Here’s a guilty confession: Some days I just can’t find the time to work out.
Yes, even though I am surrounded by fitness equipment for a good part of most days, finding constructive time to actually use it on myself can be a real challenge.
So I totally relate to my readers and clients who say they struggle with sticking to their fitness routine because of time constraints.
That’s why I created a time-saving workout formula for myself – and then realized it would probably help others who are in the same boat.
The formula was the result of a get-real moment I suffered a couple weeks ago, when I found myself sucking wind, big-time, while teaching a group ex class. Why was I sucking wind? Because I’d basically gone TWO WEEKS without a single real workout.
I think I hid the sucking-windedness of it all pretty well, but after class? I was useless the rest of the day and had to take two naps before going to bed early that night.
Which is not cool. (Seriously: if you want to get into shape fast, start teaching classes because it’s way more challenging than taking them. Not only do you have to do the workout, you have to talk the whole time and use big movements in order to motivate your class participants.)
That day was the kick in the pants I needed to get back into tip-top shape. And I needed to do it without long, boring workouts.
Here’s another issue compounding the problem: I’m tired of traditional weight-lifting workouts.
Like, the thought of them makes me never want to work out again. I’ve done that style of training for so many years that I just can’t get excited every week about doing the same-old, same-old squats, chest presses, pulldowns, etc.
In fact, when I think about how many years I spent doing them, I wonder how I lasted so long?
But the thing is, they’re effective exercises. And because I want to keep as much muscle as I possibly can, they’re probably my best bet to do that.
How could I make those classic exercises fun again, within the constraints of my time-saving workouts?
No problem! I created some mashup workouts, which combine everything I need from a fitness routine – strength, cardio, core work, functionality, and fun – in a single session.
And yes, they actually are fun! They even have me looking forward to the next session.
Bodybuilding Splits + Cardio Fun
Here’s how the whole thing works. Because I want to preserve as much muscle as I can (always a struggle!), I took a classic weight-training split, which focuses on different body parts on different days of the week.
This might sound confusing (and if it does, just skip ahead to the actual format), but trust me, it isn’t.
Each workout consists of supersets or circuits, which are done back-to-back with no break until you reach the end of the circuit, and then repeated again for a certain number of sets.
What I did for these mashup workouts is put in a quick cardio burst at the end of each superset, and then a longer cardio session between supersets.
Below are a couple examples, which you will see are infinitely customizable and super sweaty.
Also, if you’re limited on equipment, no worries … just sub out different cardio bursts. There is a list of examples below the workouts.
As always, be sure to warm up and cool down thoroughly before/after you work out. If something hurts, don’t do it, and be sure to listen to YOUR body and pace yourself.
Back & Biceps Workout
Use the heaviest weight you can with proper form.
- Assisted pull-ups, as many as possible
- 1-arm cable row, 10 each side
- Barbell biceps curls, 12
- Mini-trampoline jumps, 1 minute
- Repeat 3 times
5 minutes stairclimber
- Wide-grip pulldown, 12
- Rear delt raises, 12
- Dumbbell curls, 12
- Jump rope, 1 minute
- Repeat 3 times
5 minutes stairclimber
- Stability ball lower body extensions, 10
- High cable biceps curls (or TRX curls), 10
- Repeat 3 times (no cardio burst for this one)
If you have time, you can add some plank variations to finish it up.
I don’t know exactly what this woman is doing, but I’m going with this: she is grateful for the workout these gloves are going to help her achieve.
Legs & Core Mashup Workout
- Front squats, 15
- Heel Clicks, 10
- Hanging Leg Raises, 10
- Heavy bag drills, 1 minute
- Repeat 3 times
5 Minutes elliptical
- Dumbbell lunges, alternating sides, 10 each side
- TRX squat jumps, 12
- Russian twist holding medicine ball, 15 each side
- Battle rope drills, 1 minute
- Repeat 3 times
5 Minutes elliptical
- Straight-leg deadlifts, holding dumbbells, 10
- Plank jump through (from plank position, “jump” your legs forward so your feet are near your hands, then jump back), 10
- Wall sit, 45 seconds
- Heavy bag drills, 1 minute
How To Create Your Own Time-Saving Workout
I can hear you now: OK, that’s great, Wendy, but I don’t have a whole bunch of equipment at my disposal.
That’s fine. You really don’t need that much.
The longer, five-minute intervals?
You can use pretty much any kind of cardio machine at your disposal: treadmill, elliptical, bike, stairclimber, rowing machine. You can jog. You can dance. You can create your own little kettlebell circuit. It simply has to be something that’s not too intense but that keeps your heart rate in its fat-burning range (lower-intensity cardio).
For the shorter, more intense bursts at the end of each superset, check out this quick list of possibilities:
- jump rope
- jumping jacks
- mountain climbers
- standing mountain climbers
- shadow boxing (if you don’t have a bag)
- kettlebell or dumbbell swings
- high knees
- running in place
- battle ropes
- broad jumps (jump forward, jog back, repeat)
- tall box step-ups
- medicine ball squat to toss
- bench hop overs (hands on bench, hop legs over, from one side to the next)
- soccer ball (or bench) toe-touches
You get the idea, right? Basically, it’s anything that adds a little “oomph” to the workout via a cardio burst.
All you have to do is plug those exercises into a weight-training workout and you’re good to go.
Lemme Know …
Honestly, I love these two workouts and they’re some of my favorite go-tos now. Try them yourself, and let me know how they work for you.
So, my birthday was a couple weeks ago. It was no big deal, because I’ve reached the age where birthdays aren’t something I celebrate all that heartily.
I mean, I don’t necessarily dread them, but I’m clearly in the, “WTF? I’m that old? How did that happen?” range.
It’s kind of like I’m not yet old enough to just be happy to have the privilege of being “old,” but I am old enough to worry whether I’m going to be among that crew. (Clearly, I’ve given this a lot of thought, right?)
Anyway, every year I try to do a birthday workout – usually it’s a toughie. But this year, my birthday fell on a day when I normally teach a cardio class (Country Heat Live, which is a blast, even if you don’t like country music <raise your hand if you’re with me on that!>).
And I really didn’t want to put myself through a big workout on a day I had to teach.
So I thought: meh. I don’t need a birthday workout this year. Seriously, it’s just another day, right?
But then the next day rolled around, and I was feeling a little depressed and maybe even slightly sorry for myself. (It happens, and I am going to blame the excess birthday cake I might have eaten.)
Which led me to decide to do a workout. And I came up with one I could do at home, with equipment I had on-hand – a kettlebell, a kitchen chair, and a resistance tube. It was a pretty good one, so I posted it in a Facebook group I belong to with a few of my long-time friends.
And one of my friends coughMariecough posted something along the lines of: “I notice there are no burpees in there.” She was just giving me a hard time, because that’s what we do … but still.
And Then the Peer Pressure Set In
It was true. There weren’t any burpees in the workout. Over the past few years, I’ve battled a shoulder injury that was so bad at times I couldn’t sleep or even put on/take off a T-shirt without cringing in pain. Like, I have literally changed my wardrobe because of it. And also my workouts.
In fact, a lot of times I didn’t want to work out because it hurt … a lot. But because I’m a personal trainer I didn’t want to admit I was in pain, you know?
But you know what? Over the past few months my shoulder has gradually gotten better. A few weeks earlier, I’d tested the waters by doing 5 burpees and it wasn’t bad. And I had tried doing some pushups (from my knees, yes, but still …).
And so I wondered if maybe I was just babying myself by not including burpees.
Or, I thought, maybe I was being smart.
I wasn’t going to let that burpee thing get into my head, was I?
Of Course I Was
So I turned on the TV – E!’s Red Carpet to the Grammys – and started the workout, which featured 3 sets of 18 reps of a bunch of exercises (the whole thing is below if you want to do it – it’s a good one!).
And honestly, it wasn’t what I would call a killer workout. I mean, I felt like I had done something, but was it birthday-worthy?
Not really. Because a birthday workout should be something momentous, something to mark an occasion.
And I kept thinking about what my friend had written. Halfway through the second set, I wondered: should I tack on a burpee finisher?
No, I thought. No I shouldn’t. Don’t be silly.
But as I began the final circuit of the workout, I realized that I kind of had to do the burpees. Because the thought was there, and if I didn’t do them, I’d feel like I’d wussed out.
So after I finished the 540 reps (actually more than that, if you count the “each side” reps), I decided to end the workout with a “one to grow on” set.
And that set consisted of …
Considering I’ve not done 54 burpees in total since May 2015, when my shoulder injury occurred .. well, this decision might have been labeled crazy.
But it wasn’t.
It actually was really awesome.
With my dog and two cats looking on, I counted out all 54 burpees (the no-pushup variety, because I do value the progress my shoulder has made).
I don’t know how long it took me, but it was less than one segment of the E! show I had on in the background.
Happy Birthday to Me
These burpees were a huge birthday gift for myself.
Because I could do them – and honestly, they weren’t that hard.
They was a gift because the last year has been rough. Not to belabor a point, but splitting from my business partnership was a heart-wrenching decision as it meant walking out on a decade’s worth of hard work with very little to show for it. I lost friends, people questioned my motives (and my character) without asking me, and I heard so much gossip.
When you add that on top of the injured shoulder and some other stuff, I had lost my “strong” feeling.
And all of that made me question myself – which I think ultimately is a valuable experience. Because in the words of Dr. Phil, it makes you “get real.”
And you know what? I’ve come out of all of it even stronger … and I’m really excited to see what’s next because I know I’m ready for it.
Happy Frickin’ Birthday! Yay! #notironic
Are You Ready for a Challenge?
The burpees are optional … (click and save this image to your phone for easy access)
Try it and let me know how it goes!
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It’s winter, and the slick roads and snow-covered sidewalks can make running outdoors a survival-of-the-fittest contest.
So maybe you’ve taken your running indoors. And you are starting to hate every minute of your treadmill workouts because they’re boring.
I don’t blame you.
Running on the treadmill is boring. It works your muscles differently than running outside. And … it’s boring (yes I already said that but it’s worth repeating).
What if I told you there was a way to still make use of your treadmill, and get an even better workout – while keeping your running chops intact? Without having to brave the slippery outdoor conditions?
The Kamikaze Cardio Workout
Welcome to the Kamikaze HIIT cardio workout.
I first started doing these workouts 10 years ago (wow!), when I was training for my first figure show. Lucky for me, my coach was a little ahead of her time, embracing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) before it was cool.
And not only that, but she introduced me to functional HIIT workouts, that used both bodyweight and weighted exercises to build strong abs and a powerful core.
With workouts like this kamikaze cardio workout, the whole idea is to warm up, then do some functional exercises before getting on the treadmill for 3 to 5 minutes for sprints/jogging/brisk walking (whatever you can muster).
And then you get off the equipment and repeat the exercise/cardio cycle a few times through, for a total of 20 to 30 minutes.
This style of workout remains my favorite way to get my cardio done. It’s awesome for people who have short attention spans, or who like to push the gas pedal to the floor with their own performance.
Why HIIT is a Hit
This style of workout has a number of impressive benefits for your body.
1. Benefit: Increased VO2 Max and Stamina
VO2 max is your maximal oxygen uptake. Basically, it’s one factor that measures your stamina and can predict your performance when it comes to cardiovascular endurance. (1)
First, it gets you into shape fast by pushing your body to (and maybe a little past) your limits. It requires your body to become more efficient at taking in (and using) oxygen to fuel your muscles.
2. Benefit: Increased Fat Loss
Studies show that for many people, high-intensity interval training boosts fat loss better than steady-state cardio. (2)
The level of effort required by total-body HIIT workouts like this Kamikaze cardio workout has a calorie-burning bonus. You will burn more fuel (calories and fat) both during and after your workout, as your body has to work hard to get your heart rate, blood pressure, and more back to its “normal” state post-workout. (3)
Now, this isn’t a ton of extra calories – not enough to justify a post-workout splurge – but every little bit helps, right?
3. Benefit: You’ll Maintain Valuable Muscle
With this kind of workout, you are actually using all the muscles in your body instead of simply going through the motions on a piece of cardio equipment. By challenging your muscles, you help improve muscular stamina and strength.
4. Benefit: Less Visceral (Dangerous) Belly Fat
Doing HIIT workouts like this one has been shown to be effective in targeting abdominal fat, more than some other types of workouts. (4)
5. Benefit: Less Chance of Repetitive-Use Injuries
Have you ever spent a good amount of time using the same cardio machine, over and over, and end up with an issue like a strained hip flexor or plantar fasciitis? You’re not alone.
Mixing up your workouts is vital to avoiding overuse injuries. (5)
Cardio Machine Intervals
You don’t HAVE to use the treadmill between rounds — you could use pretty much any machine that gets your heart rate up, although I think maybe using a rowing machine for this would be brutal (but hey, if you’re into that, give it a try and let me know how you do!). Also brutal: using a jump rope.
Before the Workout
You want to go into this one well warmed up. Start with 5 to 10 minutes on a piece of cardio equipment (elliptical, bike, treadmill, etc.) and then perform a series of dynamic exercises to get the muscles limbered up:
- Reverse lunges
- Frankenstein walks
- Lateral lunges or X-band walks
- Arm circles
Kamikaze HIIT Cardio Workout
After you’re warmed up, do:
- 20 Walking Lunges (use weights if you want more intensity)
- 10 Pushups
- 15 Jump Squats (can’t jump? hold a weight in front of your chest and do goblet squats)
- 12 Skaters each side
- 10 Burpees
- 10 Wood Chops each side
- 15 Mountain Climbers each side
- 10 Crab Taps (5 each side)
- Get back on the treadmill/elliptical/stairclimber and go for 3 to 5 minutes for a period of brief recovery before starting to ramp up intensity again
- Repeat for a total of 20 to 30 minutes
Cool down thoroughly when you’re done with 5 to 10 minutes of light treadmill walking/etc./before hitting the shower.
Save this image to your phone or device for easy access during your workout.
Do This Twice a Week
For best results, limit your HIIT workouts to two (or maybe three) times a week for optimal results. Because these workouts are tough, your body needs plenty of recovery time between bouts of working at a high intensity.
Fat-Loss Pro Tip
If you’re looking to change your body composition – lose fat, or lose fat and gain muscle – here’s a suggestion.
Unless you’re feeling shaky or in need of immediate fuel post-workout, wait 45 minutes or so before you have something besides water to drink or eat.
That’s because your body will likely have just begun to burn up all its quick fuel stores (glycogen) when you’ve finished doing this workout, and only fully entered the “fat-burning” zone. If you eat something immediately after, you’ll be shutting this down.
Wait a little while after you workout to get a bonus burn. And if you don’t wait, don’t fret: you won’t undo your gains (or losses). The difference isn’t huge, but every little helps, right?
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What’s the best kind of workout to burn fat?
If you thought that meant you had to spend hours a week doing cardio, I’m happy to tell you that’s not the way it works. Instead, you want to think about short, fast, and intense workouts that get your heart rate pumping for a relatively brief period of time – say 10 to 30 minutes.
Yes, it’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT). And you don’t have to do sprints or burpees to get the effect.
I’ve got a great one for you in this post, which works all the muscles in your body while at the same time pushes your cardiovascular system so that post-workout, your body has to work extra-hard to return things to normal.
And that post-exercise work is where the beauty is, because you get an extra “bump” in your fat and calorie burn as your body returns your system to normal. It’s through a process called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.
The good news is that HIITs tend to target the most dangerous (and least desired) fat of all: belly fat.
Plus, with these brief workouts you don’t get the wear-and-tear on your joints and the potential burnout you do from long, steady-state cardio workouts.
Try This Workout to Lose Fat
This workout requires a kettlebell and a set of moderately heavy dumbbells. You can make the squats and lunges more intense by holding weights but that’s optional.
Meanwhile, if you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells, you could improvise by doing jumping jacks instead of the kettlebell swings and 30 ab bicycles instead of the renegade rows.
Always Warm Up and Cool Down
Before you do this workout, make sure you warm up thoroughly by walking/jogging/getting on the elliptical/SOMETHING and then do some dynamic movements like arm/leg swings, squats, prisoner walks, etc.
Then, hit this circuit and, afterward, cool down for at least 5 minutes to return your heart rate to near-normal.
You can save the image below to your phone or other device for handy reference during your workout. (Check out the variation below the image for my favorite way to do this workout!)
If you have more time and want to mix HIIT with a more conventional workout, try the variation below:
- Warm up on machine
- Do circuit 1x through (rather than the 3-5 times listed on the workout graphic)
- Get back on machine for 3 to 5 minutes
- Do circuit 1x through
For a total of 30 to 45 minutes. Make sure you cool down thoroughly by walking to return your heart rate to normal.
(Note: if you have medical issues or if you think for any reason this workout isn’t for you, then check with your doc first before trying it. Or, ir something hurts DO NOT DO IT.)
Strong Core, Strong Body
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