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!