I have a very busy life. I have five children and work (more than ) full time as a physician. Long hours working in the intensive care unit followed by the nightly bedtime battles (my wife and I are outnumbered) make squeezing in trips to the gym not an option. The problem is that middle age is barreling towards me like a freight train and exercise is the only thing that will untie me from the tracks. My metabolism is only getting slower. For that reason, finding a fitness plan that is effective without taking a lot of time is essential.
To face this challenge I have experimented with many different types of exercise. I was looking for programs that could be done in my basement and take less than 45 minutes in total (including warm up, cool down, and changing clothes). This obviously excludes anything involving a gym where it takes almost that long getting too and from the gym door to weights. You need almost one and a half to two hours for a good gym workout. My time restraints also exclude many endurance activities like biking and running. It’s hard to get results with a 25 or 30 minute jog unless you run really fast which I don’t particularly enjoy. This also takes me out of the house where I am often needed to keep the children from causing permanent damage to each other or our belongings. Fortunately there are many workout websites and apps that have videos of varying intensity that can be done at home (e.g. beachbody.com and dailyburn.com).
I tried many of these workout programs and videos and enjoyed many of them very much. They were relatively effective for me but the problem was that I got bored with them after a few weeks. I would then start dreading doing my workouts.
Another option I tried was CrossFit. I had done CrossFit in the past with very good success. For the reasons why CrossFit is effective click here. The problem I had was that I was still 24 in my head but not in my body. It then became very hard for me to complete their workouts of the day. I pushed myself too hard and burned out.
Many people have discounted CrossFit as being too intense and cultish. These accusations are not without merit. If you were to go onto the website in the past, it was filled with super intense high level workouts with the uber-fit posting self-inflating and narcissistic times often couched in the humble brag (“Dude, this was tough for me coming of 337 days without a day off. It took me a whole 3 and half minutes to complete as prescribed”).
Even with the drawbacks, I had great success with the program so a few months ago I decided to give it another try and headed back to the CrossFit home page. I decided that I would be a little less intense and scale the workouts.
Scaling is an essential aspect of CrossFit. It essentially means paring down the workouts to your level. Decreasing the weight, reps, or substituting easier exercises for more challenging ones. The main website puts up workouts designed to challenge elite athletes. I am not elite, not even close, so I started scaling. On the website now in the comments section there are coaches from various CrossFit locations that will make recommendations on how to scale the workout. If you’re new, you can usually find a Groupon for a local gym to have a coach scale for you. Anyone can do CrossFit with the proper scaling.
I started back and have been amazed at the response in a short time. Even though the workouts were often less than 15 minutes and I only did them 3 or 4 times a week, I noticed results very quickly. I had to move up one notch on my belt and my shirts were tight more in the chest and arms than in the waist. The best part is that there is a different workout every day so I never get bored.
For most of the workouts you do need some equipment. I have a weight bench I got on Craig’s List, some dumbells that can be adjusted, and a pullup bar in my basement that is about 1 foot higher than my reach. There are, however, many workouts that are bodyweight only in the archives to get you started. There are also hundreds of Youtube videos with workouts, techniques, and guides for beginners.
Give it a try, its not nearly as scary as you think.