(Breather) I further discuss the fantastic breakthrough fitness concept that I’ve been doing more and more of in recent years: micro workouts. Micro workouts are explosive fits of strength, efficient and easy to do, and hits the #1 goal of being more active in daily life while also serving to elevate your baseline fitness level to do better workouts. They also take away so much of the stress that can come with working out.
Let’s be real, even if you’re one of those people who loves to hit the gym, part of what puts most people off working out is just carving out the time – not just for the actual work out, but allowing for time to drive there, and find parking, etc. Micro workouts are the easiest way to slip in a little activity that really makes a big difference as your efforts will add up over time.
I initially began incorporating this practice into my daily life because of my desire to take work breaks and also because my own competitive intensity in gym – I admit to having the tendency to overdo it, something I am sure many can relate to. What’s nice about micro workouts is that they are so brief, it’s easy to set yourself up for success, since they’re way less strenuous and time consuming than a regular gym session or workout class. You can sneak them in at nearly any time or any place – I try to get one in while I’m already doing something else, like taking out the trash, and I’ve also set myself up for success in my home environment – I have a pull-up bar in one doorway, with stretch Cordz hanging from it. Obviously having equipment staring at you right in the face is a good motivator, but truthfully, you don’t even need this stuff around to perform micro workouts – you just need to get up off your butt and go! Do 20 squats, a single set of pullups, or run outside for a quick 1-minute sprint – and then bam! Back to work in no time, with the added bonus of elevated energy levels and improved cognitive function. It’s the ideal way to break up your work day, adds a little boost to your energy and concentration, and as you’ll see over time, your efforts really add up. Five to ten minutes really feels like two minutes throughout the course of a busy day, but those minutes will add up, week after week, as you continue to incorporate this revolutionary fitness concept into your life.
Brad describes how to get a good workout without hassle. [02:07]
This system of mini workouts throughout the day is appealing because it prevents you from overworking at the gym for example. [06:17]
Maybe you don’t want to skip the gym all together but you can make it a pleasant routine part of your week for the camaraderie. [08:59]
Many leading fitness experts are now stating that general everyday movement is of higher priority than adhering to an ambitious workout regimen. [12:09]
Slow weights are an option. It includes lifting three or four days and each lift is modest. [15:21]
You want to make sure that you got a little bit of blood flowing and some lubrication in the joints before you step over a weighted bar. [18:46]
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Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:00 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author and athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high-stress, modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go to get over yourself.
Brad: 02:07 Hi, breather listeners. I want to talk about one of my most fantastic, favorite new fitness breakthroughs that I’m going to call micro workouts. It’s starting to gain some traction, some attention, some interest in the fitness community. And this is the idea of hauling off the occasional, uh, brief explosive, uh, effort of strength, uh, during the course of a routine day. So rather than a formal workout where you get in your car, drive to the gym, put on your weightlifting gloves, whatever, meet the trainer, uh, attend the class. This is just becoming more active in daily life and setting yourself up for opportunities to perform a brief strength effort such as a single set of deep squats in your office over the course of the workday. Try doing 20 deep squats right now, style is highly, uh, recommended instructed.
Brad: 04:27 That’s where you get the real explosiveness, when you are able to lower all the way to the ground. And if you can’t lower all the way, keep working on it because that suggests you might have some, uh, flexibility, muscle imbalances, things that are limiting your mobility. So you try to get as low as you can such that your butt is almost touching the ground. Your knees are completely bent and then you raise up very carefully tracking your knees over the, uh, mid foot and doing a nice, uh, form with your squads. But if you do so little as 20, it is a pretty bad ass effort right there. You’re going to be burning when you get to about 10. So that’s just one example that you can do anywhere without any equipment. And what I’ve done is set up my home environment for success with this micro workout concept.
Brad: 05:18 So I have opportunities to perform explosive feats of strength, uh, as I walk outside and throw the garbage away in the can or walk under the, uh, doorway to my recording studio where I have a pull up bar and they also have hanging from the pull up bar, uh, this product called stretch cords, stretch cords, C,O,R,D,Z, which is uh, the popular surgical tubing on a strap with handles. And it provides a wonderful total body workout with a whole bunch of different options to use the resistance cords to work different muscles. And I have a nice little sequence that I do for abdominals, for lads, for biceps, triceps, uh, hanging off the pull up bar. So during the course of a day, I can choose to, uh, go out in the backyard, uh, throw the garbage away and then hit the hexagons deadlift bar for let’s say a single set of six reps of deadlifts.
Brad: 06:17 Or I can do a single set of pull-ups and then go about my workday. Uh, the reason this is so, uh, appealing to me are a couple things. First, I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of hitting the gym and throwing a bunch of iron around when I have free time to work out, exercise. Uh, I mostly want to go do something competitive like speed golf or have an outdoor experience rather than yet another indoor experience. So I haven’t been that disciplined and focused in getting into the gym two, three times a week that might be optimal, uh, over the past few decades of my life. So I know I need to get in the gym more, do some great workouts and when I go, I’m super fired up and excited and I quite often have overdone it over the years because I don’t get in there that much.
Brad: 07:12 And then I do get in there and I hit it hard and the next day I’m sore and tired because the workout was too ambitious. So what to do about that? Yeah, I got to maybe tone it down and go more frequently and less stressful in the workout. And so that’s where this micro workout concept started to take hold. And I’d been sort of drifting into this area for the past several years where I’ll do these a 10 minute workouts, 15 minute workouts, 20 minute workouts at home, oftentimes inspired and motivated by the idea that I should go to the gym and complete a proper workout. The is only a few minutes away by the way. But I sometimes feel too lazy, too busy, too stressed. I don’t want to carve out that much time to get in my car or ride my bicycle over to the gym and do a proper session and come back home.
Brad: 08:04 So instead I convinced myself that I’ll do a great workout here and save the time and the convenience factor of going to the gym. But a lot of times what happens when you’re at home training by yourself, you’re not super motivated to go for an entire hour or whatever a, a gym session might entail. So what I was doing was racking up, uh, a good number of these miniature workouts, uh, in comparison to my poor attendance record at the gym. And I was happy to pay for the gym membership because it served as a motivator to go get some work done in the backyard and in the house. You get what I’m saying? It was sorta like the enticement of doing something right here right now so that I can skip my trip to the gym, so not, don’t, don’t try this at home. I would say that it’s great to put yourself in that environment at the gym where you’re know you’re going to get some work done.
Brad: 08:59 You have the camaraderie, you have the support of you’re a working out peers. You might have some social interaction that keeps you in the groove and why gyms are a great sense of community as one of the great attributes of a gym itself. But if you’re not getting there frequently enough and you’re maybe an all or nothing type of person where you feel discouraged if you can’t get exactly into this super ambitious workout routine, this micro workouts might be the ticket to building more momentum and letting everything flow together from the micro workouts as well as the beautiful gym workouts as a designed and envisioned. In fact, that seems to be how things are playing out for me. Uh, we have our wonderful standing Saturday gym experience. I go with Mia Moore so I have my, teammate, the camaraderie, the motivation. She has a class do attend at a certain time.
Brad: 09:54 So I will go do my own thing or go to the nearby track and sprint. But it’s a Saturday morning exercise outing. So we have a really nice full scale, important workout in the books on most Saturdays, uh, but in tandem with that, a little bit deficient on visiting the gym. But I’m okay with it because if you add up the cumulative effect of these micro workouts, the fitness benefit is outstanding. For example, I described my hexagonal deadlift bar in the backyard, and let’s say that not every day, but perhaps four or five days a week, I do at least one set and some days, even with hours of time in between the efforts, maybe I’ll do three or four sets, no big deal, barely even worth mentioning. I’m not going to write it in my training diary or anything like that. But if you add up that pattern over 30 days time and consider that, uh, I have 200 pounds loaded on the bar.
Brad: 10:55 I know not, not fantastic, but that’s what I have. And if I do six reps, that’s 1200 pounds, right? So if I’m doing that, an average of let’s say modestly that I’m only doing 12 sets in an entire week, right? 12 sets lifting 1200 pounds each set, that’s almost 15,000 pounds of weight lifted in a week in the routine course of the day of throwing garbage into the garbage can. Same with the pull-ups. Oh my goodness. Let’s see. I do a only one set of day, some days only two sets, maybe one that morning. Once at nighttime I’m still doing, if I’m doing 12 reps, 13 1415 reps per set, I’m still doing close to 30 pull-ups on most days of the week. That’s 150 pull-ups a week, not counting my formal workouts. Can you imagine what happens when I do get to the gym for a formal workout session? My launching point is way higher than if I was just sitting in an office working all day and not doing a single, uh, strength training effort to speak of besides my super impressive, ambitious workouts with my personal trainer and my class or heading to the gym for a prolonged session.
Brad: 12:09 So you can see, you can just inch toward a higher level of fitness, improve your performance in your formal workouts, reduce injury risk because you’re keeping strong and active throughout the week. Oh, it’s a fantastic new concept. I strongly encourage you to try it out. There’s so many other benefits too. Another one for me is that it breaks up the workday and the stillness and the peak cognitive function where I’m staring at my screen trying to do something impressive like write a book or take some notes to record a podcast or record a podcast and then I’m a little bit fried. I need a little bit of a break so I get to do something physical and not have to get sweaty or get changed into different clothes, drive somewhere, but just make it part of the routine day. Even if you’re in an office setting where you don’t have the pull up bar, the stretch cords, you can find little tools and toys and contraptions to deliver a strength training effect.
Brad: 13:11 If nothing else, just a set of deep squats and it adds up over time. What this also does is contribute to this hugely important objective of increasing all forms of general everyday movement and many of the world’s leading fitness experts deep into the fitness scene are now stating that general everyday movement is of higher priority than adhering to an ambitious workout regimen. Yes, it’s great that you get your butt up and go to the gym at 6:00 AM and do an hour class, but if you’re sitting around the rest of the day, sitting on the subway, sitting at the office, coming home, sitting on the couch, proud of yourself, patting yourself on the back because you did that 6:00 AM workout most days of the week or because you’re putting in 30 miles a week on the roads as a runner, but otherwise sedentary, you are adding up to no good.
Brad: 14:08 And there’s a scientifically validated phenomenon called the active couch potato syndrome whereby devoted fitness enthusiasts are showing the same metabolic disease risk factors as sedentary people despite their devotion to ambitious workouts. If you think about it, it makes sense. We know that we have 168 total hours in a week. So the fact that you’re out there working out for five or six hours out of 168 it’s better than nothing. Of course you’re going to have some fitness attributes to show for it. But the general inactivity patterns of life are strongly predictive of adverse health consequences and disease patterns if you don’t do something about it and get up and move. So you have to implement these modest objectives like getting up from your chair and walking around for at least a five minute break, every hour, 10 minute break, every two hours, a nice midday break where you can go for a stroll and get some sun and get some exercise instead of prolonged periods of sitting, which mess up your fat metabolism and your cognitive function.
Brad: 15:21 So these micro workouts are a great way to get the blood flowing to get a nice little fitness response, maybe a hormonal burst, a little bit of increase in blood supply and oxygen delivery to the brain because you’ve asked yourself to do even something as modest as 12 pull-ups. And it all adds up to be a more healthier, more active, fitter lifestyle. Try it out. Uh, our main man in the endurance scene, Dr Phil Maffetone is super into this. Also always the trendsetter and the forward thinker, he has a term for it. He calls it slow weights and he writes my typical slow wait weekly workout includes lifting three or four days and each lift is a pretty modest 80% of one rep Max. And he’ll do three or four sets in a day in a day, sometimes back to back, like waiting a few minutes and doing another set.
Brad: 16:16 I do that as well. I might do a set of pull-ups, wait a couple of few minutes, do another set maybe while my lunch is cooking or something like that, you know, get a couple going. So it’s a little bit more than just that passing fancy of doing one set. There’s no rules here. It’s just a matter of accumulating some good work and some good movement. Um, sometimes Maffetone will rest three minutes between sets. Sometimes it’s an hour or two or more. The important part of slow weights is to keep it simple and safe. He rides at the least, you only needed to perform a couple of different lifting routines to sufficiently build muscle and bone strength throughout the body. But of course you can do different or more if you won, the two easiest and most effective ones are the dead lift and the squat. So you can do something like just his suggestion, one to six reps in each set.
Brad: 17:04 Did you see that one to six reps? So one rep of a dead lift will give you a fitness response. It’s worth doing. But of course if you get to sit there and pick up the bar, I might as well do, uh, near exhaustion or near temporary muscle failure. Uh, he’s saying that four sets a day is great. So if you’re doing one to six reps for four sets, you have done your slow weights for that day. He likes the lifting to be fast and explosive. Take at least three minutes between sets so you’re not getting into that workout mode where you’re generating cumulative fatigue because you’re not resting much between sets. Uh, those are kind of, uh, ambitions that you could save for a proper gym session. And now, as I’ve talked about, uh, during other podcasts, uh, the concept of getting away from these overly stressful high intensity interval training workouts where cumulative fatigue is a fundamental component of the workout, the exhaustion factor afterward.
Brad: 18:03 Instead, you go for the high intensity repeat training model where you take what Dr. Craig Marker calls luxurious rest intervals in between your sets to allow cellular energy to regenerate and prevent that cellular breakdown that occurs when you ask yourselves to perform and deliver maximum output when they’re not fully recovered from the previous set. So the slow weights is not a time to try to get this, uh, fitness adaptation, uh, of, of hanging in there. But instead doing a set, taking a break, at least three minutes, up to an hour or two hours, this Maffetone says, and then doing another one.
Brad: 18:46 So one thing dimension on that is if you are, uh, settling over the deadlift bar, uh, with 200 pounds, like I mentioned, this is something that comes with a little bit of a caveat warning sign. Because of course, in a proper workout setting, you’re going to get your warm up. You’re going to do five minutes of cardio on your bike. Maybe you’re going to do some stretches. Okay? And depending on your basic fitness level, you might want to ease into this and maybe some of your micro workout can be a much, much lighter weight, sort of a preparatory, a little set and then ease into the next one after a couple of minutes rest. So just make sure that you’re, uh, well lubricated and ready to go, uh, to do even a, uh, a mild strength effort. Now with the deep squats, gee,, you should be able to, uh, haul off and do a set of deep squats without a whole bunch of warm up or preparation. But again, if you’ve been sitting and your hip flexors are all tight and your hamstrings are tight from four hours of sitting, uh, you might want to do some, uh, halfway squats for awhile. Maybe do a set of 10 of those, maybe 20 of those. And then, uh, once you got a little bit of warmup going, you can go down and do the all the way down deep squats. Okay, so take that precaution of getting a little bit of blood flowing. Maybe you’ll do the micro workout at the conclusion of a five minutes stroll, including a couple flights of stairs at the office. You get me? Oh, okay. Try it out. It’s fantastic raising that platform from which to launch your magnificent athletic feats.
Brad: 21:03 Thank you for listening. Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would also love if you could leave a rating and a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop, iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars and it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to. Thanks for doing it.