The 20 Minute Workout

In the past 6 years or so, I have dedicated a lot of time to working out. I have spent hours running, lifting weights, practicing yoga. I have done crunches and squats, sprints and distance, backbends and bows. There was a point when I would spend 2 hours a day at the gym sometimes. Other days, I would go twice. I thought nothing of piggybacking a 4 mile run with a power yoga class.

Then this beloved little man happened.

Of course, when you become a parent, everything changes. You might be thinking I’m just pressed for time in general, but that isn’t necessarily the case. There is child watch in the morning and the afternoon, I could go twice if I wanted to.

No, instead we are going through something that is referred to as separation anxiety. I call it clingy baby syndrome.

My little cling-on is definitely going through that phase, and it really stopped me from going to the gym altogether for awhile. But the Y that we go to has 2 locations, and a friend suggested that maybe Simon would fare better at the other. So the next day we went ahead and tried it.

He did not do better. Both times that I went to get him, he was in tears. They come and get you after 15 minutes of straight crying, but he wasn’t quite that bad. Yet. He saved that for the 3rd day.

However, after a few weeks of neglecting myself, I decided that he was just going to have to be upset for 15 minutes. So the 20 minute workout was born.

It isn’t anything new, but if you’re a mom (or anyone) trying to pack in as much workout as you can in a little bit of time, this is the way to do it: High Intensity Intervals.

You might have heard of them before, you might have done them before. Maybe you haven’t, or maybe you forgot. I forgot. I forgot because they’re hard! But they are perfect for fitting a tougher workout into a short amount of time. By the end of 20 minutes of steady state cardio, just chugging along on the treadmill/elliptical/bike/stairmaster, I’ve just started to work up a sweat. By the end of 20 minutes of intervals, I am TIRED. Seriously tired. Tired and sweaty. There any plenty of ways to quantify a workout: calories burned, heart rate, distance, etc. But I think the best measures are simpler: the talk test and your perceived exertion. I don’t go to the gym with a buddy, so I have no one to talk to without looking crazy, so I prefer the latter.

My perceived exertion when the child watch provider comes to get me after 20 minutes of cardio, is “Oh darn, I was just getting started”. My perceived exertion when they come to get me after 20 minutes of intervals is “Oh thank goodness”. Intense intervals aren’t meant to be done for very long, so I only do 20 minutes whether someone comes to get me or not. At that point, I walk by, listen for Simon’s screams (because every mom can pick out their child’s screams), and if he is okay, I’ll move on to some lighter cardio, or strength training.

This has been working out so perfectly for me. I feel great knowing that I really got a good workout in, while also knowing that I’m not leaving my baby totally miserable for too long.

***I am not a fitness professional. At one time I thought I would enter that field, so I’ve done a lot of research and practice, but in no way am I a professional. If you are looking to start a high intensity interval program, here are some great resources:

Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Program Suggestions
How to Create Your Own Interval Workout
Tom Venuto’s Practical Analysis of HIIT (Really good article)
Cardio vs Interval Training
Interval Training and Increased Percentage of Fat Burning
Want to get really intense?: Try Tabata Intervals

I have been trying to really stick with something. Anything, really. Interval training is going to fit the best with my fitness level, the time I want to dedicate, the time Simon’s wants me to dedicate, and the goals I want to achieve.

I’m not much of a motivational poster type person, but this one really resonated with me, and has been living on the wallpaper of my computer. I’ve really been keeping it in mind as a tool to hopefully help me get through this little bit of wall I’ve been feeling up against.


4 thoughts on “The 20 Minute Workout

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