It doesn't matter whether it's a diet plan or a workout plan…
…too many twists and turns, too many alphabet-soup-like acronyms to remember, oodles of complicated rules, fancy equipment, expensive gear, and a huge handful of “do's and don'ts” are more likely to give you paralysis by analysis than to allow you to actually adhere to your plan and get results.
This all comes down to the concept of mental strain, and it's very likely you've experienced the same mental strain scenario I have:
It's at the end of a stressful day of work, you're getting ready to do your workout, you take a look at your exercise plan (or try to figure out what you're going to do in your head), and the mental strain of trying to figure out what to do, what exercise moves and phrases to remember and how to put it all together makes you throw up your hands in frustration and head home for dinner, or just hop on a bike or treadmill for “junk miles”.
Having browsed through hundreds of workout programs in books, articles, and websites, I've found much of the available information to be unnecessarily complicated. While a pro athlete with a coach standing nearby may be able to execute an extreme complex workout plan, effective exercise for the rest of us should not necessarily require special equipment, expensive gear, gym memberships or instructions that are so complicated we get smoke coming out our ears.
Instead, a good workout program should be simple, clear and easy to incorporate into your daily life, without having to think too much about it.
In other words, simplicity equals consistency, and consistency equals results.
So today I'm going to give you six of my favorite done-for-you exercise resources that spell out exactly what to do, aren't overly complex are easy for even beginners to follow, and are far more affordable than a personal trainer or complicated workout program.
From my favorite triathlon training to strength training standy-by's, here what I recommend and exactly how I use it (including at the end of the post a week of the exact workouts I'm doing right now):
Sometimes just hopping on an indoor bike trainer is far easier than packing my bag and heading to the gym for a spin class, or putting on riding gear, pumping tires, and getting prepped for an outdoor ride.
To get the most bang for my buck from an indoor cycling workout, and to adhere to my mantra of “Quality Over Quantity” training, I use the Sufferfest Indoor Cycling Workouts. I tend to average one to two a week, and just choose one that suits my fancy.
Warning: Sufferfest workouts are probably the most intense indoor trainer workouts you'll ever do, but will get you extremely fast results.
As you may have heard in my interview with Chris McCormack, indoor treadmill workouts are a secret training strategy used by many fast runners because they allow you to squeeze a high intensity workout into a short period of time with very few distractions, and then recover much more quickly compared to outdoors pavement pounding.
Lately, I have been using the two “Time Saver” Runervals videos from coach Troy Jacobson. Each video has three workouts, and I use the “GoodPlayer” phone app to put them onto my iPhone for easy viewing on the treadmill. Two of these 25 minute run workouts a week are all it takes for me to maintain my speed in the off-season.
3. SuperSlow Training
Once per week, I’ve also been using the superslow training protocol discussed during my interview with Doug Mcguff about whether weight training counts as cardio. I have to admit that this protocol jacks my heart rate through the roof, and I am still sore the day after every session. I simply swing by the gym during or after a bike ride or run and do this 12-15 minute protocol one time through:
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine chest press
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine seated row
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine leg press
-5 reps of 10-second-up, 10-second-down machine pulldown
-hold a front plank as long as possible, then repeat for a side plank on each side
Between this and the MostFit suspension training below, that’s about it for my strength training each week.
Once per week, I’ve also been doing a MostFit Suspension Trainer (which I also travel with and use on the hotel room door). This is basically a “poor man’s TRX”, and at 29.95, it gives me an entire gym’s workout with just my body and the strap. I’ve been doing the same workout every time, 5 times through as a circuit with minimal rest:
-15 Suspension Push-ups
-25 Suspension Rows
-10 Suspension Tricep Extension
-10 Suspension Bicep Curls
-10 Suspension Knee-to-Chest
-10 Suspension Single Leg Squats per side
Here’s a video of me doing the workout:
SwimSmooth is my favorite system for learning how to swim, and their book is dynamite for swimmers – not only jam-packed with good tips for beginner to advanced triathletes and swimmers, but also full of workouts too. While SwimSmooth does sell some laminated, water-proof pool-side workout books in their store, I have more of an old-school approach:
I just flip through the book, pick my workout, jot it down on a piece of paper and head to the pool, where I simply keep the piece of paper on a poolside kickboard. Compared to many swim routines, I think the SwimSmooth workouts are extremely easy to follow and understand, and I simply choose one “Fresh & Fruity”, one “Technique” and one “Sprint” workout from the book and head to the pool three times per week.
You probably heard my interview with Chris McCormack, in which we discuss MaccaX12 – his new collection of 12 of his “most lethal and extremely effective workouts of all time”. OK, so perhaps if you do the “Pro” version of these MaccaX12 workouts they might feel “lethal”, but I've found that the beginner and intermediate workouts are just perfect for a challenge when I'm bored or when I want a tough routine without having to think too much about it.
The way I use these workouts is I just choose one per week to do. That's it. This last weekend I did his swim workout “The Lung Buster” and it was a fun routine that went by fast, but left me feeling like I'd injected a ton of fitness into my body.
So stepping back and looking at how I've lately been incorporating the 6 exercise resources above into a typical training week that massively reduces mental strain, here's how it looks:
Monday – SwimSmooth swim (30 min), tennis (60-90 min)
Tuesday – SuperSlow strength (30 min), Sufferfest (40-60 min)
Wednesday – SwimSmooth swim (30 min), Runervals workout (25 min)
Thursday – Suspension Trainer (30 min), tennis (60-90 min)
Friday – SwimSmooth swim (30 min), Runervals workout (25 min)
Saturday – MaccaX12 Swim, Bike Or Run Workout (1-2 hours)
Sunday – easy mountain bike ride with wife (1-2 hours)
And that's it! Compared to sitting down and trying to scribble out my own routine, or rely on some other complex workout source, I find this plan to be fresh, fun, flexible – and most likely, leave me excited about exercising each day.
Questions, comments or feedback about these six done-for-you exercise resources to get a killer workout with the mental strain? Just leave your thoughts below!