What Free Time?: Working out with active rest

Few new moms have free time to speak of. I experienced this first-hand when my daughter was born. Literally every minute of every day is dedicated to some aspect of infant care, housework, family or personal affairs. We learn to make the most of every single moment. Can you say the same about your workouts?

As important as rest is for the new mom, it is terribly elusive. We are told to sleep when baby sleeps. Often we don’t.  If we find 20 minutes to “spare”, that becomes time to do dishes, fold laundry, check emails, make phone calls, pay bills, whatever the case may be. Time is such a commodity, we want to take advantage of every second. And I guess in an odd way, despite being exhausted, we actually feel better for having accomplished more.

Active rest works in kind of the same way. For the purpose of this post, I am using the term active rest to mean the time intervals between strength training sets. (There are other definitions that deal with active rest days and recovery periods). Active rest means that instead of sitting still, fiddling with your iPod or milling around the water fountain between sets, one performs an activity that keeps the heart rate elevated. Some people choose to skip rope, do jumping jacks or mountain climbers. Here is my interpretation.

I was in the gym doing a leg workout last week. After finishing a set of presses, I sat back on the bench resting while Talib rapped in my ear. Out of the blue it occurred to me that I could be doing abdominal contractions. Yes folks, that Ab Rehab program that I’ve been avoiding for months. So I started. I did forty contractions then immediately started my next set of leg presses. I kept that up for the remainder of my workout.

OK so let’s do some math. My leg workout includes three sets of extensions and curls plus six sets of presses.  That means I have eight rest periods between sets (just between sets not between exercises). Eight rest periods consisting of forty contractions each equals 320 contractions. Not bad.

This isn’t really the textbook version of active rest but it works for me. 320 contractions is far from the 900/day I’m supposed to be doing, but also a lot better than the 0 I was doing until now. And since my time in the gym is so limited, it makes sense to use every second effectively. Oh and how’s this for an added benefit? Now my “rest” periods are perfectly timed. No more letting a 40 second rest slip into a 90 second break. After 40 contractions I’m onto my next set right away. I’m not sure that my heart rate stays elevated during this active rest. But I can tell you that those contractions are no slow walk in the park. Done correctly, they are  hard work.

So there you have it. It’s workout multitasking, if you will. I’m packing as much exercise into my 90 minutes as possible. There’s no time to spare. This busy mom hopes to erase “reduce waistsize” from her to-do list very soon!

How do you use active rest in your workouts and in life? Do you walk on your ‘off’ days?.. Email while in transit?…Lunge and squat while the kiddies are on the swing or slide?

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1 Comment

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One response to “What Free Time?: Working out with active rest

  1. Pauline

    Wow – I didn’t realize but I think my entire day is “active rest”. LOL! I am constantly multi-tasking. But does anyone really consider jumping rope “active rest”???? LOL!

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