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How-To Fitness: What to Do with 10 Minutes

Maybe it's about running short on time. Perhaps it’s about adding to your daily exercise investment.

Whatever the case, when we find ourselves with a few strategic minutes, we can do more than kill time on our phones.

How about fitting in more movement - even an intense, albeit brief, round of cardio or resistance work instead?

While we should be shooting for several hours of overall workout time each week, how we divide that is up to us. Ultimately, it’s not about the length of each workout but the full extent of our fitness commitment.

In the midst of that overall goal, ten minutes matters. Let’s look at several ideas for making that happen. 

Regeneration/Recovery Methods

Being willing to devote a random ten minutes to fitness doesn’t mean you’re necessarily up for an intensive spurt of exercise. Still, anything you do counts. In fact, I often observe that people need to slow down instead of always trying to ramp up. Consider these ideas for effectively recovering from a hard workout or gently rejuvenating from a long and stressful day. 

  1. The 10-Minute Walk: Make the most of this one by walking outside to get fresh air (and maybe some sun). Don whatever clothing is appropriate for the weather, and head out: 5 minutes one way, 5 minutes back. Time a couple paths in your neighborhood or by your workplace to take the last minute guesswork out of the equation. You’ll then have a go-to route when you only have time for a quick walk. For most people this will equal about 1,000 steps. If done multiple times per day, however, those steps can really add up. (Think morning work break, part of a lunch hour and afternoon break.) A simple ten minute walk can refresh you when you hit an energy slump or just reset your mind if you need a mental break.
  2. 10 Minutes of Foam Rolling: This is best done prior to bedtime as it encourages deeper sleep and faster recovery from exercise. Start with a tennis or pinky ball, and roll the arch of each foot for 45-60 seconds. From there, use a foam roller and roll different muscles that are tight in the 10-minute period. Options include the calves, hamstrings, IT bands, inner thighs, quads, hip flexors, glutes, lats, upper back and chest. If you allow 1 1/2 to 2 minutes of rolling per muscle group, you should be able to stretch five to six different muscle groups.
  3. 10 Minutes of Static Stretching: Similar to the foam rolling idea, spend 45-60 seconds stretching each muscle. Particularly because it’s a static instead of dynamic stretch, consider it a good pre-bed routine. The muscle groups are the same as the foam rolling options, but you can also add biceps, triceps, forearms and shoulder stretching options.

Fitness Challenges

It’s another case of the fitness mantra, “You can work out long, or you can work out hard, but you can’t do both.” With that idea in mind, consider making your ten minute blocks into intensive bursts of max-effort intensity. To really push yourself in these activities, try setting them up as fitness “tests,” in which you compete against yourself or against a workout buddy or two. 

Cardio Options:

Try these three cardio based options if you’re up for something vigorous. They’re simple in application but can be extremely tiring - especially if you’re competing with someone.  

  1. The 1-Mile Run: This is pretty simple and can be done outside on a track or inside on a treadmill. If you pick the inside option, make sure to use the same brand of treadmill each time at the same incline. (I prefer a 2.0 degree incline.) All you have to do is run one mile as fast as you can and record the distance. The next time you do it, try to beat the previous time.
  2. 300-Yard Shuttle Run: This can be done in the gym, in the basketball court, or on the field turf area, or it can be done outside on a grass field. All you have to do is set up two cones 25-yards apart. Once the cones are set up, run to one cone and run back to the other cone. Repeat this five more times non-stop for a total of six trips. Record the time. The next time you do it, try to beat the previous time.
  3. The 2000-Meter Row: This is done on the rowing ergometer found at most Life Time Fitness clubs. All you have to do is sit on the machine, strap your feet in, grab the handles and go as fast as you can while maintaining good body mechanics. (Try to keep your eyes forward and back straight.) Once you have the basic form down, row 2000-meters as fast as you can. The world record is 5:36, and most people can finish this distance inside of 10 minutes.

Resistance Training Options:

Interested in working in some strength training? Like the cardio options, these are brief but challenging and will leave you extremely fatigued (in that good workout way) after completion.

  1. The 3-4 Minute Challenges: This is from Martin Rooney’s book Ultimate Warrior Workouts. The exercises can be done at home or at the gym. The exercises include push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups. (If you’re at home, the door frame chin-up bars you can find at most sporting goods stores work well for this exercise.) For the push-ups, set a stop watch for four minutes. Do as many reps in good form as possible in the time period, taking rest as needed. When finished, record the number of total reps to give yourself a number you can improve the next time you do the test. For the sit-ups and chin-ups, use the same steps as the push-ups, but go for three minutes instead.
  2. The 4-Part Body Weight Challenge: This is also from Rooney’s book. For this test, you will need a dip station of some kind. Perform as many push-ups as you can for one minute, and take a fifteen second rest as you transition to the next exercise. Repeat the same one minute work/fifteen second transition for chin-ups, sit-ups and dips. Make sure you record the total number of reps for each exercise.
  3. The RKC Kettlebell Snatch Test: This is not only a great fitness test but one heck of a workout. In order to do it, you will need a kettlebell and ideally a trainer who has gone through the RKC certification to make sure your form is correct prior to trying it. Find the kettlebell weight appropriate for your current strength and training experience. (A trainer can help you do this.) Once you know how to execute the kettlebell snatch exercise in good form, try to perform 100 reps (you can change hands) with the appropriate sized kettlebell inside of 5 minutes. If you are really feeling strong and can successfully do the five minute test, try 200 reps in ten minutes.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Are you interested in more ideas for fitting in movement? Talk with a fitness professional today.

In health, Corey Grenz, Personal Trainer

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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