I made the verbal commitment to join my friends for a Spartan race. I did not immediately purchase my ticket or start training with my team. Instead, I started testing the waters. My work and family schedule were pretty full, making a traditional training schedule feel out of reach.
So how did I increase my training to be more prepared for the race? Enter the mini workout!
We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to fitness. What if we can't carve out time to get that hour-long perfect workout in? Or we can only go to a Pilates or Yoga session maybe once a week? These hurdles can rob us of momentum. If we can commit to trying to work in little bits of safe exercise – and realize that some is way better than none – we can start turning things around.
I really believe that 5 to 10 minutes of training inserted more and more frequently in a day can make a real difference. This is the approach I adopted before I started formally training.
In the mornings: how about a couple minute joint mobility drills so that I am warmed up enough for a set of 20 push ups and 20 squats? If I wake up before everyone else, how about 2 sets? Boom, in less than 10 minutes I get a safe warm up with upper and lower body work and some core built in.
While standing at the espresso machine or making kids breakfast, why not some calf raises?
I am lucky to be able to walk a 3/4 mile with Finn to his school in the morning. How about a run back?
When I am in a building with more than one story, I take the stairs. When going to the grocery store, I park far away and jog through the parking lot. I am always sneaking in little warm up drills so that I can be ready to take them uptempo.
Spending the evening with my kids? It's a perfect time for lots of uptempo piggy back rides! Or I play with them on the jungle gyms at the playground.
I have a pull up bar at my house and rings at the studio - pull up and chin up time! Since it had been a minute since I had trained like this, I did not try to max out every time. Instead, I did about half my rep max, but I tried to do it a lot so the repetition helped me build strength and endurance.
I started dressing a little differently: ankle weights, sometimes wrist weights, sometimes a light weight vest. I was strategic. Instead of jumping into heavy duty exercise with the extra weight, I would just wear some weight during daily activities. Shorter times at first to assess how it felt, and then longer duration.
Next, I started using the added weight when I do my push ups, squats and pull ups. I stayed far below max repetitions but gradually increased the count.
I started to rope in my friends and coworkers for squats and push ups on Mondays. We encouraged each other to step it up more. They became my accountability buddies! Anytime I asked someone to do a set, I was ready to join them!
I also started working on kettlebell strength and endurance a few days a week. These included deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, squats, lunges and overhead presses. I steadily put more and more emphasis on the unilateral work for the lower body, building up more intrinsic core stability.
In my upper body exercises I began to use more challenging grip variations, building up grip strength and working the shoulder girdle a little more precisely and intelligently. It is not just about going heavy!
And you know what they say… 'It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing' ! The kettlebell swing is great for explosive power and cardio.
Once I had my basic strength and conditioning habits set up, I added in a few more short sessions of Redcord suspension exercises and Bosu balance work to really give my nervous system a lot of proprioceptive input. These exercises recruit more muscle fibers more effectively. They prime the body for kettlebell strength and endurance work while I worked with clients throughout the day.
I also got back into doing a quick Pilates reformer workout 2 or 3 times a week. The integrated core work was a nice counterpoint to the heavier kettlebell work. Here I could decompress the spine, work lactic acid out of sore muscles, and keep my joints a little more mobile.
In addition to these bits of strength and mobility training, I started working out more with the cardio ropes. I love how they get the whole body moving and the heart rate up!
As I integrated all of these tools from across the studio, I still was not doing much running. I continued to jog the 3/4 mile home from school drop off. I was going faster, but I occasionally noticed twinges in the left knee and other small aches and pain. This made me ask myself, “Am I really ready to up the intensity of this race?”
Rather than getting discouraged or overwhelmed, I decided it was time to stop guessing and start testing. So I scheduled a body scan and an Activcore Wellness Physical!
Stay tuned for more to come.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.