Going back to work after maternity leave meant less time for exercising, so I had to make a plan that would allow me to get the most out of very little free time. Before going back to work, I was exercising six days a week for an hour at a time (doing Insanity- read my full review HERE). While I got great results doing that, it became less realistic with a busy schedule.
Before (Insanity 6 days a week for an hour a day)
After (20 minute workouts 3-4 days a week using dumbbells, pullup bar and ankle weights)
It surprised me that I could exercise half as many days and less than half the amount of time and still get decent results. I haven’t gained very much (if any) bulk in muscle, but I do think I’ve lost some of the fat that was around the muscle.
There is more definition in my arms, shoulders and back. My inner thighs even got that slight curve that I usually don’t have unless my body fat is low enough.
The love handles and belly pooch I got from pregnancy are basically gone! When I have a week of less healthy food choices, I notice they start to creep back. It’s an ongoing effort, my friends.
Do you ever feel like when you have less time, you make better use of that time? That’s the way I am! If time is limited, I work harder and faster. I think that is really the key to doing shorter workouts: give it ALL you effort.
What is the most effective type of short workout?
While I was in my third trimester and unable to do HIIT training and extreme cardio, I discovered the effectiveness of weight training. Read about my pregnancy workout routines HERE. I used ankle weights and dumbbells to stay in shape in third trimester since I couldn’t handle anything high impact at that point. I actually got some muscle definition while pregnant! So I turned to weight training again a few months ago.
Mind you, my job keeps me on my feet all day, so I am able to burn more calories than when I stayed home all day. I am a personal nurse for an active elementary age child, so I’m doing three 15 minute recesses a day, plus gym class and other activities. If you have a desk job or one that keeps you sedentary, I recommend at least changing positions every couple hours and ideally fitting some cardio into your workout routine.
What exactly is my new routine?
I strength train with dumbbells, ankle weights and a pull up bar for no more than 30 minutes at a time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. These are a combination of P90X workouts, Pinterest workouts and Mom Beyond Baby workouts. Most of them are about 20 minutes long and I make sure to push hard during those 20 minutes! But I also don’t miss out on precious family time– usually I workout while watching a movie or Netflix with my husband and baby. I just pull out the weights I need from the workout room and set up my workout binder in a high place so baby can’t play with it. It’s a great system. 🙂
Saturday is youtube day. If I’m not too busy, I do a 7-10 minute ab workout and a few dance videos on youtube. When I was doing so much core work and cardio, I didn’t need individual ab workouts, but now if I skip an ab workout, I notice my abs getting soft! It doesn’t take much, all I do is one short but challenging ab workout per week. I wouldn’t say my abs are ripped, but they are somewhat toned.
I’m working on an 8 or 12 week schedule where I can rotate the workouts and not have to think about which one I’m going to do for the day. A typical week might look like this:
Monday: Legs and Back (adapted from P90X), view or print HERE.
Wednesday: Insanity Upper Body (only 2 rounds per set and shorter breaks), view or print HERE.
Friday: Popsugar Sleek and Strong Workout with Weights- view or print HERE.
What have been my results compared to long cardio workouts?
I finally lost the last little bit of baby pooch on my lower stomach! I realized that long cardio gave me CRAZY food cravings and I think I was overeating a little bit while doing Insanity. I would get SO hungry about an hour after exercising. When I do shorter workouts with weights, I don’t burn as many calories during the workouts and I think that helps me feel more balanced around the clock. It’s a lot easier to control your portions when you don’t feel ravenous!
I have more muscle tone in my back, shoulders and arms
I mentioned in my Insanity review that I actually LOST muscle in my arms. It’s difficult to gain muscle with just pushups. I always had the mentality that weight lifting would help me gain the muscle, but I needed cardio to chisel away the fat around the muscle. With my results these past few months, I’m not sure that intense cardio is necessary. Being moderately active throughout the day, doing short resistance workouts and focusing on mindful eating seem to be more effective.
I lost overall body fat
This wasn’t really my goal with this workout routine, but I lost some weight. When I went to a health fair for my husband’s job a few weeks ago, I found out my body fat percentage was 18%, which is my all time low (as far as I’m aware). I actually dipped below my ideal weight during that time and had to focus on eating more. My busy schedule played a part in that, but strength based workouts definitely have tamed my appetite for junk food!
I’m sore less often
I only work out every other day, which gives me more rest days. With Insanity, I was always sore. I never gave my body the chance the repair the broken down muscle before I started another workout. Now that I never strength train two days in a row, I’m allowing my muscles to actually grow on rest days, rather than tearing them down over and over. It was hard to stick to my rest days at first, but eventually I saw that my results were better when I took a break.
For now I’m sticking to this routine because it works for my lifestyle, but I always love new workouts and challenges, so I will keep you all posted! What short exercise routines work for you?