It snowed yesterday in Colorado. In the morning, as I watched the snowflakes swirl across my window, I made the decision to skip my mountain bike ride at lunch. I’m sure many outdoor-minded people across the Rocky Mountain Region made the same decision when they saw the white stuff out their window and the mean wind that came with it. I mean, come on, it’s freakin’ May! It’s days like this when all I want to do is sit in a big chair next to a fire and eat nachos.
And if you met me last year, hell, if you met me last month, that’s probably what I would’ve done. But I’ve since learned that any exercise is good exercise, and every little bit helps to make you fitter, no matter how inconsequential it may appear. This enlightenment came courtesy of two people: Stephen Koch, a guide with Exum Mountain Guides and the first man to snowboard down the Seven Summits, and a Dr. Ed Laskowski with the Sports Medicine Center at the Mayo Clinic.
Koch told me that, when it came to staying in shape whenever he was on the road or pressed for time, all he needed was to do a circuit of push-ups, dips, sit-ups, and jumping lunges (pretend you're telemark skiing and jump from “turn-to-turn”), and squat jumps to failure. All told, it took him maybe 10-15 minutes, longer if he felt fresh enough to do another circuit or two.
Indirectly, Dr. Laskowski confirmed Koch’s approach—work through multiple joint exercises and do them to failure—and went on to say that most people can get the majority of their strength gains from doing one circuit of strength exercises to failure. According to Laskowski, up to 80% of the gains from strength training can be achieved in only one set (The caveat here is that fitter you are, the more sets you have to do to see those gains.).
After hearing this stuff, my whole attitude toward the word “workout” evolved from something that had to be scheduled to something that I could throw into my day anytime, anywhere. Kids taking a bath? Do some push-ups and sit-ups. Waiting for the water to boil for pasta? Do lunges until my legs started to shake—you get my point.
So yesteday, instead of looking at the snow and cursing my lost workout, I went down into my basement and did two rounds of my strength circuit (lunges, one-legged squats, one-legged dumbbell rows, chin-ups, dips, and medicine ball chops). I was done in less than 20 minutes and felt saved.
Over the last decade Grant Davis has been writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.