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BODY MATTERS

Focus counts on the 30-minute workout circuit

December 08, 2008|Jay Blahnik | Blahnik is a Laguna Beach- based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman. A freelancer, he has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility."

A couple of small studio gyms have opened in my neighborhood that advertise a 20-minute or 30-minute workout. My friend (who works out a lot and is in great shape) said these workouts are a sham and that I won't get any results. I don't have a lot of time to work out, and I don't want to join a big gym. But I also don't want to waste money. Can you help?

Marty

Los Angeles

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These types of gyms usually rely on a style of exercise called circuit training. The workouts are time-efficient because you usually do one exercise right after another (with little or no break between them). They often include some cardiovascular training -- such as walking on a treadmill, bouncing on a mini-trampoline or jogging in place -- among the strength-training routines.

This style of training can be a great solution for people who are tight on time or don't like going to a gym. It is simple to follow, fairly easy to do and predictable. You just show up, jump into the circuit and do the exercises in order. There's no confusion, no waiting and rarely anything new to learn.

However, as with any type of exercise, there are some things to consider that can help increase effectiveness and reduce your risk of injury:

1) Because you change activities and drills fairly frequently with this type of workout (often as quickly as once per minute), you get a lot of exercise variety in a short amount of time. This can keep you from getting bored, but it also makes it more difficult to focus on specific areas of the body that may be important to you. You may need to add certain exercises at the end, or do a few of them more than once to customize the workout. Although this will take more time, it is a way to ensure each workout provides you with the training you need.

2) The machines used for this type of training are often designed to be "one size fits all." This means you may not have the time or ability to customize the machine to fit your body as well as you might on a more traditional machine (or to choose the resistance that is perfect for you). Because of this, it's important that you take special care to do the exercises correctly, and with good form. If an exercise or machine feels awkward, too challenging or not challenging enough, ask a trainer for modifications.

3) Once you become comfortable with this style of training, it is easy to "switch off" and pay little attention to your technique, effort or execution. While having the ability to do mindless exercise can be nice, you need to maintain enough focus that you can continue to get results without getting hurt. Before each exercise, take a moment to be mindful of what movements you are doing, what muscles you are working and the correct technique for each exercise. You do not have to be laser-focused the entire time, but avoid checking out completely.

4) At some point, you may find that your quick workouts may not be challenging enough to provide continued results. You may need to repeat the workout on certain days, or push yourself a little harder on each exercise to increase the intensity. Even if you don't have the time or desire to do either of these things, you still will continue to gain health benefits from doing the program regularly, even if the outward results are not as significant.

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jay@jayblahnik.com or health@latimes.com

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