I Cut All My Workouts to Just 7 Minutes and It Worked
Growing up with a dad who was a health-freak and a doctor, on top of the fact that I was always the “chubby” sister out of four, I have never been a stranger to working out.
It began as a dreaded chore. I had to do the dishes on Monday nights, I had to take out the trash when it was my turn in our sisterly rotation, and I had to work out upon my dad’s insistence.
Sometimes he would let us ride our bikes while he ran beside us, sometimes we would go rollerblading, and sometimes, on my most dreaded days, we would go running.
As a kid, I feared these workouts. It was bad enough attempting to be athletic when I was a clumsy and chubby 10 year old, but it worse when I had to deal with my naturally angry dad yelling at me through the whole thing to tell me that I was “dogging it” (whatever the f that means).
As I got older and thinned out through puberty, I began to appreciate my daily habit of working out. I took runs through my neighborhood every other day, each time secretly hoping I’d catch the eye of my crush who lived down the block.
By freshman year of college, I had gotten into weightlifting, and I was working out for about two hours in between or after classes each day (about 40 minutes running and an hour lifting). I was still eating donuts and other unidentifiable objects from the dining hall and drinking four nights a week, but I was probably in the best shape of my life.
Obviously, life happens, and once I had more to worry about than a freshman year class load and frat parties, I could no longer dedicate that much time to the gym (unless I wanted to wake up at 4 a.m. every day, which was not ideal when I was still going to bars on most weeknights).
But, tons of online articles say that a short amount of high intensity work out is just as good as slogging on the treadmill for an hour, so why couldn’t I still be fit without dedicating unrealistic amounts of time to the gym? After all, it’s hard to spend two hours in the gym when you’re not paid to be fit like a Victoria’s Secret model or an Olympic athlete, and I wasn’t anywhere close.
While working four part-time jobs and finishing up my last semester of college, I figured it was a perfect time to see if this “short workout” thing actually worked for me IRL, not just the study subjects referenced online.
I came across a New York Times article entitled “Really, Really Short Workouts,” which provided a ten, seven, and four minute workout for those that are pressed for time, along with a scientific explanation of why it works.
I decided on the seven minute workout for sole Goldilocks reasoning: four seemed too short, ten seemed too long, but seven seemed just right.
The workout, shown below, was supposed to combine all the crucial moves you needed in a workout, all in seven minutes.
“It fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science,” explained Gretchen Reynolds.
Unfortunately, on the Monday where I began my mini-workout routine, I realized that “high intensity” was not as intense as I’d hoped. I had previously been doing Kayla Itsines’ BBG workout, which consisted of four seven-minute intervals. This new seven-minute workout felt like a less intense version of Kayla’s routines, except instead of doing it four times, I was only doing it once.
Panic immediately set in as I worried that I’d gain weight in the next two weeks of this experiment, and I wished I had told my editor I’d do one week instead of two. Then again, I wanted to stick to my word. Plus, I really didn’t have much time to work out in the upcoming weeks, and seven minutes was better than zero minutes, right?
I cheated on two of the days and went for a short run, but other than that the only exercise I did for two weeks was the seven-minute interval workout.
Because it seemed pretty pointless to walk 15 minutes to the gym if I was only going to stay there for seven minutes, I did the workouts in my tiny ass bedroom. There were a couple of times I almost hit myself in the face while doing the push-ups with rotation, but otherwise I got along just fine. My roommates never even asked why I was jumping around my room at 8 a.m., so I guess I was pretty discreet about it.
Normally, if I don’t work out, I find myself super tired at about 2 or 3 p.m. Working out for seven minutes still seemed to combat this “2 p.m. feeling” for the most part, and it probably helped that I was doing my short and sweet exercises in the morning rather than in the evenings.
After about a week of doing my “seven minutes in heaven” I was ready to go back to working out like a normal person… or what was normal for me. My parents had visited that weekend and I had eaten like shit. Well, not shit, we were actually going out to nice ass restaurants. But I was pigging out on foie gras, margaritas, and steak; so it wasn’t exactly “healthy.”
I felt fat, but it’s not like I looked bad in any of my clothes. Honestly, it’s hard to say if I felt fat because I wasn’t working out enough, or I felt fat because I didn’t think I was working out enough. Upon inspection, I definitely had lost tone in my arms and abs (or should I say stomach because I don’t actually have visible abs?) from not doing any lifting, but as you can see from the before and after photo below; it’s not like I morphed into Jabba The Hut overnight.
I wish I would have weighed myself in the beginning as a comparison, but I don’t own a scale (because who really wants to torture themselves every day) and the thought of attempting to use one of those doctor-style ones at the gym seemed really intimidating.
If I’m being honest, I’d say that working out seven minutes a day allowed me to relatively maintain my weight. It’s not something I would continue doing regularly, because I genuinely enjoy my full-length workouts (most of the time). Or maybe I just enjoy feeling like I can eat whatever I want, whatever. Running does help me clear my head, and trying to do squats in the tiny space between my bed and my bedroom wall isn’t quite as therapeutic.
That being said, if I found myself in a situation where I absolutely had no time to work out (although there’s always time to workout, you just need to wake up early af), or I was too broke to join a gym (more likely); this doesn’t seem like a horrible option. I’d probably search around the internet a little more to find something that actually feels intense for me, because this seven-minute shit wasn’t really cutting it. I usually didn’t even break a sweat unless I forgot to turn my AC on, and this is coming from someone who has sweat stains from a 10-minute walk to the subway.
It might be “scientific,” but these short workouts didn’t make me feel nearly as good psychologically as a 40-minute run or a 30-minute weight lifting sesh. If you’re someone who has trouble getting to the gym regularly, I’d definitely recommend trying this. But if you’re someone who already hits the gym pretty regularly and know what works for your body, stick to whatever you’re already doing.