It’s January and, if you’re like most people you’re all raring to go with your fitness regime right now – well until you get there and aren’t quite sure what to do or find it all a bit dull.
If only someone who also gets bored witless at the gym had written an entire e-book on mini workouts that make your trip to the gym – or even your walk or run outside – more fun!!!
Thankfully I have!!! And because I’m feeling in a generous mood today I’ve picked eight of my fave workouts from the book Gymspiration so you can give them a try.
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They work for cardio-based gym workouts like cycling, running, walking or rowing. Or, outside if you’re walking or running. I don’t recommend them when cycling outside as I’d rather you were focused on what’s going on around you.
So, here goes…
1. Feeling Competitive: Cooper It
This is simple. After a 10-minute warm-up just run, cycle, cross train or walk as hard and fast as you can for 12 minutes and note down how far you went. Then cool down.
Next time you exercise, or in a week, or a month, just aim to beat the distance.
Why 12 minutes? Because it’s based on a test called the Cooper VO2 max test that measures fitness. If you use a treadmill to do the test (rather than use it simply as a goal to beat with any other type of exercise) you can use also it judge fitness.
As a quick guide, a woman aged 30 to 39 who can run over 2km (1.21 miles) in 12 minutes – or a man the same age who covers more than 2.3km (1.39 miles) has above average fitness.
If 12 minutes isn’t enough for you, you might want to try this 5k Treadmill Test which is similar – but longer.
2. Easy to Remember: Dry Tri
This sees you creating your own triathlon in the gym or outside. Simply do the following –
Row or swim for 1.5km (0.9 miles) – or 10 minutes
Bike for 6km (3.63 miles) – or 10 minutes
Run/walk for 3km (1.82 miles) – or 20 minutes
Aim for the best result you can. Note how long it takes and beat it next time.
3. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it: Gym Stalk
Before you go into the gym, decide on a common physical feature that a few of your fellow exercisers might possess –ie people with blonde hair, anyone wearing leggings rather than shorts, those wearing blue.
When you get there, pick one person with that characteristic and for five to 10 minutes – or three sets on the weights machine – do whatever they are doing – obviously adapting the intensity or weight to your own personal fitness or strength.
When the time is up, pick another person with the same characteristic and join them on their machine. Of course, only try this if you know how all the machines work. If you don’t, ask a trainer how to use them for next time.
4. Boost your fitness: Negative Splits
You can do this running or walking outside, on any machine at the gym and even in the pool. You simply divide your workout in half – by time, distance or laps – and try to complete the second half faster than the first. It doesn’t matter how much faster; even two seconds counts.
Obviously, though every time you train in this way you should aim to increase the difference between your two halves.
If you’ve never heard the phrase negative splits before, you might want to check out our runners dictionary which explains it, and some other common running terms.
5. Simple, but effective: Reverse Your Route
If you run, walk or cycle outside, just altering the environment around you can make it feel like a totally different workout – and this is the easiest way to ever to do it.
You exercise along your normal route but in reverse. It’s so simple, but you’ll find hills that you didn’t realise were there, spot things en route you’ve never noticed before and if there are parts of your route that you’ve developed a mental block about (that little hill five minutes from home that you always walk up, for example) this removes them.
6. For tired days: Chi Walk
Some days you don’t want to exercise but know you’ll feel better if you do. Walking is a great workout to do on these days – and this walking plan uses Traditional Chinese Medicine theory to energise you even further while you do.
One of the theories as to why we get tired is that our internal chi – or energy – is blocked. The idea of this walk, therefore, is not just to walk at a pace that raises your energy in the Westernised way but to use breathing and visualisation to unblock your internal energy as well.
First, practise some energising breathing. As you inhale, expand your lungs from the bottom so it feels as if your belly is filling with air; move it up and expand your chest. Now, exhale through your mouth and push your navel toward your spine to expel as much air from your lungs as possible.
Once you’ve practised that for two to three minutes, start walking at a moderate pace for five minutes while trying to focus on correct breathing.
Now add some visualisation. With each breath in imagine a white light of energy spreading its way through your whole body invigorating you. As you exhale see the light fading but not extinguishing completely. As you inhale again watch that light’s glow build so it’s even brighter than before and again, feel it invigorating you. Do this for two to three minutes.
Continue the rest of the walk at a brisk pace trying to keep that energy breath going. If you want, you can also complete the visualisation again for the last three minutes of your session.
If you like this, you might also like the idea of a Gratitude Walk where you walk while finding things to be thankful for. See more about that one here.
7. Super Effective: The Butt Buster
This is a great workout to do on the exercise bike – it makes the time fly but has an added figure-shaping bonus. It was invented by a team in Australia as a way to help improve fitness for those hard-pressed for time. But in an interesting side effect women doing them saw a dramatic drop in the fat levels of their hips and thighs.
Warm up for five minutes
Do eight seconds of hard, fast cycling, then recover cycling slowly for 12 seconds. Repeat for 20 minutes.
Cool down for five minutes.
8. At home: Try The Playing Card Plan
Working out at home is a great way to save money, but for an effective workout you need a plan
Get yourself a pack of playing cards – but remove all the cards numbered 1-5 and the picture cards. Now assign each suit an exercise – so, for example, it might be
Diamonds – Press-ups
Spades – Squats
Clubs – Crunches
Hearts – Star Jumps
Shuffle the cards and then pull one out – the suit determines the move you do and the number on the card determines how many reps you do it for. Keep shuffling until you’ve done 30 minutes of toning.
If you like the workouts in this post, there are 44 more such ideas in my e-book Gymspiration. Click here to go to its page on amazon and buy it for Kindle.
What to Read Next
If you’re working out at home, you’ll also find some other ideas on ways to liven up your home workout in this post.
Or, if you want to try a Pilates workout at home, that mimics the same moves you’d do on a reformer in a studio, have a look at this post.
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.