So, after yesterday’s kinda depressing admission that I am no longer working out, I found myself motivated. Even if I can’t talk myself into going to the gym, surely there is something I could do here, right? I began hunting around the internet and the App Store, searching for a solution.
Zen Labs To The Rescue?
Now, I was going into this with a healthy amount of skepticism. Any personal trainer will tell you that you really need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week, to stay healthy.
However, I also know that ANY minutes are better than NO minutes. Accordingly, I downloaded it on my iPad from the App Store. While I waited, I put on some gym shoes and busted out the yoga mat.
The program seems to have several different varieties. Some were for core work, others were listed as “advanced”, etc. I decided to go straight to “original.” It looked like 12 exercises I was already familiar with. My skepticism returned. How the heck were you going to get any kind of benefit out of 12 exercises in 7 minutes? Doubtful but hopeful, I pressed the “Start” button.
- Jumping Jacks. Well, the graphics are nice, anyway. You get a 10-second countdown, then 30 seconds to perform jumping jacks. I managed 29. I checked my Fitbit: heart rate at 76.
- Wall Sit. After a 10-second rest break, next up was the Wall Sit. The first challenge: finding a clear wall to use. There is exactly zero wall space available in my living room, so I was forced to head into the adjoining hallway. Once that was sorted out, I launched the counter. I knew I was paying the price for my time off when, with 20 seconds remaining on the counter, my quadriceps began quivering like Jello. Uh-oh.
- Push-ups. Well, shit. Literally my all-time least favorite exercise. I hated them in gym class in Junior High, and I still hate them now. I managed to wobble my way through 15, with very poor form, and arrived at the next 10 second rest period.
- Abdominal Crunch. Oh, good. From my least favorite to one of my favorites. What I didn’t anticipate was that this would be the point where I got some “help”. Our dachshund, Delilah, just couldn’t stand the idea that Dad was lying on the floor without licking him on the nose. Repeatedly. I struggled through 22 reps while fending off the dog without using the hands that were clasped behind my head. Heart Rate: 83.
- Chair steps. Somewhere in the depths of my garage, there is a full set of aerobic steps. Rather than interrupt my workout for 20 minutes to locate them, I just grabbed a handy step stool. 30 seconds of alternating steps finally got the heart moving a little, with my heart rate hitting 90.
- Squats. Simple body weight squats here. I focused on form and inhaling/exhaling and made it through 11.
- Triceps Dip. The program recommends a kitchen chair for their triceps dip. Moving all this gear into the living room was turning into a workout in and of itself. Triceps dips are actually very tricky to keep good form through. It is so easy to start incorporating your back or your shoulders instead of the targeted muscles. I went slowly, making sure my triceps wobbled with every rep and got through 12. Unfortunately, my focus dropped my heart rate all the way back down to 60.
- Plank. Yet another exercise where my form was victimized by fending off doggie kisses. I probably only held the plank position for a total of 20 seconds out of the 30 the program called for.
- High knees running in place. I think I might have mentioned that I write in the morning. Usually still in my pajamas. I might have also mentioned that the “beach ball” of fat that used to sit on my abdomen is now a collection of rolls of deflated skin. To combat the movement of all this skin I normally wear compression underwear and tight exercise gear, to keep it all in place while I move. In pajamas…not so much. I wound up having to hold my abdomen in place with one hand while running to avoid injuring myself. At least my heart rate got back up to 91.
- Lunges. I swear, I must be the only person on the planet who keeps falling off the floor when doing lunges. My lunge form has always been something that instructors have tried to help me with. The corrections have never helped. The heel of my back foot comes up off the floor, and I tip over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 22 reps, but at least I didn’t fall all the way over and wake Lor up.
- Push-up with rotation. What, more push-ups? Really? Sigh. These incorporate a lovely side plank yoga movement at the end of each rep, so at least there is some variety. Also, my aforementioned balance isn’t good enough for “perfect” form where you actually lie one foot on top of the other at the end of the movement. Baby steps, I suppose.
- Side planks. Another one that many people have trouble with, but doesn’t bother me much. And, a minor quibble here: you should do side planks on both sides. The timer only runs you through one side, then pronounces your workout as “Complete.” I flipped over, counted slowly to 30, and pronounced myself done.
An Incomplete Solution
So, my final analysis?
Well…it was OK.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. And I’ve been doing nothing for a couple months now, so this was a vast improvement over somnolence.
But…(and it is a BIG but), is this something that I would recommend to a normally active person who was crunched for time? Probably not.
The problem, for me, lies in the heart rate. The entire premise behind the 7-minute workout is that it is supposed to be a HIIT workout – High-Intensity Interval Training. You need to get your heart pumping over a certain plateau in order to be realizing the “Intensity” part of the exercise. And even a fairly healthy beginner should have been doing better than 91 beats a minute. A male my age should be somewhere between 105 to 140 beats per minute to be getting an “Intermediate” workout.
Now, who would I recommend this for?
Me, two and a half years ago, as I was getting prepped for bariatric surgery. This would have been a godsend for me during the months immediately before and after surgery, as I was trying to learn how to move again.
Now, there are a host of other “7-minute” programs out there, including a highly recommended one produced by Johnson and Johnson, so I may give that one a whirl. It supposedly incorporates exercises and intensities for those of us who aren’t totally new to exercise but need to get some work in during a time crunch.
I am crossing my fingers in hopes of finding a solution that doesn’t force me out into the cold, cold world. Wish me luck.
Catch You All Tomorrow,