By LANDON HALL
Freedom News Service
When Sean Foy was a personal trainer, he acknowledges, he failed some of his clients by asking them to do too much. He would tell them, in the gym or at a seminar for larger groups, that they had to exercise at least an hour a day and eat all the right foods. And their eyes would glaze over.
“People were looking at me like, ‘Duh, we know we need to exercise. We know we need to eat healthy, but how do we do that when we’re spinning so many plates? We’ve got kids, we’ve got work.’ And then you’ve got somebody like me who comes along and says you need to work out an hour a day, and you just want to hit me.”
Taking advantage of the trend in the industry toward shorter workouts, Foy worked for years to develop a program that packs a full regimen into 10 minutes. The Placentia, Calif., resident has been touring the country promoting his book, “The 10-Minute Total Body Breakthrough.”
The key is alternating rapid and normal paces, and moving from one activity to another in rapid succession. In what he calls his “4-3-2-1” interval-training approach, Foy’s program calls for four minutes of aerobic activity (like running or a stationary bike) broken up into 30-second portions of high-intensity activity with a relaxed pace; three minutes of strength and resistance (like lunges or light weights); two minutes of core strengthening for the abs and lower back (like sit-ups or crunches); and a minute of stretching and deep breathing.
That’s it? That’s the workout? We’ve seen this pitch before. Foy says what makes his regimen unique is its scalability: Someone at an advanced fitness level can repeat the stations as often as they like. People who have been sedentary for years can do it as well, because they can start out with the tiniest steps. The first interval doesn’t have to be high-impact cardio; it can be simply sitting in your chair and pumping your arms.
With obesity at crisis levels around the country, Foy says, anything that gets people’s bodies moving is worthwhile.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What is the best exercise for me to lose weight or to get in shape or lower my cholesterol?’ And I tell them, the one that you’ll do,” he said. “It’s the one we enjoy, the one we like, where we don’t feel like we’re working, per se. If people balk at the 10 minutes, we tell them, ‘Give us one minute of deep breathing and stretching. That’s it. Start there.’ ”
Foy, 45, was a star football player in high school in Southern California, and a starting linebacker in college. During a game in his sophomore season, in 1983, Foy planted his left foot on Boise State’s blue “Smurf Turf” and ripped the medial collateral knee ligament. Watching his leg wither and atrophy inside his cast, he decided to study how the body moves and heals as an exercise physiology major. He had studied in a seminary for a year and a half and was focused on a career as a minister, but he wound up evangelizing about healthy living instead.
Foy started a company, Personal Wellness Corp, and began to embrace brief, high-energy workouts.
Foy’s company landed a consulting gig teaching fitness to the employees of Nutrilite, a supplement and nutrition company based in Buena Park, Calif. During one promotion about six years ago, Nutrilite flew in dozens of people from around the country in sort of a “Biggest Loser”-style 12-week boot camp.
“We really struggled with, how do you take all those essential elements of a fitness program and put it into one 10-minute program? It’s really hard,” Foy said. “But we began to play with it, tweak some things, and we were blown away at the results. Not only physically — how these people changed with their body composition — but, and here’s the magic: The physical motion affects emotion. It affects the way we think. It affects the way we feel.”
One participant was a physical education teacher from Gayville, S.D., named Larry Buffington, 47. A former college football player, the 6-foot-3 Buffington had ballooned to 289 pounds — nearly 55 pounds over his playing weight. He didn’t want to suffer the same fate as his father, who died at 47 of lung and heart disease when Buffington was 11. Foy writes about finding your own personal “why” for getting fit, and Buffington’s was that his son was approaching the same age he was when he lost his father.
“When I first started this, they were afraid that if I ran around the block, they might lose me,” says Buffington, now 51 and down to 232 pounds. “I just kind of woke up and realized that if something doesn’t change, nothing’s gonna change.”
The book has a nutrition element — mostly common-sense guidelines about portion control and avoiding emotional eating. A section of flip cards that allows the reader to mix and match the exercises within each circuit is emblematic of a larger point: The key barrier to working out for most people, next to time, is boredom. Foy learned from watching children exercise that it’s important to do something you like — and in quick bursts.
“We’ve got to get back to enjoying the experience of moving our bodies,” he said. “Because when we were young, we used to love to move. Now we’ve just gotten so used to not moving, it hurts to move.”
Foy has rivals in the quick-workout subgenre, but he says it’s a supportive rivalry. “Everybody in the fitness industry is just like me: We’re all looking for answers. How do we get folks who are sitting on their couch who will never do the 30 to 60 minutes?”