Most people spend way too many hours in the gym… some even spend more than an hour in the gym each day! I used to be one of them. I thought I would turn into a flabby mess if I didn’t work out for at least an hour most days of the week. When my life got too busy for my hour-long gym sessions, I searched high and low for a solution… and I found one! I’m here to tell you that you can reclaim your time and still look and feel great.
Here’s what I learned: high-intensity interval training burns more fat in less time. In fact, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity, women who worked out at a steady pace for 40 minutes three times each week gained one pound and 10.5 percent more belly fat over 15 weeks, while those who did 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training three times each week lost 5.5 pounds and lost 9.5 percent of their belly fat over the same time period. According to the article “Fatigue Facts: 5 Things That Make You Tired” by Eliana Osborn, “While working out zaps the stress hormone cortisol, prolonged sweat sessions—like, for example, regularly running for more than 30 minutes at a steady rate—can actually rev cortisol production. Interval training (bursts of intense activity) combined with strength training (free-weight and body-weight moves) helps keep cortisol in check.”
So how does high-intensity interval training work? Start by exercising as hard as possible for 30 seconds, then do something easier for the next 30 seconds. For example, do jumping jacks for 30 seconds, then do crunches for the next 30 seconds. Repeat five times, and then pick two new exercises (push-ups, squats, mountain climbers, and lunges are all good choices) and repeat those five times. As you progress, you can do 60 to 90 seconds of tough exercises followed by 30 seconds of something easier. Here are a few sample workouts:
Beginner Workout (15 minutes total):
- 30 seconds of jumping jacks (Do them as fast as you can; you should be out of breath by the 30-second mark.)
- 30 seconds of marching in place
- Repeat jumping jacks and marching in place four more times.
- 30 seconds of push-ups on your knees
- 30 seconds of stretching (Do whatever feels good to you.)
- Repeat push-ups and stretching four more times.
- 30 seconds of running in place (Again, go fast!)
- 30 seconds of crunches
- Repeat running and crunches four more times.
Advanced Workout (20 minutes total):
- 30 seconds of burpees (Put your hands on the ground. Jump your feet out so you’re in a high plank position. Jump your feet back in towards your hands. Then jump up and reach for the ceiling. That’s one rep. Aim for 10 in 30 seconds.)
- 30-second plank (You can do this on your hands or forearms. Either way, keep your abs tight.)
- 30 seconds calf raises (Stand up and raise and lower your heels. This is your chance to catch your breath, so go slowly.)
- Repeat burpees, planks, and calf raises four more times.
- 30 seconds of mountain climbers (Start in a high plank position with your hands and toes on the ground and your back straight. Bring one knee towards your chest, then return that foot to the floor and raise the other knee toward your chest; continue, alternating legs. You should be moving fast. It should feel similar to a running motion.)
- 30 seconds triceps dips (Sit on the floor with your fingers pointing towards your feet. With your elbows pointing directly behind you, lift and lower your butt to bend and straighten your arms. You can make this harder by lifting one leg and then the other.)
- 30 seconds jump lunges (Get in a lunge position. Jump and switch legs, so your front leg is now in the back and your back leg is now in the front. Continue, alternating legs.)
- 30 seconds squats (Stand up and bend your knees as though you’re getting ready to sit in a chair. Lift and lower your butt, making sure your knees don’t go past your toes.)
- Repeat mountain climbers, triceps dips, jump lunges, and squats four more times.
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