4 minute mornings

video/ Week #1 – DAYS 3 & 4

Here is week #1 – DAY 3

My nephew Peter is demonstrating.

Day 3 (~1 Minute)

  1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high).
  2. 10 Bend Down & Reach Ups

BEND DOWN & REACH UPS: Begin standing with legs and feet together. Bend down at the knees and hips (feet stay flat on the ground –like squatting on a very low stool, chest lifted.  Touch the ground with your fingertips (or just as close to the floor as possible), then straighten up to standing.  Reach arms up to ceiling.  Repeat.

Day 4 (~2 Minutes)

  1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high).
  2. 10 Bend Down & Reach Ups
  3. Repeat circuit twice, to equal two rounds.
Note: If you’re not ready to move on to two rounds then repeat Day 3 and add on when you are ready.  

video/ Week #1 – DAY 2

Here is Week #1 – DAY 2
My nephew Peter is demonstrating.
Still getting the hang of filming.  The dog was a bit distracting so I lost count a few times.

Day 2 (approx. 2 Minutes)

  1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high).
  2. Rest 10 seconds

       Note: 50 Marching on the Spot + 10 second Rest = one circuit.

3.  Repeat this Circuit 4 times, to equal 4 rounds.

Note: you should be able to do 50 Marches in approximately 20 seconds.  If it takes you longer than 20 seconds that’s fine.  You don’t have to do all four circuits if you’re not ready.  Build up to it at your own pace.  Keep a log of what you do so you can monitor your progress.  Each knee up counts as one repetition.

Video Week #1 – DAY 1

Finally, here is Week #1 – DAY 1
My nephew Peter is demonstrating.
I forgot the sound on this video…that’s why Peter is just standing still for about 10 seconds at the beginning.
Day 1 (approx. 1 Minute)
  1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high).
  2. Rest 10 seconds
  3. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high).
  4. Rest 10 seconds

Note: you should be able to do 50 Marches in approximately 20 seconds.  If it takes you longer than 20 seconds that’s fine.  Keep a log of what you do so you can monitor your progress.  Each knee up counts as one repetition.

Body Alignment

Posture types (vertebral column) classificatio...

Image via Wikipedia

Body Alignment and Exercise

It’s important to have good body alignment, not just when we exercise, but whenever we move our body.  When our muscles contract they pull on the tendons, which move our skeleton.

Good body alignment supports efficient muscle contraction, which in turn supports our balanced skeletal structure.  We cannot have one without the other.

Aside from the proven physiological health benefits associated with exercise, the entire point of exercise is to strengthen and stabilize the skeleton enabling it to function effectively.  Not paying enough attention to this basic principle loads too much pressure or stress onto unsuspecting joints, pulling us out of functional alignment, which can lead to pain or injury, and sometimes an unflattering physique.

The primary reason most people exercise is to look better and improved health takes a close second.  If our goal is to look better then why do we punishingly force ourselves to execute movements without paying attention to how they are performed?  It’s because we are thinking too much on completion as opposed to the precision of movement.

Most people I know are hard workers and are willing to try just about anything for the end result.  But what if all that hard work turns out to be for nothing?  What if mindless or forced repetition with poor body alignment is causing more damage than good?

What is the solution? Like any type of movement, if you do not know what correct body alignment is, how can you monitor yourself?  Enter the domain of the expert: Personal Trainer, Physiotherapist, Registered Massage Therapist etc. These professionals reinforce, remind, and educate the client on proper technique and body alignment, be it for daily function or athletics.

Clearly I am biased, but in general, I believe in learning from an expert.  And it is quite clear how I feel about putting health first.  We all know that without our health we have nothing.  Unfortunately, it is often the case that before we come to this realization and do something about improving our health, we suffer serious illness or injury.

The following is from personal experience as an example.  Having taken the mandatory swimming lessons in public school, I have always been able to swim at a recreational level.  Two years ago I joined a masters swim group, which met once per week for an hour of drills and stroke improvement.  Being a ‘land athlete’ all my life I was nervous about joining this group, but getting over this fear and really learning how to swim was another goal to strike off my to-do list.

When refining or learning something for the first time, there are many layers and many A-HA! moments along the way.  So, what does any of this have to do with body alignment?  In a group class there is only a certain amount of individualized attention a coach or trainer can give each student.  As a beginner swimmer, the amount of feedback I got from my coach was more than adequate.  However, as I put these corrections into practice, I developed some elbow and shoulder joint irritation.  I started swimming a second day a week (for half an hour) at a moderate intensity, just to practice these corrections.  I later found out, that I misunderstood some of the corrections and was doing something else entirely wrong.  But this is what I am talking about when I give the ‘layers’ analogy.  We learn more and make progress, only to discover there is an entire other layer of lessons waiting, and more lessons beyond those.  Learning is an endless process, which for me is what makes learning so exciting.  I cannot imagine it would be very fun if we did everything perfectly the first time.

When checking in and complaining about these new pains with my registered Massage Therapist, it was he who identified the problem and was able to give me direction as how to correct my technique.  What is fascinating to understand is that my technique was faulty because of a very small, over-tight, muscle (teres major), which affected the mechanics of my shoulder from rotating properly.

About five months ago I stopped going to the masters swim group and instead started meeting a swim coach once every three weeks for a half hour of technique drills.  The rest of the time I have to be strict about going to the pool to practice on my own.  The point is that without these individual lessons that focus on my particular needs, and the support from a registered Massage Therapist, I would continue to irritate my elbow and shoulder joints because of the high frequency of incorrect repetitive movement.

This brings me to my second point about short-duration training.  None of us can expect to push our bodies for long periods of time without losing form as a result of fatigue.  Generally, a person who is more fit can train longer, but it is still possible to be fit with poor technique.  It all comes back to balance.  Are you stretching enough to counter all the strengthening and tightening?  Are you stretching properly?  Are you forgetting to stretch some parts of your body just because you don’t know how or because you don’t even know they exist?

In a nutshell: focus on precision of movement.  Exercise consistently and for short periods of time.  Stretch your body daily.  Get professional advice and support from certified and registered practitioners.  And most importantly give your body ample time to rest and recover between intense workouts.


Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...

The modern world has a strange relationship with food.

While early humans foraged for survival, modern civilization indulges in the increased production and availability of food, which has enabled us to focus our attention on other pursuits.

Food has become an affordable disposable luxury item for the developed countries, while the majority of the third world’s population cannot get enough to eat.

How is it that we over-eat until we feel sick then do it all over again? It is a cruel Pavlovian reflex.

We eat or drink to celebrate.  We eat or drink because we feel we ‘deserve’ a treat or as an emotional response.  We eat or drink to be social or to ‘fit-in’.

And sometimes we do not eat enough with the hope to control our weight.  Both extremes can leave lasting negative outcomes.

 In his book How to Be Compassionate, The Dalai Lama says:

“There are many discrepancies between the way things appear and the way they really are.  Something that is impermanent can appear permanent.  Also, sources of pain, such as overeating, sometimes first appear to be sources of pleasure, but in the end, they are not.  They actually bring us trouble.  Although we want happiness, in our ignorance we do not know how to achieve it; although we do not want pain, we misunderstand its workings, so we end up contributing to its causes.”

This can also be the case with exercise. Pushing so hard, not taking enough time for the body to rest and recover to the point of developing stress fractures; knowing better but not listening to your inner voice or the physiotherapist for that matter.

Can you find a parallel in your life?  Something that you do in excess or even in what might seem like a negligible amount that you know is harming you or will harm you in the future?

Will you stop this cycle?  Do you want to?

Were you able to stop this cycle?  How did you do it?

Week #3

A Morning Journey in a Valley

Image by dustinsapenga via Flickr

Week #3

Carry on repeating Weeks #1 or #2 if you do not feel ready to move on to Week #3.

Week #3 is for those who have done last weeks’ prep exercises.

By now you should feel quite familiar with Marching On The Spot and getting your knees up high.

This week we will be progressing to High Knees.

To begin this progression you need to start with gentle bouncing from one foot to the other.  Already, I can hear some of you saying, “nope – this isn’t for me”.  Which is completely fine; stick with Marching On The Spot until you are ready to give it a try.  For the others, resist the urge to skip ahead.  I know some of you want to get to the tougher exercises, but believe me your body will thank you if you take it one day at a time.  This is an exercise in patience for the Ego too.  We are doing these exercises in bare feet, but, of course wear running shoes if you have a pre-existing condition which requires you to do so during exercise.

Reminder:  Be mindful of your feet and arches.  The following exercises will be more taxing and it is easy to lose focus and just want to get to the end.  Try to be present and mindful of each repetition.

Day 1 (week #3)

  1.  50 Marching On The Spot.                                                                                           Place your arms tight by your sides.  Now bend at the elbow creating a 90-degree angle. (Arms point forward). Your forearms are now parallel to the ground.  Keep your forearms still with palms downward).  Each time you March a knee up, make your knee touch your hand.  Do NOT lower your hand to contact your knee.  Bring your knee UP to touch the hand.
  2.   20 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
  3.   Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 rounds total.

Day 2 (week #3)

  1.   50 Ground Toe Taps

Introducing some small hops.  Alternating hops. Put all your weight onto your left foot.  Right leg bends slightly at the knee, which lifts the right heel off the floor, leaving the right toe lightly touching the floor.  Now hop and switch sides so that all your weight is now on the right leg.  Your left leg should naturally bend slightly causing the left heel to come off the floor, leaving the left toe lightly touching the floor.  Repeat 50 times.

  1.   20 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
  2.   Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 rounds total.

Day 3 (week #3)

  1.   50 Step Height Toe Taps

Introducing slightly bigger hops.  Same as above, only this time the toe will no longer make contact with the floor.  Make your toe come 1 to 6 inches from the floor.  Even if your toe still touches the floor, at least make it a light touch.  If this is too difficult, then stick with the Ground Toe Taps from Day 2.

  1.   20 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
  2.   Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 rounds total.

Day 4 (week #3)  Repeat Day 1 (week #3).

Day 5 (week #3)  Repeat Day 2 (week #3)

Day 6 (week #3)  Repeat Day 3 (week #3)

Day 7 (week #3)

  1.   50 High Knees with arms bent at 90-degrees as in Day 1.  Same as Day 1 Marching on the spot where you bring your knees up to meet your hands, however, with High Knees one foot is only on the floor at a time. You hop to switch legs, as in Step Height Toe Taps.
  2.   20 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise

3.  Repeat circuit 4 times to equal 4 rounds total.

For comfort, ladies may want to wear a sports bra for the hopping exercises.

So sorry, the videos are coming…I am having technical difficulties.

Leave me a comment about your progress so far.

Time Keeps on Slipping…

The cabs of Times Square

Busy Schedules.

We’ve all got them.  Some of us cram more into our days than others.  For some, it is a choice, for others, circumstance.

For this reason, developing the self-discipline to maintain your body for 4 minutes each morning is essential.

For the organized set, those who have their weeks scheduled months in advance generally have their gym workouts or sports pre-planned into their calendar. Others, fly by the seat of their pants and fit it in whenever.

But life tends to throws us curve balls and something always comes up to shift our plans, such as a flat tire, kids afterschool activities, computer crashing, etc.  You name it – fill in your ‘something’ here.

Just to be clear,

I am not saying that you should only do 4 minutes of exercise a day.  I am not saying that you only need 4 minutes of exercise a day.

What I am saying is that regardless of any other sports or activities that you may do in your day, doing these 4 minutes of exercise is your insurance towards maintaining a healthy and fit body.  4 Minute Mornings is not meant to replace any other sports or activities that you do or may consider doing during the day.

And because I hate to leave anyone out, these 4 Minute Mornings are a safe and gradual way to become consistent and self-disciplined with body maintenance for those who just do not know how to begin exercising.

What if, every morning upon waking, you could do a simple series of 4 Minute Morning exercises? Then if your planned workout eludes you, you have at least done your maintenance for the day.

Essentially, there is a solution to our time pinched schedules.  We just need to think outside of the box.

I will post the progression for Week #3 later today.


Use Your Body

Cover of

You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren, is a great reference book.

No need for me to reinvent the wheel.  He has said it all: Why Bodyweight Exercises, Why Strength Training (or Why Cardio Is a Waste of Your Time), Back to Basics Nutrition, Myths, Motivation and Intensity.  These are very short, straight to the point essays so you won’t spend hours reviewing the information.  The rest of the book is filled with bodyweight exercise descriptions including photographs.

Mark Lauren is a certified Military Training Specialist among other qualifications. He knows first hand the necessity for soldiers to be in optimal shape for physically demanding missions.  From solid research and experience he has successfully designed short workouts that support his cause.  His book makes these strategies accessible for all of us.

If you find the books’ practical content a little over your head, you can follow my 4 Minute Mornings’ progressions which will establish a great foundation for strength and flexibility.  My hope is that you will graduate from these progressions feeling confident to tackle any workout program.  Remember, just about anyone can do these exercises; there’s really nothing to it.  Consistency is the real challenge.  If you keep your exercise sessions short you are more likely to practice regularly.

Read You Are Your Own Gym.  Arm yourself with the information and put it into practice.

visit www.marklauren.com

The following are my two favourite bits of research perfectly condensed and described by Mark Lauren.

Izumi Tabata

by MLauren » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:02 pm

Izumi Tabata and his partners at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan, compared the effects of moderate-intensity endurance and High-Intensity Interval Training on maximal aerobic capacity—the best indicator of cardiorespiratory endurance.
They conducted a six week study with two groups of randomly picked males.
Group 1 did one hour of steady state training five days a week. Group 2 did only 4
minutes of Interval Training five days a week.
At the end of the six weeks, Group 1 had an increase in maximal aerobic capacity of 10% and Group 2 had an increase of 14%. Not only did the interval group have a 40% greater gain in aerobic capacity, they had an increase in strength of 28% percent, as opposed to the Steady state group which had no gains in strength. And all this with just four minutes of Interval Training a day.  Similar studies have confirmed that Interval Training produces higher gains in aerobic fitness, greater decreases in body fat, and gains in strength as opposed to the muscle wasting that occurs with much longer sessions of steady state training.
And Cardio vs. High Intensity Interval Training by Mark Lauren

Dr. Angelo Tremblay

by MLauren » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:02 pm

Dr. Angelo Tremblay and his colleagues at the Physical Activities Sciences Laboratory, in Quebec, Canada, tested the popular belief that low-intensity, long-duration exercise is the most effective program for losing fat.

They compared the impact of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and High-Intensity Interval Training on fat loss. Skinfold measurements revealed that the Interval Training group lost more body fat. Moreover, when they took into account the fact that the Interval Training burned less calories during the workouts, the fat loss was 9 times more efficient in that program than in the aerobics program.

In short, the Interval Training group got 9 times more fat-loss benefit for every calorie burned exercising. How can that be? Because, after taking muscle biopsies, measuring muscle enzyme activity, and lipid utilization in the post exercise state, they found that High-Intensity intermittent exercise caused more calories and fat to be burned following the workout. In addition, they found that appetite is suppressed more after intense intervals.

Which Workout Works?

The Tulip Stairs and lantern at the Queen's Ho...

Which Workout Works?

Rodan sent in this great article from last weekends’ The New York Times Magazine.  It is worth reading.


The article asks a range of exercise and sport physiologists to choose THE single best exercise.

Interestingly and really, not surprisingly the physiologists have very different views.

The short version is that all exercise has merit.  However, a strong argument is made for the overall effectiveness of interval training.  Short-Duration, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) is great for the time challenged.

The article goes on to say, that yes, “to be effective, HIT must hurt”.  I don’t want this to scare anyone off.  Everyone has a starting point.  Marching on the spot might ‘hurt’ for the absolute sedentary; ‘hurt’ is subjective.  What do they mean by hurt anyway? What I think they mean by ‘hurt’ is discomfort.  It means working hard and passing through the comfort zone to the point where you want to stop, but forcing yourself to finish the repetitions until the interval is over.  This is NOT to be confused with pushing through pain and losing technique just to score high repetitions.  There is a distinct difference between the discomfort caused by muscle fatigue and the pain caused from injury.

When we are consistent with exercise, our body naturally adapts and our ability to take on more increases.

It seems that what hurts the most is digging up the discipline to be consistent with exercising everyday.

Once you make the decision to try something different, I have got a little experiment for you: the stairs.  We all have to climb them and, like at the end of the article, one physiologist sings the praises of “running up steps”.

Find a staircase with approximately twelve steps.  But any number will do.

Make sure the staircase is straight and sturdy (no spirals), has a handrail and is not too steep.  Remember to go at a safe and comfortable pace. You may only climb the stairs once today, twice tomorrow and so on.  Listen to your body.

First, think about your body mechanics as you are climbing the steps.  Remember your feet and the arches.  Now go up the steps at a slow to moderate pace.  Trot back down.  Now go up the steps a little faster.  Trot back down.  Do this four more times.  Regardless of speed, the heart rate and body temperature will rise and breathing will quicken.

When finished, walk around until the heart rate and breathing slows down to normal.  Try it once a day for a week.

Leave me a comment.  I love hearing about your progress.



4 Minute Mornings – Week #2

A Perfect Morning

Image by Extra Medium via Flickr

Week #2

By the way, it’s ok to repeat Week #1 as often as you like. Developing self-discipline is our first line of defense.
The following is what week #2 looks like.

Days 1-2 & 3 (of week #2) are the same as Day 7 (from week #1). The only difference is that you will do a toe raise when you reach up to the ceiling.

Days 1 – 2 & 3 (week #2)

1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high & pumping arms).
2. 10 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
3. Repeat circuit four times, to equal 4 rounds.

The effect of the toe raise, is to gradually strengthen the arches of the feet and develop balance. Notice what happens when you rise up onto your toes. What happens to your arches? What happens to your balance? Do you lean more onto one side than the other? What do you have to do to remain centered?
So often the feet are forgotten when we exercise the body. The foot, being the foundation of our body, directly impacts the rest of our body’s alignment.

Whether you are just beginning to contemplate my 4 Minute Mornings or are a seasoned athlete, stand in front of the mirror and take a look at your feet and arches.
While exercising or just walking around, I would like you to bring some awareness to your feet.  Better yet, have someone video your feet as you rise up onto your toes and lower back down.  Watch the mechanics of your feet.

The link below is a two-minute video clip featuring Jesse Enright, from Smart Yoga, describing the three arches of the foot. Yes, there are three arches!


Click the video for: Smart Yoga For The Foot.

Day 4
1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high & pumping arms).
2. 12 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
3. Repeat circuit four times, to equal 4 rounds.

Day 5
1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high & pumping arms).
2. 15 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
3. Repeat circuit four times, to equal 4 rounds.

Day 6
1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high & pumping arms).
2. 18 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
3. Repeat circuit four times, to equal 4 rounds.

Day 7
1. 50 Marching On the Spot (knees up high & pumping arms).
2. 20 Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise
3. Repeat circuit four times, to equal 4 rounds.

Note the increase in repetitions each day for the Bend Down & Reach Ups with Toe Raise.

I hope this makes sense and that you are able to follow along without a video at this time. Next week, we will take it up a notch, so be sure to do the toe raises from this week in order to be adequately prepared.

One more thing…we are practicing these exercises with bare feet.  Of course, wear running shoes if you have a pre-existing condition which requires you to do so during exercise.

Check back for week #3 and leave me a comment on your progress.