At the time of this writing, I am just shy of my 49th birthday and am in the best shape of my life even despite having a child 4 years ago. What is so interesting about this for me is that the time I spend working out is less. No, I’m not saying that you can be in the best shape of your life in just 5 minutes a day. It still takes effort and, more importantly, consistency. What I am saying is that it is possible to be in the best shape of your life without spending 2 hours a day, 7 days a week at the gym. Here’s how I do it:
- Incorporate HIIT training 1-2x a week – HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training essentially means alternating short periods of a high intensity activity with short periods of active rest. Benefits of this type of training include increased HGH (human growth production) which declines as we get older, longer periods of fat burning when compared to long steady cardio, and disease prevention to name a few. There are many ways to do HIIT (i.e. outdoor hill sprints, treadmills) but the one I’ve found that works best for me is using a stationary, indoor bike. It’s easy on my knees and I can crank up my tunes and safely go full throttle in my own environment. Since you are doing alternating times of activity with rest, you will need to get an interval timer that allows keeps track of the time for each period. I personally use and love the GymBoss timer but there are also apps you can download on your phone. The following is the method that works well for me:
After 3-5 minutes of pedaling on an easy setting I hit the start button on my GymBoss and alternate the following sequence 8 times:
30 seconds – go at an all out sprint at a perceived effort level of 8-10 with increased tension on my bike flywheel. The key word here is “perceived” meaning that the fitter you become, the more tension it will take to achieve your perceived effort level of 8-10. This should be an effort that leaves you huffing and puffing and would be unsustainable for a long period of time.
1 minute and 30 seconds – active rest which means easy pedaling at a perceived effort level of about 3-4 with decreased tension on my bike flywheel to allow my heart rate to come back down.
For the all out sprint periods, I usually strive for roughly 85% of my max heart rate (220 minus your age and multiplied by 85%). For me, the calculation is as follows: 220 – 48 = 172 max beats then multiplied by 85% which comes out to 146 beats a minute or about 24 beats over the course of a 10 second heart rate count.
Cool down – 3-5 minutes pedaling at a lower intensity than my active rest phase at approximately a 1-2 level of effort. I continue my cool down until my heart rate has dropped at least 5 beats from my max heart rate during 10 second heart rate.
The entire workout not including the warm up and cool down only takes 16 minutes which makes this ideal for time crunched people. If you have never done HIIT, start out with 2 or 3 intervals before working your way up to 8 and work at lower perceived intensities until your body gets used to it. Feel free to play around with the interval times as well, i.e.. longer exertion and shorter active rest periods. Because this is such an intense workout, it is recommended that one do it a few times a week on non-strength training days.
- Full body workouts rather than split body part training – I used to subscribe to a split body part training regimen that is favored by most body builders. Monday’s were leg and glute day…Wednesday’s, back and biceps….Friday’s, shoulders and traps and abs. The problem with this type of training for me was that if I missed one workout it threw off all my other workouts and I would get behind. The other thing is that my lower body is my problem area so I never felt like 1 time a week for my legs was enough. Now I do 3 full body workouts per week which take all of about 30-40 minutes each. That way, I am able to hit all the parts of my body 3 times a week. I have found that as a busy mom of a pre-schooler, the 3 time a week full body training method gives me the most bang for my buck and I personally like the way my body shape looks now better than ever. My current favorite full body program is Better Body by Minimalism developed by Nia Shanks. The simplicity of her program has seriously changed my life. If you want to be fit but don’t want or have time for fitness to rule your life, I highly recommend checking out her website and blog at niashanks.com.
- Eliminate the “all or nothing” workout mentality – This was a tough one as I was always in the mindset that if I didn’t have an hour to dedicate to a workout then I would just skip it all together and then feel guilty as hell about it. If I only have 10-15 minutes, I do something with it like a few intervals of HIIT training. Another way I’ve found to be helpful is setting a timer for 15 minutes and doing as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of designated sets of a few different exercises or what is know as a “complex.” As I am a big fan of using kettlebells to train, I recently signed up for Geoff Neupert’s Kettlebell Workout of the Day or WOD. It’s essentially what I just described above where you set your timer for 15 minutes and go for it and is perfect when your schedule is stretched to the max. You can read more about it here. If you’ve never worked with kettlebells, you can incorporate a similar concept using some free weights or even just using your own body weight.
- Consistency – I strive to do something every day, even if it is just a 10-15 minute workout or some HIIT. But I tackle those 10-15 minutes with gusto and work up a little sweat and get my heart rate going. Bottom line….a 10-15 minute workout (or even a 5 minute workout) is better than a 0 minute workout.
Quite honestly, of all the things on the list #4 is the one that is most important. It’s about finding something you enjoy doing and sticking with it on a consistent basis. Almost any fitness program will work if you do it consistently. Therefore, there is no point in trying to force yourself to do an activity you don’t like doing just because someone you know does it and has a great physique. For example, it seems like everyone I know that does Pilates looks amazing and I know it’s really good for people with low back issues like myself. But despite my taking private lessons to learn how to do it and then group classes I just have never connected with it and ultimately gave up on it. The bottom line is this: the best fitness program out there is the one YOU enjoy can stick with for the long term.
Have you found the best fitness plan to achieve your goals? Tell us about it in the comments below!