4/22/2020

home workout part2: cardio

the first article i posted on working out at home was focused on strength training, this one is about doing cardio while on quarantine. some weeks ago i launched the quarantine challenge "everesting your building", which means doing an intense cardio workout, but if you don't like the idea, you hate taking the stairs or you don't have a ramp at your disposal, there are also other opportunities to do a good cardio session without living your home. it may seem quite tricky without specific equipment like a stationary bike or a rower but it's possible, and it can be very rewarding too.
the key is combining two factors: finding the right exercises and timing them. what we should do when planning an indoor cardio session is focusing on HIIT-types of workout (where HIIT stands for high intensity interval training). this means that during the time of our workout we will alternate extremely intense moments during which we will give it all with recovery intervals, when we will rest for some seconds before proceeding to the next high intensity phase. the most famous and used form of interval training is the tabata protocol. it consists in putting in sequence 20 seconds of high intensity exercise with 10 of rest, and repeating the cycle at least 8 times. then the whole cycle of 4 minutes can be repeated as many times as you want during your workout, varying exercises. when i do cardio at home, usually i put in sequence 12 tabata cycles for a total of time 48 minutes and during each cycle i do a different exercise trying to alternate the use of legs, arms and core. this provides an excellent fullbody cardio session.
ok, but what exercises can we do if we don't have any equipment at all, not even a jumping rope? there are many of them we can choose from, obviously according to our fitness level but keeping in mind that to work properly, high-intensity interval training is supposed to be... intense. so prepare to sweat a lot. if you don't sweat and you don't wait for the end of the cycle to take some breath, then you're not doing it properly.
i am not going into detailed description of the single exercises but just suggesting the most useful for completing a fullbody session. if you don't know the exercises, or if you're not sure on how to perform them correctly, google their names for a videotutorial, that's way more practical than describing them by words.
to warm up, you can start running on the spot and trying to lift you knees as much as possible (if you can, reach your chest with them), then the next sequence can be dedicated to shadow-boxing to warm up the upper body too, followed by jumping jacks. remember that this type of workout has to be intense, so move fast (as a rule of thumb, i usually tend to do 34-35 jumping jacks for each 20 seconds interval). after these three sequences, your body should be warm and ready for some serious high-intensity action. to work your legs, you can do a tabata sequence of star jumps, one of jumping squats and one of mountain climbers. you can perform them right one after another or alternate them with something for the core or the upper body, so you legs can rest a while. all the upper body receives a good workout with sequences of explosive pushups or spartan pushups, but remember that you're doing a cardio session so focus on the intensity and the explosiveness of your movement. for this time you won't need to lower your body till your chest touches the ground, but do your best to lift your chest as fast as possible and try to do a little jump (lifting both your hands and feet) at the end of movement. if you like to mix things up as much as possible (as i do) and you want to add some strength training to your tabata session, you can alternate these high-speed explosive cycles with some static exercises for the upper body like the scale pose or the low plank, always respecting the tabata timing (holding the position for 20 seconds, resting for 10). this will prepare your body for the core part of the workout, that can consist too of static poses (like the plank variations or the hollow body) or dynamic exercises (like the elbow pushups or the scissor kicks). if you prefer something more classic, v-ups are a good option (once again, focusing on the intensity of the movement). as a finisher, before cooling down, you can do a full sequence of burpees which will work all the areas of your body at the same time. to cool down, what i usually do is performing backwards the same series of exercises that i've done as a warmup.
that's how a HIIT workout works. it's easy to plan but, if done properly, extremely effective in boosting the metabolism and burning a lot of calories in a relatively short time.
the only thing that needs to be considered, when organizing your workout, is finding an easy and convenient way to keep the time of the intervals. be it a big clock marking the seconds on the wall in front of you or anything similar, it has to be easily seen also when you're performing the most demanding exercises. to keep track of the number or reps you have already finished you can use a basic abacus. if you love electronic toys, you have many option: if you have a smartphone, there are lots of apps dedicated to HIIT and you just have to customize your interval timing and let the app give you the work and rest signals (usually through audio messages). there's a free software for PC that does the same, it's called “free tabata timer”, google it if you're interested. another free option comes from youtube, where you can easily find some audio tracks (be them just simple start&stop sounds or arranged as music) that are made for this purpose, just search the videos for the term “tabata”, download or record them and store them in your mp3 player. if you feel the urge to spend some money, there are also some dedicated gadgets for timing your interval training, the most famous is called “gymboss” and can be clipped to your shorts, so it can be used for running fartleks too. i have never tried them so i don't comment on their quality.
as always, when it comes to working out, the more you mix things up the better, and interval training makes no exception. you can imagine your tabata intervals as a series of empty recipients to fill with different exercises: changing as much as possible the exercises themselves, varying their intensity and the way you sequence them will make the workout always challenging, rewarding and effective. you'll move all your body and you'll avoid the typical boredom of stationary bikes, rowers, treadmills, ellipticals and all the other expensive and cumbersome equipment that many people use when doing cardio indoors.