I Worked Out Every Day For 30 Days – & This Was The Biggest Thing I Learned

Pretty much everyone knows someone who is constantly going to the gym, training for a marathon, or eating a kale salad for lunch after an intense morning workout. Unfortunately for my health, I am not that person.
I am the person who loves to sleep in, considers stretching to be legit exercise, and refuses to buy a pair of running shoes (why bother, when they’ll never get used?). I’ll eat the kale salad, sure, but forgo the morning workout.
But I don’t want to be this way. As most adults know, exercise is an important part of being alive and healthy — and even my lazy ass can recognize that my sedentary lifestyle isn’t ideal. So I decided to try the lowest of low bars and see if I could work out for seven minutes, every day, for 30 days straight.
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The “seven-minute workout” first made news back in 2013, when an article in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal claimed a short, high-intensity interval training- (HIIT) based workout with 12 varying movements could be just as effective as a longer, less-intense session. The New York Times Magazine picked up the concept and branded it “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,” and a short-workout movement was born. Proof: the endless amount of HIIT fitness DVDs and classes out there today.
Back then, my exercise ambitions peaked at a ballet class I made it to every other week, and truthfully, I didn’t give working out a second thought. Nowadays, however, I’m feeling less invincible than I used to. After a trip with my friends where they bribed me with gelato to do a daily five-minute workout with them, I was finally intrigued enough to try it on my own. After all, even I should be able to exercise for less than 10 minutes. And that’s the idea.
“A lot of the time when you think about exercise, you think of a class that’s going to be an hour long, and an hour is intimidating,” Brett Klika, a personal trainer and the author of 7 Minutes To Fit, tells me over the phone. His book — and method, which draws upon the ideas posited in that now-famous ACSM article — is meant to make working out feel slightly more accessible.
Of course, seven minutes isn’t technically enough exercise, even if you do it daily (sorry to burst your bubble): The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, per week for overall cardiovascular health. So 49 minutes a week, even at high intensity, is hardly going to cut it. But if you’re a total non-exerciser like me, starting with something small and manageable helps you ease in, Klika says, and that can lead you to bigger and more intense workouts.
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So did it work? Here’s what I learned during my 30-day quest to becoming a little more fit and active.
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Yes, sometimes working out can feel stupid, and you won’t want to do it.

This is how Klika’s book takes on the seven-minute workout: Each chapter focuses on strengthening sections of your body (upper body, lower body, abs, or whole body). Every page within the chapter gives you a full workout of 10 movements (planks, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.). You do as much of one movement as you can for 30 seconds, then take a 10-second break before moving on to the next one. If timed perfectly, the entire thing should take 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

The first couple of days of my experiment, however, I spent more time thinking about working out than actually working out. Instead of randomly choosing a set of exercises and getting it over with, I would pore over Klika’s book to find a page that didn’t include anything I felt silly doing, like shadow boxing or worm walkouts.

I eventually had to face the fact that sometimes I would feel dumb, and that’s fine — but it’s also totally fine to swap those exercises out for something I can do without cringing. When I felt silly running agility circles (what exactly are those good for, anyway?), I would half-ass the movement and get even less of a workout — which isn’t that great when you’re only getting seven minutes of exercise a day to begin with.
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Variety is key.

At first, 10 seemed like so many exercises for someone who doesn’t know a barbell from a dumbbell. (Seriously — my editor added that. I don’t really know what those terms mean.) So I decided to start with just five movements and repeat the set to get up to seven minutes total.

After one week of repeating 5 exercises, however, I realized I was zoning out 3.5 minutes in, right after the first set.

Turns out, there’s a reason why the book offers 10 exercises. Not only is repeating a set boring, it also means doing the things I hated (like, you guessed it, shadow boxing) not just once, but twice. Instead of trying something new, I had to spend another 30 seconds punching aimlessly at the air.

One week into the experiment, I switched to doing a full set of 10 exercises — and powered through the movements that made me feel silly for a mere 30 seconds before moving onto something else. It made the moderately embarrassing exercises less embarrassing, and made the entire routine more palatable. You only have to do this for 30 seconds, I would tell myself, before starting a round of burpees.
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