Dad Strength Mini-Workouts have three basic criteria:
- They take fifteen minutes or less
- They fit seamlessly into your day—minimal setup or travel required
- They have a positive, cumulative impact on your day-to-day well-being
“Okay, but what is a Mini-WORKOUT?”
If you’re like me, you’re trying to live your best dad life under serious time constraints. You know that your body is a lot more than just a thing to carry your brain around in but a comprehensive workout is not always on the table. Limits schmimmits. You can work over, around, and through these constraints. Here’s how:
There is never going to be a perfect time to make everything happen. Put aside whatever idealized notions of working out you have. Instead, ask yourself how you can take (frequent) daily action.
There are opportunities everywhere to take tiny steps forward. More specifically, there is some kind of small action that you’re capable of taking within the next few minutes.
There is a serious advantage to zero-drama exercise
In the Blue Zones study of the longest-lived people in the world, some common traits arise. Interestingly none of these areas (Sardinia, Okinawa, Loma Linda, the Nicoya Peninsula, or Ikaria) have a huge emphasis on hitting the gym. Instead, they all share high levels of daily activity. When you live on the side of a mountain, you don’t feel like it’s a workout to go up and down—you just factor it into your daily life.
There is further research to indicate that we recover faster, eat less, and generally feel more energetic when exercise does not require an emotional component like getting psyched up to start or gritting your teeth through a punishing workout.
North Americans often exchange frequency for intensity. In other words, it’s very common for a highly sedentary person to put in three or four intense hours per week in the gym. When you think about the impact of those transitions on blood pressure and stress hormone levels, you can begin to see how a more diffuse stimulus might serve you better.
Numbers are numbers
If you want to get a suntan, you can lay out in the sun for a couple of hours once per week. But that’s not the only way. A 20-minute walk per day will probably do the same trick. Or even four five-minute periods per day. Forget about what it’s supposed to look like and focus on simply working your reps into whatever structure your life already has.
Convenience is killing you
Do you need automated doors? To drive or ride absolutely everywhere? To take the escalator instead of the stairs? You don’t need things to be perfect to move forward physically; you just need them to be a tiny bit better. So, if your day to day life is safe, allow yourself to be slightly less comfortable whenever possible. Those little moments add up. Stack enough of them and you’ll manufacture your own personal Blue Zone.
Take it undercover
If moving around or gently exercising is not a fit for your work or home environment, use variations that deliver the goods without blowing your cover.
Two roads diverged …And I took the less comfortable one.
The truth is that there are hundreds of tiny choices we make every day. By choosing the less comfortable one, we begin to add up tiny victories—what I like to call micro-victories . Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the escalator, standing up for 10 minutes before you get on a plane, or simply leaving your coffee black, this stuff adds up.
Yes, an amazing workout schedule in an incredible facility (with a ton of social support) would be great. But dads have to get really good with MacGyvering exercise. Think of this as kaizen for your body: a tiny improvement every day. This stuff can add up in ways that will surprise you.
Create mini victories with Mini-Workouts
Nothing is better for your body or your mind than daily wins. Give yourself an incredible advantage by making some amount of progress multiple times per day—every day!
Mini-Workouts are most successful when they focus on one or more of the following:
- The neural side of power
No fatigue, fast motion, excellent technique. E.g. jump squats or explosive push-ups.
- The neural side of strength
Hard, 2-5 second isometrics or hard contractions. E.g. challenging plank variations.
- Active mobility
Flexibility + control. E.g. Straight single-leg raise and hold.
- Strength-based aerobic work
Slow reps with a respectable amount of weight can drive aerobic adaptations while keeping your strength revving high. My favourite example is tempo squats. Pick a weight at around 50% of your training max and perform long, slow reps (3 seconds up, 3 seconds down). It may not look aerobic but your body temperature will tell you otherwise.
- Light aerobic work
From choosing to take the stairs to a quick round of jumping jacks.
Perform a series of movements with minimal equipment changes and minimal footprint. The weight should be light and move fast!
Kettlebells are my favourite tool here. For example, you might perform five swings, five cleans, five squats, and three presses.
- Body awareness
Drills to help you check-in to your own hardware, explore positions, and come up with creative movement solutions.
Let’s say that you can’t hold a push-up position for more than 20 seconds without shoulder pain. Ok, hold it for five seconds multiple times per day. Keep things pain free and increase exposures before increasing duration.
Check the Dad Strength Community Page for examples of Mini-Workouts
Doing your own Mini-Workouts? Throw them up on Instagram with #miniworktous and @dadstrength. I’ll share them with our community!