Running Workouts in 30 Minutes Or Less

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How to fit in a running workout in 30 minutes or less for a busy lifestyle

Many of us have very busy lives and try to fit our workouts in a schedule that is already filled with family, job, commute and many other more important things. I often find myself short of time for training so I am always looking for short, but intense and efficient workouts. I can fit these in the lunch break at work or in early morning before work or when the kids are napping…. Of course I still have to fit in regular workouts, especially on weekends or in the evenings when the days get longer and the temperature warmer. The workouts in this article won’t allow you to run a marathon, but will make a short workout still very valuable. 


Depending on the available time I have, I try to add 5-10 minutes warmup/cooldown to the workouts listed below.


  1. Twenty minutes medium pace: run out 11 minutes at a medium pace, then turn around and try to get back to your starting point in the remaining 9 minutes. If you pace yourself well, don’t start too slow or too fast, this is a great workout because you will be running back 20% faster than your way out.

  2. The one minute hill repeats workout (see my previous article) is a good workout to fit into 30 minutes. With 1 minute up and 2 minutes job back down you can fit 6-7 hills + warm-up in 30 minutes. After you have tried hills a few times, you can also try to do 1’30”,2’ up and back. This way you will need only 4-5 hill repeats. If you live in a very flat area, you can use the stairs of a tall building or a parking lot (watch for people and cars of course), or a stadium to achieve similar results, or worst case a treadmill with a very big incline!

  3. In a gym you can try and alternate 5 minutes on treadmill and 5 minutes on the stationary bike for 30 minutes total. It’s a good initiation to bricks and you can make it tougher by spinning fast on the bike and then trying to keep a descending pace (faster every 5 minutes) on the treadmill. I consider the treadmill easier than real running (except for the boredom part of it), so to make it reasonably challenging, I always pump up the incline function. Also, if you have good speed, the treadmill can be dangerous: when you start running at 8.5 or 9 miles per hour on a treadmill, if you put one foot in the wrong place and fall the consequences could be very hurtful! So instead of running at 9 miles per hour on a flat treadmill, I run 8 or 7.5 with a big incline.

  4. If you have access to a track the 200m repeat workout (see my earlier article on speed workouts) can be fit in about 30 minutes.

  5. A great alternative to the 200m repeats is to find a straight stretch of road or better a football or soccer field. Run the diagonal of the field fast, then recover jog along the end line, then run fast another diagonal, recover jog along the other end line and keep going. How many can you do? This is actually harder then the 200m repeats, because the recovery is very short.

  6. If you need to put in a long run, but can’t come up with a full hour all together, you can still try the following: 20 minutes before work, 20 minutes at lunch time, 20 minutes in the evening. The effect on your body will be similar to a full consecutive hour.

  7. Fartlek workout: after 10 minutes warm-up, alternate 3 minutes fast pace and 3 minutes slower pace for the remaining of the 30 minutes. How fast is fast? It depends on your level, but probably a 10KM or 5Km pace could be a good start. How much slower for the recovery time. This should be faster than the recovery jog pace you use during your repeat workouts, but still be slow enough to allow your heart to recover.

  8. And don’t forget a good easy 20 minutes jog. Sometimes we don’t feel like a hard workout. Give your body a break and just go out jogging at a comfortable pace for 20-25 minutes. Enjoy the landscape and just let your legs lead you. You will actually benefit even from this kind of easy workout once in a while…

  9. This is not a run workout, but still good. Have you ever done bike hill-repeats? You should structure them similarly to how you structure your run hill repeats. Find a hill long enough to go up for at least 1 minute and clear of traffic.  Bike up as fast as you can, turn around, go back to the beginning and go up again. You would start by going up with a relatively easy gear and only after you know what this workout is like, attempt a more difficult gear.  Another suggestion is to try and stay on the saddle while you go up. Triathlon is a lot about energy optimization. When you stand on your bike to climb a hill, your legs will get much more tired and will be much harder to run on afterward.   You can add variety to this workout, by adding a ½ mile run after each 2 hills on the bike.

  10. And finally a stationary bike (NOT rollers) 30 minutes (or less) workout. Warm up for a few minutes, then try and pedal for 30sec to 1 minute with one leg only. Then pedal with two legs for a minute and repeat the one leg exercise with the opposite leg. You can repeat this cycle 3-4 times. This will not only make your legs stronger, but also help you get a feel for your pedal stroke. As your foot goes around, you may notice some dead spots: areas where your foot is not actually applying energy on the pedal. The goal of a good and efficient bike stroke is to try and apply energy to the pedal along the full 360 degrees revolution. This is not the easiest thing to do….

Try to do the one leg drill with a relatively easy gear or your knees will scream at you.  You can complete the workout by doing a 2x(2 or 3 minutes) pedal at very high speed on an easy gear. Try to do this, by remaining on the saddle and without losing control of your feet. This drill will help you get a feel for your stroke too. Cool down for the remaining time.


As you have probably noticed, most of the workouts suggested above don’t give you all the details that you may be expecting. Try to use your imagination. The basic idea is that you want to get your body trained to something new and challenging within only 30 minutes or less. You want to build some lactic acid in your legs.  As I have mentioned before in my articles, everybody is different and each person’s body responds differently to similar stimuli. When I work closely with an athlete and I know him/her, I can give more detailed suggestions, because I have experience on how this person will respond. Those of you that I don’t have the luck to work with on a regular basis, have to use your own sensibility and listen to what your body is telling you. Use my workouts as suggestions and starting points onto which build your own training program.  And please give me feedback if you find this article useful. And if you have other workouts that work well for you, please share them with me. There is always room for improvement and learning.


Thanks for reading.


Triathlete and ACE Certified Personal Trainer

Lakewood, CO

[email protected]


P.S. All information in this article is provided freely with the only goal of educating athletes accessing the website.  The article/workouts above are not meant to be exercise and/or personal recommendations, but only examples of workouts that I and/or other athletes have completed in the past. Enrico Contolini will not be responsible or liable for any injury, illness or death resulting from the use of the information contained in this article. Please, always remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program.


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date: August 31, 2004


God, family, mountains, geography, travel, running, astronomy, mission work, pro-life work


God, family, mountains, geography, travel, running, astronomy, mission work, pro-life work

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