As a writer/personal trainer/nutritionist/business owner, sometimes I have days where I simply have no time to make it to the gym. Okay, I OFTEN have days where I simply have no time to make it to the gym. Luckily, I can fall back on a “5 minute workout,” which is simple, fast, exhausting and effective. I have many clients who have high-stress lives, such as doctors, and they love these workouts as well. There are a few key steps which are integral to pulling these off effectively.
Make Sure They’re For You
I have had many clients, especially older ones or previously injured ones, who simply aren’t meant to be performing this type of workout. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and there are slower paced, less impactful workouts that are also effective. This type of workout is for those who are typically younger, those who are traveling, and/or have lots of stress to relieve. They are not for someone who has a bad hip, high blood pressure, or hasn’t worked out vigorously in years.
Again, this isn’t a knock on anyone, it is simply a safety tip and of course, there are exceptions to this rule. I had one client who was 50 years old and by standard measure shouldn’t have been within one mile of this kind of workout. However, he tried it out, and I had him go slow, and he actually did amazingly. However, he is the exception to the rule.
Once you decide this type of activity is right for you, it is paramount to remember your goal, which for this workout is keeping your heart rate elevated the entire time. There won’t be any breaks, so drink a bunch of water ahead of time and make sure you’ve eaten something. Stretch for at least 4-5 minutes, and make sure you are mentally prepared for this. If you’ve never done this before, I want you to take it easy this first time.
Even if you are just walking, by the end of the 5 minutes, that is still success. The goal is to never stop moving. If you have trouble with this, think of all those hours you sit at your desk. Think of all those cookies you ate, that maybe you shouldn’t have. Think of those extra alcoholic beverages you had. Think of all the unhealthy things you’ve been up to. Usually, this is a longer list than we’d like to admit.
For those who are more experienced with this type of thing, the 5 minutes will go by far too quickly. This means that you need to go as hard as you can for the full length of time.
Often times, inexperience or fear of doing something “wrong” stops people from doing workouts. While there are certainly ways to get injured, you shouldn’t let fear stop you from doing anything! We are going to be looking at mostly bodyweight exercises here, simple activities like push ups, jumping jacks, pull ups, air squats, chin ups, and jumping rope. All are our friends here!
You can also do shuttle runs, if you have the space. Squat jumps are another great activity. The key here is to not do any type of activity that will be too complex when quickly repeated many times. Form has to be perfect, even when tired. A standard 5 minute workout would look like…
Jumping Jacks (50)
Push Ups (As Many As Possible)
Air Squats (50)
Chin Ups (As Many As Possible)
Jump Rope (50 Jumps)
You would repeat this as many times as you can within 5 minutes. It’s not terribly fun, at least not until you get that massive rush of beta-endorphins! But once you get in the swing of doing these regularly, they become easier and easier, better and better! Another good exercise to throw in is mountain climbers. Here’s a helpful instructional video for them.
I like to throw these in at the end of the 5 minutes as a test of mental toughness. If you have a digital stopwatch on your phone, all you need to do one of these workouts is a good attitude and yourself! When traveling in Atlanta, a partner and I ran up the steps of the hotel, back and forth, for 5 minutes. These workouts are simpler than you think. They don’t need to be terribly complex.
Always Travel With A Jump Rope
One time, I was driving cross-country. As far as banality goes, seeing the same (or what looks like the same) highway, hour after hour, day after day, was probably one of the most monotonous experiences of my life. Every night my girlfriend and I would check into the same hotel chain (we had a deal) and order close to the same meal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so stir crazy in my life! However, her father gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. He told me to always travel with a jump rope. I don’t know exactly why this resonated with me, or why I remember it so distinctly, but I never forgot the advice. I made sure to stop at a sporting goods store before we left, and bought a very inexpensive jump rope (I believe it was less than $5).
So how does this tie in with the 5 minute workout? Well, every night, my workout consisted of:
Jump Rope (50 Jumps)
Push Ups (50)
…and that was it. Repeating that for 5 minutes is highly unpleasant, but it gets the job done, and your adrenaline pumping. The relationship didn’t work out (that was part of why the trip was so bad), but I will never forget the valuable life advice I received. All you need to stay in shape is a jump rope. Truly.
Don’t Overdo It
Another valuable tip I learned on that fateful trip was to not push yourself too far. Being young, naïve, and thinking I was unbreakable, I went too hard one night. I didn’t feel too bad about it, until I had to sit down in the car for 8 hours, the next day. Not only did my hip flexors become extremely tight, but I don’t think I wanted to be alive. I was so sore, I thought I had done serious damage. If performing these workouts, it is important to take days off, in between, if you don’t have the capacity to do them every day. No more than 5 days per week, of heavy activity, and when in doubt – walk.
Realize The Limits
If you are looking to run a marathon, these short workouts are not going to be enough to help you reach your goal. You need to do other activities. If you want to become a bodybuilder, you are going to need to do other activity. These workouts are not meant as a cure-all, but instead as a “better than nothing” and as somewhat of a “break” from the monotonous, daily grind of life, which can become very stressful.
I hope I’ve conveyed just how effective, simple and great workouts like this can be! It is vital to stay healthy and even one of these short little workouts is better than nothing! Do not overlook the importance of stretching, as this is important before any type of exercise. If just starting out, remember to take it slow, and not to go too hard. If you can get a partner, workouts like this can be even more fun. Staying in shape doesn’t have to be tortue! Check out this great 5 minute workout:
It is important, if looking to stay healthy for a lifetime, not to obsess about the little details. It’s great to think about individual muscles, specific moves, etc. But it is all too easy to fall into the obsessive category. That’s part of why these simple little workouts can keep you healthy for a lifetime. They can be done anywhere, anytime, and require almost nothing. They are too high intensity to allow for any distracting thoughts, and let you get out all the destructive, negative stress that you may have built up.
(Related: How to Exercise Like a Caveman)
How did I do? Did you learn anything new? Are you ready to tackle one of these workouts? Let me know in the comments!