When I worked at Bally Total Fitness, my mentors, myself and my teams developed something we called Seven Minute Circuits. This was a didactic tool. It taught new trainers to effectively train anyone; and it expanded the repertoire of advanced fitness professionals. Every new hire both learned from it and added something new in the dynamic from which the rest of us could grow. I hired physical therapists and chiropractors over the years who could put a novel twist on it. And in time, it grew to be an uncompromising dynamic workout for the layperson or a lesson in humility for the fittest egomaniacs to walk through our doors. Ultimately, there were no survivors.
That's right. Not one high level athlete ever survived a seven minute circuit with any of my trainers. Never. Not once. Not almost. Not even close. Ironman triathletes cried. Crossfitters puked. Marines quit. No one can do it. It's so disheartening that the most stubborn people we ever met never asked for a second try. One MMA fighter, who, before his circuit, said, "I don't need to meet with any trainer," afterwards said, "here's my credit card... keep ringing up packages until it declines."
I have two rewards which remain unclaimed: 1.) $50,000 to the first person who accidentally gains too much muscle; and 2.) $1,000 to the charity-of-your-choosing for the first person to make it (without stopping, quitting, taking a break, puking, crying, blacking out) through an athletic Seven Minute Circuit. These offers are still on the table. Takers?
The best I've ever seen anyone do is somewhere between three and four minutes, and I believe he was a Division I track athlete. Three to four minutes. That's about all the human body has when it is working hard. Arguably, if we reference metabolic energy systems, there's even less time available than that. The fastest running speed a human hits occurs within about 60 meters. That's, oh, 5 seconds before you have to slow down.
And this brings me to my point: if the fittest athletes on the face of the earth can, at best, push an all out circuit for four minutes before taking a break, what does that mean for all exercise activities which we can sustain for more than four consecutive minutes? You know what it means: they're easy. They are sub threshold. They are boring. They are, by definition, less intense than what the athlete could do.
It's logic. If you can do an athletic activity for two minutes, it is less demanding than one you can do for only one. If you can do an athletic activity for three minutes, it is less demanding than one you can do for only two. And so on. Where does that leave a long run? Where does that leave a 40 minute mountain run? Where does that leave a 2000m row? Where does that leave a pyramid set of Olympic snatches?
You get the idea. You aren't tough.