10 Minute Workouts

For the past 4 months I've been using the Heart & Stroke Foundation's Healthy Weight Action Plan to track my current fitness goals, eating habits and behaviours in my quest to blast off these last 5 pregnancy pounds. These "vanity" pounds are the toughest to lose but whether you've got a weight loss goal of 100 pounds or 10 pounds, keeping yourself accountable by tracking your food and measuring your progress is the only way to ensure you are actually working toward the goal you've set. You can work and work and work (or think you're working and working and working) but, if the results don't reflect your desire, it's time to re-evaluate your action plan. I've always liked to run. I'm a fitness runner. I don't do long distances, generally nothing more than 10K. I love to sprint, run hills and strength train and have always used running as a part of my fitness routine. I also encourage my clients to run, even in short intervals. Running is a wonderful anaesthetic. When I am running I can think about my life, reflect, plan and process. When I sprint or have to push to finish a certain distance I've promised myself, though, I think of nothing but that moment in my run. That is a drug like no other. No glass of wine or pill can work so quickly and so effectively to clear your mind.

When I started the Healthy Weight Action Plan, I set a mini goal of running in the evening twice per week. I'm sad to report that I have failed thus far. Evenings just don't work for me. Hubby is sometimes away and I can't get out of the house. Kids sometimes don't get into their beds until I am almost ready to hit the hay myself. Other nights, I've just been up since 5 a.m. and don't have an ounce of energy left by 8 p.m.

If I continued to pressure myself to run at night when it hasn't been working for me, I'd be the definition of crazy.

Do you have a fitness goal that is unreasonable for your current schedule, lifestyle, fitness level or body type? Time to re-evaluate. Set a goal that is achievable and you will finally realize success. An unachievable goal is not even a goal. It's just another stressor to add to your long list, alongside perfectly balanced family dinners where no one forgets a "please" or "thank you" and keeping a perfect house.

I haven't abandoned my goal of running more regularly. I've decided to change my strategy. Instead of running 30-60 minutes in the evening twice per week, I've decided to hit the pavement for 10 or 15 minutes whenever I can, between appointments and chores. Yesterday I stopped at home for a short while between a personal training client and a Belly Bootcamp class. I knew if I sat down at my computer I'd get distracted, finish half of something and still end up tearing myself from my task to rush to my next appointment. Instead, I parked the car and threw my headphones in to run a few blocks around my neighbourhood. It couldn't have been more than 15 minutes, but I worked as hard as I could for that 15 minutes. I strolled the last block back to the house to cool off, grabbed my purse and headed back to work. SO satisfying and way more productive than checking my facebook and starting some emails I really wouldn't have time to finish.

You might not spend your day outfitted in lycra and wearing running shoes, ready to take off for a run when the moment strikes you. That is one of the joys of life as a personal trainer. Opportunities to exercise abound. But maybe there are more opportunities than you think...  Stop waiting for a free hour to get in the "perfect" workout. A free hour is the Sasquatch of motherhood; you've heard other people talk about it but you'll probably never encounter it yourself.

But is a shorter workout of 10 or 15 minutes really going to do anything? Can you lose weight, tone up and improve your cardiovascular and muscular fitness in 10 minute workouts? YUP! One study compared women who exercised for 20-40 minutes per day to those who exercised for two or more bouts of 10 minutes per day. Guess what? The short-bout exercisers lost more weight, stuck to their fitness routines better, and ended up working out more often and for a greater total weekly number of minutes. Why? Because there are just simply more opportunities to commit to 10 minutes of exercise. Plus it's easy to physically commit to just 10 minutes at a time if you happen to be a little run down, underslept or suffering with a mild cold or bad mood.

Why not shift your thinking and take advantage of the MANY opportunities to sneak in 10-15 minutes of exercise every day, or even two to three times per day?

  • On maternity leave with a tiny one? When baby goes down, pop in a DVD and do just 10 minutes of exercise or follow a short 10-minute workout like this. If it gets interrupted, no problem! You'll find another 10 minutes later that day. It's only 10 minutes after all. You found 10 minutes to read this blog, didn't you?
  • Work at home mommy? When you've got a half hour between online meetings or appointments, grab your iPod and run out for a 15 minute jog or a brisk walk. Instead of pressuring yourself to do more, keep your runners and iPod by the door and wait for the next 10-15 minute opportunity that day.
  • On your way to the grocery store? Throw baby in the carrier or the kids into the chariot and power walk for 15 minutes with some walking lunges thrown in here and there, then hit the shops.
  • Office work not doing much for your rear end? Keep a pair of runners under your desk and wait until you've got 15 minutes between appointments. Instead of getting into a project you'll never be able to finish, throw on your runners and walk or run the fire escape stairs for 10-15 minutes. Sure, you'll work up a bit of a sweat but you'll cool down within a few minutes. Keep some antiperspirant in your desk!
  • Busy weekend? While kids are napping or playing, challenge hubby to a competition. Who can do the most jumping jacks in a minute? Push ups (Knees for you and toes for him might make the match more fair.) for a minute? Squats for a minute? Sit ups for a minute? Repeat for 2-3 competitive rounds!
  • Evening TV ritual? Hop on your treadmill and run as quickly as possible, or walk at the highest incline you can manage, for the first 10 minutes of your favourite program.

How do you squeeze in just a few minutes of exercise when you can? What are your go-to short workouts? Share your ideas below!