The Comeback Workout

Time to break away from the pack– or the couch. There’s a comeback coming on.

I don’t have time.  Work is really busy right now.  My gym went out of business.  A raccoon stole my running shorts while my laundry was drying on the deck.

We all have our excuses.  Often they’re valid.  Which isn’t really the point.  If you want to succeed at anything, you’ve got to be better than your best excuses.  You’ll likely have to become resourceful and creative, perhaps a ninja of time-optimization, but making a workout comeback is worth all the effort.  End of story.  Regular, vigorous, exercise transforms your life.  It makes us healthier inside and out, more energetic throughout the day, generally happier, and less susceptible to illness and disease.  We eat better, sleep better, and– the other thing in bed besides sleep– we do that better, too. Now I’ve got your attention!

If you’re a regular around here, you know all these healthy benefits already.  You probably love to workout.  You may rarely miss a day.  You might sleep in your favorite Prancercize outfit.  But even the most motivated movers among us lose inspiration sometimes.  We run the same ol’ loop (again).  We’re on autopilot in yoga class–practically mouthing what the teacher is about to say before he/she says it.  We’re boarding the same elliptical machine, in the same row of elliptical machines, at the same time each day, watching the same talking heads on TV above… no wonder our workouts feel stale, our bodies unchallenged, our minds mentally checked-out.

Which brings me to one of my favorite wake-up calls for a workout funk.  When I find myself trotting the same tired path around the Charles River with less enthusiasm than the kids on Halloween at the house handing out raisins, this is how I kick things back into gear.  This full-body workout is a time-efficient calorie-torcher to reconnect, in particular, to your speed and strength.  The best part is that it’s completely scalable for all-levels, from the recently sedentary to speed demons in need of a reboot.

  1. 1-mile: JOG.  (Ideally to a track or playing field around which you can do laps).
  2. 2-5 minutes: Stretch and prep.  (Visualize the greatness that is about to occur).
  3. Half-mile/mile/1.5-mile: Choose your distance based on fitness-level and time-allotted, and jog the turns, stride the straightaways (stride = more than a jog, less than an all-out sprint, think: 80% capacity).
  4. 2-5 minutes: Recover.  (Remember that I mean well.  You love me.  Think of puppies).
  5. Find a stair, bleacher step, or low bench: I learned this fierce little sequence from my pal Chad Flahive, founder of Public Body.  You’ll do decreasing repetitions of various sets of exercises using a small incline.  I start with 8 and decrease to 7, 6, 5… down to 1.  If you have less time or feel shredded from the running, aim for fewer (perhaps 5).  The exercises I use are: knee-ups (one leg, then the other), push-ups (hands on bench, feet on ground; tricep dips also work well), squat jumps (to modify for fatigue or tender knees, do basic squats on the ground instead), jacknife abs (bum is on the step or bench: hike both knees toward chest, hands touch heels, and back out).
  6. 1-mile: JOG home/cool down.

The next day?  You guessed it: YOGA!  Here’s one of my favorite sequences from the Runner’s World Yoga Center for recovery. Be proud of your sore muscles– they’re a sign of a successful comeback in the making!

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  • Laura Max Nelson

    How did you know about my pesky raccoon???

  • RichG

    Did IRONMAN Maryland this past weekend! My first 140.6. Going to a basic yoga class tonight to stretch out. Dedicating this fall to yoga. In addition to Maryland, in the past 12 months I have done 2 marathons and 2 70.3 IRONMAN races…time to rest. Greatest phrase: Rich Gabrielli, YOU . ARE . AN . IRONMAN!!!

  • scunningham

    Whoa. There is a pile on the bed in my guest room – new shoe laces, a freshly charged Garmin, new heel supports, three ancient copies of Runner’s World with running plans I’ve used before, and new socks. Thought about taking a photo of it, calling it “The Comeback,” and posting on Instagram with some sort of snarky comment…but didn’t want to jinx it.

    Thanks for this kick in the pants. (Also? That photo of you running is fabulous. No more bad race photos for you!!!!) xo

  • heather

    Thanks for the fitness motivation, always love to read new ways to train :)

  • Health Maintains

    Thanks for the fitness motivation, always love to read new ways to train :)

  • arpit agarwal

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  • alexis moore

    I loved your post, it was very inspiring.
    Thanks for sharing it.