Get More Fit with Less Time and Equipment
There are few things that can reliably improve our health and happiness like regular exercise. But for many of us, exercise occurs as a chore–a boring, time and logistic intensive affair that we might have the same level of enthusiasm we would have for an all you can eat rice cake buffet. But the fact is we can get pretty fit in very little time with little or no equipment. A few months ago, I explained how you might be working out all wrong, focusing on duration rather than intensity of exercise. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is something I’ve practiced for the last several years, however I’ve almost always done it in a gym. But with two small boys occupying much of my free time, getting over to the gym, even for an hour, has been a far more complicated affair than days past.
Rather than totally resign myself to acquiring a “dad bod,” I decided to find ways of staying fit that didn’t require a round trip to the gym. The fact is there are many great exercises that involve little or no equipment or special spaces.
In the past, I wrote about the Seven Minute Scientific Workout app. The app and workout are solid (especially if repeated), but there’s not much variation in the workout. In my search for something more comprehensive, I discovered 12 Minute Athlete, a website that offers numerous HIIT workouts via Youtube videos, a free ebook and iOS and Android apps that guide you through simple, minimal or no equipment exercises and routines. There is also a subscription based intra-app training program called “Super Athlete.”
The workouts are not all 12 minutes; some are shorter, some a little longer and some are done to time, for example the first weekend of the month 12 Minute Athlete founder Krista Stryker puts out a 100 burpee challenge, which asks people to perform 100 burpees in as little time as possible (I’ve been a bit too chicken to take the challenge just yet).
I consider myself to be a bit above average fitness and I found that many of the exercises and routines, when done with proper intensity, were pretty challenging–a good thing if you’re looking to do a lot with little time.
I emailed a few quick questions to Krista to ask her about her site and the philosophy behind it. Here’s what she had to say.
David Friedlander: What motivated you to start 12 Minute Athlete?
Krysta Striker: I was one of those people growing up that never really considered myself athletic. Sure, I played team sports (basketball and soccer mainly), but I never really felt I was that great at them, and the moment I went off to college I pretty much stopped doing anything active at all and turned into quite the couch potato, assuming I was destined to be a bit pudgy and weak for the rest of my life.
Towards the end of college I was feeling pretty lost and hopeless with no idea of what to do with my life, and started exercising a few times a week partly because my mom told me it would make me feel better. It worked, and I surprised myself with my strength and how quickly I went from barely being able to do a single push up to working up to more difficult exercises like pull ups and triceps dips. I liked feeling strong, and my confidence levels skyrocketed in all areas of my life, which eventually led me to study for and receive my NSCA CPT certification [personal training].
At that point, I started working out for hours a day, diligently doing my cardio, weight training and sports-specific training every day until I was overtrained, injured, and had little time in my day to do anything else. But even though I was spending so much time working out, it felt like it was never enough.
That’s when I discovered HIIT training and everything I knew about fitness and exercise was turned upside down. Not only did I get leaner and fitter in a shorter amount of time, I got stronger and more confident than ever before. Before long, I was able to do feats of exercise I never before thought possible, such as handstands, pull ups, and completing 100 burpees in nearly six minutes flat—and still have the time and energy for a hike, bike ride or long walk later in the day.
It was after my own personal successes that I created 12 Minute Athlete so I could share these incredibly effective HIIT workouts with the world and help people of all fitness levels ditch their excuses and get in shape in as little time as possible.
DF: What would you say to people (like me) who are accustomed to going gym about doing app based workouts?
KS: Going to the gym is great if you enjoy it, but not everyone has the time, so doing app-based workouts like the ones in the 12 Minute Athlete app just give people more freedom to work out anywhere. You can still work out in the gym if you wish, but you can also work out in a nearby park, your apartment, or even a tiny hotel room if that’s all you have.
DF: Many of your routines are fairly advanced. what would you say to people looking to start out who might not be quite ready for a pistol squat [see below], pull up or burpee?
KS: Everyone has to start somewhere! When I first started working out I couldn’t do a single push up, let alone a pull up or a pistol squat. If you can’t do a pull up yet, try flex hangs instead, where you’re simply holding onto a pull up bar for as long as you can to build up strength (it’s harder than it sounds!). The same goes for exercises like pistols and even push ups—simply find the hardest version of the exercise you can do now that still pushes you past your normal comfort zone. The key is to work as hard as you can and modify anything you need to in order to get started.
See more at 12 Minute Athlete