Quick, but killer exercise circuits with aid of technology

I only exercise at home or outdoors. Sometimes, I postpone my exercise until close to the evening time-frame, right before a timely event or commitment (of importance to me), leaving but hardly 30 minutes.

This is more of a problem with my time-management than lack of time, but I’ve adapted a couple of very quick workouts consisting of repeated circuits.

One is an entire-body power circuit, one round lasting but two minutes consisting of six 15-second rapid exercises followed by a 30-second break. Five sets of this consume 10 minutes of time. The workout can serve as a warm-up for a larger session, or serve in and of itself.

Imagine, only 10 minutes. A blimp of time during which we can easily stare out the window or drink a cup of coffee. And yet, having initiated the circuit and into the 3rd set, my heart rate already beats at an impressive rate. After the 4th set, I struggle to drink water. Into the 5th set, food starts to come out of my throat. Last time, I would have endured the 5th set if not for the pity for my floor.

I don’t repeat this circuit frequently enough. But it never ceases to amaze me how even a consistent regimen focused strictly on mid-level strength and stretching can leave the body shock-stricken if exposed to sudden high-endurance aerobics (this circuit). Or vice-versa.

With under 10 minutes elapsed, plus another few minutes for a pre-circuit quick warm-up, and a couple for shock recovery, time remains for another 15 minutes of stretching. In total, the most productive 30 minutes of my day.

I’ve adapted another purely abdominal circuit, nine 45-second exercises, 15 seconds break between, 9 minutes total. I extract massive benefit from even one of these, but occasionally proceed to a second set after a 30-second break, at which point sweat drops in waterfalls. Again, whether pressed for time or not, these quick, but killer circuits are a marvel.

I’m not going to indicated the source of these circuits, since that’s not the intent of this post. And there are masses of these in existence.

However, I want to comment on the timing aspect. Considering the circuits’ time-sensitive nature with regard to duration, breaks, transition time-frame, it’s important to properly time each successive phase. This is not a matter of a stopwatch or a simple timer, since there is no time or opportunity to reset the device for varying time intervals, or to even glance at the time when struggling on the ground. Likewise, I don’t have a trainer or a drill instructor to oversee the sorry procedure.

You could probably purchase some expensive gadget to configure custom successive time-intervals, or obtain some application for your phone to carry out the task. However, since I have nothing but contempt for smart phones, I preferred to simply program my way around the challenge.

I produced a simple, but friendly Bash shell script to accept any circuit and any timing constraints (warm-up duration, exercise length, transition duration, break time, number of rounds) as parameters. Upon invocation, it displays the running countdown of each step in user-friendly instructions, and emits an audible beep after each exercise so I need not even glance at the screen.

For the Linux/Unix/BSD inclined

You can obtain the executable circuits at my GIT repository, which also relies on the countdown executable that you should place in your PATH. In fact, you should place both in your path, such as ~/bin. Execute circuits -h to view the command-line operation.

I launch circuits in a very large font terminal so I can view the screen from a distance, when possible, but the most important aspect is the audible beep, since you can otherwise quickly memorize the sequence of exercises.

The execution looks like the following for the power circuit:

======== Round 1 =========

Prepare for Bicicle kicks:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
  0 seconds remaining
Prepare for Pushups:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
  0 seconds remaining
Prepare for Mountain climbers:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
  0 seconds remaining
Prepare for Squat boxing jumps:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
  0 seconds remaining
Prepare for Burpees:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
  0 seconds remaining
Prepare for Boxing hops:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
  0 seconds remaining
break
  0 seconds remaining

======== Round 2 =========

Prepare for Bicicle kicks:
  0 seconds remaining
Go...
 15 seconds remaining

I’ve also placed aliases for the two circuits in my ~/.bashrc to quickly execute:

alias circuits_abs='circuits -w 10 -d 45 -t 15 -b 30 -n 2 "High Knee Taps" "Russian twists" "Leg raises (6in off ground)" "Hip raises" "Scissor kicks" "Plank knees to elbow" "Chair sit-ups" "Seated in and outs" "Jumping Jacks"'

alias circuits_power='circuits -w 10 -d 15 -t 2 -b 30 -n 6 "Bicicle kicks" "Pushups" "Mountain climbers" "Squat boxing jumps" "Burpees" "Boxing hops"'