Excuse No. 1: I have no time
Boo hoo, you're so busy. But these workouts are so quick you'll barely have time to worry about your to-do list.
Hurry up and wait
If you’re really pressed for time—and not just avoiding exercise because it isn’t fun—this may be your solution. The program is called SuperSlow, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
The space, in a Lincoln Park office building, is no typical gym. First, there’s the doctor’s office–like sterile waiting room, and then there’s the workout area: about 30 exercise machines in a calm, music-and-mirror–free room. Citywide SuperSlow’s new digs, scheduled to open just three blocks down the street this month, will be larger and less office-y, but just as distraction-free. The clientele is mostly 35 and older, probably because youngfolks like myself can’t manage the $57-per-session cost.
Here’s the concept: You lift weights very, very slowly, without resting between reps. Your goal is to reach muscle failure in one snail-slow set that lasts two minutes. Because lifting slowly gets you to failure so quickly, you’ve worked all your major muscles in less than 30 minutes. Even better, you do this a maximum of twice weekly, and the claim is it’s all the exercise you need, period.
The reality is that it hurts like a mother—and works like a charm. A trainer coaches you the entire time, using a stopwatch to make sure you spend ten full seconds lifting and ten seconds lowering the weight, and that you keep going until you cannot push any longer. It sounds hard, and it’s even tougher to do. To my embarrassment, I squeal in pain during the first session. Happily, my trainer pretends not to notice; I get the distinct impression this happens all the time here. A typical exercise has me holding a sit-up position several inches from the floor until I’m shaking so hard I think I’m going to knock my head on the floor.
There’s no question it works the muscles—I have to get my roommate to finish hanging a new shower curtain after my first session because my arms are like jelly. Even more telling, I’m able to increase how much weight I’m lifting (12 pounds for the legs and eight for the arms) for the second session just four days later. If I could afford this (and bear the pain), I’d be tough and toned in no time. 1901 N Clybourn Ave, second floor (773-281-7569, citywidesuperslow.com).
— Ruth Welte
With only 45 minutes to spare before my Monday-night photography class, I try the 30-minute FitCore session at Fitness Formula Club, designed to tone and strengthen abs and the lower back.
After securing my stuff in the sparkling clean locker room, I head to the studio, where about 15 intimidatingly toned people await the start of class. We begin with some crunches that incorporate a balance ball: With our backs on the ground and our heels resting on the top of the ball, we perform a classic crunch technique. We move on to alternating crunches, planks (balancing your weight with forearms and toes on the ground) and then go back to ab work using the balance ball. Having never used a balance ball, I find it helps keep proper form and forces me to concentrate on what I’m doing, lest I fall off the thing. The next day, I’m definitely sore—all the proof I need that a 30-minute workout is quite enough, thank you. 1151 S State St (312-360-1151, ffc.com). Free with gym membership or $20 for a day pass.
— Jill Dudones
Stretched for time
More mornings than I’d care to admit, I spend at least ten minutes in bed trying to arrange my schedule so that a trip to the gym won’t suck two hours out of my day. If Equinox’s 30-minute Restorative Stretch class satisfies as a day’s workout, it could be a lifesaver.
I jet into the gym Monday morning, leave my shoes at the door and grab a yoga mat. The class keeps an even, fluid pace, sticking to the basic moves I’ve known since junior high—neck rolls, seated twists, eagle arms—accompanied by a mellow soundtrack of Beth Orton and Lauryn Hill ballads.
The most intense muscle stretch we do is a runner’s lunge, which, when I look around at the other students—a handful of middle-age to elderly women—seems appropriately gentle. I also like the fact that the class lacks any intimidation factor that yoga or Pilates classes might have—I can’t possibly be doing anything wrong. The session ends just as I start to get bored.
In all fairness, the name of the class tipped me off that for a sweaty workout–seeking fiend like myself, Restorative Stretch alone might not suffice. And it doesn’t. While I do feel mentally restored, my body still craves exercise. Ultimately, I’d rather hit the gym for a sprint and save myself the travel time by replicating this half hour of deep breathing and stretching in my apartment. 1750 N Clark St (312-254-4000, equinoxfitness.com). Free with gym membership.
— Jessica Herman