I’ve written about this before, but I need to mention it again. This entry overlaps with my post on ten minute workouts, but this covers a more specific application. I’m going to call it the ‘Non-Workout, Workout‘. At least until I think of a better name.

Essentially, it’s just reframing training. You’re still putting in work, but it’s broken down into smaller parts, and inserted into another activity. Maybe it’s hitting 20 kettlebell swings every commercial break, or blasting out some push-ups while you make coffee. The idea is the exercise is secondary.

You’re not allotting an hour or two to lift iron. Instead, you just happened to have knocked out some pull-ups before each Skype meeting you had yesterday afternoon. It didn’t take a tonne of effort, physically or mentally. And it certainly didn’t require you to change clothes and schedule an appropriate time to move.

When do I use this:

  • I’m short on time.
  • I’ve recently been over training, but want some form of movement.
  • I don’t feel like training. Probably the most common scenario, to be honest.

How Does it Work?

I sneakily slip in a few sets of some exercises into whatever else I might be doing. Typically, it means completing supersets of pull-ups and push-ups while I prepare and cook dinner. I described this in a recent post, but to reiterate, here’s what one of these Non-Workout Workouts might look like (in fact, this what I did earlier this evening):

  • 10 pull-ups, 25 push-ups
    • Formed some burgers out of seasoned ground beef I had in the fridge.
  • 10 pull-ups, 25 push-ups
    • Started BBQ.
  • 10 pull-ups, 25 push-ups
    • Put burgers on grill.
  • 10 pull-ups, 25 push-ups.
    • Finished cooking burgers.
Burgers and strawberries. A summertime favourite.

That little routine barely disrupted my dinner preparation. Obviously it wasn’t a crushing workout, but it was something. And since I was reluctant to train today, the choice really boiled down to completing this small routine, or nothing at all.

And I didn’t really view this evenings push-ups and pull-ups as a workout. Not because it was light in volume, rather, because all I was doing was cooking dinner, the exercise itself was secondary, incidental. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Like, “oh, may as well bust out a few chin-ups when I pass by the door frame. No big deal.”

It’s a simple and powerful system I use when I’m short on time, or more commonly, short on enthusiasm.

Sun’s out, guns out. Finishing up the burgers after a light push/pull.

Sometimes you need (or just want) a ten minute workout. I think the guys over at Mind Pump (funny fitness podcast) would call these ‘trigger sessions’. Sort of micro workouts intended to offer a quick hit of stimulation, but nothing too intensive. Not sure if my workouts would be considered the same thing, but I like the term, so I’m using it.

Given the fact that most of us spend hours sitting each day, it’s beneficial to add small, frequent bursts of movement to wake up our body. This in contrast to exclusively engaging in only one or two intense workouts each week, with all remaining hours spent virtually motionless. That’s why I use these sessions. Well, that, and the following reasons:

  • I’m sometimes lazy, and 10 minutes is less than 11, 12, or even 20 minutes.
  • Alternatively, maybe I do really want to exercise, but happen to be at a stage where I need to reduce volume. Ten minutes lets me do something, just not too much.
  • I’m short on time. Something is better than nothing.
  • Again, I’m lazy. 

THE LAYOVER: Perform 10 minutes of suitcase carries with a kettlebell or dumbbell.

Suitcase carries are similar to farmers walks, except the weight is loaded asymmetrically (one side heavier than the other). This lopsided loading requires you to maintain an upright torso, fighting the urge to be pulled down by the weighted side. If you have the opportunity, this is a great workout to do in the backyard, barefoot, under some vitamin D delivering sunshine. Try to keep a steady pace with a solid posture for the entire 10 minutes, switching hands periodically (say every 50 metres or every 30 seconds). I personally use a roughly 60 lb kettlebell for my suitcase carries. 

This routine isn’t meant to blast you. It’s a little extra work you can throw in, especially on an ‘off’ day. For me personally, it allows me to feel like I’ve worked out, without really overtaxing my body. 

BAMBI LEGS: This is so easy it hurts. One plate (135 lbs) barbell squats: 3 sets of 20 reps. That’s it. That’s the workout. Get in. Get out.

BACK TO BASICS: To be honest, this one takes longer than ten minutes, because a little extra recovery is required between sets. That said, the total time actually moving is less than ten minutes.

The goal here is five supersets (back to back exercises) of 10 pull-ups and 20 push-ups (for a total of 50 pull-ups and 100 push-ups).

I’ll often perform this routine while cooking dinner. It’s a simple way to add a little exercise in without disrupting my day. For example, using my recent hamburger recipe, my session might look something like this…

  • Perform set #1
    • Chop some onions
  • Perform set #2
    • Prepare spices, form hamburger patties.
  • Perform set #3
    • Warm up BBQ.
  • Perform set #4
    • Place burgs on BBQ
  • Perform set #5 (final set)
    • Finish cooking the burgers, enjoy dinner.

These are but three potential workouts you can use. The main point is, sometimes all you really need is a quick burst of movement. It doesn’t need to be planned days in advance, and it doesn’t even have to involve changing into dedicated workout clothes. The fewer hurdles you encounter, the more likely you’ll actually engage in these activities. A few extra push-ups sprinkled in here and there will go a long way. Don’t overthink it, just give it a try.

Don’t forget to wash your hands after doing the push-ups!

We’re now on the eighth day of our Maritime vacation. This is the longest break from the barbell I’ve had in the past seven months. I’m a creature of habit, and I thrive off momentum. Vacations sometimes worry me because they can provide a sufficient interruption of routine. Although I welcome the break from heavy squats and deadlifts, I want to ensure when I return home I quickly revert back to my regular protocol.

This is why it’s so important for me to keep up a disciplined routine on the trip. Not because two weeks without exercise starts to get a little generous from a recovery standpoint, but primarily to ensure my habit ‘muscle’ doesn’t atrophy.

On that note, I’ll share this quick workout I’ll be undertaking today. Nothing complicated or intense. Just a little push, pull, and hinge. My wife and I have been doing tremendous amounts of walking (especially over hilly terrain), so I’m less concerned with adding any leg-dominant exercises. If we weren’t walking hills so much, perhaps I’d toss in some goblet squats, too.

Today’s workout, repeating the following for five rounds:

– 5 Pull-Ups
– 20 Push-Ups
– 20 Kettlebell Swings

I forgot to mention I brought our 35 lb kettlebell from home. It’s versatile and perfect for a road trip. Unfortunately a bit lighter than I’d like for swings, but the focus for these two weeks is lower weights with higher repetitions, so it’ll more than suffice for my purpose.

But there’s no pull-up bar!

One issue while training away on the road can be finding a spot to perform pull-ups. Although far from ideal, there’s a spot I can hang underneath the cottage rental’s back deck. Performing the pulls from this spot is a bit more difficult on my grip, but that just means it’s an opportunity for my body to try to adapt to a changing environment. I’ll aim to post a picture of where I’m completing them. In fact, I may try and regularly post pictures of ‘unconventional pull-up spots’ when I come across them.

No excuses and all that good stuff.

Update. Later that morning…

View from our cottage deck. East Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia. August 2019.

I’m writing this post on a beautiful August morning outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia. My wife and I are spending six nights at a cottage before attending her cousins wedding in the city. We’ve committed to enjoy this vacation without any pressure to fill our day with lame touristy itineraries, which admittedly I engage in more often than I’d like.

Despite the numerous recommendations to “absolutely see x, and make sure you visit y“, we’ve come to learn we have have much better holidays when we have no commitments and daunting checklists. Although we often fall back into the tediousness of day planning, for this trip, for this moment in time, we’re at peace with the idea of waking up with no set plans, filling our day as we see fit.

So far, our days have mostly consisted of frequent walking, lots of time spent grilling meat, dancing, and drinking. Probably too much drinking, never enough dancing.

As I type this, our favorite coffee is slowly brewing on the counter. The two of us are outside, feet up, looking eastward over what I believe to be an estuary feeding the sea, not too many kilometers away (I should probably confirm that). The light breeze coupled with 19 degree weather make this a perfect morning to lay up in a hoodie and write.

In all, this holiday will last just under two weeks. We’ll spend a few days in Halifax proper to attend the wedding, and previous to this current six night cottage stint, we spent a relaxing three nights in a small harbour town called Saint Martins in New Brunswick, a roughly five hour drive west of our current location.

Two Weeks Without Deadlifts??

I’m taking this opportunity away from home, and my beloved garage gym, to change up my training routine. While the last few months have revolved mostly around barbell training, these two weeks will be dedicated to body weight exercises, lots of walking, and some sprints sprinkled in. I’ll take the time to step away from the cult of 5 x 5 (of which I’m a strong adherent), to move into the higher repetition ranges, and hopefully, provide my body some well needed recovery along the way.

There will be a strong emphasis on push-ups. Lots of push-ups. I have a friendly competition with one of my oldest friends to see who can clock in the most within three minutes. We can attempt this record as many times as we’d like with the final number to be submitted by the end of this month. So far he’s taking me to task. 101 versus my 70. I have some work to do, and the perfect environment to do it in.

Yesterday I got in my first (and last?) hill sprint session of the trip. This exercise is quite foreign to me, and something I want to engage more frequently even after the vacation. I won’t be zealously tracking performance, but I will share my progress with the exercise should I go on to make it a staple. I only completed five rounds of hill sprints this workout, each lasting maybe twenty seconds. The hill itself wasn’t too steep, but since this reintroduction proved much more difficult than expected, that was probably for the better.

I suspect today will be a very quiet day for us. Who knows? For now, back to my coffee.