The Women’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts

Suddenly, a few months ago, it felt like time to try exercising again. Little things kept cropping up – more trouble with the tendinitis in my wrists (typically a sign of overall weakness), feet that were pointing farther and farther out, and more and more people asking me when I was due, despite my being at a healthy weight and definitely not pregnant. This review is therefore both a review of one book and a Quest for the Perfect Fitness Program.

The Women’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute WorkoutsThe Women’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts by Selene Yeager.
I had to wait several months for this book, as I was not the only person in the library who thought that 15 minute workouts were a fabulous idea. For my own benefit, and for yours, dear reader, once I got my hands on the book, I decided to follow their program for the full three weeks that I was allowed the book (there is still a wait list on it, so I couldn’t keep it longer.) Their program is to do their workouts every other day for a total of three days in the week, alternating with light aerobic activity and/or stretching on days 2 and 4 – I chose hoop dancing for my light aerobic and my old standard Postnatal Yoga with Shiva Rea for my stretching. Day 6 is high intensity aerobics from the book – I did jump roping, as it was the only one I could do from home with equipment I already have. I developed a love-hate relationship with this book. I will share with you the good and the bad:

For anyone interested, these are the specific workouts I did: Basic Superfast Total-Body, High School Reunion 1 & 2, Bikini Body 1, Get My Body Back 1, Flat Belly Without a Single Crunch, Skipping School, Office Warrior 4-Minute Total-Body Tune-Up, Office Warrior 5-Minute Water Bottle, Hotel Room 1, Cowgirl, and 5-Minute Headache.

– The workouts are designed to be done in 15 minutes. This is a stretch with my schedule, but it seems to be mostly possible, both to fit in and to finish before the two-year-old has a complete meltdown.
– They make a very good case for 15 minutes of their routines being better for you than hours of less intense routines.
– The workouts have clear color photos with easy-to-follow written instructions under the photo of each step.
– The focus is on strength training with large muscle groups doubled up, making it hard enough work to count as cardio as well.
– There is a good variety of workouts – 85, grouped into the categories of lower body, upper body, core, fat-burning, by body type, anywhere, special gear, better sex, healing, sports, stretch and strengthen. You will not get bored, you’ll develop broader strength, and if you don’t like one workout on a topic, you can pick from several others.
– The models are a variety of different ethnicities.

-The models are all extremely fit twenty-somethings of slender build.
– The workouts assume a pretty high fitness level, much higher than my take-the-stairs, but haven’t really worked out in 2.5 years.
– They have few to no notes on adapting the exercises to a lower fitness level. If I can’t hold a full plank pose while lifting weights up to shoulder level, do I not lift the weights as high, or do I do a modified plank on my knees?
– They use a lot of equipment, even within a workout, from free weights, therabands, and an exercise/birth ball, which I have, to medicine balls, aerobic steps of different heights, weight benches, a bosu, and even a “cable pull-down station” for the “Michelle Obama Arms” workout. Though the equipment list at the beginning says you don’t need all of this, it isn’t prioritized in any way, and they seem to assume that money and space are no object, and that most people have easy access to an already stocked gym. I don’t, and even if I did, I couldn’t go there during my toddler’s weekday nap time. However, I was able to do almost everything using what I have, substituting a large squash for the medicine ball (until we ate it) and my son’s spooner board for the bosu in some exercises. Still, I would really have appreciated a “get started for under $100” list, and instruction on adapting the exercises for less equipment.
-Though Yeager’s bio says she’s a mother, she seems never to have heard of a diastasis. Crunches, especially cross-crunches & bicycles, double leg-lifts, Pilates V all make a diastasis worse and the tummy more rather than less poochy. These exercises appear in almost every workout.

All in all, I had a lot of fun with the book. I was able to stick with the program, which is in itself amazing, and am already noticing benefits in my increased strength and fitness. Now that I’ve been without the book for over a week, trying to still stay active, I find that I miss it. I’m still debating whether or not to get it. You might enjoy it if you want a book with a good choice of intense but short work-outs with clear instructions

And on to the fitness quest – the diastasis thing is big for me – part of the benefit of having a book of routines rather than a book of individual exercises is having the workouts put together for me already. If I then have to substitute a lot, that takes the ease out of it. I know, I’ve talked about the diastasis issue before. I even bought Lose Your Mummy Tummy, and still do the basic Tupler Technique exercises (almost) daily. (As long as I’m making a linky post, I might as well link to her site, too.) Why not just go on with her full workout? Well… partly because I hadn’t read the book in some years, partly, sadly, because her very detailed instructions with little black-and-white photos are harder to follow than the instructions in the 15-Minute book, and partly because she recommends a 30-minute low intensity workout. 30 minutes is harder to come by than 15, and I found that, despite my normal aversion to sweat, I was enjoying the intense 15-minute workouts and the challenge of exercises that I couldn’t do right away but got closer every time.

This sent me out on a hunt – could I find someone who combined the fabulous 15-minute workouts with diastasis healing and prevention? It turns out that this thinking on diastasis seems to be pretty much in the minority. Even Shiva Rea does several exercises that Tupler says would worsen or create a diastasis – notably the cross crunches and the bridge pose. What my quest turned up was the Mutu System, founded by a British mum. It’s not a book or a dvd, but a more expensive 12-week online (if you’re not local to her) total fitness program with 15-minute workouts, including diet advice (which I don’t need, but of course many people do.) The program includes email support (again, I think phone if you’re in the UK), which I think increase the odds of success over a simple book… even if watching a computer video in the presence of my daughter will have her begging for “Elmo’s Ducks”. At this point, I am seriously considering this program. On the surface, it’s a lot more expensive than the 15-Minute book, but I think that the 15-Minute program is more expensive in the end, since it uses more expensive equipment, where I already have everything I need for the Mutu System.

I am still trying to keep up with the 6-day a week fitness program, sometimes doing something like that from the 15-Minute book and sometimes doing the Mummy Tummy exercises, which do feel very effective. I’d say I’ll follow up with results, but since this is a book blog, not a fitness blog, I’ll probably follow up only if there’s interest expressed.

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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