I Don’t Have Time To Workout!

We’ve all been there.  Most of the time I’m there.  I spend my days taking other people through workouts, and whatever energy I have left goes into chasing my kids around.  To solve this time/energy problem, I have been selecting a few intense exercises and doing them in short bursts.

Before Anne and I had children, we did 10 mile runs every Saturday and I’d spend 6 to 9 hours per week doing some sort of martial arts training.  That’s just not realistic anymore.  Plus, I hate running.

I am always trying to maintain balance in my body.  I spent a lot of years getting injured due to the fact that I would hyperfocus on one thing at a time.  That worked for a while in my 20s, but eventually the repetitive stress can start to add up.  Distance runners and powerlifters usually have some sort of chronic pain issue.  It’s a trade-off.  To win, you have to focus.  Elite athletes know what they’re getting into.

I can’t afford to be injured anymore.  My little boys expect me to carry them when they’re too tired to walk, and I won’t be able to demonstrate proper pushups if I have a torn rotator cuff.  I also don’t have as much tolerance for discomfort as I once did.

If you are also the type of person who feels obligated to train every system, but can’t seem to find enough opportunity, give this a try for a few months:

*It goes without saying that if you are new to exercise, get checked by a doctor, have someone show you proper technique, and WARM UP!!

1X PER WEEK — DEADLIFTS.  Ramping up to a heavy set of 5 reps.  (Around 30 minutes)

2X PER WEEK — BURPEES (with pushups and jumps).  You’ll know when you’re done.  In sets or all at once. (10 or so minutes)

2X PER WEEK — MONKEY BAR HANG.  Until your hands won’t close anymore. Do pull-ups if you’re strong enough.  (10 or so minutes)

2X PER WEEK — STRETCH AND FOAM ROLL THE LEAST MOBILE PART OF YOUR BODY.  I mean dedicated stretching.  Focus on that one area.  (15 to 20 minutes)

That’s it.

There are always going to be naysayers.  “You’ll never finish an ultramarathon with that workout.”  “Yeah, but what can you bench brah?”  “That’s not enough volume to separate all 36 deltoid heads…brah.”

Let me just get out in front of that in this closing.  This is not a bodybulding, powerlifting, or endurance sport routine.  If you’re worried about your delt head separation, then you probably also get 8 hours of sleep, go to things like Happy Hour, and aren’t concerned about running out of diapers.

Deadlifts build maximal strength throughout the entire body.  Every muscle.  I used to think that the chest is neglected here, but anytime I go heavy, one of my pecs will usually spasm.

Burpees will improve endurance, power, speed, and agility, along with working every muscle. (Tell me which ones aren’t burning after a hard round of burpees)

Monkey bar hangs will improve grip and upper body strength, along with shoulder and back mobility.  Working in pullups will only improve upon that.

Dedicated mobility work in a troublesome spot is pretty self-explanatory.

If you decide to give this a go, I’d love to hear about your results.

 

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A Hotel Room Workout For Travelers

When I traveled for work, not every hotel was equipped with a gym.  Occasionally I would take a jog to explore the surroundings, but I’m a “strength first” type of guy.  Often I had to use whatever was available in my hotel room, which typically wasn’t much.  I like to keep things simple with 5 basic movements that can be progressed or regressed dependent upon ability. Usually I would do it as a circuit, but it can be done however you like.  These 5 movements will hit every major muscle group, and they still make up the bulk of my training today.

The exercises are listed in order from easiest to hardest.  I like to keep repetitions between 8 and 12 with a slow, 2 and 2 pace.  3 to 5 sets per movement.  You can mix up the exercises as you like.  If you’re not sure what an exercise is, a quick search will provide instruction.

HIP HINGE:  Hip Bridge, Straight Leg Hip Bridge, Single Leg Hip Bridge, Straight Single Leg Hip Bridge

SQUAT:  Bodyweight Squat, Lunge, Bulgarian Split Squat, Pistol Squat

PUSH:  Pushup on Knees, Pushup, 1 arm Pushup on Knees, 1 arm Pushup

PULL:  Generally you’re limited to the One Arm Dumbbell Row.  I would either use a heavy piece of luggage instead of a dumbbell, or fill a bag with full water bottles.  Use the bed as a bench.

ABS (For Time):  Plank on Knees, Plank on Hands, Plank on Elbows, Side Plank

There are thousands of exercises to choose from in each of the 5 categories, but all of these have served me well over the years, and anyone can learn to do most of them.  Especially when space, equipment, and time are limited.

A Simple Exercise Approach If You’re Over 40.

These days it takes me a little longer to get up off of the floor.  When I attempt to sprint, I curse the practical joker who put concrete in my shoes.  My shoulders are beginning to feel like my knees, and my knees feel like a migraine.  At 42, I’m not an old man, but my body is approaching middle age with an ego that still thinks college dorm life is a real possibility.

I have done a lot to my body over the years.  There was a time when I didn’t notice any real consequences from the abuse.  I assumed that I had dodged all of the bullets.  Turns out that the ramifications of that abuse wake up all at the same time, sometime after 40.  Disc compression from high school football.  Worn out knees from distance running.  Dodgy shoulders from kickboxing.  Several years of drug and alcohol dependency.  I don’t regret any of it.  Even the substance abuse.  While I am not proud of that particular decade, I learned a lot of priceless lessons while fighting for sobriety that I may not have learned otherwise.  When my clock runs out, the “bucket list” won’t be very long.

Even into my mid-30s, I wanted to be as strong, fast, and powerful as my genetic limits would allow.  I pushed, and pushed, and pushed.  But it’s harder to recover from that kind of training now.  At this age, living as healthfully as possible, I’m still not faster than the chain-smoking 23 year old me.  My goals had to change.  I’ll never be a professional fighter.  I’ve injured myself twice while training for powerlifting competitions.  My knees won’t allow running on pavement anymore.  Most of my goals were about serving me anyway.  I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with that, at least in terms of athletic endeavors.  Competition can be healthy, particularly if you’re competing with yourself.

Something changed after I became a parent.  Anne and I got started late.  Parker is 5 and Max is 2.  This peculiar sense of mortality and danger emerged in a way that hadn’t existed 20 years ago.  I jumped out of small airplanes a few times.  Now I won’t get in one.  I’m more cautious when I climb ladders.  I am continually on the lookout for sharp objects.  Everything shifted from a focus on competition, to a focus on surviving an emergency.  I don’t obsess about every possible danger in life, lest I become agoraphobic.  But there is an awareness about things that simply weren’t on my radar before.  Am I fast enough to push one of my kids out of the way of a speeding car?  Am I strong enough to lift a store display rack that falls on one of them?  Can I catch and overpower a kidnapper?  Can my ribs withstand a flying elbow from a 5 year old who attacks me while I’m napping on the floor?

Thankfully, at this point in my life, I can safely answer yes to those hypothetical situations.  But I don’t want to take it for granted.  I also can’t afford to train like a Navy SEAL to single-handedly stop a Red Dawn (aging myself) that only hits our house.  There has to be a realistic balance somewhere.  Most possibilities in life exist on a spectrum:

Church Softball <—> The Olympics

A cold <——> Ebola

Ronald McDonald <——> It

It is impossible to prepare for every emergency.  But people often lose their lives in emergency situations because they simply aren’t fit enough to remove themselves from the danger:

*Unable to break a window in a submerged car.

*Loss of balance while standing on a roof.

*Unable to move out from under a heavy object.

*Unable to climb to avoid danger on a lower level (flooding, dogs, Ronald McDonald)

So what kind of fitness should we seek to maintain in order to survive emergencies that primarily require fitness as a survival tool?  This is not an exhaustive list, and while these are bare minimums, it is a good place to start.  If you can achieve any of these standards without much effort, but struggle on others, then spend time on the most difficult movements:

— At least 1 solid chest to floor pushup with a perfectly planked body.  1 perfect pushup is a lot more challenging than 10 sloppy ones.  (A 50 lb box has fallen down the attic ladder and you will suffocate if you can’t push it off of you, or squirm your way out from under it).

— At least 1 kipping pull-up.  It is very challenging for most women over 40 to do one strict form pull-up.  But I’m talking about being able to climb over a fence or wall, in which you’ll be using your feet and legs to assist you.  You gotta get over that wall by any means necessary.  It doesn’t matter how pretty it looks.

— At least 1 partial range dip.  You’ve pulled yourself to the top of that wall, now what?

— A smooth, balanced Turkish get-up on each side of the body using only your bodyweight.  If a bookshelf falls on top of you, getting out from under it by maneuvering away from it is a lot easier than trying to bench press it.  The get-up is a great way to learn to coordinate the entire body.

— At least 30 bodyweight squats, a little above parallel is fine.  Your legs should always be stronger than your arms.  If not, you will eventually have a problem.

— Drag yourself across the floor 15 feet using only your elbows.  You fell and broke your hip.  Nobody can hear you.  The phone is in the other room.  Incidentally, if you’re over 65, store your phone where you could reach it from the floor.

— Deadlift 45 lbs with perfect form.  This is not a heavy deadlift, and it is unlikely that you’ll have to deadlift your way out of an emergency, though you might have to one day lift something off of someone else.  However, perfecting deadlift technique by practicing with a light to moderate weight will help prevent future emergencies (throwing out your back while doing yard work).

— Walk for 2 hours.  Your car broke down in the middle of nowhere.  There’s no signal and you haven’t seen a car since morning.

There are an infinite number of physical standards that you can apply to any potential emergency.  Soldiers, firefighters, and police officers obviously have to maintain a more rigorous set of standards.  But this list will give you a fighting chance if you’re surprised by something in your day to day life.  When was the last time you tried a pushup?  Feel free to add to the list.