High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been said to be the most efficient way to get a workout. It has been said to be better than cardio for your body, since the intervals keep you working hard and keep the metabolic fire burning.
I first researched and started weightlifting in 2000, and I remember someone at 24 Hour Fitness telling me a story about someone who was disappointed after they had been working out for ten years, since they looked the same as when they had begun. The punchline is that at least they didn't look ten years older (like their non-exercising peers, who had obviously aged).
In the meantime, I gravitated towards aerobics and group fitness classes of all types, then found Muay Thai and did a bit of crossfit training with it, then found Bikram Yoga, Barre classes, and at-home workouts. I have always biked for transportation (never for sport) as often as possible, and always have loved swimming for fun and some cardio, as well as preferring to walk whenever possible. I also cycle in and out of running for exercise, but it usually hurts my knees after a few weeks. My mode of sweating has had to change as my life has moved locations, I've gotten married and had two kids, and have battled with and against knee pain and back injury. For me, finding a way to sweat and move my body not only keeps my body running smoothly, but it is a way of meditating and keeping my life in balance. I like to be strong, and it makes the other parts of my life easier.
I remember someone telling me people work out for their looks, or their health, or for how it feels. I like to exercise for all three.
But that is not what this is about. This is about High Intensity Interval Training. Twelve Minutes (give or take a couple if you must) of sweating hard and working hard: max effort and max results in the minimum amount of time needed. I wonder if the Internet had been what it is now back in 2000 if I would have spent so much time in the weight room, or if I would have stopped lifting to pursue other sports. HIIT is so easy (yet so hard)-- it is a great way to get the workout in but not spend the day doing it. I used to complain that it took two hours to work out for an hour (half hour to pack a bag and get to the gym, then the workout, then the shower and drive home and unpacking). Now it takes about 12 minutes to work out for 12 minutes. Sometimes it takes 20 if you include finding the exercises (so you don't do the same thing every time), getting your gear out, and showering afterwards.
Everything is optional. It is all done at home and you can do all bodyweight exercises. If you follow someone's website or program (I love Bodyrock.tv which has just changed into TheDailyHiit.com and Zuzana, a BodyRock co-founder, does her own and I'm sure there are loads more of these free sites out there), they give you exercises and use or don't use equipment. You can also read a book like You Are Your Own Gym or The New Rules of Lifting or Turbulence Training or get DVDs from places like Beachbody (but I think their programs are slightly different- I haven't tried them).
What to Do:
You can read the books to get the exercises then get yourself an interval timer (or download an app) and set it to 50 seconds on and 10 seconds off and choose 4 exercises and repeat them 3 times through for 12 minutes total. Choose a push, a pull, a leg, and a core exercise and call it a day. Or do compound exercises to make it harder. Try different angles and surfaces to make it easier and harder as you get stronger. Do this 2-4 days per week and call yourself stronger.
What if I don't Want to Think about it?
Then go to The Daily Hiit and follow them and use their workouts! They are great! The hosts are very enthusiastic and fit, and very encouraging of us at various levels of the fitness journey. They post workouts every day or so, and have modifications to make them easier (or harder), and you can also start with their Lite series for easier moves and to get a feel for HIIT.
They will have you buy an interval timer, a set of equalizers, and Ugi ball, and a sandbag. You can do the workouts without all this stuff-- it's just easier with it. It's about $300 together and worth the investment. I have some dumbbells I've had for ages (10-30 pounds), and a stability ball, and some kettlebells I use occasionally, but these are less necessary for the HIIT workouts. My older son just had me buy 2 pound and 5 pound dumbbells for him and his brother to use so they can join me occasionally when he saw them at Target. I also have two old yoga mats I use to give me a sense of space in the bedroom: one for me and one for the kids to "work out" on.
Have fun! Because it is fun.
Let me know how it goes for you.