Can you get fit in 12 minutes?

Hi everyone! I hope you had wonderful weekends. This weekend was wonderful--we went to brunch at a house in Muir woods with some friends on Saturday morning (where I ate delicious homemade breakfast foods--anyone who knows me know how much I love brunch). I worked out in the late afternoon before we went to a posada at Buena Vista, a mobile home community in Palo Alto. The residents of this park are in imminent danger of being relocated so that a new luxury apartment complex can be built there.  You can read about this flagrant example of gentrification here and here. We went because I had gotten an e-mail inviting Stanford students to attend a Christmas festival there, and Aditya and I both felt that it was the most amazing event we had both been to in a very long time.  The incredible sense of community was palpable in the food, music, laughter, and dancing into the night. I was struck by how positive everyone seemed to be, even though shutting down the park would mean that most of the 127 families living there would have to leave the area and relocate to places with far fewer economic and educational opportunities like the Central Valley. If you are interested in learning more about efforts to stop this from happening, and/or if you would like to buy this T-shirt in support, please contact me or write a message below. 

Now, onto some fitness! This past week was all about coming to terms with the fact that we can't always meet our crazy-high expectations for ourselves, fitness-related and otherwise.  I realized that a lot of my metabolic finishers were way too long, and that after my full-body lifting circuit, a 30-minute finisher was untenable.  Realistically, I could only manage about 10 minutes if I wanted it to be sustainable.  

On a search for some fast metabolic conditioning workouts, I found Krista Stryker's 12 Minute Athlete website.  Her philosophy is that life is too short to spend hours at the gym; rather, through clean eating and her 12-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts that can be done with minimal equipment, you can build and maintain the physique that you want. Krista is from SF, has a gorgeous website design, and is crazy strong (girl knocks out pull-ups and one-legged pistol squats like it ain't no thang).  While it may take a little bit more than 12 minutes for people who aren't that strong or lean yet, I loved the concept. After all, most of us don't want to be bodybuilders or fitness models; we want to be athletic, strong, and able to rock a swimsuit without sacrificing work or too much of our free time. And who doesn't have 12 free minutes out of 1440 in a day?  

So, I bought the 12 Minute Athlete iPhone app for $2.99. The app is also beautifully designed. You pick the length of your workout (12 min, 16 min, or "challenge" which tells you the number of rounds rather than a time), then the exercise equipment you have available:

Then you shake your phone to get the workout! You get either 18 or 24 cycles of 30 seconds work, 10 seconds rest (depending on the length of the workout you chose).  She has a lot of different exercises, and each links to a video where she shows you how to do it. I picked "kettlebell" and "bodyweight" as my equipment for a 12 minute HIIT after my lifting routine. Here is a video of me doing the first of three rounds of the workout with a 35 lb kettlebell (excuse the jank, it's my first one!).  I substituted wide hand pushups for "reptile pushups" because, well, I couldn't really figure out how to do them even after watching her video.

I like the app because it's cheap, versatile, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to use. You don't have to spend time looking up workouts; you just select the equipment you have, and shake.  However, I didn't really feel that brutal burn that I get from Crossfit WODs. Maybe it's the rest periods? I could try to cut out the 10 seconds of rest in between exercises to see if that makes it more intense. I also need to try out more of the workouts before I can truly judge them. I think the deeper issue is that I still like lifting heavy weights (loaded barbells, heavy dumbbells) during my metabolic conditioning, and I am not yet fit enough to do the truly difficult bodyweight exercises (like handstand pushups) that would make the HIIT harder. Also, you get a great cardio workout but may not get an adequate, balanced strength workout, so I would definitely recommend doing these workouts after lifting rather than a standalone routine.  I could see myself using this app while traveling, if I'm feeling uncreative, or if I am very short on time and just want a quick workout I can do anywhere. 

Verdict: Definite buy! It's fun, easy, and gives you a solid workout in a short amount of time. Also, her blog is full of great tips, so be sure to check it out!

How about all of you? What are your thoughts on short minimalist workouts? Would you try the app?


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