Turn Your Watch Into A Personal Trainer

So you can't afford a trainer? Me neither! I have to sleep with my trainer to get him to work me out. OK, I admit, he's my husband, but you get my drift.

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Training can get expensive. There’s good news, though. If you don’t have the luxury of a hiring your own personal trainer, or you don’t have access to a really great (more affordable) group training class, you can turn your watch into one tough trainer. Back when I started working out, my workout consisted solely of reps and sets. No one ever gave me a time limit. Time wasn’t really even addressed. By the age of 18, I was showing people how to use the weight equipment at the gym, and I never once talked about pace, how long to work out, or how long to rest between sets. All I did was show them the equipment, help them find a challenging weight, and spot them while they banged out their 12-15 repetitions. Then we’d talk until they felt ready to do another set. As I reflect back, I don’t ever remember anyone sweating while lifting weights unless the air conditioning was not working. People sweat during aerobics classes, but weight training was totally different. Well, not today. Things have changed dramatically. Over the years, experts have seen how adding a time component to a workout can completely change things. Even if the exercises are exactly the same, working out to the clock can give you a totally different experience. By using an interval timer app or handy gadget like the Gymboss Interval Timer, you are forced to stick to a training schedule. Typically, this means less rest and more work. Before I started using a timer, I pretty much did my next set when I felt like it. With a timer, I work out when it tells me to work out–and most of the time, it’s much sooner than I would like. That’s when I realized my timer became one mean trainer. There are several ways to use time to your advantage. Here are four different training methods where your clock becomes your toughest trainer.

1. Tabata

Tabata is a specific style of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), alternating 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds lasting a total of 4 minutes. Tabata is great for improving your pace as a runner, but can also get you in amazing shape when used with body weight or free weight exercises. The most common exercises for Tabata training are multi-joint exercises like sprints, pushups, squats, kettlebell swings, pull-ups, burpees, and rowing. I also use Tabata to isolate muscle groups in bicep curls, tricep dips, and push presses if I really kill one body part. Tabata is intense, and it’s awesome because you get a lot of work done in very little time.


AMRAP stands for for As Many Rounds As Possible. How does this fall under a time component? It’s not like you just do as many rounds of an exercise or circuit until you can’t do it anymore. AMRAPs are timed. You will have a certain exercise or combination of exercises to do in a set time, like 5 minutes. It’s your job to get as many rounds, or sets, as you can in that amount of time. AMRAPs ramp up intensity like crazy, especially when you’re working out with a partner or in a group setting. The clock measures your fitness level and gives you a number to beat the next time you do the workout. There is no set guideline for AMRAPs. You can do a 5-minute AMRAP or a 20-minute AMRAP. The key is to keep the time and tasks the same each time you attempt the workout so you can measure progress.


EMOM stands for Every Minute On The Minute and is another great way to keep you on task. For example, you may have an EMOM where you do 10 squats every minute on the minute. You can also do a combination of exercises, like five box jumps and five burpees every time the clock hits :00. Another way to increase intensity is to increase reps, weight, or exercises each round. You can add one or two reps, 5-10 pounds, or one more exercise each minute, making each round more and more challenging. Like an AMRAP, EMOMs often last from 5 minutes to 20 minutes.


HIIT is the most versatile of all timed workouts. HIIT alternates repeated bouts of high-intensity intervals with lower moderate-intensity training, called active rest. An example of a HIIT workout could include one minute of high-intensity training at over 80 percent of your maximum heart rate with two minutes of moderate-intensity active recovery. For example, you may run for one minute followed by a moderate jog or fast walk for two minutes. While a 2:1 ratio is popular, everything goes with HIIT training. You can create all types of interval combinations, like 30:30, 40:20, 50:10 and so on. You can also flip flop intensities, using the longer interval for the high-intensity exercise and the short interval for the low-intensity exercise. You really can’t go wrong with any combination of interval training. As long as you are on the clock, you are burning calories and staying on task.

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