I go to the gym two or three times a week. Sound respectable? Eh, it’s practically handed to me: There’s an enormous and not terribly crowded facility just down the street, and my fiancé is a former Army captain who can rally fitness enthusiasm on a professional level. Despite those advantages, sometimes there is no amount of convenience that will get me there. Last night, for example, there was no way I was going back out into that godforsaken 16-degree tundra to walk the entire almost block and a half to Planet Fitness (home of this one dude who works out in a full furry costume and this old guy who works out in jeans, a belt, loafers and a yarmulke).
Instead, I did the Jess Kapadia 7-minute cooking workout. It’s a lot like the Scientific 7 Minute Workout app, as seen on The New York Times. The idea is that you’re guided through 30 seconds each of 12 basic exercises that use the body’s own weight as resistance, with a 10-second break in between sets. My hacked version is even more productive. It has the added bonus of improving your cooking multitasking while you sweat, and best of all: Dinner is ready (or at least most of the way there) by the time you’re done.
You’ll want to set up somewhere close enough to the kitchen. Luckily, I live in New York, so my living room IS my kitchen and also my foyer, hallway, office, library, maid’s quarters and solarium. Place a yoga mat and a non-padded chair wherever they’ll fit, then do all the chopping, can-opening and other prep for dinner while staring at said yoga mat and chair to ensure you don’t just say screw it and turn on Netflix.
Once you’re ready to go, decide which recipe step will allow you to either be away from the stove for seven minutes or commit to checking/stirring during your 10-second breaks. That’s when you’ll work out. Here are a few common steps that take about seven minutes:
- Browning onions and garlic. Stir during breaks. You can even dump an open can of tomatoes into the pot during a 10-second break.
- Boiling pasta to a perfect pre-al dente. The best way to finish cooking pasta is in sauce, so take it out a couple of minutes before it’s ready — which comes out to a perfect 7 minutes — drain, return to the pan and let it come to al dente while absorbing sauce.
- Searing meat. For an average-sized steak cooked medium-rare, flip during the break after exercise #6.
- Broiling meat. Set the broiler to high, and flip during the break after exercise #6.
- Making fine-ground polenta. Stir every other break. Medium or coarsely ground polenta will take 12-15 minutes.
- Microwaving a baked potato.
- Making a roux. Keep over low heat and stir during every break.
- Frying a grilled cheese. Flip after exercise #4, turn off stove and allow to sit and keep warm in the pan until your workout is done.
And there you have it: The motivation to do a quick 7-minute workout — which really is a solid way to get your heart rate up and break a sweat — is the fact that you could conceivably have a baked potato stuffed with a grilled cheese over polenta topped with steak when you’re finished.