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Girl on the Run: No Time to Work Out? No problem!

Even the most dedicated runner struggles with time management. Throw in a full-time job and kids, and even a woman as organized as Martha Stewart isn’t going to have time to fit in a run every day.  There is a silver lining! Even if you only have 15 or 20 minutes, you can still get a worthwhile workout.

Quality always trumps quantity. Short workouts not only help you stay in shape, but improve your speed and stamina as well. A growing number of studies show you can reap the same benefits (in terms of both fitness and weight loss) from short duration workouts as you do from long ones.

There is one catch: To decrease the time you spend on your feet, you need to increase the effort. The three workouts listed here are high-intensity. Mix and match these workouts with longer, easy-effort runs. Or if you’re really slammed for time, simply perform all three on alternate days. That will be enough to keep you in racing shape!

WORKOUT #1: Dirty Dozen Tempo

Get your endorphins surging with this 12-minute tempo run. Perform this workout on flat roads or trails, or the treadmill, and focus on running at a moderately difficult effort.
•    Warm up by walking for three minutes. Start at an easy pace and build to a brisk power walk.
•    Run at an easy effort for five minutes.
•    For 12 minutes, run at a pace that’s challenging but not extremely tough. Your breath should be audible, but you shouldn’t be gasping for air. •    Cool down by walking until you catch your breath.

WORKOUT #2: One-Minute Wonder

This one looks easy, but don’t be fooled! During the fast intervals, focus on running quickly but not superhero-speed. You should finish this workout feeling strong.
•    Warm up by walking for three minutes. Start at an easy pace and build to a brisk power walk.
•    Run at an easy pace for five minutes.
•    Run hard for one minute at a pace that’s very difficult, but not all-out.
•    Recover by walking or jogging slowly for one minute.
•    Repeat the fast/slow intervals six times total (12 minutes).
•    Cool down by walking until you catch your breath.

WORKOUT #3: The Butt Blaster

Torch a ton of calories while sculpting your backside at the same time! The key to this workout is to run up a hill (or treadmill) with a gradual incline of less than 4 percent. By sticking to smaller slopes you will maintain good form while avoiding injury.
•    Warm up by walking for three minutes. Start at an easy pace and build to a brisk power walk.
•    Run at an easy pace for three minutes. End at the base of a hill or by increasing the incline of your treadmill.
•    For one minute, run up the hill at an pace that feels difficult, but isn’t an all-out sprint.
•    For two minutes, recover by walking or jogging at an easy pace. You can jog down the hill or take the treadmill’s incline back to 0 percent.
•    Repeat this pattern four times (12 minutes). As you get stronger, you’ll transition to six hill intervals: one minute up, one minute down.
•    Cool down by walking until you catch your breath.

The Short List

Before you rush out the door, take a second to read these quickie workout rules.
•    Never skip your warm up or cool down! It might be tempting to save time by diving straight into your workout, but this approach will backfire by increasing your risk of aches and injuries.
•    Let your body be your guide. High-intensity workouts should be driven by effort, not a specific pace. Your body will tell you how fast to run. Listen to your breath and muscles to find your perfect pace that day.
•    Ramp up the intensity gradually. If you are new to high-intensity workouts, start with one per week to see how your body responds. Gradually increase the frequency, performing up to three high-intensity workouts per week.
•    A two-minute run is better than no run at all. If you only have a few moments to spare, a tiny jog beats sitting on the coach and lamenting your missed workout.

Girl on the Run provides real-life training tips brought to you by Jessie Sebor, an accomplished endurance athlete who practices what she preaches. Sebor uses her column to provide tips, advice and guidance for runners—no matter their experience or pace. She shares more information and training plans through her magazine WomensRunning.com and on Twitter as @JessieSebor.