Busy Athletes: Reap the Benefits of Short Bout Training

Always on the go but still need to fit in training time? Split up your sessions into short bout training.

Short Bout Training

With school, sports and social activities in full swing, do you find yourself struggling to find time for training? Some days it just seems hard to fit in a half-hour or hour workout. If this situation sounds familiar, your answer may be short bout training. As an athlete, you should be vaguely familiar with this type of training. It is where shorts periods of exercise are accumulated throughout the day, like a morning weight-lifting session followed by afternoon practice and topped off with conditioning in the evening. (See also Rethinking High-Intensity Interval Training for Conditioning.)

Short bout training is also a great option for rehabbing athletes who need to recondition, because it reduces the potential to become physically and mentally overwhelmed by long exercise sessions. It's also great for busy athletes who need to maintain fitness in the off-season. Rather than exercising for one hour continuously, the approach breaks up activity into multiple shorter sessions.

Also, this type of program keeps the body moving at intervals throughout the day, helping to prevent stiffness from long commutes to school and prolonged sitting in classrooms. Don't worry that short bout training will be less intense than standard hour-long sessions. (See Tabata Training: Quick Workouts for Amazing Results.) Research has shown that it provides effects similar to those of longer continuous sessions (Schmidt et al. 2001). Another study found that short bout training was as effective as longer sessions (of the same total duration) for improving fitness and reducing body fat.(Murphy et al. 1998).

Here are two examples of short bout training sessions (aerobic and weight) to get you started building your own template.

Aerobic Training

  • Morning (before school, class and/or scheduled practice): go for a 10- to 15-minute jog or perform sprints for that long
  • Mid-day (afternoon): go for a 10- to 15-minute jog or perform sprints for that long
  • Evening: go for a 10- to 15-minute jog or perform sprints that long

Strength Training

  • Morning (before school, class and/or scheduled practice): do 10 to 15 minutes of mobility exercises or calisthenics
  • Mid-day (afternoon): perform a short (15- to 30-minute) session of scheduled weight training; e.g., work upper body only
  • Evening: do 10 to 15 minutes of mobility exercises or calisthenics followed by a short (15- to 30-minute) session of lower body strength training


• DeBusk RF, Stenestrand U, Sheehan M, et al. "Training effects of long versus short bouts of exercise in healthy subjects." American Journal of Cardiology. 1990;65(15):1010-1013.

• Jakicic JM, Wing RR, Butler BA, et al. "Prescribing exercise in multiple short bouts versus one continuous bout: effects on adherence, cardiorespiratory fitness, and weight loss in overweight women." International Journal Of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 1995;(12):893-901.

• Jakicic JM, Winters C, Lang W et al. "Effects of intermittent exercise and use of home exercise equipment on adherence, weight loss, and fitness in overweight women: A randomized trial." Journal of the American Medical Association. 1999;282;(16):1554-1560.

• Murphy MH, Hardman AE. "Training effects of short and long bouts of brisk walking in sedentary women." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1998;30(1):152-157.

• Schmidt WD, Biwer CJ, Kalscheuer LK. "Effects of long versus short bout exercise on fitness and weight loss in overweight females." Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2001;20(5):494-501.

• Ussher M, Nunziata P, Cropley M, West R. "Effect of a short bout of exercise on tobacco withdrawal symptoms and desire to smoke." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001;158(1):66-72.

• Woolf-May K, Kearney EM, Owen A, et al. "The efficacy of accumulated short bouts versus single daily bouts of brisk walking in improving aerobic fitness and blood lipid profiles." Health Education Research. 1999;14(6):803-815.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock