Winter's here. Nobody's going to blame you if you feel like crawling into a cave for the next three to six months. But you can emerge from the cave slimmer and fitter if you bring the right food and keep busy while you're in there. Read on for one of our favorite easy workouts, a hard-line workout recommendation and some pointers on how to eat right so you have the fuel to make it through them.
As with any workout routine and diet change, run your new regimen past your doctor first.
Fast Workout: Go Guerilla
Guerilla Cardio is a fast and simple — but tough and time-tested — workout that has a dedicated cult following from busy executives to world-class athletes. In just 12 minutes, the workout pushes your cardio to the brink, and it helps tone whatever parts of your body you choose to work on.
Our favorite explanation of Guerilla Cardio is one by Muscle Media senior science editor David Kennedy. Kennedy's article "Guerilla Cardio" provides a full clinical breakdown of the workout, plus a look at the extensive research that led to the routine, including results-yielding trials by the Japanese National Speed Skating Team.
Google "Guerilla Cardio," and you'll easily find the whole story. Skipping the why and how it works, here's a minute-by-minute breakdown of the workout. More on what you do in it a minute, but first how long you work at it:
Minutes 1-4: Warm up at 50 percent of your perceived maximum effort.
Minutes 5-8: 20 seconds sprinting; 10 seconds resting; 20 seconds sprinting; 10 seconds resting. Repeat four times.
Minutes 9-12: Cool down at 50 percent of your perceived maximum.
The workout is designed for full wind sprints, but it's easily and effectively adaptable into any kind of cardio workout you want to do: jogging in place, running, practicing martial-arts drills, stretching aggressively, spinning, going full-blast on an elliptical machine — you name it. It sounds impossibly simple, but trust us: Guerilla Cardio leaves you feeling like you just wrestled a gorilla.
Guerilla Cardio has one really tough aspect: timing. The workout is broken into such short spurts, it's almost impossible to time manually. If you don't have someone to spot you with a stopwatch, run an Internet search for a programmable timer. We got the best results by creating a 12-minute musical track that shifts from fast music to slow music. Mac people can use the GarageBand software that's built into most models.
The King Kong of Workout Videos: P90X
Regardless of your fitness goals, Guerilla Cardio will get your blood flowing. Once your body is used to it, if you're ready to dive into hardcore conditioning and body toning, the P90X system is an intense regimen of DVD workouts that'll get you ripped by spring.
P90X — as seen on TV! — is a series of long workouts that target different body regions. It's promoted as both a fitness and diet program, designed by professional trainer (and workout leader) Tony Horton and nutrition consultant Carrie Wiatt. People we know have used it to drop pounds, tone up and prepare for a six-mile race. Even if you don't follow the diet, it's a workout that leaves you with a real sense of accomplishments — and visible results.
The program's website describes its body-sculpting approach as "Muscle Confusion, which accelerates the results process by constantly introducing new moves and routines so your body never plateaus." Visit beachbody.com/P90x to see a full catalog of different workouts. A basic four-DVD set runs around $40, and a complete 13-DVD set runs $140 new, but you can find them cheaper with minimal shopping around.
The full set is a monster. Most of the DVDs are around an hour long, with workouts like chest-shoulders-triceps, legs-back and cardio. Themed DVDs include stretching, yoga and kenpo. They're all a relentless battery of aerobics and repetitive exercises, like leg raises, yoga combinations, lunges, pushups and squats. Most of the routines require only basic equipment — small weights, a towel, a chair and a yoga mat. A running-time bar on the bottom of the screen lets you know how much you still have to do. But unless you're enjoying a five-minute cool-down at the end of a workout, you won't have time to worry about it.
Fueling the Burn
Personal trainer Don Foose says you don't have to sweat for an hour — or even 15 minutes — to burn fat. One key to slimming down is keeping your metabolism going. Most people don't realize it, but often when you feel hungry, your body is actually dehydrated.
"I rise early and drink about a liter and a half of spring water throughout the morning with fresh squeezed lemon in it," says Foose, a vegetarian who only eats natural foods. "Lemon will cleanse and alkalize the body as well."
Foose explains that when people feel tired, they often make the mistake of eating too much of the wrong kind of food. If your stomach's trying to digest a big breakfast, it's using energy that that's not available to your arms, legs and mind. Think about it — are you ever more ready for a nap than after a giant Thanksgiving dinner?
Foose says he usually just has a fresh-squeezed vegetable juice for a morning snack, and his breakfast is a thick smoothie made from ingredients he buys at Whole Foods (University Heights and Woodmere, wholefoodsmarket.com) or Mustard Seed Market (Solon and Akron, mustardseedmarket.com). He shares his favorite breakfast recipe.
"Buy young coconuts," says Foose. "Pop the top off and empty coconut milk into the blender. Add one tablespoon of bee pollen, small handful of goji berries, a handful of frozen organic blueberries, two tablespoons of raw agave nectar. Scrape the gelatinous 'meat' from inside the coconut. Blend all ingredients on high for one minute. This is so nutrient-dense that you will not even want solid food until lunch."
We'll see you and your abs when the sun comes out — hopefully before June.