Let’s face it. Many of us humans don’t live the way we used to and it’s not exactly natural.
Sitting hunched over a computer for 9 or 10 hours a day, supplemented with a few more hours hunched over an even smaller computer we call a phone is not quite how our ancestors built quality strength and endurance.
Depending on when and where you were born, along with your interests and life’s needs, it’s possible some people these days might go through their entire childhoods and young adult years hardly ever so much as picking up something heavy and moving it somewhere else. Like a piece of furniture, a piece of wood, or a car battery. Let alone perform any serious manual labor that would build some strength in the hands as well as some physical confidence.
So how on earth can remote work, by definition sitting inside your home all day every day at a desk behind a keyboard, give us the functional strength our ancestors developed being physical all day?
The New Functional Fitness Workout Plan: Intermittent Work
First, let me begin by saying nothing in this article demeans other workout plans. There is also nothing in this workout plan that is based on science. It is based on my likes and experience and is simply an alternative for those whom may take to it and be inspired to better fitness because of it.
If there is something that suits you better, or you think is simply superior, then great! That argument is not being made here.
Intermittent work is simply a new fitness routine that I developed once remote work began earlier in the COVID pandemic.
For me, it accomplishes two goals.
One is strength building in a form that enhances work ethic and two is being a routine that suits those with shorter attention spans.
Yes, a short attention span is a weakness, I know. But there is strength found when you create “life hacks” that work against your weaknesses, take away their power, and build a strength because of them.
Allow me to explain how intermittent training works and why I developed it for myself.
Why Intermittent Work for Functional Fitness Workouts?
First things first, it is shockingly simple, does not have to cost a lot, and adds no time to your schedule.
No need to spend an hour or so at the gym, time commuting back and forth from them gym, etc.
Intermittent work fits within your current remote work or stay-at-home schedule, whatever it is.
And although it fits in great with a remote work or stay-at-home schedule, I initially developed it while working in an office.
Years ago I purposed myself to get more walking in every day.
But finding the time after a long day at work, commuting home in traffic, and before it got too dark out was a nearly impossible task.
So I came up with a plan to splice little mini-walks in throughout the day at the office.
Fortunately I worked in a small building (a trailer in fact) so the parking lot was just steps away. Every hour I would step outside and walk a lap around the parking lot. It took about five minutes. Eight mini-walks of five minutes each per day and I was able to get 40 minutes of legit walking in each day, and without breaking a sweat.
(Not that I’m against breaking a sweat, but you might want to avoid it at the office if you can.)
Had I been forced to wait until I got home at night to take that walk, after the full day at work and commuting, by the time I finished a 40 minute walk I would have been eating dinner then going straight to bed.
At that point, I might as well have just eaten dinner in bed!
So years later, when COVID “forced” me to work from home, I had my intermittent walking formula in hand that I could now extrapolate to the strength training that wasn’t possible to do in the office. (It’s one thing to take mini-walks in the parking lot at work. It’s another to crank out some pushups in between your coworkers’ cubicles.)
Why Intermittent Work for Functional Strength Training and Why not Traditional Workouts?
If we are talking about efficiency, wouldn’t a higher intensity, compressed duration training session be a better idea?
For example, spend a half-hour chunk of time exercising then call it a day.
That could be a great idea, and it might be the best idea for you. But, as I mentioned earlier, I have never felt comfortable or suited to longer activities like that.
It is in part why I could never get into distance running. I just got bored and distracted. I’ve always preferred switching things up, moving from one activity to the next to keep things interesting.
So why not circuit training then? Why not a condensed workout that consists of multiple exercises, keeping things interesting and getting in a full-body workout?
The reason is because spreading out physical labor throughout the day has an added benefit for me personally, and perhaps you as well.
Functional Fitness Workout that Trains Your Mind and Work Ethic
There is something about performing physical labor consistently throughout the day that provides some sort of mental feedback to me that increases work ethic.
At least for me.
When I came up with this idea for strength training, I had in mind all the professions that work all day long. Not only that, but pre-technology times where work really was work. We’ve gotten away from that in recent times and I believe it shows.
I wanted to create a training program that trained my body to be able to work all day, that trained my mind to want to work all day, and that resulted in me being a more well-rounded, functional, and ultimately useful human being who is capable of many types of work.
Intermittent work has done that for me.
Results of Intermittent Work on Functional Fitness and Functional LIFE
As a result of implementing intermittent work into my daily schedule, I have found the following benefits.
- Increased strength
- Increased work ethic
- Increased production in household chores
- Increased production in office work
- Increased vitality
- Increased energy
- Increased physical comfort and confidence
To accomplish these ends, I have also chosen exercises that mirror manual labor. It was my hypothesis that by utilizing exercises that mimic manual labor, I would experience a mental feedback that would increase work ethic generally and would translate to other areas of my life, making me a more useful person.
As you can see from my results, that has happened as I have experience increased productivity in multiple seemingly unrelated areas of my life, such as office work and household chores. In fact, taking these quick breaks from office work to do a physical exercise also helps quickly clear my mind and give me more mental inspiration and clarity when I do sit back down to work again. (I’ve done it several times just writing this article, each time clearing any mental blocks and returning with inspiration and new ideas.)
I now wake up every day excited to work, which was never the case before. I now find myself running toward work, rather than running away from it.
If I have a long weekend? I chafe at the thought of not having anything productive to do for too long.
Now don’t get me wrong. I can still kick back with the best of them. And I do! But I love for it to come after being productive, not instead of being productive.
Maybe it even helped me build the right mindset to write my first ever book, Power Words. Maybe it also helped my ability to shamelessly plug things where you wouldn’t expect them. Who knows?
My Favorite Intermittent Work Exercises for Functional Fitness and Mindset
The exercises I have chosen that best mimic labor include:
- Farmers walks
- Dumbbell carries
- Bear crawls (minimal)
- Sled pushing/pulling (future)
These exercises have been incredibly effective for me. Not only do they meet my need of mimicking manual labor, making me more useful and functional in performing manual labor tasks myself, they also cost very little.
Besides the sled pushing and pulling, which I would consider to be an “upper-crust option” that is excellent to have but not necessary, the only equipment necessary are some dumbbells. That is the only cost and they take up almost no room in your home.
I’ve written more extensively about why I love these exercises, so I won’t rewrite that here. Be sure to check out this article about farmers walks and carries and this one about bear crawls to learn about why they are so great.
To summarize, these exercises achieve everything I want my body to be able to achieve. Each exercise provides a whole body workout that utilizes every joint in the body along with core work. They provide the strength and mobility needed for virtually any and all tasks that you might reasonably be confronted with in the course of productive life. And they do an amazing job of building grip strength, which I believe is paramount to productive physical work of all kinds and greatly underappreciated.
The Intermittent Work Format for Functional Fitness
The first rule of intermittent work is there are no rules of intermittent work.
You can build it in whatever way works best for you. No two plans have to be the same.
The only thing that matters is that you work.
If you put in work, you see results. That’s a rule of life and intermittent work shines a light on that.
As for me, I’ve chosen my favorite exercises, learned how to do them properly and safely, then listened to my body to see how much I should do.
Once I did that, I set a goal for myself of how many sets of each exercise I want to do every day. I choose one exercise for each day, then cycle through them day by day. Farmers walks one day, carries the next, and so on.
I set a goal for a number of “reps” each day. In my case, since we are talking about carries, “reps” are actually laps around the apartment. I set a maximum goal of laps for the day, then try to reach it. If I don’t reach the maximum goal, that’s okay too. Some days are busier than others, some days you have more energy than others, some day your body just wants to or can do more than others.
The idea is to keep on working and keep on growing and progressing. The more you listen to your body and observe your results, the more easily you will be able to see how much work is enough, too much, or too little.
As for days off, I schedule none. But, when things are too busy and there is just no time, that will be my day off, then I’ll get back at it the next day I can. And, like I said, some day also end up being lighter than others by necessity so I am never overworking myself.
Now that is just for me. You may want to schedule some time off to give your body a break. Especially to prevent injuries. As for me, I listen to my body and always know when is the right time to take a break. But you do need breaks. In my life, unscheduled days off work well for me and I still do take time off as I need it so I can make sure to not overwork, thereby preventing overuse injuries.
Who is Intermittent Work Good for?
Well, if you’re like me and have similar goals or a short attention span, then maybe you!
Intermittent work is great for those who do not want to spend much time outside of work dedicated to workouts. If your schedule outside of work is busy, if you need time for family activities or other projects, or if you just want to have that time for relaxation and watching Hallmark movies, then intermittent work throughout the course of the day might be great for you.
Who is Intermittent Work NOT Good for?
If you want more intense workouts, like to break big time sweats, like to get your heart rate up safely and sustain it over time to build better cardiovascular endurance, then intermittent work is most definitely not for you.
There is a place for all these things, mind you. Just because I practice intermittent work does not mean I do not see the need or value in cardiovascular fitness. In fact, I’ve written on this site about the research showing that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise may be the best combination for heart health.
So more intense, longer duration workouts not only have their place, but in your life maybe their appropriate place is near the top of your food chain. That’s great too. We all need to be doing what works best for us and motivates us the most.
What Should You Choose?
What happens if we choose a plan that does not suit us and does not motivate us?
We are virtually guaranteed to not see it through.
And when it comes to physical fitness plans, being consistent in your work is what will win you the game.
Choosing a plan that is guaranteed to demotivate you and cause you to struggle to be consistent is the absolute worst thing you can do outside of being unsafe.
So check out all the different types of exercise. See what interests you and learn how to do them safely.
And, most importantly, keep an open mind and be willing to change yours if you need to.
There are no prizes for stubbornly sticking with a workout plan you do not enjoy. Exercising should not be a punitive exercise, but rather a fun and rewarding one.
The prize comes with being consistent and putting in the work.
So be safe out there, enjoy yourself, and have fun pursuing great!
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