Whether someone has been exercising since childhood or adopted fitness as an adult, it’s likely her workout routines have evolved over time. Injuries, boredom and natural physiological changes necessarily spur regular exercisers to change things up every so often. And I’m no exception to the rule.
I began structured exercise in college. Now I’m facing the (ugh!) 50 year mark in the near future but (yay!) still exercising. My routines have run the gamut over that time and major tweaks were made throughout. These exercise routine make-overs were sometimes out of necessity (injuries, pregnancies, surgeries) and sometimes to extricate myself from a workout rut. But, my latest change-up brought about a new revelation.
It all began last fall when I was noticing some nagging shin and hip joint pains. The nature of them pointed to repetitive use injuries. Specifically, the step aerobic workouts and jogs I was doing, and had been doing, weekly for many years. It was a huge disappointment because I was still really enjoying both of those workouts and rarely had to psyche myself up to do them.
Still, I needed to replace them with something else and, with winter on the way, I had to have an indoor option. I didn’t want to decrease my weekly output, however. The obvious solution was to replace them with something less strenuous on the joints but longer in duration. The problem was I couldn’t afford the extra time to double the length of my workouts. What I came up with instead was a high intensity interval training (HIIT) jump rope workout (see sidebar) to replace my step routine and a fast-paced strength-cardio interval workout to replace both my jog and one of my weekly strength workouts.
Sidebar: Jump Rope
One may think jumping rope at near-50 might invite more injury than I was already dealing with. The reality is, because the jumping is done in a short interval format, the total time I spend jumping is actually much shorter than the total time of the aerobic step routine I was doing. But, because the jumping is more vigorous than the step routine, I’m challenged and burning as many (if not more) calories. And, because I’ve taken what used to be a strength-only workout day and a cardio-only day (jogging) and combined them into one workout, I’ve added an extra day of recovery. My 30 year old self could get by on one rest day per week, now I really need two rest days most weeks. I make sure one of my rest days is after my HIIT jump rope day.
The beauty of these workouts is they can be done indoors or out and, other than a jump rope, no equipment is needed. The cardio-strength combo workout is even more special because, by changing out what exercises I choose for the strength and cardio intervals, it can be a completely different workout every week.
But, I had one huge hurdle in the beginning I didn’t anticipate. Both of these workouts require a reliable, sophisticated timer. The first basic timer-stopwatch app I downloaded was cumbersome and required me to track in my head what interval I was on (am I supposed to be jumping or resting, doing cardio or strength?) and what round I was on (have I done this interval five or six times?). Consequently, I had to keep the workout plan simple, which meant sometimes it wasn’t challenging enough. Sometimes the workouts would be frustratingly interrupted because of a glitch in the app or because I lost track or lost count. In short, the workouts weren’t fun and were already beginning to feel old even though I had only been doing them for a couple of months.
Everything changed when I discovered the free GymNext Flex Timer app. I can set the time intervals for the exact length I want and have the intervals repeat as many times as I like. The app displays what interval I’m on (work or rest) and how many times I’ve done it. It also displays a timeline so I know where I am in the workout as a whole. The best part is the built-in (optional) voice prompt so I don’t have to watch my phone the whole time. The voice will count down the last three seconds of an interval and tell me whether it’s time to “go” or “rest.” If I want the voice prompt to be specific, I can type in the name of each exercise when I’m setting up the timer for a workout and, instead of the voice prompt saying “go” it will say “jump” or “plank,” for example. It’s not an exaggeration to say this app has been a workout game changer for me.
Which is a good reminder for all of us. Whether we’re fitness nuts or newbies, when we’re not enjoying exercise, we’re quick to assume the problem is with what we’re doing. Many times that’s true. But, sometimes the problem isn’t what we’re doing but how we’re doing it. Discovering the difference can lead you to the workout game changer you’re needing.
Interested in my workouts? Here they are and how they work with the GymNext Flex Timer app:
HIIT Jump Rope
App Setting: Interval Timer; 15 Intervals; Work: 0:20; Prelude: 2:00
- Warm-Up: 2:00 (high knee marches and light skipping motion)
- 20 Seconds of Jump Rope followed by 40 Seconds of Rest/Active Recovery (walking)
- Repeat 15 Times
- Cool Down and Stretch
- Over time, lengthen Work Interval & shorten Recovery Interval
Choose 4 different strength exercises (A-D) with at least one each of core, upper body & leg exercises; choose mode of cardio (see examples below). Cardio can be the same or changed up throughout.
App Setting: Tabata Timer; Work/Strength: 0:20; Rest/Cardio: 0:10; Rounds: 8; Number: 4; Rest between: 1:00; Prelude: 2:00
- Warm-Up: 2:00
Tabata: 8 Rounds of 0:20 Strength & 0:10 Cardio, followed by 1:00 Rest
- Strength A: 0:20
- High Knee March: 0:10
- Strength B: 0:20
- Jog: 0:10
- Strength C: 0:20
- Jump Jacks: 0:10
- Strength D: 0:20
- Grapevine: 0:10
- Strength A: 0:20
- Skip: 0:10
- Strength B: 0:20
- Walk: 0:10
- Strength C: 0:10
- Hop: 0:10
- Strength D: 0:20
- Kick: 0:10
- Rest: 1:00
Repeat Tabata 3 Times (4 Tabatas Total)
- Cool-down & Stretch