So, you don’t have a whole lot of time to exercise – what else is new? In 2014, everyone is tight for time, but you can’t let that stop you from training. In fact, more and more research is being devoted to high intensity interval training (HIIT) and its benefits in the form of physical conditioning and weight loss. So you don’t need to exercise three hours a day to get in shape.
High intensity exercise is effective because it works long after the exercise session is over. Physiologists call this EPOC: or excess post oxygen consumption. What this basically means is that the exercise is so demanding that the body spends countless hours, or even days, recovering from the exercise bout by elevating energy levels for cell repair (1).
If your diet is on point, then you can lose body fat and build a little bit of muscle in the process. Before you say 'I don’t want to build muscle,' think again: building muscle is a positive aspect to our metabolic rate, and after the age of 30, your body starts to lose 1% of muscle per year.
With that being said, here are some workouts that you can jump on to try out. As I always encourage my clients, you have to find the happy medium between what is effective and what works best for you.
Cycle Protocol: For those who are slightly de-conditioned, can’t run, or simply hate running, you can use the bike to get in shape. Coupling short periods of fast pedaling, such as 15 seconds above 100 RPM’s, with 30 seconds of recovery (under 70 RPM’s) are a great way to break up monotony in training while getting that metabolism revved up. In fact, a research study using a similar protocol for 12 weeks allowed obese subjects to lose 5 pounds of fat mass (2).
Sprints: That high school track that is near your house is a lot more useful than just going for a walk when you’re bored. Using the track, perform either 25 or 50 meter sprints. Of course, this is for the conditioned person who doesn’t have any contraindications to exercise (i.e. heart issues, orthopedic issues, etc).
Perform the sprints and rest for 60 seconds in between each set. It might seem easy at first, but by the fifth set, you’ll be hunched over and sucking up wind. A research study done in the mid 90’s had subjects who sprinted, when compared to those who did long distance cycling, ending up losing more body fat than the group that did long distance cycling (3).
Stairs: Assuming the stairs in your house aren't cluttered with clothes, shoes, and dirty dishes (sorry, but I've lived with some messy people), put them to use! Performing sprints up the stairs, where you use every step, is a great conditioning tool. It’s also a great way to set your lungs and legs on fire. The more stairs you do, the longer you have to rest in between sprints.
Shuttle Runs: Can’t leave the house? No problem. If you have 10 to 20 meters of room in your backyard, set up two markers (think traffic cones) and run in between them. So if your distance is set at 10 meters, and you do four sprints back and forth, you just did a 40 meter shuttle run.
It’s a good way to get an intense sprint in without leaving the house. Keep in mind though that there is a lot of accelerating, decelerating, and re-accelerating on the body, so make sure you have healthy joints for this. Your neighbors will think you’re crazy, but they’ll stop laughing when you have that six pack.
Don’t let time stop you from getting a great workout in. If you have twenty minutes to get a solid workout in, and you train yourself right, then you’ll be surprised at your results. Just make sure to eat real, whole food after your workouts.
1. Bachechle, Thomas R and Earle, Roger W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics. 2000, pp 86-87
2. Heydari, M., Freud, J., et al. “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males.” Journal of Obesity (2012) 10.1155/2012/480467
3. Tremblay, A., Simoneau, JA., Bouchard, C. “Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism.” Metabolism 7(1994): 814-818