Last weekend JB and I took the kids to Corvallis for the day, where we visited our longtime favorite pizza joint and checked out the startlingly expansive new OSU Beaver Store. (Motto: “If you can think of it, we can slap a beaver on it.”) There are a few parts of the town that are as familiar as a broken-in pair of jeans, but so much has changed since I lived there. Stores and restaurants have come and gone and entire blocks look nothing like I remember. It would be weird if everything had stayed the same, of course — a city frozen by a pause button pressed over fifteen years ago — but still, it seems less like a place I called home and more like something I read about in an almost-forgotten book. Even the landscape outside of town felt altered, as if swept into new shapes by the tide-pull of time.
Visiting Portland over the summer gave me the same strange sense of disconnection. I spent years of my life there, and yet I felt like a tourist, marveling at all the new sights. The updated waterfront and the plethora of food trucks and the once-industrial Pearl District that’s now a trendy hipster haven.
I kept trying to find myself there, as if by looking hard enough I could actually spot my own shadow. The glass-enclosed booth where I sold movie tickets night after night, now shuttered and dark and long unoccupied, no trace of that part of my life. You can’t go back.
I don’t want to go back, not really. But it’s unsettling, somehow, to have the sense that your footprints have been all but erased over the years. To wonder what it will be like to someday look back on your life as it is right now, in all its well-worn grooves, and barely recognize what you see.
At the start of October I joined a 30-day challenge on The Betty Rocker’s website. Each week she’d sent out a new workout challenge for people to do at home — you could do it as often as you liked, or tack it on to other workouts, but the goal was to get it in three times a week at minimum. Each workout was a series of seven one-minute exercises, which you were supposed to repeat at least three times.
The challenge also included access to an active Facebook group page and periodic emailed tips, recipes, and other encouragement from Ms. Rocker, and really, it was great. Just a super helpful, incredibly positive experience, and it cost zero dollars. I totally recommend checking out her next free challenge, which it sounds like she’ll be doing in early 2014.
What I really learned from doing this is that you can absolutely get an amazing workout in about twenty minutes, WITHOUT Jillian “Don’t Phone It In” Michaels, with no equipment and very little floor space. I wish I could share her exact program with you, because it cleverly built each week so by the end of the month I was doing moves I absolutely couldn’t have managed during week one (push up jacks! Get right out of town!), but — well, shit, I don’t really know how this stuff works but I’m thinking that’s her intellectual property and even though she provided it for free it’s probably not kosher of me to copy and paste it elsewhere.
But the concept itself is basic and adaptable, so if you’re in the market for some new home workout options, here’s the idea:
• Write down a list of bodyweight exercises. You know: squats, pushups, tricep dips, planks, mountain climbers, lunges. Here’s a handy reference.
• Make a circuit out of seven of them. Adapt as needed — everything should be challenging, but not in sustain-a-brutal-injury kind of way. Pushups too hard? Do them inclined or from your knees. Pushups too easy? You monster. Do them on an exercise ball or raise one leg.
• Program that shit into an interval timer. I’m a fan of Interval Pro. It’s only $3 (there’s a free version, too, and I cannot remember why I upgraded — maybe it has ads?), it plays nice with iTunes, it’s got a clear readable display. Here’s how I set up the 3-sets-of-7 routine:
So that cycles between a high interval that’s one minute long, during which I do as many reps as I can of one exercise, and a low interval of fifteen seconds, during which I gasp and wipe sweat and get ready for the next thing. It repeats for seven cycles to get in all seven exercises, and I follow it through three times.
• Last but not least, have music in your ears. This is the most critical step and the thing that actually keeps me motivated and preferring this type of solo workout WAY more than listening to Jillian tell me to “Make! The! Most of it!”: you need some righteous tunes playing directly into your ear-holes so you don’t have to hear yourself panting or your kids playing nearby or anything at all other than the sweet gritty scream of AWOLNATION singing “This Kid’s Not Alright.” (Your power song may vary.) Just make sure you have your interval timer where you can see it.
You could repeat it 5 times, you could mix up the exercises each interval so you don’t get bored, you could really strategize over what order you do them in so you work in supersets or give yourself much-needed muscle breaks (pushups followed by squats, say). You could add weights (squats with overhead presses), or mix in some evil plyo moves.
Three sets of seven basic bodyweight moves is highly effective all on its own, though. I find that the time goes by pretty quickly, too — there’s something about knowing you only have to do something for a minute that keeps you going.
Anyway, forgive me for the occasional boring exercise-related post. I always get excited when I feel like I’ve discovered something that works for me, and I JUST WANT TO SHARE.