No matter how dedicated you are, there are days when your regular workout sounds about as appealing as cleaning moldy stuff out of the fridge. Maybe you’re bored, maybe you’ve hit a plateau, or maybe you’re just fresh out of inspiration. Whatever the reason, the last thing you want is a long, laborious session that systematically saps your energy, one muscle group at a time.
Sean Burch, record-setting adventure athlete, fitness expert and author of Hyperfitness (Avery, 2007), knows a thing or two about muscling through workouts — he had to do just that as he was preparing to climb Everest, Shishapangma and dozens of other frozen peaks.
Burch says boredom inevitably descended upon him when he did the same thing for too long. The solution, he found, was to construct a creative regimen he could throw into the mix — one that effectively worked all major muscle groups, emphasized core stability and endurance, and struck a balance between athletic strength and power.
In the following 45-minute hybrid workout, Burch has paired inventive strength exercises with heart-pumping treadmill intervals. Substitute it for your regular workout whenever you feel the need to shake things up, or make it a scheduled part of your program every two to three weeks to alleviate boredom and avoid overtraining.
A word of warning: This workout is pretty intense, and isn’t for the untrained or faint of heart. If it feels too daunting from the get-go, be prepared to scale it back, or just work elements of the routine into a more moderate regimen until you’re ready to take on the whole beast.
Sean Burch’s 45-Minute Hyperfit Workout
In keeping with Burch’s no-frills approach, you won’t need a lot of equipment for this workout. Just grab a medium-weight medicine ball, a BOSU ball (they look like halved Swiss balls) and two pairs of dumbbells — one moderately weighted, the other slightly heavier — and set them up near a treadmill.
Once you’re set up, perform the following sequence of exercises. Be mindful of your form, since many of these movements will be unfamiliar, even to longtime gym vets.
1. 5 Percent Incline Treadmill Walk:
Raises your core temperature and lubricates joints, muscles and connective tissue. “It shouldn’t be an easy walk,” Burch says. “Keep the pace brisk and don’t hold on to the railings. At the end of the warm-up, you might feel a little uncomfortable, but not depleted or exhausted.” Go for five minutes.
2. Dumbbell Hammer Curls to Overhead Presses to Full Circle (watch video demonstration):
Stand, holding the heavier pair of dumbbells by your sides (a). Keeping the handles parallel, curl them up to shoulder level (b). Next, smoothly press the dumbbells overhead until your elbows are almost locked, allowing your wrists to rotate forward (c). Holding the weights overhead, and taking small steps, turn in a controlled 360-degree circle, stabilizing through your shoulders and core (d–f). Lower the dumbbells back down to your sides. That’s one rep. Alternate the direction you turn with each repetition, performing five reps in each direction for a total of 10 reps.
3. 15 Percent Incline Treadmill Run-Walk:
During this round and in subsequent turns on the treadmill, says Burch, you want to be breathing heavily but not gasping. Go for
4. BOSU Pushups With Leg Lift to Single-Leg Squats (watch video demonstration):
Place the BOSU ball on the floor, flat side down. Assume a pushup position with your hands near the outer edge of the soft side, fingers pointing out. Keeping your core tight, lower yourself until your chest touches the ball (a). As you press yourself back up (b), lift your right leg, keeping it straight (c). Then lower your leg and begin again. Do four reps, two with each leg. Next, stand in front of the ball and balance on your right foot with your left foot resting on the BOSU behind you (d), and perform a single-leg squat (e). Alternate feet on each rep, performing two reps per leg. Alternate between the two exercises without rest during these four-rep mini-sets, a total of eight times.
5. 10 Percent Incline Treadmill Run:
This round, the incline is less steep, but you’ll be bumping up your speed. Concentrate on keeping your breathing even and relaxed. Maintain a running pace for six minutes.
6. Dumbbell “X” Explosion (watch video demonstration):
Hold the lighter pair of dumbbells by your sides (a). Squat as deeply as you can while keeping your chest high and your lower back in a neutral arch. If you’re really flexible, you may even be able to touch the dumbbells to the floor (b). In one fluid, powerful movement, stand up, jump your feet out wide, and push the dumbbells up and out, finishing the movement in a standing “X” position (c). “The movement should be explosive but controlled,” says Burch. Lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position. Repeat for 15 reps.
7. 8 Percent Incline Treadmill Run:
Back off a couple of degrees of incline and jog for six minutes.
8. Dumbbell-Assisted Inverted V Pushup With Alternate Leg Curls (watch video demonstration):
Place the heavier dumbbells on the floor in front of you about shoulder-width apart. Bending from the waist, use the dumbbell handles to support your weight and assume a “downward dog” position: hips elevated, head down, arms and legs as straight as possible (a). From your tiptoes, slowly bend your arms, lowering the top of your head between the dumbbells (b). As you press yourself back to the start position, lift your right foot high off the floor, extending the hip and bending the knee as much as possible (c). That’s one rep. Alternate legs after each pushup, doing a total of 12 reps.
9. 12 Percent Incline Treadmill Run:
Here’s your toughest ascent of the workout! Push hard for six minutes.
10. Medicine Ball Squat-Kick-Press (watch video demonstration):
Hold the medicine ball at chest height (a). Squat until your thighs reach parallel (b), then rise up in one explosive movement, kicking your right leg forward and pressing the ball overhead (c). Return to the squat position. That’s one rep. Alternate legs for a total of 10 repetitions.
If you’re still brimming with energy (ha!), Burch recommends going through the strength-training movements again, back-to-back (leaving out the treadmill drills). If, on the other hand, the workout feels like way too much, cut the duration of your intervals and your reps of each exercise in half. The point, says Burch, is to finish feeling invigorated.
For more about Sean Burch, including videos of some of his extreme adventures, his philosophy on exercise and life, plus information on his new Hyperfitness Organic Superfood Products, visit www.seanburch.com and www.kamentalfitness.com.
There are lots of reasons you might not feel up to your regular workout on a given day - a stressful work project, the extra martini at the office party last night, a late lunch - but if you have a solid foundation in place, you’re less likely to let these small instances throw you off. Outdoor adventure athlete Sean Burch boils it down to three stay-the-course strategies. Connect: Burch says his clients point to a feeling of camaraderie in his notoriously high-intensity exercise classes. This social aspect forges friendships and encourages everyone to work hard to keep up with the group. Burch recommends making even “active rest” days a social occasion: “Go to the park with your family or friends, walk around a museum —that’s a great way to recover and connect with others at the same time.” Use Fine Fuel: “I never use ‘energy products,’” says Burch. “They give you a quick burn rather than the slow, sustained burn that you get from whole, organic food.” He recommends avoiding processed foods, white flour and sugar — most of the time. Wind Down: “High-quality sleep — and plenty of it — gets even more essential as we age,” says Burch. “You have to rest the body to build it back up, especially when you exercise.”