15-MINUTE WORKOUT WITH THE POLISH BUTCHER
I used to think that fitness was derived from a fifty-fifty attitude: 50% healthy food, 50% exercise. In my mind, this approach allowed for days of eating junk food and days where I didn’t need to exercise. It sounds reasonable in theory, right? Boy, was I wrong!
As I have crept up in age, I have really started to believe that you need to be consistent with your efforts to achieve the best results from your body, both mentally and physically. Now I feel that the right approach is more like 100% food and 100% exercise, and that I need to be quite specific with both choices. Given the amount of training I do with running, cycling, and swimming, I have to be conscious of the foods I choose, not only for energy and body maintenance but also for recovery. Too much of certain foods (such as sugar and processed starches) creates inflammation and therefore slows down the speed of recovery after an intense exercise session. I don’t want to delve too far into the science of all this, but I do want to acknowledge the reality that food and exercise go hand-in-hand in a healthy lifestyle.
While you may lead a chaotic lifestyle, or just have days where you feel like you can’t be bothered to exercise, I want to encourage you to think about dedicating 15 minutes to moving well and making those minutes count. Every training session I have done with my trainer Greg (aka, The Polish Butcher) has had a purpose—the function of our muscles is essentially that purpose. There are many different definitions of functional fitness training, but for me it means to fully control my body weight in all planes of movement. Taking this approach has helped me develop strength, speed, and agility, which are used to coordinate all my body movements and improve my ability to move my body in different positions (extended, flexed, and so on) as well as through changes in planes of motion (forward and backward, side to side, rotationally, etc.).
To be honest, I didn’t realize how important core strength was until my lower back started to give me grief when I would run or cycle. Now I dedicate a lot of time and effort to core training; even when I’m just walking, I will mentally activate my core muscles, therefore changing my posture. I really want to encourage you to strengthen and engage your core and understand its functionality. This will help you while you’re cooking in the kitchen, eating in the dining room, and moving through everyday life.
Just like eating, exercise is something that needs to be done in moderation. The following 15-minute workout is dedicated to you and your well-being. These basic exercises have really played a key part in my fitness level. They are simple enough that you can do them pretty much anywhere. Considering the amount of travel I do, and the inconsistencies I have with my regular exercise sessions, these 15 minutes have helped me stay on track and focused! The only equipment I carry with me are a jump rope and resistance bands.
Here is my “Full Body in 15 Workout.” Thanks to my good friend, trainer, cycling partner, confidant (and sometimes torturer!) Greg Wasilczyk. He certainly knows how to get the most out of 15 minutes. My workout motto is, "Just be better than when you started!" This workout will help you get there. Enjoy!
1 minute jumping rope: This increases your heart rate and warms up your muscles.
10 full lunges (5 on each side): This will stretch and strengthen your quadriceps and hip flexors. As you step forward into a lunge, if you raise your arms straight out above your head, you will feel a stretch throughout your lower back as well.
15 push-ups: This strengthens your upper body (including your chest and upper back muscles, as well as your biceps and triceps) and builds core strength (since your abs are engaged). If doing 15 full push-ups is too hard for you, drop to your knees and do them from there, but definitely start on your toes.
6 lunges (3 on each side): This time hold your arms out straight with your hands together, then rotate at the hip to your left as far as you can comfortably stretch and then to your right. This movement allows you to feel a stretch throughout your lower back, as well as in the quadriceps and hip flexors.
15 chair dips: This is a great workout for your triceps as well as your shoulders. Start by sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet together. Place your hands on the edge of the seat on either side of your thighs, scoot your bottom forward off the seat, and keep your feet planted on the ground and your back straight. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and lower yourself slowly toward the floor then push yourself back up.
15 full squats while holding a resistance band: The idea is to row at the same time, working your shoulders, arms, legs, and buttocks while engaging your core muscles! In a standing position, with your feet shoulder-width apart and pointing straight ahead, hold onto a resistance band that is secured (from the middle so you can pull both handles) to something stable, such as a fixed pole or a closet doorjamb at chest height; you want to make sure there is enough tension on the band so that when you row, you feel the pull! In a standing position, while facing the band, grasp the handles in front of you and lift your elbows to shoulder level; pull the band’s handles back behind you, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the same time. Then lower yourself into a full squat (getting as close to a 90-degree bend in your knees as possible); at the bottom, rest for a second on your haunches, then return to standing position. Do a total of 15 repetitions.
10 stretch and twist moves: This one’s for your core! Plant your feet about shoulder-width apart, stand so that one side of your body is to the side of a resistance band (it should be attached to a stable structure at chest height), and grasp the band with both hands. Rotate your body in the opposite direction, pulling the band across the chest while engaging your core muscles, then return to center. Do 10 on this side; then shift your body and do 10 on the other side.
30-second plank: This is a simple but powerful move for your core. Hold a plank position (with your weight balanced on your forearms and on your toes) while counting slowly to 30 (I personally count sheep jumping a fence). Pull your belly button to your spine and don’t forget to breathe!
15 bridges: These are for your core, lower back, and glutes. Lie on your back, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, your feet planted firmly on the ground and your hands, palms down, by your thighs on the floor. Slowly raise your hips toward the ceiling, being conscious of holding your core tight and thinking about drawing your belly button toward your spine. Pause at the top of the bridge then return to the starting position. Do this 15 times.
20 alternating arm and leg movements: Lie on your belly with your arms extended on the floor above your head and your legs extended straight down. While keeping your core engaged, lift your left arm and your right leg a few inches off the ground; hold this raised position for 2 seconds, then lower. Switch sides. Do a total of 10 on each side.
Rest for 1 minute, then do it all again! When you’re ready to increase the intensity of this workout, I'd recommend adding these exercises:
10 burpees (after the minute you spend jumping rope): Not only will this give you a great cardiovascular workout but this move engages pretty much every muscle in your body. In a standing position, with your feet shoulder-width apart, lower yourself into a squatting position and place both hands on the ground in front of you. In a single move, kick both feet back so that you are suddenly in a push-up position (keep your hands firmly on the ground to support your body); lower your chest toward the ground to do a full push-up, then kick your feet in toward your hands so you’re back in the original squatting position. Stand straight up, and jump up into the air while clapping your hands above your head; return to standing. Repeat.
10 squat jumps (after the 15 squat rows): This is another cardio boost and a challenge for your lower body. To do these, start in a standing position and bend your knees slightly. Lower yourself into a squat, while keeping your hips drawn back, your back straight, and your head facing forward. Think of your legs as springs, and jump up toward the ceiling as high as you can, with your hands extended upward as your feet leave the ground. Land in the same position as you started, but on the balls of your feet to cushion your landing. Swing your arms behind you (to propel yourself) and repeat immediately.