Just like nutrition, exercise recommendations, programs and slogans range greatly. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it is recommended that we get 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week in order to maintain optimal health. But getting to that golden number does not need to look the same for everyone. In fact, “exercise snacking” may be just what the sports medicine doctor ordered … and may be the answer to your fitness goal aspirations. I have been snacking on this exercise regime and I can tell you that I have never felt so good and have never stuck to a fitness goal for as long and as seamlessly as I am right now. And friends, I’m about to show you how.
Why “Exercise Snacking” Is the New Hummus For Our Exercise Goals
Do you remember when all of a sudden, hummus became America’s favorite snack food? It’s easy, it’s healthy, and it’s good on just about anything. Yep, I’ve even put hummus on my hamburger! Well, when I found and implemented exercise snacking, I immediately knew that my fitness goals were not only achievable, they were something this working mama of way-too-many kiddos could achieve, day in and day out! So this begs the question: what is exercise snacking? It is when you do short bursts of exercise throughout the day.
You know how we used to be told to eat three larger meals per day and then the recommendation suddenly shifted to six smaller meals per day? Exercise snacking is kind of like that. Instead of trying to carve out well over an hour at the gym several days per week, you can still reach your recommended 150 minutes by doing short, higher intensity bursts of exercise more often. My body feels so good with this fitness regime that I am often doing my “snacking” every day, and sometimes more than once a day. The idea is to be active as much as possible throughout the day, rather than sitting at your desk chair for six hours, only to finally get up and haul your gym bag to your neighborhood fitness club to work out for an hour a few days a week. This system of exercise works for many, don’t get me wrong. But if you are like me and have failed at that system over the years, then maybe it’s time for a new workout program.
HIITing the Ground Running
Friends, we are in a new year. If you read my work, you know that I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions (if you haven’t read it, you may want to check it out here). But I would be foolish to think that no one makes (or at least ponders) some health and fitness goals at the beginning of each year. And for those of you who are wondering how THIS year will be the year you actualize your health goals, maybe all you are lacking is another route in order to get from goal to getting there.
HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is not a new concept. In fact, it dates back to the early 1900s. But it really gained momentum in the early 2000s. And now, along with HIIT-style training known as Tabata (also not a new concept), these are some of the most widely popular—and effective—workout programs around. The premise of both HIIT and Tabata is to go all out for a short, intense amount of time, with a short recovery period after. Then rinse and repeat.
For example, Tabata training works with 20-seconds intervals of hard-core, high intensity work, followed by a 10-second rest. Do that for several rounds, lasting a total of about 20 minutes and done!
HIIT, on the other hand, usually works aerobics or strength exercises for a little longer, again followed by a slightly longer rest. Essentially, what you can do in a 20-minute Tabata or maybe 30-minute HIIT workout can be more effective aerobically and anaerobically than a longer, more moderate workout. I don’t know about you but I’m all for getting in and getting it done… fast!
Why Traditional Gym Classes or Personal Training May Not Have Enough Sweat Equity For You
Let’s talk about time for a moment. As a business owner and mama to littles, time is not something I have an ample amount of. In fact, I’m writing this article in between dropping off and picking up kids, in between eating my salad (at my desk) while checking work emails, and trying to figure out why my printer won’t work. Time is a luxury that I do not take for granted … not one moment! It’s why I get up at 5 a.m., why I go to bed early (so I can actually get up that early!), and why I work hard to make every moment count in my 24-hour period. So going to the gym is just not feasible in my life right now.
But what is feasible? It’s very feasible for me to do a quick cardio burst workout at 5 a.m. It’s quite doable to grab my dumbbells and throw up a few reps between the time the kids get home from school and the time I start doing homework with them. And dang, I might have left the rice on the stove a few minutes too long or the chicken cooking just a tad more than it should, but I can definitely sneak in a quick HIIT class while dinner is in the oven or on the stove.
Did I need to get a babysitter to get these much needed and much desired workouts in? Nope! Did my husband have to rush home from work to watch the kids so that I could do squat jumps in my living room? Not at all (although he loves doing these workouts with me now). And my favorite question: Did I go another day without going after my goal because I just couldn’t make it to the gym or didn’t have time for an hour-long class or my kids were sick so I couldn’t put them in the gym daycare? NO!
And that, my friends, may be the best reason to try a different exercise program on for size this year. Aren’t you tired of making goals and then not getting there? I spent years wallowing in my own shame and guilt for letting ANOTHER year go by without seeing my goals take form in my life. I spent hours wondering how I could make fitness a habit that worked fluidly with my ever-changing life (and in this day and age, I feel like all of our lives are ever-changing). I had to make fitness work with my schedule, with my timelines and with my other responsibilities. So I said goodbye to the class schedules posted on gym websites and made my own schedule.
How You Can Start Reaching Your Health and Fitness Goals, TODAY!
If you are ready (and I mean like ready!) to stop thinking about the changes you want to make and actually start doing them, here’s what you need to do:
1. Get realistic about your time
Pull out your Google or Apple calendar (or my favorite, an actual paper calendar … yes, they still exist) and look at your day. Where can you make fitness a priority? If your days look like mine, then re-think when you will exercise. Do you have 20 minutes before you go to work or the kids get up? Can you cook dinners that take 30 minutes to bake (no frying please) so that you can do a quick Tabata training? Hey, if going to the gym and doing a class or slinging weights on the fitness floor is your cup of tea (or your canister of protein smoothie), then go for it. But if that hasn’t worked in the past, then let’s face it, it just doesn’t work. So it’s time to make your time work best for you.
2. Be disciplined
Some people shudder at this word, but I’m going to be frank about this: you, I, the president and Tom Brady cannot and will not achieve our goals if we do make discipline a part of our daily lives. Without discipline, we have no container in which to store our hopes, our dreams and our desires, because discipline is often the driving force to get us there. Discipline is what keeps us moving forward, keeps us aspiring to be the best versions of ourselves, and to never settle for “Oh well, I guess this will do.” If you (or I, or the president, or Tom) are not satisfied with where our life, health, career, whatever it is, then discipline can get us out of there. It’s like your American Express credit card: “Don’t leave home without it!”
3. Get prepared
So maybe you’ve decided to bring your workouts home, to try exercise snacking this year. If so, make sure you have a few essentials. Although you can start with no equipment, you may want to stock your fitness corner (or the garage or living room) with a few items: a mat for stretching, a set of light, medium and heavy dumbbells, and an exercise band or two. Even these few items can help take your exercise spurts to a whole other level. But if resources (or space) aren’t there, then fear and fret not. You can do any exercise using body weight, household items, even furniture. Heck, even small children can make a great bench press!
Lastly, and I cannot emphasize this recommendation enough: have a good pair of shoes. Please don’t workout in your Converse. Grab yourself a pair of good quality training or running shoes, with good arch support and good tread on the bottom. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to do a burpee with the bottom of your shoes slipping.
4. Find your favorites
With access to just about anything and everything on the internet, there are tons of free resources for HIIT or Tabata-style classes. You can find printouts, handouts, and YouTube videos chock-full of programs you can use (often for free, people!). Trust me, after a while, you will find your favorite workouts, your preferred instructors and your ideal amount of workout times. But until you do, refer to the experts to guide you. I splurged last year and purchased Lululemon’s The Mirror, and in my opinion, it was the best resource money could buy. But again, if that’s not in the fitness bank account right now, don’t worry about it!
Friends, make 2022 the year you reach your health and fitness goals. You may need to think outside the box. You may need to adjust your idea of what working out looks like and the duration it requires. But with proper preparation, a little planning and a good amount of discipline, you can and will get there. Now go out and crush it!