You’re either doing too much volume, which is probably it. You need to look at your training plan or have someone else look at your training plan. If you are always, always sore, we gotta look at what’s going on with that training plan because you frankly should not always be sore, but it’s totally normal to be sore sometimes. When you’ll notice that you are the most sore is when you just start lifting, so push past that guys, you’re not always gonna remain that sore. I know it feels like, “Oh my gosh, I’m broken,” when you just start and I as a coach, I really work hard to make my clients be as little sore as possible when they first start, ’cause I frankly want them to show up again. But just know this, when you first start and you’re really sore, you’re not always gonna be that sore. The other times you’re gonna feel really sore are when you introduce a new exercise, so let’s say you’ve never done a Bulgarian split squat before, and then you do them, you’re gonna feel sore, you’re gonna really feel sore.

0:28:00.0 Kim Schlag: Also, when you stretch a muscle at long length. So when you’re doing something like a Bulgarian split squat, a lunge, those can tend to really make you sore. When you are emphasizing the eccentric, that’s the muscle lengthening portion that we were just talking about of an exercise. So if you do a slow eccentric squat, you’re gonna be more sore, any time you’re emphasizing that eccentric piece, you’re gonna be more sore, so expect some soreness. As far as what you can do for the soreness, really it’s about waiting it out, it really is. It goes away on its own. So it’s called delayed onset muscle soreness. You’ll hear the term DOMS, that’s what that stands for. And so as you are lifting your muscles get little tiny tears in them… And that’s not tears in like, “Wow, I just cut my finger, or I just ripped my finger apart, that’s bad,” this is normal, this is how your muscles rebuild themselves, and that makes you very sore, there’s inflammation there as they are repairing themselves. So what you do about it is, one, you just wait it out. You don’t have to… There’s nothing you can do that’s going to make it get better faster than just time.

0:29:08.2 Kim Schlag: Okay, so day two, after you work out, you probably gonna be really, really sore, by day three, it’s gonna start feeling better, by day four… It’s gonna feel better and better over time, so that’s the number one thing I’d say. Don’t stress too much about it. One thing you can do is to keep moving, don’t just sit still, when you’re that sore, [chuckle] you’re gonna feel better if you’re up and moving, getting the blood flowing, so nice slight walking is what I would suggest there. Otherwise, just wait it out and really keep in mind, if you’re always sore, that’s a red flag. Well, I hope that this Q&A has been helpful. Hit me up on Instagram, in the DMs, if you have more questions, you can always pop a question box in my stories. I can’t always answer all the ones I get, I answer what I can and then I take screenshots and use them for things like this. I’m always here to answer your questions, happy to help, any questions you have about nutrition, about fat loss, about strength training, I’m here for it. Alright, talk soon.


0:30:09.5 Kim Schlag: Thanks so much for being here and listening in to the Fitness Simplified podcast today. I hope you found it educational, motivational, inspirational, all the kinds of -ational.

If you enjoyed it, if you found value in it, it would mean so much to me if you would go ahead and leave a rating and review on whatever platform you are listening to this on, it really does help to get this podcast to other people. Thanks so much.