Too tired, too old, too fat, too busy. If these are the excuses you use to bail on your workout then eventually you'll be too sick and too dead for it to even matter. The most common reason people give for not exercising is the time factor and, yes, I understand that you are over-scheduled and very busy multitasking and loading music into your new iPhone.
Who has time for an hour of cardio, plus a trip to the weight room for strength training, followed by a session of ab and flexibility work?
Although it would be fabulous (and narcissistic) to devote yourself to maintaining the temple that is your body, there's that annoying job that pays the bills and a demanding boss who seems angry when you stroll in freshly exercised with smoothie in hand at the crack of noon. If you're like most people, you have to shoehorn in the fitness regimen whenever you can and make each exercise minute count.
Besides, an effective workout doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out affair, a quickie can be a good thing. All those people who brag about how much time they spend at the gym are usually wasting most of it. For every 15 seconds spent doing bicep curls, there are five minutes of posturing and other BS. Or, they waste time doing a tremendous number of repetitions of an ineffective exercise and probably with poor form.
How many times have I heard, "I do 500 crunches a day." Yo, dude! That's like 450 too many. Instead of flailing your head up and down 500 times, why not do something 12-15 times that actually challenges you?
With the goal of increased efficiency in mind, here are a few key things to remember, if you want to maximize your workout.
1. Short-duration, high-intensity exercise is generally more effective than long-duration, low-intensity exercise. There those times, weekends and days off where you can put in the time and do endurance training but for your weekday workouts, get in and out fast.
2. Natural strength exercises (using your body weight) are generally better than using an excess of props. Keep it simple and learn to use your torso as the anchor and arms and legs as the resistance.
3. Interval training can give you faster results and actually increase your speed as opposed to long sessions of one-dimensional training.
4. Work multiple body parts. For every exercise, make it a two-fer and find a way to engage several muscle groups at the same time.
5. Hmmmm, rest? Not really. Don't stop completely, instead keep moving but at a slower pace and avoid letting your heart rate drop back to normal. After all, this is exercise and you're supposed to be exerting yourself. To make the most of your time, move fluidly between exercises and practice active recovery.
This program uses jumping rope as the cardio foundation. It's effective and efficient and will give you the most bang for your buck. Each cardio segment is matched with a concentrated period of interval training. Typical interval workouts have a 1-3 ratio where there's a cardio or other intense exercise segment followed by a rest period that's 3x longer. In reality the body doesn't require a triple recovery time so this workout has cardio intervals followed by moderate-paced recovery intervals consisting of strength based exercises including ab, arm and leg work.
Start with a 2-minute warm up, which SHOULD NOT include a lot of static stretching. Instead of over-stretching your muscles, the idea is to get them warmed up for activity by increasing the blood flow. You should also start to get your heart rate up. Try walking and swinging arms.
Start the clock. Ready, set, jump!
Jump rope for 1 minute. Jumping rope is hard so don't worry if you can't jump for the entire time. Just jump as long as you can and keep moving by jumping and turning the rope in one hand for 60 seconds.
Toss the rope aside and do a set of split jumps for 30 seconds:
Start with hands behind head and torso erect one foot in front and one in back. Quickly jump and scissor/shuffle feet back and forth.
Then move on to a set of back lunges for 30 seconds:
Hands still behind head and feet together hip-width apart, lunge back on right leg bending both knees and dropping butt down in the middle. Come back to start, and then lunge back on left leg.
Pick up the rope and jump for 1 minute.
Toss the rope and do jump burpees for 30 seconds:
Stand with your feet at hip-width. Drop straight down onto your hands, and kick your feet straight back (into a push-up position). Move immediately into a push-up. As you complete the push-up, immediately jump your feet forward between your hands. Rise straight into a jump. As you land, absorb and drop straight down into another repetition.
Then do a set of side/lateral leg lifts for 30 seconds:
Stand with legs wide apart, knees and toes in opposite directions, arms straight overhead. Deeply bend knees, as you straighten legs, push off on right foot, extend right leg to side and press arms down with palms facing downward. Bend knees again in center, stretching arms back overhead and push off on left foot.
Pick up the rope and jump 1 minute.
Toss the rope and do mountain climbers for 30 seconds:
Start with hands on floor with shoulders over hands, one leg tucked, one leg extended. Quickly "climb" alternating legs back and forth.
Transition into mountain crawl for 30 seconds:
Finish the last mountain climber and hold in pushup position. Lift right leg, bend right knee and bring leg to the side towards right shoulder. Change to left leg.
Rewind start over from the top and do the entire program again.
Now round out the workout with some arm and core work.
Start in wide stance pushup position (feet wider apart) Do a push-up and as you bring your body back up, twist torso and raise right to the ceiling. Bring arm back down and repeat on other side. Do 10-12 reps.
Triceps push-ups. With hands on the edge of a table or chair, feet on floor and legs out straight, bend elbows and dip body down, then push back up squeezing elbows together Do 10-12 reps.
Elbow plank trunk twist
Start balancing on your elbows and your toes. Keep body off floor in a straight line by pulling navel to spine. Without letting elbows come off floor, roll over toes dropping right hip down to the floor, roll back through center and drop left hip. Do 5 reps per side. Stop in the middle and roll forward over toes 5x.
Repeat entire arm/ab section.
Finish with some stretching.
Get up/try not to throw up.
Go to work.
Repeat the next day.
Alicia Villarosa has enjoyed a long career in health and fitness teaching classes and personal training for 25 years. She's recently launched a blog called Bargain Biatch on living lux for less.