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Faster Workouts, Better Body? New Research on Intervals + 20-Minute Photo How-to
The path to “muffin top” is paved with good intentions. We all harbor them: “This week I’ll get up early to work out,” “Today I’ll join a gym,” or “I can exercise while my son naps.” Still, weeks go by, the intended exercise regime does not come to pass, and the love handles became even meatier.
But there’s a solution to the “not-enough-time-in-the-day” excuse. It turns out, according to some exciting new research, that all you need to be fit is six minutes a week.
“It used to be that endurance training, which required long exercise sessions, was considered the gold standard of fitness,” says Martin Gibala, chairman of the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. But recent studies at Gibala’s lab showed that the two groups of exercisers — an interval group that exercised six to nine minutes a week, and an endurance group that exercised about five hours a week — had identical increases in their endurance. The only rub? For those six minutes to count, there’s going to be some pain involved.
Interval training requires bouts of extreme, all-out effort, followed by short rest cycles. “The exercise intensity in the interval has to be quite high,” says Gibala. “But its efficiency appeals to people who are time-pressed.”
Mark Hyman, M.D., author of The UltraMind Solution, also champions the advantages of interval training. “You can exercise less, and have more benefits, if you exercise smarter,” he says. Interval training boosts your mitochondria, the powerhouses in your cells that turn the food you eat into energy, which in turn affects metabolism, weight loss and even longevity.
“The secret to healthy aging and healthy weight is healthy mitochondria,” says Hyman. “And the fastest way to get there is with interval training.”
20-minute mind/body interval workout
Raring to go? We’ve talked to Gaiam’s expert fitness instructor Patricia Moreno to create a cutting-edge, mind/body interval workout designed to get you in fighting form. The whole sequence takes less than 20 minutes, and you should aim to repeat it several times a week. Or preview Patricia Moreno workout DVDs for more routines like this one.
A few guidelines: Consult a doctor if you have heart issues or joint problems, or are older than 60. The intensity phase should be at roughly 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate (which is exerting yourself as if your life depended on it). Recovery periods should not be so long that your pulse returns to normal. To avoid injury, warm up before the first interval.
Warmup 1: Inhale/exhale
Stand with your feet together and as you inhale, swing your arms over your head in a wide “V,” to the pose of POSITIVE EXPECTATION. Allow yourself to think positively and enjoy your workout.
Now exhale and step with the right foot to the side and drop the arms and hug yourself to the pose of EMBRACE, bending the knees and turning the feet out (making sure to keep the knees over the ankles). Bring the feet back together, arms overhead, and alternate stepping right and left. Repeat for one minute.
Warmup 2: Jog in place
Jog in place for eight counts, and make quarter-turns to your right every eight counts until you have made a full circle around. Repeat on the other side for one minute.
Warmup 3: Ready/warrior
Start with the feet together and arms by your side in the READY position. Jump or step the legs to a wide “V” position and bend the knees deeply to the WARRIOR position, keeping the back straight, abs in and knees tracking over ankles. Straighten the arms to either side and flex the hands. Jump back to the READY position. Repeat for one minute, mentally preparing yourself for action.
Interval 1: Alternate punches
Since interval training is hard work, I like to begin my workout by enlisting my intellectual and emotional strength. With the feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, stand in ON-GUARD position, keeping the elbows by your side and fists by your cheeks. Punch the left arm directly in front of you, palm facing down, allowing your torso to twist.
Return to ON-GUARD and repeat on the right side. In a fast, steady rhythm, alternate punches right and left for 90 seconds and say out loud, “I am strong now.” Punch as fast as you can for the last 10 seconds. Jog it out, kicking your butt every time, for 30 seconds.
Interval 2: Arm swings
Make giant circles with straight arms away from the body while kicking your butt with your heels. Allow yourself to enjoy the momentum of the movement, and say “I am happy now” for 90 seconds.
Jog it out, knees high this time, for 30 seconds.
Interval 3: Push-ups
Assume a push-up position on the ground. Arms can be wide, and if needed, place the knees on the ground. Making sure to keep the body as straight as a board, do as many push-ups as you can for 90 seconds. Say “I am determined” every time you push up.
Then do moderate jumping jacks for 30 seconds.
Interval 4: Jump-switch lunges
Begin in a front lunge by stepping the left foot forward and bending both knees, allowing the right heel to rise. With the hands on the hips, keep the back straight and abs in. Now, push off from both legs and jump switch your feet, landing in a front lunge with the right foot forward. Modify the jumps by bending halfway down if necessary. Alternate right and left for 90 seconds. Say out loud “I am fearless” every time you switch your legs.
Jog it out for 30 seconds, knees high.
Interval 5: Arm rolls and jump steps
Step to the right, cross the left foot behind the right and square the hips to the front. Roll the arms away from you as fast as you can for four counts, making sure to keep the chest open. Now jump to the left, pushing off of the right foot, and cross the right foot behind the left and square off the hips. This time roll the arms toward you. I call this pose KARMA, to emphasize that what we give is what we get. When the arms roll away from you, say “What I give…” and when the arms roll toward you, say “…is what I get.”
Really push off and jump as far as you can to each side when switching the legs. Repeat right and left for 90 seconds.
Jog it out for 30 seconds with the arms in a wide “V” for Victory — you made it!
Cool-down: Lateral lunges
Start with feet together in READY position. Step laterally with the right foot, bending the right knee deeply, keeping the left leg straight and the feet parallel. Reach the left hand down to the floor and place the right hand on the right thigh. If needed, modify by placing both hands on the right thigh. Say “I have the power…” Step back to READY position, this time extending your linked palms to face away from your chest and say “…to choose.” Repeat on the left and in a moderate tempo, alternating sides for 90 seconds and saying each time “I have the power to choose.”
Stretch: Hamstring stretch
Take a step back with the left foot, keeping the right leg straight. Touch the thumbs and index fingers together to symbolize focus. Let the left arm swing behind you and place the right hand over the heart. You can modify by placing the right hand on the right thigh for support. Bow over your leg for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Sit with the legs crossed, back comfortably straight, palms facing up and resting on the thighs. Close your eyes and breathe naturally. Focus on being as still as you can for one minute.