Looking for high-intensity, low-impact, portable exercise.
January 30, 2008 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I want a high intensity, low-impact workout that I can do every single day, indoors, with minimal space requirements. Jumping rope in my apartment lobby is absolutely perfect except that my feet and knees can't do it daily.

Fifteen minutes of high-intensity exercise wakes me up in the morning and gives me a boost for the entire day, so I'd like to do it everyday. However, this seems to cause understandable wear and tear on my body. I have limited space and a low-ceiling in my apartment. Cheap, folding exercise bikes appear to break pretty quick if you use them every day. Expensive exercise bikes are too expensive and I wouldn't look forward to moving one when my lease is up.

I am considering purchasing one of those mini-exercise bikes that's just pedals and resistance. Then I could use either my feet or my arms.

Maybe I just need to condition my feet and knees over time for the jump rope. But, I have flat feet so there may be significant structural issues. I am looking into better shoes and getting a rubberized mat.

Maybe there's something super easy that I'm missing. I don't mind a learning curve, so it can be pretty weird as long as it doesn't put undue wear and tear on the body.
posted by zeek321 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (35 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Do the tabata protocol with whatever you can sustain/whatever isn't sore. 20 seconds as hard as you can, 10 seconds rest. Repeat 8 times for a 4 minute workout that is beastly.
posted by bfranklin at 11:55 AM on January 30, 2008

What about squat thrusts? Start out half time like in the beginning of the video, and when you're warmed up, switch to the faster ones. They're killer, and low-impact.
posted by iconomy at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2008

you need to kick it like Tae-Bo
posted by mrmarley at 11:57 AM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have something very similar to this stepper. It's light enough to pick up and carry using one hand, and it's a good workout. You can't set the resistance in any way (at least, not on mine) but you control the intensity simply by how fast you decide to step. The faster, the more intense.

I don't know how your feet and knees would be with this. Stepping is low impact, in that there's no klunk-klunk-klunking, but not having any knee problems I really don't know what stepping would feel like for you.
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:02 PM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes to squat thrusts, but add a pushup in there to make them burpees!

Also, see how many rounds, in 15 minutes, you can do of:

-5 pullups (if you can install a bar)
-10 pushups
-15 air squats

Here's a good video explaining proper mechanics for the air squat
posted by ArcAm at 12:02 PM on January 30, 2008

posted by gnutron at 12:03 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Squat thrusts look a bit problematic because I think they will put strain on the wrists and possibly aggravate my knees. I sort of messed up my wrists doing pushups every day. Please bear with me... I'm not as stupid as I used to be. :-) These look pretty cool, though, and now I'm brainstorming similar stuff.

No need for equipment is awesome, but I wouldn't mind buying a durable device.
posted by zeek321 at 12:03 PM on January 30, 2008

Best answer: You want a stationary hand bike. I don't know why all the online marketing is geared toward handicapped people, but we had one in the weight room in high school and it kicked everyone's ass. Awesome workout.
posted by unixrat at 12:04 PM on January 30, 2008

Not to make light of your wrist and knee issues but doing pushups, even everyday, shouldn't tweak the wrists. It might be a good idea for you to do some joint mobility work every other day, or before every session. Warming up before your 15 minutes of high intensity workout will cause less wear and tear.
posted by ArcAm at 12:09 PM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: >> It might be a good idea for you to do some joint mobility work every other day, or before every session.

Believe me, I do now. Fully body stretching down to the fingers and toes. Things are slowly becoming more resilient.
posted by zeek321 at 12:12 PM on January 30, 2008

Wii boxing can be pretty intensive (at least the way I do it) and it doesn't take up much room but as with any exercise, you get out of it what you put in. Its possible to do it just flicking your wrists but that kinda defeats the point.
posted by missmagenta at 12:20 PM on January 30, 2008

I started doing burpees last month and my fitness level has gone through the roof. Mix them with some jump rope and you will be charged and ready to go.
posted by jasondigitized at 12:25 PM on January 30, 2008


KBs are awesome. They provide a very high intensive and low impact workout. The two-handed swing will get your heart-rate up and is as good as any aerobic exercise. The swing also works your core muscles (if you do it right, and use your hips as the fulcrum of the swing, not your shoulders).

You can also do squats for your glutes, and all the usual weights exercises such as bicep curls, cleans, presses, etc. YouTube has a ton of videos, many of them 'extreme kettlebelling' but also plenty of beginners' instruction.

KBs are reasonably cheap to buy (lots of online retailers) and a KB workout takes very little space.
posted by essexjan at 12:27 PM on January 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Shovelglove . . . seriously, inexpensive and effective. Or how about getting one of those little mini-tramps and jumping around on that for a while?
posted by Sassyfras at 12:31 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mini-trampoline, for sure.
posted by crickets at 12:37 PM on January 30, 2008

I'd recommend the fit-deck cards. Twenty bucks is definitely expensive for a deck of cards, but they're surprisingly effective. All of the exercises can be in a small space without any equipment. The element of randomness keeps things interesting and you can get a pretty good strength + aerobic work-out if you don't rest much between the exercises.
posted by eisenkr at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2008

I started with the shovelglove yesterday. seems promising.
posted by sully75 at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2008

I was going to suggest Turkish Get-Ups. Just remember, you can do them with Dumbbells as easily as with kettlebells. They're killers. I've recently become obsessed with them.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 1:10 PM on January 30, 2008

Response by poster: These are all really cool suggestions. At the top of the list, I'm wondering if I can ease myself into burpees, and I'm going to seriously look into a hand bike.

What I should have emphasized more is that I want to blast my anaerobic system daily, and I mean blast it because I sit in front of a computer all day. (Basically, Tabata-style, as mentioned above.)

That's why sprinting or jumping-rope would be so perfect. (And jumping rope has been working great until my feet started acting up.) That's why I'm leaning towards playing with the hand bike.

Anything else out there that's rhythmic, not punishing, yet extremely difficult to sustain more than 30 seconds to three minutes, that you can ramp up harder and harder without hurting yourself? :-)
posted by zeek321 at 1:14 PM on January 30, 2008

Anything else out there that's rhythmic, not punishing, yet extremely difficult to sustain more than 30 seconds to three minutes, that you can ramp up harder and harder without hurting yourself? :-)
Burpees are pretty much where it's at. There is scarcely a better anaerobic exercise that can be incorporated in Tabata or HIIT, that doesn't require equipment or a track.

Example: Running in place for 15min with high knees, and every 3 minutes, doing a set of 10 burpees. If you're inexperienced with burpees and interval training, something like that will absolutely slay you. Or "blast" you.

Some "without-hurting-yourself" tips:
- Keep your back straight, and look up. This will help you to lead the movement correctly, and to avoid loading up your knees.
- Land softly and carefully. Bend your legs as you touch back down. Don't just smash back down with your body all stiff.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:23 PM on January 30, 2008

The wife swears by the Bodyrev. 2 months of 15 minute workouts 3x a wk did much more for her than 3x 45 minutes at the gym did in 1 year. It is mostly cardio and toning. It helps to have a tv/dvd player nearby when working out solo. Also you can try one out if there is a Marriot near you.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 1:27 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding kettlebell.
posted by fire&wings at 2:28 PM on January 30, 2008

Seconding Wii boxing. Sounds ridiculous, but proves to be fantastic cardio. Make sure you do the training modes so that you are forced to move around. When the trainer starts throwing tennis balls at your head, you really start to dodge.
posted by szechuan at 3:21 PM on January 30, 2008

Anything else out there that's rhythmic, not punishing, yet extremely difficult to sustain more than 30 seconds to three minutes, that you can ramp up harder and harder without hurting yourself? :-)

Follow a pilates workout on youtube. There's a decent range of workout targets, workout lengths, and intensity on the site. Good for a quick workout in your apartment.
posted by SBMike at 4:07 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 air-squats - do as many rounds of this as you can in 20 minutes, it will kick your ass.
posted by philscience at 4:50 PM on January 30, 2008

Elliptical. Saves my knees.
posted by JayRwv at 4:58 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Anything else out there that's rhythmic, not punishing, yet extremely difficult to sustain more than 30 seconds to three minutes, that you can ramp up harder and harder without hurting yourself?

You got a friend with benefits you can call? Because at least one activity springs immediately to mind.

(Three minutes seems about right, right?)
posted by waxbanks at 5:06 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since you mentioned stationary bikes and their downsides, have you considered an inexpensive bike with stationary trainer? Much more durable, easy to move and stow away, and there's a certain "I'm rockin' the trainer today b/c I've got to get my miles in this winter" cool factor that simply can't be ignored.

Since you want an anaerobic workout, I'd recommend an adjustable trainer, which will let you crank up the resistance. Wind trainers are loud and lame, and fluid trainers are quieter. Magnetic trainers are somewhere in between.

Potential downside: how well does your apartment insulate noise through shared planes (floor/ceiling/walls)? Trainers can be a little loud. I've found a yoga mat and towel on the floor help, as does owning my own home ;-) Seriously though, if you have an apartment with cement slabs between floors, you'll be A-OK. If it's just joists and hardwoods, you're gonna piss off an upstairs or downstairs neighbor with your 5 a.m. bunch sprint for the line.

Bonus: you can ride your bike OUTSIDE on the weekends!
posted by thomsplace at 2:52 AM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Note: YMMV on what constitutes an inexpensive bike. A mountain bike will likely be less expensive than a road bike: just swap out the knobbies for townie (smooth) tires.
posted by thomsplace at 2:55 AM on January 31, 2008

Psychocalisthenics might be a good way to go, too...the description is kinda filled with new age psychobabble, but it's definitely a good, low impact yet high performance work out. It's a 15 minute combination of yoga, isometrics, and deep breathing. There's several different packages you can buy (book, wall poster, cd, DVD, multiple combinations thereof), but the nifty thing is, once you've learned it, you're licensed to teach it.

We used this before rehearsals and performances of a commedia dell'arte-inspired show my freshman year of college, and I wound up dropping about 15 pounds in two months.
posted by StrangeTikiGod at 12:33 PM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: For anyone who's interested--I ran up six flights of stairs, twice in a row. I definitely exceeded my VO2 Max, as my heart rate is still up five minutes later, and I'm still panting. (In fact, I think that means I overdid it.) In any case, my feet and knees feel fine. Both my office and my apartment building have multi-story flights of stairs, so I think I'm all set...
posted by zeek321 at 6:14 AM on February 4, 2008

Great -- then you've accomplished what the stepper would have, but without buying unnecessary equipment. :) I wish I had some actual stairs to climb, but I don't, so I have to resort to fake ones.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:47 AM on February 4, 2008

Look into a good rower. It's full body, no-impact, and you can target short, high-intensity workouts, or longer oxidative workouts. I do CrossFit workouts (which I love), and we use the row machines occasionally. I'm amazed at how difficult it is to do hard for not very long, making 15 minutes a tough workout, but my body doesn't feel beat-up afterwards. Also, it's strengthens legs, back, and arms... which build muscle and release all sorts of good hormones (legs are great for that).

I don't know how expensive a good one is, but most of them dont' fold up, they just get stood up onto their wheel. Easy to move around, and you can pick one up and move it yourself if you have to.
posted by adrock31 at 5:18 PM on February 5, 2008

I like my Waterrower. It hardly takes any room and it's low impact.
posted by icheyne at 6:49 AM on February 7, 2008

Just a quick addendum to this thread - I took my GWB Economic Incentive check and put it toward a Concept2 rowing machine, and as Oscar on Corner Gas would say, "Holy Hell!"

Great workout.

I gots this one, with the heart rate monitor.
posted by willmize at 8:07 AM on June 24, 2008

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