21 Day Fix, Uncategorized

21 Day Fix – Lower Fix Review

Phew, this is a tiring one. Partly because it’s leg day, which always tends to combine shaking muscles and pounding heartrates. Partly because it comes hot on the heels of two previous days of fairly intense workouts, so there’s a good chance your muscles are already a bit sore. And partly because Autumn’s just pretty relentless. I really got the feeling here that she genuinely wants to get you in shape fast.

There’s nothing too complex here. At it’s heart, this is a good solid weights-based leg and bum workout. Lots of lunges, squats, and variations thereof, plus some floorwork at the end. I’m happy with a straightforward approach to lower body workouts. Too complex or compound and I sometimes find I can’t go heavy enough to get the burn I need. I stuck with 10ilb weights throughout, which I thought might be a bit light, but was about right considering the number of reps you have to do. It really hit my legs heart, and I also worked up a fairly serious sweat. If you’re a beginner, you might want to go a bit lighter.

For several moves, you were meant to hold the weights above your shoulders, not resting on them, for some added shoulder and arm work. I did this on some of the moves I was more comfortable with, but I have to admit, I kept them down by my side on some others, on the basis my upper body is nowhere near as strong as my lower body, and I’d have had to reduce my weight otherwise.

The pattern is the usual warm-up, then 4 rounds, each of which involve 60 seconds of one move, a 20 second break, 60 seconds of another move, then repeat. Though this was the same as day one’s Total Body Cardio, it felt more relentless somehow. The first three rounds are really quite physical and intense, focusing on working big muscles with big moves and working up a sweat. The ten second holds at the end of some moves are particularly mean. There are some calf raises in round 2, however, which while still murder on the calf muscles, allowed me to catch my breath a little. For round 4, there’s a change of pace, with some floorwork. And like most floorwork, it’s much less sweaty, but the little, focused movements are particularly painful on the leg muscles. Oh, and then there’s a bonus round, involving fire hydrants, that made me want to cry…

All in all, a good, intense leg workout.

MOVES

Round 1

  • side lunge to back lunge
  • squat with knee lift

Round 2

  • curtsy lunges
  • calf raises

Round 3

  • split squats (ie. static lunges basically)
  • sumo squats

Round 4

  • Leg lift with turned out foot
  • Leg lift/moving leg to the side

Bonus Round

  • fire hydrants
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21 Day Fix, Uncategorized

21 Day Fix – Total Body Cardio Review

I like to mix and match my workouts. Try something new. But when I randomly decide to go on holiday in two weeks; time, there’s really only one answer: 21 Day Fix. Well, technically, it’s going to need to be 14 Day Fix this time around, that’s how disorganised I am!

I’ve done it a good few times in the past, and there’s something comforting about returning to a familiar old favourite. Some programmes might be a bit better on strength, others a bit better on cardio, but if you want a solid all-rounder, you don’t have hours a day to work out, and you want results fast, it’s pretty hard to beat. Apart from with 21 Day Fix Extreme of course, if you’re a bit fitter/more experienced with your home workouts. I might upgrade to that one next week…

The format is pretty straightforward. There are seven workouts (traditionally, anyway – Beachbody on Demand now has some substitutions), each of which lasts 30 minutes and which has a different theme. You do one a day every day for three weeks.

Anyway, today, Day One, was Total Body Cardio. I used to not be a big fan of this one, because, as regular readers of this blog might know, I’ve sometimes tended to struggle with the cardio side of things. But after plenty of cardio in 80 Day Obsession then a solid blast of  the really intense variety on T25, while I don’t think it’ll ever by my absolute favourite type of exercise, I’m both better at it and more positive about it than I used to be. And as a result, today, I loved this.

The thing to remember with this workout is that the “Total Body” bit is as relevant as the “Cardio” bit. It’s not just the sort of jumping around you might expect from cardio – weights are heavily involved. As a result, I really felt like I was shaping my body while burning calories, which is always nice, particularly when you only have 30 minutes to play with.

After a brief warm-up, there are 4 round. Each involves one move, a twenty second break, a second move, another twenty second break, then repeat. The first three rounds were quite similar: a mixture of strength exercises that get the heartrate up, and more traditional cardio moves, like butt kicks or cross country skiers, but with weights that you have to thrust up over your head or out from your chest while you move. The fourth round has the same pattern, but focuses on core moves on the mat – which I’m torn between regarding as a relief or a bit of a cop out. Though the first time I did this workout, a few years ago, it was definitely relief – I didn’t think I could make it through another energetic round! Today, though I was out of breath by the end of the rather challenging round 3, I’d quite have liked to push through for another five minutes.

It should do a good job of getting most people’s heartrates up. Even if you’re fairly comfortable with cardio, the weights add an interesting extra dimension and make fairly standard exercises have a little bit more oomph. That said, the regular 20 second breaks make it a bit more doable than some videos – but you could always up the weights if you find it too easy. I used 5ilbs throughout, which was about right, thought I could have gone a little higher if I was really pushing myself.

Highly recommend this one both as a great opener to a great programme and as one to throw into the mix on a semi-regular basis.

MOVE LIST

Round 1:

  • Surrenders (weights on shoulders, kneel down then stand up. again and again. harder than it sounds if you’ve never tried it before)
  • Side to side shuffle with squat

Round 2:

  • weighted wood chop (holding one weight, squat down and lower weight towards foots, twist sideways and raise weight up in the air at a diagonal angle – the good news is you only do one side per set)
  • weighted skiers (jump legs forward and back, passing each other, while simultaneously raising a weight up and down. ouch!)

Round 3:

  • weighted butt kicks (kick legs up behind you while thrusting the weights in and out at chest level)
  • weighted knee pulls (lunge back with weight over your head, lift knee, pull weight down to meet it)

Round 4:

  • frog crunches (crunches with legs in the air at a turned out angle – knees come in as you go up)
  • oblique crunches
Focus T25, Uncategorized

Focus T25: Speed 1.0 Review

On to Focus T25 Day Two – Speed 1.0. All things considered, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this workout. It’s a bit of an odd mix of the sort of heavy cardio/light plyo we experienced in yesterday’s Cardio, some boxing moves, some dance-type moves, and stretching at regular intervals.

The cardio was solid. Much like yesterday, it got my heartrate up without making me feel like I was going to die! Where the moves started to feel a bit more dancey or just more complex in their sequencing, I struggled a bit, because I’m just not that coordinated, though there was nothing too complicated here. I hate that feeling when you’re so busy trying to understand a cardio move and do it right that you slow down and your heartrate drops, and that didn’t happen at least.

Probably my least favourite aspect was the boxing. Whenever a fitness video inflicts martial arts type moves on me, I tend to flail my arms around wildly, make my husband laugh his head off, and don’t really getting much benefit. This wasn’t as bad as some experiences I’ve had (Les Mills Body Combat anyone?) partly because it made up a relatively small part of the workout, partly because the moves were relatively straightforward, but I still spent most of those segments wishing they were over.

The oddest bit of the workout was the stretching. Now, I love a good stretch. I do a lot of yoga, I always do the restorative rest day videos during any exercise programme, and I moan when cooldowns are too short. But I still found it a little odd to be pausing every three minutes or so in a fairly short workout to take 30-60 seconds to stretch. My body and the lazy part of my mind appreciated it, but it felt like a bit of a cop out, and it meant that until close to the end, I never got to the point where my heart was pounding and I was dripping with sweat. Which let’s face it, is what you want from a short, cardio-focused video, and what yesterday’s workout delivered in spades. Most of the individual exercises were a bit more intense than yesterday’s, so I can see the logic in some breaks, but the ratio didn’t feel quite right.

Somewhere after the ten minute mark though, you go into a burnout round that lasts until very near the end, and at that point, the stretching fell away and the intensity ramped right up. Be careful what you wish for, I guess!

There was then a quick, simple cooldown that was more or less identical to yesterday’s.

Overall, I felt like I’d had a good workout, but I think I’d have had a better one with a bit less boxing and a lot more stretching.

Focus T25, Uncategorized

Focus T25 – Cardio 1.0 Review

So, as promised, with 80 Day Obsession out of the way, it’s time for Focus T25 Day One. Unlike 80DO, workouts are repeated several times, so I’m not going to attempt a day by day diary, just a review of each workout the first time it appears in the schedule. Also, despite their short length, the rapid pace means these workouts all contain an absolute ton of moves, so I’m going to aim to give a flavour, rather than a full moves list.

Anyway, on to today’s workout: Cardio 1.0 (Cardio 2.0 comes in the second month). Now, this programme is pretty cardio-focused across the board, but this workout is dedicated to it.

There’s no official warm-up, but it starts relatively slow, with some knee raises that progress into high knees. From then on, the intensity ramps up, and there are absolutely no breaks, and very few gentler moves. It’s exhausting, but it goes by very fast, particularly if you’re used to longer workouts and/or ones with more pauses for breath.

Most of the moves are fairly straightforward, which suits me, as I’m not wildly coordinated or rhythmic. There isn’t too much wild, throwing yourself in the air type jumping (though there are a couple of moves of that kind), but there are lots of smaller jumps and tons of squats and lunges, often combined with the gentler jumps. It all combines to really get your heart rate up while also working your leg and glute muscles like crazy. I’ve said a million times on this blog that cardio is traditionally neither my favourite nor my strong point. I suspect I’d have really struggled with this a few months ago, but post 80DO, it felt challenging but manageable, particularly once the short duration is factored in.

Definitely a good choice for some rapid, no nonsense cardio and a bit of body-weight strength training for the legs.

Focus T25, Uncategorized

80 Day Obsession is over, let’s start Focus T25

After having finished 80 Day Obsession, I gave myself a week to recover, then decided it was time to start my next programme. I debated what to do, and eventually settled on something that in many ways, couldn’t be more different: Focus T25.

FOCUS T25

The workouts are short (25 minutes, hence the name) where 80DO’s were long, they’re cardio-focused, where 80DO’s were varied, but skewed towards strength, and they require no equipment whatsoever, where 80DO required not just the usual weights, but the special sliders and bands.

I made this decision quite deliberately.

Firstly, 80DO did an amazing job of increasing my strength, building my bum, tightening my abs, and increasing muscle tone. But I didn’t lose much weight, and while that’s not my primary concern, I thought it’d be great to lose a few pounds so all that extra muscle can really shine through.

Secondly, I really don’t have time to work out for an hour 6 days a week. I made myself do it for 80 Days, and my body thanked me, but I only achieved that by prioritising the workouts over almost everything else, which isn’t viable in the long term. I want to keep my exercise routine ticking over, while spending more of my very limited non-working hours on my writing.

Thirdly, I’ve always shield away from cardio. I’m much more of a weights and yoga girl. Following 80DO to the letter forced me to do more cardio than I’ve done in a long time, and it’s left me feeling better at it, more positive about it, and hoping to build on that foundation. So I thought it would be interesting to do a programme that really focuses on that side of things, by an instructor known for his challenging cardio routines. Who knows, maybe I’ll give Insanity a whirl afterwards…

I’m a little less enthused about the total lack of equipment. I trust Shaun T to keep my legs in great shape, but I’m nervous about losing all some of the work I’ve done on my shoulders, backs and arms, without some weights to help things along. I’m also worried I’ll simply miss playing with my weights. This will, however, make it easier for me and my husband to work out at the same time, as we only have one set of adjustable weights, so if he’s doing Body Beast and I’m doing something strength based, we have to do one after the other, which is another timing constraint.

It’s a ten week programme, split into two phases, Alpha and Beta, with an optional Gamma add on that you can either do afterwords or do in place of the last two weeks of Beta. Incidentally, I find that naming system incredibly confusing. I’d expect Alpha to be harder than Beta – Alpha men and all that – but it’s basically just alphabetical ordering.

Each week, you do five days of “proper” workouts, and then have one day with a stretch routine and one day totally off.

For the first phase, the workouts are: Cardio, Speed, Total Body Circuit, Ab Intervals, Lower Focus, and Stretch.

The second phase has: Core Cardio, Speed 2, Rip’t Circuit, Dynamic Core, Upper Focus, Stretch, and Core Speed – so similar, but more of a focus on the core throughout, and an upper focus instead of a lower one.

All the workouts are 25 minutes long, but the idea seems to be its intense movements and no breaks at all, so that you’re effectively getting the best part of an hour’s workout done in the time available. Which would be nice. It’s all very cardio focused, but with lots of body weight strength work and core stuff thrown in.

Review of each workout to come…

80 Day Obsession, Uncategorized

80 Day Obsession Diary – End of Programme Results and Reflections

So, 80 Day Obsession is done. I hope people have found my day to day reflections on the programme a useful read. I’m going to put up a more formal review of the programme too, but here, I just wanted to share some reflections.

Firstly, I’m genuinely proud of myself for making it all the way to the end with most of the workouts complete. I love exercise, but I was really dubious about whether I’d consistently manage 6 strenuous hour-long workouts (plus some stretching and foam rolling on day 7 each week for 13 weeks. Shorter workouts, fewer workouts a week, or that sort of schedule for a month, absolutely. But the combination made for a real challenge, and it’s shown what I can do when I really prioritise working out.

Secondly, the only way I was able to complete this was to really prioritise working out, to the slight detriment of other constructive things I might do with my spare time, like my writing. Absolutely fine, even exhilarating for 3 months, but not something I can keep up indefinitely. I’m starting T25 tomorrow, and I’ve got to admit I’m really looking forward to the shorter workouts and extra rest day.

Thirdly, my physical results are mixed. I feel a lot stronger and fitter, which is great. In particular, I think my tolerance for both high-intensity and longish duration cardio has improved. I’ve often tended to neglect the cardio parts of other programmes, but treating this one as a set challenge didn’t allow me that luxury.

side plank

As far as aesthetics go, I think the main improvement is to my abs. My obliques in particular really stand out now, and in the right light, on perfectly non-bloated days, you can see the start of a six pack. My tummy has always been one of my least favourite body areas (is there anyone who doesn’t feel like that?!) so I couldn’t be more delighted with that development. On the contrary, I’ve always been fairly happy with my legs and bum, but I do feel like this has given them an extra zing. More surprisingly, My upper arms, shoulders and back have shown massive improvements, which is funny, as I was never that conscious of doing lots of upper body work. Pictures below. I took these on Day 80, and I actually don’t think they quite do the change justice, as Peak Week eating had ironically left me a little bloated by the end.

 

 

 

Weight-wise, I went from about 127 pounds to about 123, . I’m reasonably small to begin with, so weight loss wasn’t a major aim for me, but hand on heart, I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed that after working out so hard and so consistently and eating so healthily, for so many weeks, I didn’t drop below 120. I also lost 2 inches off my waist and 1 and a half off my hips – so good but not astonishing on that front too, but as the pictures show, those relatively small changes in measurements make quite a big difference

In terms of the workouts, what I loved above all was that the sense of being on a journey and the way that no two videos were the same. Things changed nicely, day to day, week to week, and month to month. It was a great mix of cardio and strength and upper and lower body. Some of the moves were ingenious in how they either worked lots of muscles at the same time, or really neatly targeted hard to reach areas. I don’t think my abs or my bum have ever been worked so consistently, but that wasn’t at the expense of other body parts.

IMG_0011

I enjoyed the slides and the bands. They made some of the exercises feel quite fun and they definitely added some difficulty and some interesting angles. I did sometimes wonder whether they were a little overused, and whether in places, a more straightforward, weight-based move might have achieved the same or better results. I felt the same with some of the particularly complex compound moves, and couldn’t help but enjoy some of the workouts like Phase 1 legs that just let you blast a certain body part in a focused way.

plank to chair

Having done it once, I don’t see myself repeating this programme in full. It’s just too much of a commitment, especially once the challenge angle has worn off. But I do see myself turning again to some of the individual workouts when I’m between programmes. And most importantly, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t done it before, who has a good base level of fitness, who is willing to commit the time and energy needed, and who really wants to blast their bum and core while also getting in some cardio and a solid total body workout.

So glad I tried it, so glad I got through it, looking forward to my next challenge.

***

If you don’t currently have access to BOD, you can get a year’s subscription, a month’s supply of Shakeology, and all the accessories you need for 80 Day Obsession for just £180  here

If you’re already a Beachbody on Demand customer, you can get everything you need for 80 Day Obsession (workout calendar, resistance bands, strength sliders, portion fix containers) with Shakeology here, with performance supplements here, or with both here. 

There are a variety of different combinations of BOD access, 80 Day Obsession accessories, Shakeology and performance supplements available. Do drop me a line if you’re not sure which is right for you or if you’d like more information about this programme or anything else.

 

 

 

80 Day Obsession, Uncategorized

80 Day Obsession Diary – Day 76 – Peak Week Cardio Flow

I can’t believe it’s already Peak Week, aka the final days of 80 Day Obsession. Two big differences this week: firstly, there’s a selection of the best workouts from each phase of the programme, plus this one, which is slightly different to anything that’s come before. Secondly, you have deplete days, where you more or less eliminate the yellow carb and purple fruit boxes and significantly up the red protein, green vegetable, and teaspoons of oil.

Cardio Flow has been a funny one for me. Depending on my mood, I can love it or hate it, though in the last few weeks, it’s been a bit of a favourite. Knowing the moves so well (it’s the only workout where the moves remain consistent in every week of every phase) I’ve got to a point where I can stop thinking and really lose myself in the exertion.

spider squat.JPG

Today’s workout was actually really fun, and much more straightforward than this workout usually is. Normally (as you probably know by now) it builds, move by move. This time around, your do all ten moves (inchworms, spider pushups, diamond jumps, flamingos, duck walks, gorillas, kick throughs, bear, crab, mule-to-frog) from the word go. And then you repeat and repeat and repeat, with the aim being to do as many rounds in 30 minutes as possible. Spoilers: if you follow Autumn and Co, you make it to ten. Tiring and sweaty, but less work overall than the Phase 3 version. I can see myself doing this one every so often inbetween programmes when I want a fun, challenging but not too torturous cardio-based workout with a bit of body work thrown in. I made it extra fun today by putting on an old Pop Punk playlist of Spotify, and jumping around like I was at a gig!

As for the special eating plan, if I’m honest, I was dreading it, to the extent of being in two minds whether to do it or not. But it’s actually not that bad. Having been perfect with my nutrition in early weeks, I’ve dropped to about 80% compliance on average. Having to go super strict has really focused my mind. I’ve heard people talk about headaches and irritability when cutting carbs back this drastically, but I’ve been fine so far, and surprisingly unhungry. That said, the normal 80 Day Obsession eating plan isn’t super compatable with my lifestyle, and this takes that to another level. It’s been tricky to get in the requisite numerous small meals throughout the working day (a bit of fruit is one thing, endless rounds of chicken and veg quite another) and I’ve had to do evening meals separately from my husband, which is a shame, as our dinners, though generally healthy, are a bit of a ritual. It’s just a few days though, and for that time period, it feels like the icing on the cake. I know it’s mostly just water weight, but it’s amazing how much more visible my new muscles are after just two days of this.

Just four more to go….

***

If you don’t currently have access to BOD, you can get a year’s subscription, a month’s supply of Shakeology, and all the accessories you need for 80 Day Obsession for just £180  here

If you’re already a Beachbody on Demand customer, you can get everything you need for 80 Day Obsession (workout calendar, resistance bands, strength sliders, portion fix containers) with Shakeology here, with performance supplements here, or with both here. 

There are a variety of different combinations of BOD access, 80 Day Obsession accessories, Shakeology and performance supplements available. Do drop me a line if you’re not sure which is right for you or if you’d like more information about this programme or anything else.