The perfect workout for the short on focus: circuit training


I've always suffered from a little touch of attention deficit disorder. In my career life, it was something I played to my advantage—spinning my tendency to bounce from thing to thing as an executive-level ability to "multitask." I was good at it, and because our culture rewards ADD, it worked for me. I got things done, or started at least. Then I moved on to the next thing, fast, creating a wake behind me that people interpreted as creative management and efficiency.

Now, those same skills and tendencies play themselves out in shockingly mundane ways—I pride myself for my ability to wipe up spit while talking to my pediatrician's nurse on the phone while microwaving meatless chicken nuggets while bouncing my screaming toddler on my hip. I count it as a good day when I can move seamlessly from vacuuming the living room to interviewing a yoga teacher for an article I'm writing to folding up part of the endless laundry pile to starting dinner to watching "Sagwa" to doing a little Internet research to feeding the baby to doing dishes to writing my blog entry. Every mommy knows the drill.

If anything, motherhood has reinforced these tendencies. Scatteredness is the new normal for me. So when I hit the gym and I am expected to do something—one thing—for 30 minutes or more, I resist. I get bored, I get itchy, I start to go out of my mind. I'm not built for it. No matter how many magazines or iPods or TV sets tuned to The View you throw into the equation, it's still one thing. FOR 30 MINUTES! (Or more.) No wonder I hate cardio.

Of course, cardio is what I need the most, now that I'm down to the fabled last 10 pounds. The answer, according to my trainer Rebecca? Circuit training.

Why she waited so long to break this fabulous technology out on me, I know not. What I do know is that I really, really like it. The idea is that you try to keep your heart rate up at 75 to 85 percent of capacity (to find this, subtract your age from 220 and multiply by 0.75 and 0.85) by going from thing to thing to thing. Restlessly. With glee.

Here's what the workout looks like:

  • To warm up, run up and down 2 flights of stairs, 4 times—double stepping on the way up.
  • Do 40 lunges. To add a challenge, do them on the treadmill, with the machine set at a 15 percent incline and speed set at 1. Step to the top of the belt, and allow the foot to return to the bottom before stepping forward with the other foot.
  • Next, onto the elliptical trainer set at level 4, incline 12, for 1000 strides. (I vary going forward and backward because, as you know, I get bored.)
  • Three sets of 12 bench presses, preferably one each flat, inclined, and declined. For added challenge—and to build the illusion of breasts—do each exercise 3 times. Don't rest (much) between sets.
  • Get quickly back on the treadmill and set it at a reasonably challenging speed and a 4 percent incline. Every 2 minutes, increase the incline by 2 percent until you've been on 10 minutes.
  • Side lunges with a 4 pound medicine ball, 12 reps each per side. Then repeat with a 6 pound medicine ball.
  • Back to the elliptical trainer for another 1000 strides.
  • Ball squats, holding an exercise ball overhead, palms pressing in, 15 times, 3 sets.
  • Ball crunches to fatigue. Rest. Slow bicycles, with a hold at the top of the move, to fatigue. Rest.

Then a brief stretching routine and I'm outta there and back to my daily round of this, that, and the other thing. Preferably at the same time. And that's my circuit training, baby.

Hillari Dowdle will fit back into her favorite pants one of these days. Check this column every week, and you will no doubt be among the first to read all about it!