A 5-mins morning workout anyone can do that gets long-term results

Fair warning: personal post below!

I’ve always been very active physically thanks to my father who is a sports teacher. These days, I’m following this Gymnastics program which is coupling strength training and mobility. I’d recommend it to anyone who has the time to work out seriously for around 45 mins at least 4 days a week, or nearly every day if you also do the focused mobility sessions.

Of course, finding such a time every day is not easy and even if I am dedicated to it, I often miss my daily session for lack of time. When that happens, I will do a mini workout based on the exercises Ross Enamait offers in his fantastic book Never Gymless. Since I am the one picking up our daughters in the evening at their daycare center, I use the 2-3 kms run to do a conditioning workout from Ross’s book as well. But apart from that—which I have no choice but do if I want to get my daughters home—finding the time to do a proper workout everyday with two daughters aged 2 and 4 who have a tendency to wake up at 6:30 am if I attempt a 6:15 am workout can be challenging…

But I recently discovered a morning routine I can do in 5 mins which is excellent for both strength and mobility. Of course, for conditioning you will have to do something else, but still. Hugh Howey is one of my favorite authors (check out his Silo series if you love near-term sci-fi and haven’t read it yet) and in one of his Wayfinding books he describes his “5 tibetans” morning routine which is essentially a combination of 21 reps of 5 exercises.

Hugh describes the routine in a series of video I embedded below, and I’ll leave you to watch them to see the exercises used. It turns out the routine, which I didn’t know, is widely known and you can read more about it on wikipedia.

I now copy Hugh and do it every morning. It’s been fabulous for the following reasons:

  • it’s short: you can really do it in 5 mins. 10 mins if you’re out of shape, which is still very short.
  • Since it’s short, I can do it while my daughters are still at home before everyone leaves the house. They can play in the same room and watch me complete the routine while playing. It’s important for me since otherwise they never see me doing my structured longer workouts that I can’t do while watching them. Since kids learn a lot by seeing their parents, I was bothered that they never saw their parents actually work out. Sure, they know we work out and know ve value physical activity, but that’s not the same. Now they see me every morning grunting and sweating and enjoying it.
  • the 5 tibetans exercises are great in the morning since they are bodyweight, use your full body and most importantly work on mobility as well as strength. My body really feels great after them.
  • you can scale up or down the exercises as required and Hughes walks you through some variations. I scale up most of them which keeps them challenging for me.
  • you can complete them with no warm-up and low energy. You just have to have the will to start them. Important for me, since young kids means some nights end up far too short. Waking up very tired in the morning means a 20 mins workout session may be very unappealing and I’ll find an excuse not to do it. 5 mins though, even exhausted I know I can do it and I know I’ll feel much better after it.

That’s it. I’m sure there are other benefits but that does it for me and I’m very glad to have stumbled on Hughes explaining this routine which I would encourage everyone to adopt as well. It seems very simple and short when you are used to longer workouts, but it did make a big difference for me.

Hughes’ full 5 tibetans routine:

Then each tibetan explained in a bit more details:

Note: I don’t get any kickbacks from anything linked to!

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