The Power Half-Hour
Worried that the long shadows of autumn will darken your fitness mood? Lighten up with these 30-minute workouts, guaranteed to help you soar into winter shape.
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Ah, ENDLESS summer. As August melts into September, you’re still riding or climbing or surfing, enjoying a geologic era’s worth of warm sunlight seemingly every day. By October, night comes when work ends and you’re cobbling together halfhearted workouts in dim gyms. It’s colder. Now it’s raining. Just two weeks of late meetings and abandoned workouts erodes your hard-won aerobic capacity by 5 to 30 percent. Strength is slower to fade, but it too departs quickly. Soon you slide into the tryptophan-induced torpor of winter holidays, a doughy shadow of the cut, deerlike athlete you were in July.
Take heart. A few intense, 30-minute workouts each week will allow you to savor your summer fitness longer. You’ll also get a jump on conditioning for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, broomball—whatever your winter sport of choice. “Research shows that intensity is the biggest variable for making change,” says University of New Mexico exercise physiologist Len Kravitz.
To help, we took four core areas of fitness—speed, strength, endurance, and flexibility—and tapped experts for simple ways to work each one in just half an hour. We squeezed a speed workout from Dave Moore, founder of StrengthCoach.com, that’ll fit on your neighborhood basketball court; consulted legendary NFL trainer Dan Riley for a lunch-hour weight-lifting regimen; crafted a do-anywhere stretching program courtesy of Nikos Apostolopoulos, flexibility coach for a number of professional athletes; and developed a cardio routine on a stationary rower, with help from Olympian Tom Bohrer, that will push you to the brink. Pick one and do it at least twice a week, or mix and match all four if you like. You’ll discover a maintenance plan that works even for professional athletes—just keep in mind, intensity is the key. “If you’re short on time,” says Riley, “the goal is to do as little as possible as well as possible.”