Fire up your fitness with easy-to-implement strategies for size, stamina, strength and wellbeing.
1. Up the Anti
Try ‘anti-HIIT training’ to build strength and burn calories, without risking injury.
Anti-HIIT is “a series of low-impact, dynamic exercises, done in intervals with very short rest times,” explains personal trainer Jack Hanrahan.
The goal of anti-HIIT is much the same as low-intensity, steady-state cardio. “Work for an extended duration at a low to moderate intensity (upper limit of ‘zone 2’) – this is the sweet spot for aerobic health benefits,” says Hanrahan.
Anti-HIIT can help you achieve great results, including health longevity, faster recovery, and an improved capacity to build muscle.
Try Hanrahan’s recommended workout: 20 jumping jacks, followed by 2 deep nasal breaths, then 20 mountain climbers, followed by 2 deep nasal breaths – repeat for 40 minutes.
2. Take a Dip
Quick, while the sun is peeking out from behind that cloud, leap into a lake and start swimming.
The benefits of swimming are well publicised: as well as toning your body and burning calories, a report published in Swim England’s ‘Swimming and Health Commission’ found that it reduces your chances of dying early by 28 per cent, and almost halves your risk of dying of heart disease or a stroke.
3. Think Like a Farmer
The farmer’s walk is a lovely, simple exercise for days when you don’t want to think too much: simply hold a pair of weights and go for a walk.
Choose a weight that’s heavy, but you can manage in each arm, and stand with your back straight. Then…there’s not much to explain. You just walk around.
Like carrying home two shopping bags full of Coke bottles, you feel the burn before long. It’s great for your legs, it’s great for your back, it’s great for your arms.
Shoot for 3 sets of 60-second carries to smoke your forearms and rev up your metabolism at the end of any workout.
4. Skip a Beat
Not since you frolicked in the sun as a schoolkid have you held two ends of a rope and skipped about the place. But there’s a reason boxers and CrossFitters swear by it.
It increases your metabolic rate, burns a ton of calories at a rapid rate, strengthens your hips and bones, and gives a solid workout to your calves, glutes and quads.
Research conducted by two universities in North Carolina demonstrates that skipping burns 30 per cent more calories than running, and that it improves ability, concentration and balance.
5. Be a Dogsbody
We hear a lot about the downward-facing dog, but it’s not the only canine pose in the yoga world. This summer, get to know the upward-facing variant.
Begin by lying flat with your arms at right angles by your side. Lift your chest up and bring your lower body away from the mat, your arms fully extended now. This strengthens your posture and your arms, and firms up your backside.
All that’s before even touching on the other, numerous benefits of regular yoga, which include less lower back pain, a lowered risk of heart disease, and stimulated brain function.
A 2015 study showed that just 12 weeks of yoga practice led to improvements in endurance, strength and flexibility in 173 participants.
6. Do Little and Often
“Keep in mind that a little at a time is often better than large chunks of exercise,” says personal trainer Kirk Charles.
He recommends starting the day with a 10-minute stretch, “Then every hour through an eight-hour work day, take one minute to do one stretch. You will feel energised and more productive,” he says. “Also, it won’t interfere with the flow of your day.”
Alternatively, you can do a one-minute exercise every hour, as Charles explains: “20-40 squats per hour can build some serious lower-body power, while 20 press-ups every hour is going to add up to some impressive strength and muscle gains before long.”
7. Sit and Press
Want to improve your mobility? Try a few single-arm kettlebell Z-presses:
- Sit down, legs extended straight out in front of you, and raise a kettlebell (or similarly heavy weight) above your head.
- Press the weight up so your bicep grazes your ear.
- Then return until the weight is level with the top of your chest – racking the kettlebell securely to take the strain off your shoulder joint.
Working your shoulders like this does serious good for the mobility of your spine, and your posture will improve as a result.
8. Don’t be Boring
“Yes, the staples — squats, deadlifts and bench — are great,” says personal trainer AJ Perez. “But I socially distanced at big gyms before it was necessary. Nobody ever used the TRX [suspension training] when I started training – and still not many do now.”
He recommends being interesting and varied with the types of exercise you pack into your workout: “Incorporate yoga, pilates and explosive plyometrics – basically all the stuff the dudes with no necks in the weights area aren’t doing.”
9. Keep Fartleking
Stop laughing. Fartlek training is all about playing with different running speeds, ranging from low to high intensity on a sustained, continuous run.
Fartlek runs are typically quite unstructured. Having the duration, terrain, quantity and speed of the session open-ended means workouts can be structured to suit the needs of different runners at different times and can done pretty much anywhere, anytime.
- Pick a fixed landmark on your run (a park bench, lamppost or tree) as your end point, then pick a pace at which you’ll run to it.
- Once you arrive, keep running at an easy pace and pick your next landmark.
- Keep repeating this, varying the landmark, distance and the intensity for anywhere from 20 to 40 mins.
10. And Breathe
Particularly in hot weather, the importance of breathing correctly can’t be overstated. Explore ways to make your breathing more efficient and you will be able to run longer, swim faster, and lift heavier.
When you’re lifting weights, for example, aim to breathe out on the concentric part of the lift – this tends to be when the weight is being lifted and on its way to its final destination.
Words: Ralph Jones