I decided to start going to the gym again last May, and it’s been about 17 weeks since restarting the habit. I’ve been pretty good about going three times a week, with a few days dropped here and there, but not for more than two/three sessions. So how am I feeling right now after doing nothing but 15 minutes of cardio a day?
Progress resulting from 15-minutes of cardio 3 times a week
Here’s what I’ve noticed:
- My ability to maintain a sustained heart rate has improved by what feels like 20-25%, which is pretty significant.
- I am slightly stronger in my leg and core muscles.
- I am about the same weight as before.
- There has been a subtle shift in body mass and posture.
- My resistance to maintaining the habit has dropped, and I’m seeing gym time as a necessary but not-unpleasant activity. That is a big deal!
I know that 15 minutes of cardio isn’t a lot. Usually the minimum recommended dose for a workout is about 30-45 minutes. However, one of the biggest barriers I face when going to the gym is the feeling that I have so much work to do; committing to a whole hour seemed like too much. 15 minutes, though, is something that I have difficulty NOT justifying. And, as with all my 15-minute jumpstarts, I tend to keep going after the first fifteen minutes. I thought the same tendency would apply to the gym. What I found, though, is that I was usually ready to go after 15 minutes because I pushed myself to the edge of where my cardiovascular limit was. When I first started, I could manage maybe 120-130 beats per minute sustained on the elliptical arm swingy machine I’ve been using; I happen to like this one because my arms move too so I feel like more of my body is in motion. It took about 6 weeks to get to the point where I could easily manage 140 beats per minute, which I stayed with until my hair stylist Kim, who runs triathlons when she is not running her salon in Danvers, told me that if I was feeling too comfortable I should really push harder. So for the last 4 weeks I’ve pushed the pace ever-higher so now I am able to sustain 160 beats per minute. I have tried to be very conservative in conditioning myself, and it seems to have paid off. I haven’t experienced any injuries or other issues…knock wood!
What I have found is that for those 15 minutes, I’m pushing myself more toward exhaustion with each session. On the rare days that I do go longer than 15 minutes, I’m maintaining the same elevated pace that brings me to the edge of my ability to suck down enough oxygen every step. It becomes a labor of measured breathing, synchronized with my steps, while monitoring my heart rate and tension in my body as I try to stay relaxed and limber in my movements. It’s actually quite an interesting experience, trying to keep all these sensory inputs monitored and under control, and I find it keeps me from getting bored.
Now that I have regained a good chunk of cardiovascular endurance through my 15-minute habit, the two other pillars of fitness have started to beckon:
- Core strength training – Another way to burn calories is to have more lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories! The last time I was doing the gym habit, there was a noticeable gaining of muscle, and my entire posture became more confident and dynamic. It was pretty awesome.
Diet – As part of getting back into the habit, I decided to forgo dieting to keep things simple for me. My mission was just to GO to the gym regularly, and I wasn’t ready to pick a diet and count calories.
p>I’d like to get back to where I was in July 2008, when I had dropped 10-15 pounds and was on my way to a leaner me. I dropped a couple inches around the waste, and new clothing opportunities were starting to become available! I don’t remember why I stopped…maybe I had gotten sucked into a big project. Oh, I remember now…the gym had been a habit that hinged on another habit, my morning Starbuck hangout with one of my dear friends. After she went to work, I would go to the gym. When she moved away, I eventually stopped going to Starbucks to save some money, and the habit collapsed. This time, I’m building the habit around a different gym (it’s much closer to home, and therefore also closer to my favorite Starbucks), and I’m committed to the idea of spending at least 15 minutes a day per session. I wasn’t sure if 15 minutes would be enough, but I had to try; it definitely has had measurable benefits in terms of how I feel and in my energy levels. I have also discovered a television show called Fast and Loud about these Texans who restore and sell cool cars for profit. It’s so different from what I do, and yet I find it deeply inspiring. Here’s a couple of regular guys with some practical know-how and a passion about transforming beat-up cars into awesome cars, and keep doing the work. Pretty awesome…that’s what I’d like to have some day!