The Frug Workout, Less = More

frug workout

Why is it so easy to miss a workout?

I used to try to do three one-hour workouts per week. To be honest, I generally ended up with 2.5 as an average then 2.2 and finally 1.9 workouts per week. The problem is timing. Getting ready for a one-hour workout is a bit of a hassle. Even with the equipment in the basement, I still had to schedule it early in the morning, motivate, and get down there. Then, stretch out and slowly start going through my eight exercises, two or three sets each. I was pretty good at getting at least a couple of workouts with weights in per week. I’d also find time for walks and bike rides. In my case, and I believe in many people’s lives, it’s more of a time issue than a motivation issue.

In addition to the time issue, early morning hours are prime time for me. It’s when I do some of my most creative work. A lot of people are able to work out, clear their heads and come up with ideas all at the same time. (A picture pops in the my head of an overweight executive shouting into his Bluetooth headset while on the treadmill)

I’m not a great multitasker, I prefer focus, no interruptions. Usually I’ll be working out and remember something I need to do, or have a great idea, and have to stop, put a reminder in my iPhone, write it down etc.  This disrupts the flow of the workout and adds additional time. Sometime these interruptions go up to 15 minutes, running out of the room to go scribble something down and end up looking at some article online.  What I need is a workout that’s over in 20 minutes, less chance for interruptions.

I researched a few of the current hard-core fitness workouts like P90X and CrossFit. I look at these programs and I see complexity, I see additional time, I see pain.  It would take me 20 minutes just to warm up, set up the DVDs and fill out the charts. Try a Google search on either of those terms and check out the workout charts.

Let’s be honest here. Most people can’t even stick to the type of low intensity 2X workout I described above, a couple of 1- hour long workouts a week and some daily walking.  The more time and complexity added to the workout the less chance you’ll stick to it long-term.

What I was looking for was a highly efficient exercise that could be done in 20 minutes including warm-up and cool down.  Gym equipment would be optional and the exercise could be done anywhere, with many variations to keep things interesting. Most importantly, it would not require a CrossFit membership at over $150 per month, or any DVDs or tracking charts.

About a year ago, I read about High-Intensity Training using the Tabata regimen.  The basic idea is you can fit a workout that has the equivalent of 60 minutes of exercise compacted into approximately 12 minutes.  This includes four minutes of warm-up, eight minutes of High-intensity training in 20 second intervals followed by 10 second breaks, and four minutes of cool down. 12 minutes total.

There is a catch.  The high-intensity portions of the workout are tough. The Tabata workout calls for 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, done eight consecutive times without pausing for a total of 240 seconds or just four minutes.

So if you’re running those 8, 20 second bursts are (all out sprints), followed by 10 seconds of rest (walking slow, catching your breath).  This can be applied to all types of exercise including cycling, mat exercises, elliptical trainers, kettle bell swings and a variety of weightlifting exercises.

If this all sounds a bit far fetched, take a quick look at this article on High Intensity Interval Training. There is some solid science behind it. In fact, the Tabata method, Described in the article has been used to train Olympic speed skaters, MMA champions, and many athletes that require explosive bursts of energy, and a high level of fitness. As the article states you should have a physical before beginning any high-intensity interval training program.

My research on Tabata conveniently coincided with my son requesting a boxing heavy bag for his 13th birthday. (Insert who is he really punching joke here)

I found that heavy bags can be a fantastic part of a Tabata training session.  They are inexpensive and always there, reminding you to hit it. They are often are bundled with a nice set of boxing or MMA style gloves which are sort of bad-ass. Everlast Heavy Bag Kit
Don’t want heavy bag taking up space?  There are plenty of other Low Cost
options, including your closet door which I’ll describe below.

So the Frug version of Tabata looks like this — I’ve increased the warm-up and cool down periods by four minutes each to allow for one additional set of light weight-training exercises. So, the total time commitment for the Frug Workout is 20 minutes per day, five days per week. You can take any two days off.

  • Warm up. 8 minutes of light weight training (your choice)

    • 2 sets of bench press

    • 2 sets of curls

  • Interval Training, 4 minutes total (your choice)

    • 20 seconds on the heavy-bag at 100% effort

    • 10 seconds of rest, basically catching your breath

    • Repeat 8 times

  • Cool Down. 8 minutes of light weight training (your choice)

    • Two sets of calf raises

    • Two sets of squats

I have found that each of these quick 20 minute Tabata sessions actually have more fitness benefits than my 60 minute low intensity weight training sessions. Because they are so quick, there’s less chance that I’ll miss them or be interrupted.  For the interval training sessions, I recommend using a free app for your smart phone or you can get an inexpensive Interval training timer
or just search “Tabata timer” in the app store.

Even though this exercise regimen is fast you still need to add some variety to keep it interesting. I alternate different types of mat or weight  exercises for the warm-up. These can be any number of low intensity exercises that can be slowly increased over time.

Not interested in buying a weight set?  One fantastic option is the TRX Suspension Trainer
developed based on a field training regimen used by Navy Seals.  It is basically a two handle strap you can anchor to any closet door and is fantastic for core fitness when combined with aerobic activity like Tabata Training.  Or you can go completely low-tech just a workout mat. Here’s a video of some gals at FitSugar doing Tabata training on a mat. skip the ad.

I know that’s a lot of information for such a simple workout but I like to share a lot of low-cost options so anyone can make this work.  Give this a try. I’d love to hear how it’s going and if having a workout regimen that includes a frugal use of time helps you miss fewer workouts.


  1. Michelle

    Awesome info Frug! I’ve read the data on the Tabata method and HIIT in general and am similarly impressed. I just bought a TRX system new-in-box off craigslist yesterday for $120. The TRX classes I was taking at the gym were $12 per 45 min. session. This will pay for itself in a month!

    • The Frug

      Thanks Michelle. I use the TRX with the heavy bag for Tabata and it is a great combination. Especially when compared to the cost of CrossFit.

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