Workout Plans for Every Excuse
Is a little voice inside your head insisting that your obstacles to exercising are stronger than you are? Psych it out with a few ingenious strategies that overcome just about every excuse.
How to Overcome It
You don’t need to spend a lot of time actually exercising to get (or stay) fit. “Too many people think that unless they go to the gym seven days a week for an hour a day, they’re not doing anything,” says Michelle Cleere, Ph.D., a psychologist in Oakland who specializes in sports performance. “That’s not the case.” You just need a small pocket of time, which most people can find in a day or a week, if they look for it. “There’s a huge difference between a true lack of time and a perceived lack of time,” says Cleere.
Plan of Attack
Make those minutes count with these strategies.
Exercise in intervals. Recent research has found that shorter workouts can be just as effective as longer ones if they include intervals—small bursts of intense exercise followed by short periods of recovery. Researchers at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, had a group of cyclists do four to six repetitions of short sprints (30 seconds at full throttle) followed by periods of recovery (four minutes of easy cycling). After just six sessions, they saw that the sprinters got the same boost in fitness after their 18- to 26-minute workouts as did people who cycled at a moderate pace for 90 to 120 minutes.
This strategy is also effective for those who aren’t Tour de France types. In a follow-up study, some of the researchers tested a more moderate interval routine that lasted longer. The routine alternated one minute of intensity at a level of at least 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is on the couch and 10 is lungs burning) and one minute of recovery. Just 20 to 30 minutes of this interval work brought subjects the same gains as people who had pedaled at level 6 for 90 to 120 minutes straight. Research has shown that the trick is pushing yourself to that intensity of 8—the point where you’re breathing so hard that it makes having a conversation difficult.
Choose your workout wisely. If you’re not up for intervals but you want to burn the maximum number of calories in a minimal amount of time, head for the right machine. “The most effective calorie burners are machines that require you to move the majority of your weight yourself,” says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. That means using the stepmill (the machine with the revolving stairs) or ramping up the treadmill to a challenging incline (say, 5 percent—but increase the number if that’s too easy), as opposed to riding a stationary bike or using the rower. Or change your terrain and walk uphill or up and down stairs.