14. One-minute weights

Is this the easy workout you’ve been pining for?

Ahhh, the One-Minute Workout … where have you been my whole life?

For Week 13 of My Year of Micro Experiments I wanted to get back to micro. Really micro. So small an effort you could stumble through it.

I’m in my fifties — my transcendent fab fifties, thank you very much. Recently I read a summary of a health study causing me to reconsider my decades-long aversion to strength training — and weights in particular.

The study noted that building up musculature before your mid-60s is highly beneficial for older age. Not even just beneficial, damn near mandatory if you want people remarking on your extraordinary septuagenarian vitality.

Translation: Build up now or suffer through your sixties and seventies. And whatever comes after that.

So, essentially getting buff in your middle years helps maintain muscle and bone vitality in your later years. If you start late — as my Dad did, after a life of excess it should be noted — it can be near impossible to build up the muscle mass you want to propel you into your senior years.

Usually I clock between 5 and 7 hours of exercise a week — most often walking with weighted poles, some yoga, yardwork, swimming and biking too depending upon the season.

And loooooooooove. I mention it at the risk of grossing you out cuz it’s heart healthy.

In one of my first weekly micro challenges I tried bonding with my teenage son over strength training. It was a soaring failure — like two dudes going for a high five and missing completely, wiffling air.

In my case it was one dude going for the high five of bonding over weight workouts, but my son was having none of it.

You can read about it here.

Because of this Year of Micro Challenges, I’ve picked up books extolling incremental change. On kaizen (small constant improvements). On trying one thing different.

They all scream the same message — words on the page get loud when they drumbeat the same mantra: Start so small it seems ineffective, laughable even.

The gist of incremental improvement is this: Tackle a thing in such a minute way you can’t say no to it.

In One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Dr. Robert Maurer gives this example. An overweight woman with all kinds of bad health markers — raising three kids by herself — is told to take up an exercise program.

As the nurse is talking to this single working mom, Dr. Maurer spies the despair in her eyes, One more effing thing to do in an already overwhelmed life!

He quickly intervened. His challenge to her:

To stand up for one minute while watching TV.

That was her homework. Just stand up for one minute.

At her next visit he added that she should move her arms and torso a bit.

Then he added another minute. In a few weeks she started marching in front of the TV.

Over weeks and months more minutes were added — until something magical happened.

She started exercising on her own! Quite apart from watching TV.

Weight came off. Cardiovascular metrics improved. Hell, she improved her diet, which kicked the virtuous cycle into high gear.

All because from her initial state of fatigue and overwhelm and obesity she was given the tiniest challenge possible.

Stand for one minute while watching TV.

Something she could win at.

Notching wins for a minute a day lead to 2 minutes a day then 3.

In that spirit, I challenged myself to 1 minute a day weights.

We’d already set up a small gym space for our son. All I had to do was to step in for a minute a day … success!

Or so you’d think.

But I missed the first couple of days.

I forgot the foundational rule for adding in a new habit — tie it to something you already do.

I vacuum virtually every night — two dogs and an active semi-rural household, yech, you’d vacuum nightly too. In fact, you’d probably hire a nightly cleaning crew, clean freak.

As soon as I tethered my one-minute weight workout to the end of my vacuuming, it locked right in.

The rest of the week went well.

When I attempted working out with my son, I’d found a system called Push Pull Legs — one day you do exercises that require pushing — like pushups! The next session you do Pull — like pullups! Followed by leg work.

I adopted this pattern so I didn’t even need to think when I waltzed in for my magic minute.

(There will be no Before and After photos, so don’t pester me for them — there’s not much After to crow about one minute a day.)

Though the final 5 days went well, I sucked in subsequent weeks once my focus shifted to other areas.

Interesting, now that I’m writing about this many weeks later I’m picking up speed again. Not because I’m writing about weights, but only because in weirdly synchronous timing I’d built short-episode strength training back into my evenings recently.

The Takeaway: If you’re having trouble inserting a new regimen into your days, take the easiest path imaginable — start that thing for one minute daily.

(And make sure to tie it to something you already do!)


Note: Feel the vitality
Note: Before all else