I find winter really hard to exercise in. I don’t mind the cold so much, in fact I prefer running in the cold. But the dark mornings, slippery conditions and the winter coughs and colds my kids keep insisting on sharing with me keep knocking me out of my rhythm. Before I know it, months have passed and I’m well and truly out of the habit.
So when I spotted Joanna Helcke, pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert, talking about 11½ minute workouts, I was intrigued, and asked her to come and share her secrets on the blog.
Don’t be fooled though. It may only be minutes long, but she’ll work you hard. Not a bad way to warm up on cold winter days though! Over to Jo…
Too busy to workout? Not with this short, sharp calorie buster!
by Joanna Helcke
Want to exercise but find it hard to find the time? You really don’t need to be spending hours on the treadmill or ploughing up and down the pool.
How about giving this short, sharp, metabolic (that means calorie busting!) workout a go at home? No need to go to get into the car and go to the gym, and no need for any equipment. Even better – it is only 11½ minutes long. Now come on, don’t tell me you can’t find 11½ minutes for fitness today!
Ready? Let’s go for it.
The Pyramid Accumulator
Here’s how this routine works. Once you’ve got the hang of the 5 exercises and the pattern in which you put them together, it will become an incredibly efficient workout (by that I mean hard work!).
- Read through the exercises carefully
- Practice the exercises until you feel confident doing them
- Once you feel ready to get going, this is your plan of action:
- Make sure you have a stop watch to hand and visible
- Do the warm up
- You will now go into the exercise routine and there will be only one 40 second break throughout the 11½ minutes
- Do exercise 1 followed by exercise 2
- Now do exercises, 1, 2 and 3
- Go back to the beginning and complete exercises, 1, 2, 3 and 4
- Finally, do exercises, 1 – 5 without stopping between each exercise
- Well done. You have climbed to the top of the pyramid and now all that’s left is to come back down. Have a 40 second rest before your descend.
- Now do exercises 1-4 without stopping
- Drop exercise 4 and do exercises 1, 2 and 3
- Get rid of exercise 3 and perform exercises 1 and 2
- Last but not least just do exercise #1
- Take a walk around until your heart rate comes down before stretching through the muscles that you have used. Voilà!
Warm up: never skip this bit, or you might strain yourself. Try and warm though all the main muscle groups by doing big movements such as vigorously stepping on and off the bottom step of your staircase. Now circle your arms backwards and forwards through a nice big range of movement.
Exercise 1, Squats for 30 seconds
Squat with your feet shoulder width apart, dropping your bottom down to just above knee height. Make your squats strong, rhythmic and purposeful, maintaining a good pace.
- Weight goes into the heels and not the toes as you squat; your back must be long with the shoulders pinned back and the chest open; knees must be aligned and neither drop inwards (knock kneed) or splay outwards as you squat; check that your knees remain behind your toes as you drop down into the squats; abdominals should be gently drawn inwards.
Exercise 2, Dynamic lunges alternating left and right foot for 30 seconds
Step forwards with your right foot, lunge, push back to your start position. Now step forwards with your left foot, lunge and push back. Keep going with bags of energy and with great technique!
- The step you take needs to be LONG so that you are up on the toes of your back foot and the heel is off the floor; drop the knee of the back leg straight down to the floor; keep the knee of the front leg behind the toes of your front foot; the chest remains lifted as you lunge. Avoid dropping your upper body forwards. Think posture!
Exercise 3, alternating lunge-squat-lunge pattern for 30 seconds
Now it’s time to put the lunges and squats together into a high energy pattern as follows:
- Right leg lunge. Take a large step forwards with your right leg. Now drop your left knee down towards the floor. As you come back up push yourself back to the start position with force.
- Squat. Now take your feet shoulder width apart and drop down into a squat with excellent form.
- Left leg lunge. Take a large step forwards with your left leg. Now drop your right knee down towards the floor. As you come back up push yourself back to the start position with force.
Keep going with this alternating pattern for 30 seconds.
Exercise 4, press ups for 30 seconds
Make sure you work at the correct level for you.
- Box press up technique: all fours box position, hands in-line with shoulders but wider than shoulders, back long and aligned, abdominals drawn in to support the back. Lower yourself downwards and forwards of your hands whilst maintaining the back in a neutral position.
- ¾ press up: take your knees further back and bring the weight forwards into your arms. Your body should be in a diagonal line from shoulders to knees. Lower yourself in one “block” towards the floor making sure that you do not let your lower back arch. Abdominals need to be drawn in.
- Full press up: hands need to be in line with your shoulders but wider than the shoulders. Up on your toes and ensure that your body is in a perfectly straight line from shoulders down to heels. Do not allow your lower back to sag down towards the floor as this will place pressure on the back. At the other end of the scale, avoid sticking your bottom up into the air, thus forming an inverted Ʌ-shape with your body. To achieve this alignment and protect the back, it is important to draw in the abdominals.
Exercise 5, Plank hold for 30 seconds
Make sure you work at the correct level for you.
- Level 1 plank: this level should be used if you have recently had a baby. Lie on your tummy with your elbows under your shoulders and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears. Gently draw your abdominals inwards and upwards away from the floor. Hold for 30 seconds but be sure to keep breathing as you do so! NB This exercise is not one to do if you suffer from lower back pain.
- Level 2 plank: Lie on your tummy with your elbows under your shoulders and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears. Draw the abdominals inwards and then lift yourself onto your knees so that your torso is raised off the floor and is parallel to the floor. Try to avoid sticking your bottom up into the air or, conversely, letting it drop downwards. You need to be level. Hold for 30 seconds but be sure to keep breathing as you do so!
- Level 3 plank: Lie on your tummy with your elbows under your shoulders and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears. Draw the abdominals inwards and then lift yourself onto your toes so as to create a straight line with your body from your shoulders to your heels. It is very important that you do not let your hips and bottom drop downwards as this will strain the back. Lifting your bottom too far upwards into a “pyramid” shape won’t strain the back but it is cheating! . Hold for 30 seconds but be sure to keep breathing as you do so!
Cool down and stretch – don’t miss this out!
Finally, take a photo of yourself looking hot and sweaty, and post it on my facebook page to prove you worked hard! I’ll be there to send you a big congrats!
About the author
Dr. Joanna Helcke is an award winning expert in pregnancy and postnatal fitness and is the creator of the UK’s first ever week by week online mum-to-be and new mum fitness and wellbeing system. She is regularly quoted as a pre and postnatal fitness expert in the national media. You can sign up for her weekly busy mums fitness and health newsletters via her website: www.joannahelcke.com