Feeling crunched for time but still want to get in a good workout? The key is to work harder and smarter! Everyone, from athletes to couch surfers, can benefit from a short bout of interval training. Whether you woke up miles from home with no access to gym equipment or you are balancing work and family commitments, read on for some effective workout strategies that you can try today.
1. TABATA workouts
This method involves doing 20 s of work, followed by 20 s of rest and repeating 8 times (total time = 4 min). You can choose whatever exercises you want but the idea is to do as many reps as possible (amrap) during the 20 s work period. Rest a few minutes between rounds (if you don’t need to rest you are not working hard enough!). Tabata workouts are energetically expensive (i.e. they burn lots of calories), help increase your work capacity, and elevate your metabolism for a few hours after you are done (so you burn even more calories). Win, win, win!
Sample Home Tabata workout:
- Round 1: alternate pushups/ air squats
- Round 2: alternate pullups*/ lunge jumps
- Round 3: alternate burpees/ bent over row
- Round 4: alternate pendulum lunge/ plank crawlers
Sample GYM Tabata workout:
- Round 1: alternate pushup-rows/ squat thrusters
- Round 2: alternate pullups/ two arm dumbbell or kettlebell swing
- Round 3: alternate right arm corner press/ left arm corner press
- Round 4: alternate full body bench hops/ box jumps (or squat jumps)
There’s a reason that sprinters are so lean and fit – they work their type 2 muscle fibres constantly. Without getting too complicated, type 1 muscle fibres use lots of oxygen and are super awesome at doing activities that last a long time (think marathon, triathlon, etc.) – this is aerobic exercise. Type 2 fibres use energy stored in your muscles without oxygen and are awesome at doing really fast, powerful activities that can only be sustained for a few minutes. This is anaerobic exercise. After doing anaerobic work (sprints, etc) your aerobic system kicks in to make more energy available for your muscles to use for the next bout of exercise. This is why REST between sets of intense exercise is SUPER IMPORTANT! Generally you should be resting 3-4x longer than your work time (there are exceptions to this).
Sample Beginner Sprint Workout
- 2 laps light jogging
- 2 x 25m walking lunges with side twist
- 2 x 25m side walking lunges
- 2 x 25m high knees
- 2 x 25m butt kicks
- 2 x 25m “A”s
- 2 x 25m accelerations (build up speed)
- 2 x 50m accelerations
- 4 x 100m accelerations (75% max effort)
- 4 x 200m accelerations (75% max effort)
- 2 x 400m (80% effort)
- 2 laps light jogging
- Stretch it out
3. “CIRCUIT TRAINING”
I’m not talking about the lame circuit featured in the latest women’s magazine that involves using 2lb weights. If you do circuit training right, you should be working hard, alternating between different muscle groups so that while one muscle group is recovering, another is working. This saves time compared to doing one exercise at a time and waiting. Depending on the exercises you choose, you can use a lot of energy in a short period of time. Circuit training should not be used if you are aiming to increase your maximum strength but it is effective for fat burning and general conditioning.
Sample Full Body Circuit:
Select weights that you can lift for 8-12 reps (for safety always start light and add more if needed). Complete 3-5 rounds of the circuit, 3-4 times/week.
- Squat with overhead press (or squat thrusters)
- Stability ball jack knife with pushup
- Dumbell bench step up
- Bent-over barbell row
- Alternating side lunge
- Hanging leg raise
- Rest 1min
4. Intense Workout DVDs
There are some effective workout DVDs out there that will guide you through a super workout in a set period of time. For people on a strict time budget, knowing that your workout will be exactly 31 minutes and 23 seconds can be a major benefit compared to going to the gym. Another benefit of working out at home is that you don’t have to wait for equipment, pack up all your shower gear and a change of clothes, and you don’t have the added transit time. To prevent boredom, I recommend mixing it up and doing DVDs a maximum of once a week along with other types of workouts. Some recommendations: Jillian Michaels and P90X. Unsure? Borrow DVDs from a friend or the local library and try it out before you buy it.
5. Multi-task with purpose
If you are a busy person you probably muli-ttask all the time. Why not do it in your fitness life too? Family outings can easily involve physical activities like biking, swimming, hiking, skiing, or playing frisbee or catch, to name a few. Why not pair social time with something active? Join a running group, start a lunch time walking club at work, go on a weekend canoeing trip with your pals, have yoga Sunday followed by a healthy brunch – the possibilities are endless!
6. Learn how to say no
Ever stop and wonder “why am I doing this?” Maybe you should. There’s nothing wrong with spending 4 hours a day commuting to and from work, however…do you truly want to spend 20 hours every week in your car? Are you living the life that you really want? Sometimes we get so busy and caught up in stuff that doesn’t really matter that we forget the beauty in the simple things. If you are micromanaging your calander, perhaps it’s time to say no to a few things and say yes to yourself and the life you really want.