I don’t much care for the conventional 30-minute workout. I’m more of a Pickleball man. But since gyms are closed and just about every sport in the history of athletics has been canceled due to the pandemic, I found myself needing a new way to get moving.
And thanks to three young kids who need constant attention, a dog who deserves better, a full-time job, and the weekly column you’re reading, I have next to zero time to work out. That’s the real kicker.
So I set out to find a collection of sources I could leverage that A) had exercises that could be done in windows of 10 minutes or less and that I could stack if I had extra time, B) didn’t require crazy strength or flexibility to pull off, C) could be done while on work calls or while otherwise multitasking, and D) could be done in a relatively confined space. (My home office is the only place I can go to be alone for any length of time.)
Here’s what I found—and at the end of this piece, I’ll share the workout routine I’ve been doing for the past few weeks.
Darebee: something for everyone
If there’s one free, no-equipment workout site to rule them all, it’s Darebee. It’s got a gazillion individual workouts and full programs, all presented in beautifully minimal, visual cards and split out by beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
You could largely create a series of workouts just from this site. It’s great. This 30 Days of Change workout series, for instance, is a dynamite month-long program to kick-start your fitness if you’re looking for something to follow right out of the gate.
Bowflex (but without the Bowflex)
Now if you’re like me, you might assume that the good people at Bowflex would only put out exercise videos that leverage their fancy Bowflex machines. But the Bowflex YouTube channel has a bunch of other great, short (but relatively intense) no-equipment videos as well.
They’re sprinkled in here and there, but if you sort the channel by popular uploads, most of the ones at the top are of the no-equipment variety and less than 10 minutes in length.
Ideally, if you can safely get outside for some fresh air, you should by all means go for a walk or a jog or whatever you normally do for cardio. But if the weather’s not cooperating, you’d rather stay inside, or you’re looking to multitask, search YouTube for “virtual run” and pick something that appeals to you.
These are first-person filmed runs from spots all over the world that you can watch as you jog in place (they also make great companions if you’ve got a treadmill with a TV mounted in front of it). My all-time favorite is this 30-minute run through Kodiak Island, Alaska.
The Treadmill TV YouTube channel is a great place to find a bunch of cool runs. I love this Lupine Trail run in Crested Butte, Colorado, and—though it isn’t part of the Treadmill TV collection—this run along the beach in Monterey, California. These videos are perfect for the winter months, when I want to see a little sunshine.
So here’s what’s been working for me. You can do one or more of these or stack all three if you have time. The first two last about seven or eight minutes each and give you a decent full-body workout. Then, if you want to, throw in some cardio, add a virtual run, or go for a walk or jog outside.
Here I should point out that—aside from doing these myself because I have no time and three small kids who have nowhere to go for the next however-many weeks—I’ve got zero actual fitness credentials. That said, I’ve been doing this sequence multiple days each week without any adverse side effects. I usually do two days on, one day off.
First I do the Upperbody Workout, which I love largely because it incorporates knee push-ups and I’m too much of a weenie to do real push-ups (although I’ve gotten good enough to do the advanced level).
If I have no time at all, this is the one I do. It’s quick, gets the blood flowing, and just kind of feels good all around. To save time, I stack everything and blow through it all at once: 50 knee push-ups, followed by 50 arm extensions, followed by 50 bicep extensions—you get the gist.
And I need something to work my midsection, but I hate—with the fire of a thousand suns— getting down on the ground and rolling around to do crunches and leg raises and all that nonsense. I do these exercises in my office, which is a converted attic with asinine plywood floors, so I needed something I can do standing up—and again, that doesn’t take too much time. Hence the Bowflex routine.
So after Googling “standing-only ab workouts” I stumbled across this life-changing gem.
It’s seven minutes of punching, kicking, and knee raising that’s not too easy, not too hard, and gets a good sweat going.
So by combining the above two routines together, I get about 10-plus minutes of strength and cardio that works most of my body. And these are exercises that can be done without a ton of space: great for home offices while muted on conference calls, hotel rooms first thing in the morning, or anytime I just need to squeeze a quick workout in.
And then if I’ve got some additional time, I’ll add some cardio: an hour-long walk around the neighborhood or one of the aforementioned virtual runs, which are also great for multitasking.