Situation: I need to do cardio and I’m brain-dead.
That was me yesterday. I had planned a run, but just didn’t get out there when I should have. By 4 p.m., I was stuck. Tired. And uninspired.
In these situations, I use my third workout tool: the no-brainer workout.
I have a few of these workouts in my back pocket: go-to workouts that I can do even when every cell in my body wants to go back to that state of inertia I had for so many years when I “thought” I was an athlete – because I was working out a few times a month. Some days I look back at those olden times and think, whoa. Talk about magical thinking.
Here are some of my no-brainer workouts:
1. A fun class with a great instructor.
Yesterday, my 6 p.m. spinning class with Janelle, a thoroughly badass instructor at my gym, fit the bill. Some spinning instructors teach a nice, sweet class that you could, ahem, just coast through. Not Janelle. No siree. You show up in her class, and you’re going to work.
Same thing goes for Zumba. My favorite Zumba instructor left our gym (sigh), so I’m still looking for a new favorite. But I don’t have to be in love with an instructor in Zumba to still get a fun workout in – and to do it all to really dancey tunes, too. Zumba music is just so much fun. When I really need a boost, I just show up and figure the music and my classmates will take care of the rest.
2. A go-to cardio set you can do with any cardio workout.
I have a few of these in my back pocket, and Janelle handed another one to us last night. Here are three ideas:
5 minutes warmup, 40 minutes moderate effort, 5 minutes cooldown. I do this on a bike, mostly, and usually on days when just packing my gym bag is a major effort. I’m not going to tell you this workout is going to burn 1000 calories or turn you into an Olympian – because that’s not the point. The point is keeping the habit going so that on the days we feel really great, we can kick major butt.
5-4-3-2-1. This is a workout I was taught a while back and it works anywhere: walking, running, biking, rowing, the works. Warm up for 5 minutes. Then, do 5 minutes at a “tempo” pace – as hard as you can while maintaining the same amount of effort for all 5 minutes. Then, one minute of easy movement (a jog if you’re running, an easy row if you’re rowing, etc.). Then, a 4-minute tempo segment – which by definition will be a little harder and faster, because you’re not going quite as long. Then, 1 minute rest. Then 3 minutes on, 1 minute rest, 2 minutes on, 1 minute rest, and then a balls-to-the-wall, all-out 1 minute sprint, then 1 minute rest. That’s 25 minutes…so then – ready for it? – you do the whole pyramid again, in reverse: 1-2-3-4-5. Your last set is 5 minutes of tempo, then a final 5 minutes at an easy cooldown pace. Works absolutely anywhere.
4 minutes time trial, 4 minutes Tabata. This is the set Janelle taught us last night at Spinning class. Warm up for a solid 5 minutes or so. Then you do a 10-minute set that looks like this: 4 minutes of a time trial, to see how far you can go (this works best if you’re running/walking with a GPS, or if you can count laps around a track or a park, or if you’re on a spin bike with a distance counter). Then, 2 minutes of rest. Then, 4 minutes of Tabata – which is 20 seconds of sprinting, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times (for a total of 4 minutes). Compare how much distance you covered in the time trial to how much distance you covered in the Tabata. Repeat the whole thing four times for an insane workout that’s broken up enough to keep your brain thinking the whole way.
3. Getting outside for a power walk.
Easy. Gets you outside in nature. Dress for the weather and just get outside. Being outdoors helps us in so many ways: the fresh air, the scenery, the cute doggies in the park…they all contribute to a sense of well-being. When you can’t do anything else, just get outside for a walk. And then, pump your arms. Huff and puff. Work as hard as you can that day. Vigorous exercise is better for us than the easy stuff. Do everything you can do to work hard.
That’s all there is to it.
It takes time to put together a workout toolkit – to really think through what your specific workout challenges are and to make it all work. These are a few ideas to get you started. What ideas will you add to your toolkit?
Yesterday’s #every48 workout: SPIN CLASS – Janelle at the gym, 6 p.m. WOW. Great workout of 4 x (4 minute time trial/2 minute rest/4 minute Tabata). Felt great afterwards!