About a week ago, I volunteered to be in a group for our local CBC morning show, trying out a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise program touted in the NYT as The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. Our "Fit in 7" group agreed to do the program daily for two weeks and report back. The first day, we visited a trainer to teach us the steps. Papa Bean and I had tried it a couple days before to get a feel for it, so I knew the steps, knew they were simple but *NOT* easy - but being the first day and being a wee bit competitive, I pushed pretty hard in the studio. Enough that I sort of growled at the very nice reporter covering our progress (sorry Trevor!), and promptly felt like vomiting afterward. The nausea lasted the morning. The soreness set in while I was working that evening. It made me realize how much I use my calves, lower back, and obliques to do my job, when my body twinged every ten seconds with every patient lol.
This initial taste confirmed the reasons why I thought this would be a good program for me to try. The program is very simple - you can tell what the exercise is from a picture, more or less. They don't require buying extra equipment - a chair, something to step on, comfy clothes... The difficulty of the steps is self-inflicted; it's as hard as you push yourself. And it is a complete body work-out; every muscle is used, especially trunk/core muscles that almost anyone would benefit from strengthening (to save our lower backs from compensating for weakened cores.) And it's scientifically-backed, which means I should see measurable benefits relatively quickly.
These are the 12 exercises: jumping jacks, wall sit, push ups, crunches, step ups, squats, tricep dips, plank, high knees, lunges, push up rotations, and side planks. The second day, PB and I did it together and counted the countable ones, to compare after the two weeks. Surprisingly, I was kind of on par with him on most things except the upper body things - I did 11 modified push ups (from my knees) to 15 of his full push ups (from his toes) and 9 modified tricep dips (with knees bent/feet flat) to 23 (sigh) of his full dips (legs straight/toes up). After that, my knees were stiff/swollen and my lats/rotator cuff/obliques were tender/achy. I slept like the dead. By morning, everything was stiff and my left SI (my weak point) was pinching. I self-adjusted the SI and stretched and felt fine in a couple hours.
I have the benefit, I suppose, of having learned about exercise physiology through my career and fitness-oriented colleagues, but I haven't lived it out practically with this intensity before. It helps that I know my musculo-skeletal anatomy. I can self-examine and stretch or adjust whatever might be ailing from whatever exercise I do (same thing happened when I was doing the Couch to 5K program.) I know to ice my knees, I know to hydrate. Although I feel like a fitness n00b, in terms of actual fitness level, I'm glad I had the background knowledge to support my efforts and success.
Most of the time, I do the workout at home. We tried it last night outside, on the soft grass in the fresh air, but it wasn't actually that great :( We spent our 10 second rest times rushing to the next spot (to the vestibule for step ups, to the garden box for tricep dips, to the grass for crunches) and the grass was itchy on hands and slippery for feet (my plank ended abruptly.) I also did it once at my gym, but I didn't enjoy really givin' her around other people - I felt embarrassed. I think the ability to do it at home in private is the best part, in a way. I can breathe like a dying horse and roll around in exhausted agony, and flop/jiggle without shame - and burn and sweat and feel stronger for it.
I have felt stronger every day - that kind of immediacy with results is exactly what this easily discouraged, chronically overweight lady needs. I don't get sore (DOMS) as much, nor am I as stiff. I sleep like the dead every night and wake up feeling more rested. I'm in a better mood. I can do 15 push ups (vs 11) and 15 tricep dips (vs 9), my two weakest exercises. After only seven days!
When the CBC show posted about this segment on their facebook page, there was this weird pushback in the comments: "it's not really a 7 minute workout, you're not being journalistically ethical" "it's not as efficient as my workout" "a healthy lifestyle is a bigger priority than potential strain/injury" "my current workout is enough." There is nothing more discouraging to the person trying something new for their fitness than to have an experienced, already fit person tell them, "No, that's not enough/won't work/isn't perfect." Really? Do you workout perfectly every time?! Don't. be. that. person.
Just because some research (quite a bit of research) has detailed the benefits of this style of exercise, doesn't mean that your workout is scientifically invalidated - that's a logical fallacy. If what you're doing works for you, then great, keep doing it. If what you're doing isn't working, or you have Exercise Ennui and like bright shiny things, or you're doing nothing and want to start something, science has found a lot of good reasons why this could be good for you. And if you are starting from nothing or almost nothing, then this workout for 7 minutes is more than enough. (After all, my professional knowledge was a considerable asset to my ability to keep up with this; I might have injured myself or given up without it.)
Here's the thing: you don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Obviously an overall healthy lifestyle should be the ultimate goal; maybe, for us n00bs, this workout is a nice, simple first step towards that ultimate goal. Starting with 7 minutes a day, and seeing the immediate improvements and benefits I've logged has boosted my confidence - now I'm motivated to make even more positive health changes and not feel hopeless about it.
I'll be back in another week with the Final Count (lol) but I think I'll be incorporating this into my life on the regular. (It should be noted, ideally there'd be rest days, but I think for two weeks, doing it daily won't be the end of the world.)