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In the words of Jen: ‘I was missing that kind of sweat when you just go for it.’
Jennifer Aniston is apparently all about the #SimpleLife. Speaking to InStyle, she shared that her go-to workout is what she has coined the ’15-15-15 method’: a straightforward 15 minutes on a bike, followed by 15 minutes on a cross trainer and 15 minutes on a treadmill.
‘I had an injury last fall and I was only able to do Pilates, which I absolutely love,’ she said. ‘But I was missing that kind of sweat when you just go for it.’ So, once she’d recovered, she was happy to be ‘going back to my 15-15-15, which is a 15-minute spin, elliptical, run,’ adding, ‘It’s just old school: I can chase myself around a gym.’
If I’m honest, my first thoughts are that spending 15 mins back-to-back on a bike, cross-trainer and treadmill sounds pretty boring, but if it works for Jen it can’t be thaaaat bad, can it? Plus, splitting a cardio session up into different kinds would surely make it more interesting than doing 45 mins on one machine, and while I’m a weightlifting convert, I know that there are some benefits I can only get from cardio.
Still, I currently do max 20 mins (sometimes 10) jogging once a week, on days when I’m doing an upper body strength workout since they’re usually shorter than the leg workouts I do (I never spend more than 60 mins in the gym and strength work is my priority, so cardio is an accompaniment as and only when I have the time). But I’m curious. I know that I’ll never stop weightlifting now, but on the odd occasion that I may fancy a fully cardio workout, could Jen’s 15-15-15 method be the way to go? To find out, I tried it for myself, and asked the experts for their verdict. Here’s everything you need to know.
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PT and fitness coach Chelsea Labadini explains that the USP of Jen’s 15-15-15 method when compared to other forms of cardio is the fact that the three blocks can make it much more appealing than sticking to one machine for 45 minutes. ‘Changing up your equipment can make your workouts way more interesting,’ she tells us. ‘There’s nothing magical about combining these particular machines or timings, but it is good if you’re looking to do a substantial amount of cardio without getting bored.’
I was also keen to hear if, at 53, Jen’s age could have been what swayed her to do this kind of workout. Turns out, Labadini wagers that this may well be the case, since the 15-15-15 method has lots of benefits for her age group.
‘Generally speaking, I find that women in this age group prefer low impact workouts, and this workout is low impact for the first 30 minutes,’ she explains.
What’s more, according to the NHS, the average age for a woman in the UK to start the menopause is 51, and Labadini adds that the running portion of Jen’s 15-15-15 method could be useful for increasing bone density as it reduces with the menopause. ‘Running is weight-bearing and weight-bearing activity increases bone density by promoting the activity of osteoblasts – the cells that are needed for new bone to grow,’ she explains.
Labadini says you may want to avoid making this workout the base of your regular routine if you’re ‘trying to build muscle’. Instead, she recommends ‘weightlifting’, but adds that ‘the 15-15-15 workout can be modified depending on what you want to get out of it’.
If you’re after some low-impact cardio, for example, just take out the running and stick to the bike and cross-trainer, or switch the run for a walk.
Again, this one very much depends on your goal. ‘If your goal is to get strong but you like the 15-15-15 workout, then doing it once or twice a week, alongside strength training is great.
‘The main thing is finding something that you enjoy and will stick to. If you want to do it more frequently, then do that.’
Whether you’re in Jen’s age group or not, Labadini’s advice is for everyone: add strength training. ‘Women of Jen’s age will benefit from resistance work as it will help to maintain muscle mass, which we lose as we get older (an average of 3-5% every decade after the age of 30, to be precise). It will also increase bone density which reduces with age.
‘If you’re in your 20s or 30s, adding resistance training will also benefit you for the same reasons. You might not be losing muscle mass or bone density yet, but strengthening what you have right now will make you less prone to injury and more able to progress and see results.’
Getting started is always the hardest part with workouts, and I can confirm that this rings true for Jen’s 15-15-15 method. I wasn’t exactly dreading it, but I really look forward to my weightlifting sessions and my cardio bunny days are well and truly behind me, but after the first 10 minutes on the bike (the first machine of the three), my legs felt a lot lighter and I instantly felt more energised.
If cardio isn’t your jam either, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s not just me that might find it easier after a bit of time. One study showed that workouts can seem less intense after ten minutes, because your heart rate increases meaning there’s an increased supply of blood to the brain, which makes you more alert, blocks pain signals and tells the body to start using more than one energy system.
By the time the treadmill run came around, I still felt pretty good. What I will say, is that I’m not sure this would be the case if I regularly did Jen’s 15-15-15 workout. This was the first time I’d done any more than 20 mins of cardio in about three months, so my body was pretty welcoming to the new way of moving. I reckon I would have felt way more tired if I’d done the workout within the seven or so days prior, as I’d have used my muscles in the exact same way.
Though Jen may well have specific speeds and intensities that she follows for her cycle, cross-train and run, the workout can be adapted to suit you. I started at an easy pace, and gradually increased within each segment (upping by around 1mph every 5 minutes), so that I finished at my fastest. This is essentially a form of progressive overload, with the end goal being that if I regularly did the 15-15-15 method, I’d be able to cycle, cross-train and run faster each time.
I also avoided any resistance on the cycle and cross-trainer and didn’t go for any incline on the treadmill. My thinking was that resistance makes up the base of my usual workout routine, so if I’m going to do cardio, I want to do it for cardio reasons only (i.e. to get my heart pumping). These are all factors that you could play with to make the workout suit you.
This was perhaps the most surprising learning for me. I’ll admit I anticipated being bored out of my brains since I’m so used to tracking reps and sets and having so many form cues to think about when strength training, but as the workout got easier, time genuinely flew by. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it became almost meditative. I had nothing to think about but either pedalling or putting one foot in front of the other, and I hardly checked the clock.
Several studies have shown that aerobic exercise is a reliable way to boost your mood since it releases endorphins and boosts serotonin (two key feel-good hormones). Another study found that while some believe exercise can induce stress (it is an effort on your body, after all) through cortisol (the stress hormone), aerobic exercise actually deactivates cortisol (the active steroid) and converts it into cortisone (its inactive counterpart). All of this undoubtedly contributes to why I felt so good afterwards, but if we were to play devil’s advocate, I’d say that the feeling isn’t far from how weightlifting makes me feel, so this wouldn’t be enough for me to switch my MO to cardio.
I’m quite possibly the most injury-prone woman you will ever meet. Over the past few years, I’ve suffered a pelvic stress fracture (from running too often) and hamstring tendinitis, as well as a few muscle strains here and there. This was one of the reasons I decided to switch out most of my former HIIT and cardio sessions for weightlifting (several studies show that strength training can work wonders for strengthening the joints, tendons and bones), and turns out I was right to do so.
After just this single cardio session, my tendinitis flared up. I felt it towards the end of the cross-train segment of the workout; nothing too serious, but definitely worth noting. It’s common sense when you think about it: tendinitis develops from repetitive movements of the tendon. With cycling, cross-training and running, your hamstring is moving in pretty much the same way – the sagittal plane, forwards and backwards – and 45 minutes is a pretty lengthy timeframe to do the exact same movement over and over.
Will I do it again? Probably not. Each to their own and all, but for me personally, doing 45 minutes of cardio doesn’t compare to the physical and mental benefits I get from weightlifting.
That said, the main issue for me was the duration, and if I do decide to do a 30-minute cardio session in the future, I would be tempted to follow Jen’s structure and do 5-10 minutes on each machine to make it more interesting. To that end, for those of you who love a bit of cardio, combining three different machines could give you some motivation if you’re not feeling slogging away on the same machine. And for the rest of you who can’t think of a better way to spend a workout, try following Labadini’s advice and teaming it with resistance training.
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