Only got 20 minutes? try sprinting intervals

Even if you only have 20 minutes to spare, you can still get a kick ass workout in. The trick is to take the time to make it happen. For me, the go-to short workout is intervals of walking and sprinting.

There are many ways to go about doing this, but the basics are always the same. You need a lightweight, portable interval timer like the Gymboss. You need a minute or two to get dressed at the outset, and you need a few minutes to recover afterward. Things like GPS-based distance and speed apps on your smartphone are optional (though I do prefer to do mine with such tech on board, and I use Strava).

The workout I did today can be an example. I had only 20 minutes, so I set my timer to four rounds of a double interval of 3:30 and 1:30. That would total 4 x 5 min rounds, or 20 minutes. I set everything in motion, started walking, and hit the timer. I walked for three and a half minutes, which adequately warmed me up. Then the timer went off. At that point, I ran as hard as I could, utilizing all I know (which is, I admit, very little) about proper running form: staying forward on the balls of my feet, lifting my knees, leaning forward, striding out, and working my arms. When the seemingly endless span of ninety seconds was done, I returned to walking.

After the second round, I turned back towards home, so that I could minimize the final walk back to my door. The third and fourth rounds brought me close to home (I took a slightly different route out and back).

The end result was that I did a total of six minutes of sprinting and fourteen minutes of walking. I got my heart rate up and it stayed there. And my entire workout of the day was over in only about twenty two minutes (I had to walk back about 1/8 a mile to my door). Six total minutes of full intensity work is a great basis for so-called “metabolic conditioning.” Nothing to be sorry about there!

I have to remind myself to invest in my fitness. So I’m sharing this reminder with you too. It’s good to remind yourself that even if you only have twenty minutes, you have enough time to improve your fitness.

My Gymboss

This is going to sound like an ad, and, I guess it is. My post is not an authorized ad, and the company isn’t paying me. That being said, the image to the left is a real clickable ad. In fact, if you click and then purchase, I get some ridiculously small cut from Amazon for showing you the picture and giving you the link.

Which sounds good to me.

So that’s my full ethical disclosure, made necessary because I really want you to believe me when I tell you that I love my Gymboss.

Why a Gymboss? Does this need to be said? It does for me. Interval timing is very useful in training. I need to remind myself. When I forget my Gymboss at home, my time in the gym is usually less productive.

In the weight room an interval timer allows you more safely to combine substantial weight, higher volume, and shorter time. An interval timer allows you to predetermine rounds, rest between rounds, and fit your workout into the amount of time you have available. For this reason, it is useful for doing all kinds of work. It can do conditioning work from EMOMs to Tabata. On the road it allows you to perform fartleks or walk/sprint intervals with ease. It can even be used for timing rounds between low volume heavy lifting with long rest periods. If you have a good interval timer, it’s like having a coach, no, a boss, a Gym Boss with you.

So, the bottom line is, I try to make this small, lightweight, reliable, cute and functional box, the Gymboss, my constant companion whether I’m out on the road or in the weightroom. It’s not much to look at. It doesn’t have a whole lot of different fancy capabilities. It’s just an interval timer. It’s humble. It’s good at what it does.

Here are some examples. They are just a couple of ideas that I use.

Walk/Sprint Conditioning: I set the Gymboss to double intervals, 4:30 long and 0:30 short, set it to count down six rounds. Then I go walking for four and a half minutes, and sprinting for thirty seconds, six rounds, and it takes exactly 30 minutes to complete the workout.

Hinge and Squat Conditioning: do conditioning with a single kettlebell. Set the rounds to whatever, 12 or 6, the interval to 1:00, and alternate 25 swings and 15 goblet squats; finish your set in under a minute, and rest some before the next set.

Pull and Push: as an example use of the Gymboss for strength you can set the timer for 6 rounds of 4 min, and then alternate bench presses and pull-ups.

And if you can’t figure out how to do get-ups or loaded carries with the timer, I probably can’t help you.

Have fun with it.

Currently Reading: “Fat Loss Happens on Monday”

It was Saturday morning (this past Saturday), and I was feeling… tired, out of shape, unmotivated, sad, sore, and pissed off.

I was standing around in my underwear, looking very unsvelte, or even swelled, and drinking my coffee, while talking about my issues with my ever loving and supportive spouse. My habits were out of whack. I’d let the training slide. My conditioning was shot. I’d let the diet slide too, and was getting soft. I’d been prioritizing work work work above everything. Losing sleep to prep classes and grade papers. Working seven days a week. Heck, why am I writing this in the past tense? This was only two days ago.

I know that habit is key. I know this. I know it in part because I see the way I have over the course of my life constantly bounced back and forth between mutually exclusive habitudes, or patterned habitual ways of living. I’ll establish a good habit for a while… months, years even, and then let something shift and boom, habits replace habits. And I was thinking a lot about habit here, early, on Saturday morning. The question I was asking myself was, how can I shift my habits back into a better pattern, making room for diet and exercise. My wife was asking me the same question. And then I logged into facebook. Because, you know, habit.

What met me there was a classic example of “synchronicity,” that became a moment of serendipity for me. I saw a post from my “friend,” coach Dan John. Dan John is one of America’s premier coaches of throwing sports, and a leading authority on strength and conditioning. He’s also an entertaining writer (besides following him on blogs and social media, I’ve read two of his books, Never Let Go and Intervention), and in every way a humane, gentle, completely down to earth person. I also identify with him because he teaches “religious studies” (or religious education)—though he does so in a Catholic context and I’m sure we would probably not see eye to eye theologically. But I could be wrong; he’s that kind of “real” Christian who just lets his manner of life do the talking. He never proselytizes or uses his coaching work to preach; on the other hand he might occasionally quote Gilgamesh which is all right by me.

Anyway, what was the first thing I saw on Facebook when I logged in? This:

Obviously I was “meant” (by whom, I will not say… but let’s say I have more akin with the paranoid type that could conceive of Facebook snooping on us than I have with the person who belives in divine providence) to see this book at this moment. I bought a copy. And I’m currently reading it.

I started reading it that very day, after my Saturday workout. (The first such Saturday workout in months.) The book almost instantly provided a framework that answered my current needs. A lot of what Dan John does in this book is already done in his other work, especially his recent book Intervention. I didn’t expect a revolution there. But the framework developed by Josh Hillis, for a habit-centered approach to changing one’s relationship to food and exercise, that is something I can live with.

This isn’t meant as a detailed review. I’ll mention that I’ve started to implement the “mindfulness” strategy for bringing Hillis’ eleven habits into play. This involves keeping a hand-written food journal (habit #4), eating to only 80% fullness (habit #8), eating slowly—at least 15 minutes per meal— (habit #7), and practicing gratitude for what works in one’s body (habit #11). After that you add in the other habits. Anyway, it seems like a cool book. I’m about 30% of the way through it.

I’ll be happy to share more about this below, in the comments, if you’re interested, and I’ll undoubtedly post more about this stuff in the near future. And I’ll dedicate a post soon to Dan John’s Intervention, writing a personal review of it, and explaining how it has begun to influence my thinking about how I want to train.

Cycle 3 first week, March 4-8

Workout 2013.03.04 Monday

5/3/1 — 3.I.A (Press)

Weigh-In: 210

WARM-UP (6:20 am)
mobility
500 meter row (1:47)
mobility

PRESS (6:30)
7 x 45 lbs (<40%)
5 x 65 (~50%)
5 x 83 (65%)
5 x 96 (75%)
10 x 108 (85%) (not a PR)

PM of 144.

ASSISTANCE (6:45 am)
Boring But Big Press 5 x 10 x 77.5 (60+%)
Chin-Ups 4 x 3 & 1 x 2 x purple band assist

CONDITIONING (7:10 am)
Sprint 10 x 100 meters
Push-Ups 10 x 5
2 min intervals

Workout 2013.03.06 Wednesday

5/3/1 — 3.I.B (Deadlift)

Weigh-In: 208.5.

“How you feel is a lie.”

WARM-UP
shoulder mobility,
Jump Rope 3 x 50
KB Swings, 24 kg, 3 x 8
Lower body mobility.

DEADLIFT
5 x 125 (~40%)
5 x 170 (~52.5%)
5 x 205 (65%)
5 x 240 (~75%+)
17 x 270 (85%)

(PM of 422 )

ASSISTANCE
Boring But Big Deadlift 5 x 10 x 185 (~57.5%)

Workout 2013.03.08 Friday

5/3/1 — 1.I.C (Bench)

Weigh-In: 204.5.

“Life is for the living.”

WARM-UP
Shoulder Mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 60
Russian Box Step Ups 3 x 10 x 20″ box
Lower Body Mobility

BENCH
5 x 75 (40%)
5 x 105 (~55%)
5 x 125 (~65%)
5 x 140 (~75%)
7 x 155 (85%) (not a PR)

(PM of 191)

ASSISTANCE
Boring But Big Bench 5 x 10 x 112.5 (62.5%)
Chin-Ups 5 x 3 x purple band assist

End of 5/3/1 Cycle 2: February 25th to March 1st

Workout 2013.02.25 Monday

5/3/1 2.IV.B (Deadlift) (Deload)

Weigh-In: 212.5

“If you want to lose weight, eat less! Not less protein, fool! Less fat and carbs.”

Warm-Up
Shoulder Mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 50
KB Swing, 24 KG, 3 x 8
Lower leg mobility

Deadlift
5 x 135
5 x 170
5 x 200

Row
10 min moderate pace (2492 meters)

Assistance
Chin-Up 10 x 1 x purple band assist
Push-Up 10 x 4
DB Row 10 x 4 x Each Arm x 25 lb DB w/ FatGripz

Workout 2013.02.27 Wednesday

5/3/1 — 2.IV.C (Bench) DELOAD

Weigh-In: 209.5

Warm-Up
Shoulder Mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 50
Russian Box Step Ups 3 x 8
Lower Body Mobility

Bench
10 x 45
5 x 85 (45%+)
5 x 105 (55%+)
5 x 120 (65%+)

Assistance
Chin-Ups 5 x 2 x purple band assist
TGUs 5 x 6 (alternating arms) x 35 lb KB
(3 min intervals)

Conditioning
8 rounds: 40 meter suicides (10, 20, 30, 40) @ 90 second intervals

Workout 2013.03.01 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.IV.D (Squat) (Deload)

Weigh-In: 206.5

“Yes
Yes
Yes”

(Coming off another fast.)

Warm-Up
Shoulder mobility
KB Clean and Press 3 x 6 x each arm x 35 lb KB
Jump Rope 3 x 60

Squat Deload
10 x 45
5 x 105
5 x 130
5 x 155

Assistance
Push-Ups 5 x 8
DB Row 5 x 7 x each arm x 30 lb DB w/ FatGripz
(3 min interval)

“Just being here means everything today.”

February 18th to 22nd

Workout 2013.02.18 Monday

5/3/1 — 2.III.C (Bench)

Weigh-In: 211.0

WARM-UP
shoulder mobility
500 meter row (1:53)
lower body mobility / squat mobility

BENCH
5 x 80 (45%)
5 x 105 (60%)
5 x 135 (75%)
3 x 150 (85%)
3 x 170 (95%)

ASSISTANCE
Boring But Big Bench — 5 x 10 x 110 (62.5%)
Bent Over Row — 5 x 12 x 85

in timed supersets (10 rounds @ 90 sec)

CONDITIONING
Jump Rope 4 x 150 single unders
Goblet squats 4 x 8 x 25 lb KB
Sit ups 4 x 8

4 rounds @ 3:00 (usually about 45 sec rest)

Workout 2013.02.20 Wednesday

5/3/1 2.III.D (Squat)

Warm-Up
shoulder mobility
push-ups 3 x 8
turkish get ups w/ 24 kg KB 3 x 2 (alt arms)
lower body mobility

Squat:
5 x 45
5 x 105 (45%),
5 x 140 (60%),
5 x 175 (~75%)
3 x 200 (~85%)
8 x 225 (~95%) (PR)

PM of 285!

Boring But Big
Squat 5 x 10 x 132.5
chin-ups purple band 5 x 1

“I ain’t doin’ shit!”

Workout 2013.02.22 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.IV.A (Press) DELOAD

Weigh-In: 207.5

“If you want to lose weight, eat less!”

ASSISTANCE
(5 rounds)
Bird Dogs 5 x 20
Plank 5 x 25 seconds
Russian Box Step Ups 5 x 8
resting: at will

PRESS
5 x 55 (45%)
5 x 67 (55%)
5 x 80 (65%)

ASSISTANCE
(6 rounds @ 2 min)
Push-Ups 6 x 5
Chin-Ups 6 x 1 x purple band assist
DB Curls 6 x 5 x each arm x 20 lb FatGripz

CONDITIONING
(5 rounds @ 3 min intervals)
KB Swing 5 x 15 x 35 lb KB
Jump Rope Single Unders 5 x 150

February 11th to 15th

Workout 2013.02.11 Monday

5/3/1 — 2.II.D (SQUAT)

Weigh-In: 215.5

WARM-UP
shoulder mobility
Jump Rope 3 x 60
Push Ups 3 x 8
lower body mobility

SQUAT
5 x 45
5 x 95 (40%),
5 x 130 (55%),
3 x 165 (~70%)
3 x 190 (~80%)
10 x 210 (PR) (~90%)

(PM 275)

ASSISTANCE
Boring But Big
Squat 5 x 10 x 130 (~55%)
pull-ups 5 x 5 x green band assist
TGUs 5 x 2 x each arm x 24kg KBs

(15 x 90sec rounds)

Workout 2013.02.13 Wednesday

5/3/1 — 2.III.A (Press)

Weigh-In: 215.5 (unchanged)

“Gotta get serious about nutrition!”

WARM-UP
Mobility
500 meter row (2:08)
Mobility

PRESS
5 x 50 (~40%)
5 x 75 (~60%)
5 x 92 (75%)
3 x 104 (85%)
6 x 116 (95%)

ASSISTANCE (Boring But Big)

PRESS: 5 x 10 x 75 (~60%)
Push-Ups: 5 x 6
Bird-Dogs: 5 x 20 x alternating

15 rounds, @ 60 sec intervals

Workout 2013.02.15 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.III.B (Deadlift)

Weigh-In: 210.0.

I’ve been sick and basically fasting for 53 hours!!! Down 5.5 lbs since last weigh in. Not even sure I should work out, but, I’m a creature of habit if nothing else.

Warm Up:
shoulder mobility,
Jump Rope 3 x 50
KB Swings, 24 kg, 3 x 8
Lower body mobility.

Deadlift
5 x 155 (50%)
5 x 200 (65%)
5 x 230 (75%)
3 x 260 (85%)
5 x 290 (90%)

Not a best effort but … See above.

Assistance
Boring But Big Deadlift: 5 x 10 x 182.5 (59.8%)
Plank 5 x 30 sec

February 4th to 8th

Workout 2013.02.04 Monday

5/3/1 — 2.II.A (Press)

Weigh in 216.0 lbs

WARM-UP
Mobility
500 meter row (1:52)
Mobility

PRESS
2 x 5 x 45 (~40%)
5 x 70 (~56%)
3 x 86 (70%)
3 x 98 (80%)
11 x 110 (90%)

ASSISTANCE (Boring But Big)

PRESS: 5 x 10 x 72.5 (~57.5%)
CHIN-UPS: 5 x 5 x Green Band

CONDITIONING
Airdyne 15 minutes easy pace.

Workout 2013.02.06 Wednesday

5/3/1 2.II.B (Deadlift)

Weigh-In: 214.0

Warm Up:
shoulder mobility,
4 x 8 push-ups,
4 x 6 x each arm one armed 35lb KB clean and press.
Lower body mobility.

Deadlift
5 x 120 (40%)
5 x 170 (55%)
3 x 215 (70%)
3 x 245 (80%)
12 x 275 (90%)

(‘PM’ of 385)

Assistance
Boring But Big Deadlift: 5 x 10 x 180 (58+%)

Workout 2013.02.08 Friday

5/3/1 — 2.II.C (Bench)

Weigh-In: 212.5

Warm-Up
Shoulder Mobility
500 meter row (2:07)
followed immediately by
3 x Plank & 3 x Bird Dog (6 total sets, 30 sec on 10 sec off)
Squat Mobility

Bench Press
5 x 70 (40%)
5 x 100 (55%)
3 x 125 (~70%)
3 x 140 (80%)
5 x 160 (90%)

(BOO)

ASSISTANCE (BORING BUT BIG):
Bench 5 x 10 x 107.5 (60+%)
Bent Over Row 5 x 12 x 85
Timed Supersets, 10 total sets @ 90 sec intervals

CONDITIONING
SUICIDE FARMER’S CARRIES 11 rounds, x 45 lb DBs w/ FatGripz, various combinations of 5, 10, 15, 20 meters. Total distance 440 meters.
11 rounds @ 60 sec intervals

call me grooving maybe

5/3/1 is just starting to be fun.

The bad news is, I’m eating and gaining weight when I don’t want to be. The good news is, I’m sitting here eating one of the best home made dishes I’ve had in a while. It’s Green Pork Chili and it is awesome. I slow cooked a fine Canadian pork shoulder with white onion, canned tomatillos, and canned mild green chiles in an enameled cast iron “Dutch oven.” The bomb. And, the best part is that the whole thing took like 15 minutes to prep (though about 7 hours to cook). What a great dish to eat while recovering from this morning’s workout and while posting last week’s workouts to the blog. (It’s actually Monday, Feb. 4th but this post’ll be backdated to Saturday, the 2nd.)

Monday, Jan 28th, 2013

5/3/1 2.I.B (Deadlift)
Onward with the 2nd cycle!
Weigh-In: 213.5

WARM-UP:
shoulder mobility,
3 x 7 push-ups,
3 x 6 x each arm one armed 35lb KB clean and press.
Lower body mobility.

Deadlift
5 x 120 (40%)
5 x 170 (55%)
5 x 200 (65%)
5 x 230 (75%)
16 x 260 (85%) (PR)
(Beat goal by 1 rep; “PM” of 398.5)

Assistance
Boring But Big Deadlift: 5 x 10 x 172.5 (55+%)

Conditioning
10 rounds: 40 meter farmer’s carry w/ fat grips, 45 lb DBs @ 45 sec intervals.

Wednesday, Jan 30th, 2013

5/3/1 — 2.I.C (Bench)

Warm-Up
Shoulder Mobility
Squat Mobility
Plank & Bird Dog (6 total sets,
20 sec on 10 sec off)

Bench
15 x 45
5 x 70 (40%)
5 x 100 (55%)
5 x 120 (~65%)
5 x 135 (75%)
9 x 150 (85%)

ASSISTANCE (BORING BUT BIG):
Bench 5 x 10 x 100 (55%)

That was all. Did not do: Bent Over Rows, Suicides, TGUs, Pull-Ups, etc.

Friday, Feb. 1st, 2013

5/3/1 — 2.I.D (SQUAT)

WARM-UP
shoulder mobility
Jump Rope 4 x 50
Push Ups 4 x 7
lower body mobility

SQUAT
5 x 45
5 x 95 (40%),
5 x 130 (55%),
5 x 155 (~65%)
3 x 180 (~75%)
11 x 200 (~85%)

ASSISTANCE
Boring But Big
Squat 5 x 10 x 127.5 (~53.5%)
pull-ups 5 x 4 x green band assist

Late January Workouts (1/21-25)

Workout 2013.01.21 Monday

Instagram Post
5/3/1 — 1.IV.D (Bench Deload)

Warm Up
500 meter row (1:48)
shoulder mobility, squat mobility

Bench Press
10 x 45
5 x 80 (~45%)
5 x 95 (~55%)
5 x 115 (~75%)

Assistance

Bent Over Barbell Row 5 x 12 x 65 lbs
Turkish Get Ups 5 x 6 (alternating arms) x 35 lbs
(Both exercises in five rounds alternating on three min intervals)

Conditioning
6 rounds: 40 meter suicides (10, 20, 30, 40) @ 90 second intervals

Workout 2013.01.23 Wednesday

Instagram Post

5/3/1 — 1.IV.D (Squat Deload)

Warm-Up
shoulder mobility
Jump Rope 4 x 75
Push Ups 4 x 5
lower body mobility

Squat:
10 x 45
5 x 100 (45%),
5 x 125 (55%),
5 x 145 (65%)

Assistance
pull-ups green and purple band 5 x 3
turkish get ups w/ 24 kg KB 5 x 2
goblet squats 5 x 10 x 24 kg KB
(15 min total, ie 15 x 60 sec rounds).

Conditioning
Prowler 8 x 40m x +50lbs @ 60 sec intervals

That’s all

Workout 2013.01.25 Friday

Instagram Post
5/3/1 2.I.A (Press)

Cycle 2, Phase I, Workout A.

Excited to begin the next 5/3/1 cycle. My working max on press is now 122.5.

WARM-UP
Mobility
500 meter row (1:55)
Mobility

PRESS
7 x 50 (~40%)
7 x 65 (~55%)
5 x 80 (65%)
5 x 92.5 (75%)
11 x 105 (85%)

(Compared to 1.II.A: same; darn)

ASSISTANCE (Boring But Big)

PRESS: 5 x 12 x 70 (~57.5%)
CHIN-UPS: 5 x MR x Green Band
(6, 4,4,4,4) (10 x 60 sec rounds)

No time for conditioning.