An age-old problem in fitness
I was talking to a friend at a party recently (yeah, I occasionally go to parties…). He was describing his frustration at never being able to build sufficient consistency with training to feel like he’s making progress. One week he is able to get to the gym 5 times and train productively. The next week or two he can’t get there at all.
Motivation is not the problem. The problem is that because of work he frequently finds himself extremely busy in a way that he has no control over; working 80-hour weeks and getting little sleep due to stress and anxiety. I know a lot of you are in the same boat. I used to work in investment banking. So I know that boat all too well myself…
I want to offer a solution of sorts. I am not here to tell you that you need to suck it up and make the time and to stop being a pussy and man the fuck up. I understand how irritating and ironic that sounds coming from someone who works in a gym and has their whole life dictated by training. I remember what it’s like to simply have no time and for that to be, at least temporarily, out of your control. If you commonly find yourself too busy to take care of your health then I would certainly suggest that you need to look at your lifestyle and decide what is really important to you and whether you need to make significant changes to re-prioritise. In the short-term, however, I want to help you get fit within your existing context.
The 5-12 Solution
My idea is cannibalised from a couple of sources: Max Shank’s #5MinuteFlow and Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Body. The system is based on two exceptionally simple predicates. If you are too busy to even contemplate going to the gym then just abide by the following two prescriptions:
1. Move for 5 minutes
2. Raise your heart rate for 12 minutes
If you can do that, then you will have done enough to minimally maintain your health and fitness. You don’t need a gym, you may not even need to leave the office or your home. The point of this is to avoid continually going through 2 steps forward followed by 1 step backward. If you can move for 5 minutes and raise your heart rate for 12, you will be stepping sideways rather than backwards so that when you get back to the gym you have not regressed. Over time, this will make an ENORMOUS difference to your health and fitness. When you are busy beyond remedy, maintain your fitness so you can sustain your progress.
How to implement the 5-12 solution
Let’s break it down a bit. The 5 minute flow is aimed at maintaining your mobility, protecting joint health and increasing blood flow; all critically important when you have a sedentary lifestyle. Here we are thinking of simple yoga flow patterns and even simpler joint mobilisations. The idea is to move; not to hold any particular position for too long. If you are strapped for ideas, keep your eyes peeled for instructional videos I will be posting soon! In the meantime, think super simple, and move slow: neck movements, shoulder circles, arm circles, wrist circles, unweighted Jefferson curls, sun salutation type combinations, downward dogs, slow squats, lunges etc. Just set your timer for 5 minutes and go until you are told to stop! This is the beauty of it. No necessary structure. No sets and reps. Just movement.
The 12 minute piece is aimed at protecting your cardiovascular health, fitness and keeping your metabolism ticking over too. This could be as simple as throwing on your trainers and going for a moderately paced run. We aren’t trying to break records here. We are just trying to raise the heart rate a little (think 75%-85% of MHR if you know it). If you can do both the 5 minute flow and the 12 minute steamer, that is ideal. Do a 5 minute flow and then straight into 12 minutes of heart rate work. If you are crazy, crazy busy then either extend the flow to 10 minutes or just hit the 12 minute heart rate piece on its own. Here are some specific ideas for the 12 minute piece and stay tuned for some guided videos in the pipeline:
– AMRAP: 10 push ups / 20 v-ups / 30 squats (at a moderate pace!)
– EMOM (every minute on the minute): 10 burpees (or choose an appropriate number for your ability)
– Run: start at a slow jog and slightly increase pace every 400m. Aim to make the last 3 rounds a hard run
– Warrior yoga flow (for example: down dog to push up plank to push up to toe touch to lunge etc.)
– Minute 1: 1 burpee + 1 jumping squat. Minute 2: 2 burpees + 2 jumping squats … Minute 12: 12 burpees + 12 jumping squats (video of this workout up shortly!)
Do what you can: the moral of the story
The real moral of the story is that something is always orders of magnitude better than nothing. Whatever you can manage, do it. If you had planned to go to the gym and have a huge training session of barbell work and conditioning and then find yourself backed up against a wall of work, don’t be discouraged to the point of doing nothing. Move for 5 minutes and raise your hear rate for 12. Failing that, do a 10 minute flow. Failing that, do a 5 minute flow. DO SOMETHING. Anything really. This applies to so many areas of human endeavour. We want to do it all or sack the whole thing off. Don’t be a victim of this black or white mentality. Work in the grey areas, be flexible in the margins, do what can be done and you will be shocked at how much you can achieve.
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