It is a truth universally acknowledged, to quote Jane Austen, that a quick workout is a good workout, provided you use your time wisely. That means no phone-glancing, no ‘hardbody 10’ perving, and absolutely (and I mean absolutely), no bicep-curling in the squat rack.
So, to that end, is it possible to train for 30-45 minutes per workout and still get a sick pump and / or look like a savage?
Actually, let’s be honest, what we’re really looking to do is stave off the inevitable paunch that seems to accumulate at our middle once we hit a certain vintage, and give us those cute little muffin-tops (or, rather, slightly wonky souffle-tops that rise up above the hips at our waistband, threatening to actually give up and fall off the side like a lemming).
Well, it’s a firm yes from me. I think that, for most of us, a very good level of fitness, and with it, body composition, can be achieved from shorter, intense workouts that turbo-charge the body, recharge the mind and leave ample time for other, more grown up activities, like parenting or work or watching Netflix.
So what should you be doing?
1. Sprint & Lift Heavy
Martin Rooney devised his Training For Warriors program around the mantra ‘sprint & lift heavy’ and for anyone with a Dadbod that they don’t want, you might consider building a program around this.
Weight-lifting is good for older chaps because, amongst other things) it improves bone density (which dwindles as you get older), increases testosterone, builds muscle and reduces fat etc etc.
Something as simple as a 5 x 5 protocol (5 sets of 5 reps per set) in the basic compound lifts (squats, deadlift, bench press, shoulder press) is a great way to start or get back into it if you’ve had a break from the iron. Start super-easy and gradually build up week by week. Leave your lifting ego at the door, especially on deadlifts.
Combine lifting with a couple of 20 minute sprint sessions each week and you’ll have an extremely time-efficient and reasonably well-rounded program even if you don’t do anything else.
Sprints require massive EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which in layman’s terms means you turn yourself into a fat-burning machine for hours after each workout.
This combination is deadly, simple and supremely efficient. If you can’t program it yourself or don’t have a globo-gym membership or access to weights, I consider Crossfit to be the nearest form of training to this.
A one hour CrossFit class gives you strength training (the lift heavy component), the met-con workout at the end of the session gives you your sprint element and normally there’s some gymnastic skills thrown in as a bonus. This is an amazing use of one exercise hour.
2. HIIT Class
HIIT (high intensity interval training) is so ubiquitous these days that there’s simply no excuse for not doing it.
F45, Orange Theory, bootcamps, tabata, spin, boxercise…the possibilities are endless, and while exercise purists & w*nkers may dismiss them for their lack of scientific programming, the fact is that they deliver quick results for lots of people, relatively safely.
I’m a big fan.
3. Sand Stuff
Training on sand can be a blessing and a curse.
On a summer’s morning, there is absolutely nothing better than a workout (run, bootcamp, whatever) on the sand, followed by a refreshing dip in the sea (that’s the “ocean” for those not familiar with the sea). Like, literally. There are very, very few things that feel better as a human than this.
In winter, however, the beach can feel a little bit like Siberia and the freezing cold sand numbs your feet & hands, while the icy ocean breeze blasts through you like cold daggers. Throw in morning rain and you’ve got yourself a serious cold front coming in.
It’s this juxtaposition, though, that makes it so exhilarating and the cold days breed character. Plus, it’s the nearest thing you’re likely to get to being in the Navy Seals. Also, the sand is soft which is lovely on the joints whilst also building up strong feet and lower legs. If that’s not enough, training on the sand is also around 1.3 to 1.5 times as hard as training on the flat so you get more bang-for-your-buck and can keep your sessions mercifully short.
4. Hills & Stairs
Similar to sand, hills & stairs ramp up the work-load and mean you can get more done in less time. Perfect for time-poor Dads.
I recently discovered a hill in the Bronte cemetery that is so brutal it will break your spirit, but at least the views mean you’ll go out with a smile.
The hill is circa 500m with a steep incline at the beginning (the first 100m) and then flattens out to a steady slope that saps the energy from your legs at an alarming rate. I try to do 2 or 4 long reps and up to 10 of the shorter ones in a session with a jog to-and-from the car to warm up / cool down.
Pro tip: do not attempt this on a 6am running date when you haven’t run for a while. It won’t end well.
Wherever you hill or stairs are, the key is to just get there and actually start. No matter how bad you feel or how much you don’t want to train, turn up, start moving and you’d be amazed at the change in your physiology and attitude. [This applies to all forms of training, come to mention it].
You may have seen these machines at the gym.
First there was just the Concept 2 rowing ergometer that provided all kinds of information about your rowing and soon became pretty much the only rower in town.
Then Concept 2 followed up with the Ski Erg, which replicates cross-country skiing and simulates something like a burpee for me, and the Bike Erg, which replicates, erm, cycling.
The point is these machines have the potential to seriously f*ck you up in a relatively short time.
Try any of the following workouts on any of the machines and you’ll soon know about it. And be burning fat for hours after you’ve finished.
#1 2km time trial
#2 30 secs on / off for anywhere between 10 – 30 minutes
#3 500m max effort / rest 3 mins x 5
#4 21 calories / 21 burpees, 15 / 15, 9 / 9, 6 / 6, 3 / 3
There’s also an even more sinister machine called the Airdyne or Assault Bike. This is not for the faint-hearted (I use it for warm-ups) but it will seriously tax you.
I suggest maybe an inverse Tabata whereby you do 10 seconds work and then rest for 20 for 8 rounds. You’ll be crying for Momma by the time you’re done and, if not, you can graduate to regular Tabata for a 4 minute finisher for the ages – as in it will terrify you for ages. But in a good way.
There’s you go. A bunch of workouts and training methods that yield quick results. Perfect for Dads in a hurry.