If I’m going to read all these novels and spend time hunched over a computer then I’d better get some actual proper exercise.
There have been lots of headlines in my feed lately about how Sitting Is Killing Us All. The bummer about digital art is that I can hardly turn my desk into an exercise bike making use of an ironing board, for instance. I NEED to sit on my backside, and sit very still, and so far it’s been a psychological hurdle to get this butt planted onto the chair. Now I need to do the exact opposite and get moving.
Unless I sort this balance out, back problems will follow. I’m already noticing stiffness in my neck.
I’m not the sort of person who usually gets enthusiastic about exercise videos. I’m vocal about not giving a hootenanny about the diet industry, and such programs strike me as image obsessed, appealing to the vanity in consumers rather than to our desire for good, working bodies and basic health.
A friend has been doing the 30 Day Shred, with obvious results. I don’t even know who Jillian Michaels is, but apparently she’s a trainer on America’s Biggest Loser (which I don’t watch).
I’m so not into this world of fitness that I had to look up the meaning of ‘shred’. In this context it means muscled, especially in the arms and abdominal area. Apparently. Sounds to me like I’ll end up resembling grated cheese.
Since I blog far more enthusiastically than I exercise, if I commit to blogging about this dogawful experience, that alone may encourage me to stick with the program. If I see no results after 30 days then I’m under no obligation to keep going.
So here we go…
THE 30 DAY SHRED DIARY
DAY ONE – level one
I’ve had the DVD since yesterday, but I have a head cold so I didn’t do it. Today, I’m feeling not much better and I thought to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to start this at the beginning of a month, not on the 17th? That would make it nice and tidy!’ But I realised this is a pathetic excuse not to exercise, so I took a cold and flu tablet.
The three-year-old decided to do it with me. We both enjoyed the warm up exercises, and I should probably ‘warm up’ multiple times throughout a long day of sitting at a desk. That would undoubtedly be good for me. I also think this whenever I clean the windows, walk the dog, clean the inside of the car, floss my teeth, clear the gutters or any number of virtuous tasks. I think, ‘Wow, imagine how much better life would be if I did this ALL THE TIME!‘ And the sum total of all those little things means I never actually persevere with any of them.
When I think I’d like to die, I feel cold little fingers clutching one ankle. Minutes later, the three year old is lying right beside me as I attempt sit ups. I tell her to give me some space! When mothers tell you that exercising with young kids is not easy, this is what we mean. Lately I’ve been trying to take the toddler for daily walks or bike rides, but she has reached the age now where she can throw herself into a grassy ditch and refuse to go. This happened. Two days ago, in fact. Hence the DVD.
Perhaps because I walk the dog, the cardio aspect of Level One a welcome relief from the resistance training. I particularly enjoyed the punching.
And then, all of a sudden, I was done. Oh, not quite. Jillian makes you do just one more set of abdominal exercises. Can these be working? (I’m doing the easy version, but can’t imagine doing the hard.)
Later, in the shower, I am trembling slightly, and feel it in my thighs. When I get out of the shower I realise I feel it in my calves too, though I’ve no idea why. Happily, I realised after the workout that I no longer feel like I have a cold. I’m pretty sure that this is a combination of exercise and the pill.
Hanging out the washing, I wonder if I’ll have recovered sufficiently to do this exact same 20 minutes of hell all over again. It’ll be worse tomorrow, because it’ll feel repetitious. And I know what I’m in for.
Also, I have plans to visit the shops this afternoon, with no excuse not to buy those dumbbell things. How will I possibly manage this beginners’ workout but with weights?
The cold and flu tablet wore off yesterday evening and I realised how crap I really felt. I woke in the night with fever. The aches I felt from having exercised were indistinguishable from that all-over body ache you get with certain colds. When I got up this morning, I sort of slid out of bed, that’s how sore I was. Who knew you could get sore muscles in the armpits? I didn’t know there were muscles in there. These new muscles will come in handy next month when I take up the bagpipes.
So I took another night cold and flu tablet and half an hour later, then did another session with Jillian Michaels. This time with brand new weights. Believe it or not, this felt better with weights because I was doing the workout as it was intended to be done.
Well, almost all of the workout. I had to take a couple of five second breaks. I just couldn’t do the full repetitions. My muscles gave out. Nothing to do with me, honest.
I thought I was sore yesterday. Now I’m REALLY sore. This leads me to wonder, do muscled people feel constantly sore, all the time? Or do you get to a point where you’re both muscled up and not sore? Because this sucks. I had planned to clean the mould off the shower ceiling but every move I make causes discomfort. The shower did not get the royal treatment today.
I’d never wondered before why muscles get sore after exercise. I’d heard it was because of ‘lactic acid’ build up. But that’s a myth. This article helps with the decision to just work through the muscle soreness.
I read somewhere that humans may have a ‘built in’ genetic capacity for exercise. Meaning, if you’re not keen on exercise and nevertheless embark on an exercise routine, you’ll spend the rest of the day doing ABSOLUTELY SWEET FANNY NOTHING because you’ve hit your natural ‘exercise quota’ for the day. Or something. In other words, some people are natural born movers, while others are nature’s potatoes. If there’s anything at all to that finding, I’d definitely be a book-reading, hammock loving, contemplative potato. Because right now, I feel like 20 minutes with Jillian Michaels absolves me from walking all the way out to check the letterbox and back.
I was also motivated to find others online who had suffered as I have, and found someone else’s Shred diary here. I’m hanging out for day four, when the ‘ache fest’ abates. I absolve myself from doing any housework and gardening in the interim.
Oh man. Ohmanohmanohman. I did it. Mostly. I did worse today than yesterday. I had to break (for less than five seconds) about three times because I just couldn’t finish the resistance exercises. I’m using 2kg weights. If they’d had 1kg weights at the shops I would’ve started with those. Apparently they’re using 5 pound weights on the DVD. I had to look that up. Who uses pounds anyway? Americans is who, for some unfathomable reason. Apparently I’m using 4.4 pound weights. But mine LOOK bigger!
I despise doing sit ups and similar abdominal work while lying on the floor, but as testament to how godawful the resistance work feels, I found myself looking forward to those, because hey, at least I get to lie on the floor.
I also spent the rest of yesterday doing nothing at all besides lolling around feeling sorry for myself. The soreness is a constant reminder that ‘I am doing exercise now’. I would like to get to the point where I’m not thinking so frequently about exercise, whether I’m rewarding myself for having done it or feeling a pang of inadequacy because I haven’t. Life is definitely better when I’m not thinking about exercise at all. My mind is better filled with more interesting things.
But it’s only 20 minutes. Per day. Why am I feeling so sooooore?
Sometime last night I realised I didn’t feel as stiff. And this morning when I woke up, I wasn’t reminded immediately of sore muscles. I felt pretty good this morning! I’m not sure if I feel better than I did four days ago, or if it’s my body just getting back to its normal pain free state.
I still wasn’t able to complete all of the strength repetitions in the Level One workout today. But apart from the standing up exercises using weights, the workout wasn’t too bad and went by quickly. At the moment I’m feeling an all over tightness which gives the illusion of having firmed up.
Since I’d been pretty much incapacitated over the last week, yesterday I did a lot of heavy duty housework: cleaning the fridge, cleaning out the pantry (including wiping down the shelves), grocery shopping, sweeping out the garage, vacuuming the house. When my husband came home I proudly announced that I’d pushed through the four day barrier, and sure enough, the Internet was right! Four days it is, people. I am no longer stiff.
Then we sat down for a couple hours straight to watch a movie. That’s when I felt it, getting up afterwards. So perhaps the secret to avoiding the stiffness at this stage of the program is to just keep moving. All day.
There’s nothing like exercise to make you feel old. Except not exercising, that is.
This morning it definitely felt easier. I’m not having a problem with the cardio aspects of the session – nor have the abdominal exercises been a problem, to the point where I wonder if I’m doing it right. But those bench press lungey type exercises with weights have really got me struggling, and I’m wondering if I’m going to be ready to moving onto Level Two come Tuesday.
What I’d like to know is: should you be good with Level One before attempting Level Two? Attempts to find this out on the Internet were fruitless last night, when I learned that most people who start to blog about their 30 Day Shred experience have already quit by this stage.
Those who have managed to do the whole 30 Days complain at an alarming rate of knee injuries. Since knees have always been a weakness for me, with inflammatory arthritis in high school which no P.E. teacher could see or believe, I’ve made the pre-emptive decision not to push myself too hard. I’m also being super careful to keep good form.
I spent all yesterday morning doing housework and, once again, didn’t feel any sort of stiffness until I got up last night after watching a movie. I even took the poor old dog for his 6km walk for the first time in a week. I’d like to say the increased energy has led to this flurry of housework, because I don’t usually do this much, but no. It was in preparation for a visit from my mother, who somehow manages to work full time, keep a clean house and go to the gym every morning.
In good news, Level One definitely felt easier than yesterday. I’m still doing press ups on my knees, but more of them. I’m still struggling with those bench press type exercises, but they happen early in the workout. It’s good that I get my least favourite moves over and done with early on.
I’m getting sick of that background music on the DVD. It would be great if there were no music whatsoever, because then I could listen to my own playlist along with Jillian’s instructions. Also, they don’t keep in time with the music anyway. I found myself doing jumping jacks in time to the music, which was faster than they were doing them.
Strangely, my favourite cardio is the final one, when I really do feel nice and warm and stretched. When Jillian said, ‘You’re floating in the air’, I really did feel like I was floating in the air. Is this what they mean by a runner’s high? I’m convinced this far in life that I’ve never experienced such a thing as exercise induced endorphins. I highly doubt I’m prone.
I woke up with one sore knee, and wondered what the hell I’d done. It must be to do with this workout because I didn’t do anything else yesterday apart from walk around a mall.
The knee didn’t give me grief during today’s workout, thank goodness. Nevertheless, today’s wasn’t much fun and I even struggled during the cardio routine. Until now, that, at least, hadn’t been a problem.
I’m still scared for when I’ll have to go to Level 2. This is ridiculous, I know. There’s plenty in life to be scared of, but a fitness DVD shouldn’t be one of them.
Is it really only day eight?
For no discernible reason, today was easier than yesterday (I’m noticing a pattern here), though I’m still not managing to do any more repetitions than I was a week ago. I’m not feeling any residual soreness now, not even in the calves. I’m having to remind myself that at just over a week, I’m feeling significantly fitter, and the fact that I’m not feeling sore is good, surely?
Unless I’m not doing the exercises properly, I guess. I’m pretty sure I’m not doing the reverse crunches properly. I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to be pushing my hands into the floor to help me get up, and I haven’t been, but surely I should be feeling soreness around the abdominal area.
I think I get my answers about the reverse crunch here:
Mum walked in on me as I was doing jumping jacks and said, ‘If I did that I’d wet my pants.’ Yep. Yep yep yep. I’ve already visited the ‘stress incontinence’ areas of the interwebby, whose helpful advice to women who’ve given birth is to avoid jumping around. Thanks for that. Our children don’t appreciate what we do for them, do they?
It’s freezing cold. While the main part of the house is heated by the fireplace, the TV room was unpleasantly chilly this morning and I didn’t look forward to going in there. But once I warmed up and shed a layer of polar fleece, I realised that the cold room was a benefit. Today was the first day I was able to do all the repetitions without my muscles giving out under the weights. I’m still doing press ups on my knees, but that’s the only modification.
Also, have I mentioned how hungry I’ve been? It’s almost a nuisance, and reminds me of that time as a teenager when I started doing pump classes at the gym. It didn’t last long because going to the gym is a nuisance, but my mother said at the time I was going to eat her out of house and home. There’s nothing like resistance exercise to make you raging hungry before every meal. More so than cardio. It’s nice to have a proper appetite before meals. It makes you really enjoy your food.
This morning wasn’t the pleasant experience of yesterday and I wonder if it’s to do with the fact that I worked out before breakfast, on an empty stomach. Also, part way through I realised I was feeling dehydrated from having been slightly overheated all night. It’s interesting how I go about my day-to-day business not really noticing things such as how well hydrated I am, but as soon as you put any stress on the body you become hyper aware of how you’ve been treating it.
This afternoon I bought cross-trainers. After visiting several stores I gave up on trying to buy ethical trainers. Instead, I ended up with Nikes, possibly the worst in that regard. That aside, here’s a tip: When you go into Rebel Sport, ask if they have any cheaper ones out the back. They do. Heaps cheaper. I said I didn’t mind how ugly they were either, I just wanted supportive ones. But when the guy re-emerged with a sheepish look on his face, he said, ‘You sure you don’t mind the ugly?’ I took one look at the crimson and chartreuse clodhoppers in the box and realised that in fact I’m more vain than I thought, and instead went for some blue and white Nikes. I hate Nike. As sung by Flight of the Conchords:
They’re turning kids into slaves
They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers
But what’s the real cost, ’cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper
Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when they’re made by little slave kids?
What are your overheads?
Six months from now I’ll be back to buy yet another pair of expensive trainers. I change my trainers more often than I clean my freezer. The laces are always breaking on me. This is weird.
Oh yes, and I also walked about an hour forty today, around Lake Ginninderra with mum. I think I’m going to be stiff tomorrow morning.
DAY ELEVEN – LEVEL TWO
Today on Level Two I felt exactly the same as I felt on the first day of Level One — overwhelmed, sweating and wondering how the hell I’d ever manage to do ten days in a row of this, let alone ever advance to anything harder.
I’ll have to keep reminding myself of that this week. Level Two is really not fun! But it’s only 20 minutes, so surely I can put up with 20 minutes of hell? (It’s not 20 minutes. It’s 28 minutes but heigh-ho.) There are people around the world spending their mornings in even less pleasant conditions: sitting in traffic jams and riding the London subway are two such examples.
More worrisome: today for the first time I felt a pain in my ankle. I’ve never had trouble with my ankle, only ever knees. But twice it pulled me up short and I’m wondering if I’m going to have to start having trouble with those too, now. Welcome to middle age, I guess.
Most annoying for me, though, is that the extra movement required by this workout meant that my glasses didn’t stay on properly. I can’t see the TV without glasses. I used to have a pair of glasses with ‘athletic grips’ on them, not because I was ever an athlete, but because inexperienced opticians have trouble fitting me with glasses. Now I might have to sort out the glasses situation. I was told to stop wearing the contact lenses so much, so had to go back to wearing glasses a few years ago, darn it.
I know I wasn’t doing the exercises properly today, because I had to look at what they were doing and emulate their form. So I can’t even imagine how fit you’d have to be to do the advanced version of Level Two. Wouldn’t that be awesome, to be that fit. But painful to get there. Is it all worth it?
One thing I do not like about Level Two is the commentary. There is even more emphasis on body image rather than on feeling better and living healthier. I’m not a fan of ‘Fitspirational‘ motivation. I’ve listened to a few of the Jillian Michaels podcasts over the past few days, partly because I’ve mever watched Biggest Loser, and I wanted to get a better sense of who this woman is. She markets herself as a health advocate. So when she says things like, ‘Imagine you’re about to go jeans shopping, or better, shopping for a swimsuit. That always gets me to the gym’, I’m reminded that she lives in California, because the only possible reason for being motivated with statements like that is thinking about what other people are thinking about you. In a word: narcissism. And that’s not a healthy attitude. Instead, what I’d like to hear, just once: ‘Imagine how great your back and neck is going to feel sitting at that work desk!’ But I’ve never met an exercise evangelist who takes that tack. This must be symptomatic of our image obsessed society.
I spent most of yesterday with one leg stiffer than the other, which means I must have been ‘phoning it in’ for one set of the exercises. Either that, or I forgot which leg I’d done the first set of lunges on. (Handy hint: keep a track during Level Two so you don’t exercise the same leg twice!) I was determined not to do that again today, because if there’s one thing worse than having stiff legs it’s having one stiff leg, but I think I might’ve unwittingly done it again after all.
I woke up this morning much stiffer all over than I had anticipated, though, which I’m learning to see as a good sign. I really thought I did phone it in yesterday morning.
This morning I followed the easy version of everything except abdominal exercises plus weights. (I imagine it’s easier to do those abdominal exercises WITH the weights — it holds you down!) I tried to mix in a few of the harder variations with the cardio but I couldn’t sustain it. I can’t ever imagine myself being at the point where I can do the advanced version of these exercises. Those ‘military’ exercises with the leg extensions really, really kill. I wish they came a bit earlier in the sequence so I wouldn’t have to dread them! And those squatting things you do with your weights and arms in a V — (What is she saying? V-flies? Is that a type of insect?) — those are no better, and I can’t even sustain the easy version of that one without taking short breathers.
Man. I feel rooted. I’m sure I’m pale right now, not red. I also sculled two large glasses of water. Haven’t managed to do that in a long time, especially not in cold weather.
At one point during a plank exercise I was seriously concerned I might throw up on the carpet, but apart from that, today’s was possibly slightly easier than yesterday’s torture. I spent yesterday with a slight soreness in the lower body, but not enough to notice, really. Or maybe I’m just getting more used to being sore.
Found myself becoming a bore as I discussed this workout with a friend at a birthday party.
At least I’m not the only one who’s sore and stiff today. My husband spent yesterday weed whacking. He does this once in a blue moon. Misery loves company. He mentioned trying this DVD, though I’m pretty sure this DVD is made for women. Addressing the viewer as ‘ladies’ gives me that impression.
Thought I was going to die again today, but I did have the breath to yell ‘I’m gonna die!’ which kind of shouts hyperbole.
The phone rang during. I couldn’t talk to the in-laws for puffing. Felt rude. Also bizarre. Who does exercises in their living room anyway? Pfft.
I’m sure feeling it in my upper legs. As for the strength exercises, I’m still not able to do them and am stopping a few reps before the end. I did do mostly the advanced version of cardio today, though.
Speaking of which, every morning I’m still having the same searing pain through the same ankle at exactly the same point in the routine — as soon as I begin the knee-ups. It pulls me up short and then I continue on my way and it doesn’t bother me again. I’m not quite sure what to make of this, except for I’m glad I bought those new cross-trainers. If I weren’t wearing good footwear at this point in the program, I’ve no doubt my joints would be suffering. Wear good trainers for this workout!
Woohoo! Halfway through!
I’m still hating Level Two. There’s not one single part of it that I look forward to.
I didn’t have that searing ankle pain today, possibly because I’d learnt to expect it and therefore took it easy. Also, that’s how sod’s law works, isn’t it, and I wrote about it yesterday.
It’s cold in that room in the mornings and I’d hate to be trying this in summer, because I find myself covered in sweat in no time. To be honest, I don’t understand people who complain about winter — not Australian winters, anyway, and here is the coldest Australia gets. Exercising in the summertime is far more difficult as far as I’m concerned, when you have to do it before six in the morning if you want any semblance of cool.
The past few days I’ve managed to take the dog for his 6km walk as well as do this, because I haven’t been sore. That was the goal. This workout regime wasn’t supposed to be all-consuming — it was meant to be something I slot into my life as part of the morning routine, like brushing teeth (only a lot, lot less pleasant, I might add.) Unless you can get to that point, I doubt it’s possible to keep something like this up.
Also, new sports bras. I already had some, but no manufacturer seems to have worked out how to make them last longer than about 3 months, after which they slowly turn into normal bras. For Level Two, that makes as much difference as good shoes. Men, maybe not so much.
This level is still making me pale. I looked half dead when I checked my hue in the mirror afterwards. I can tell it’s not easy for Jillian either, though, because she actually stops talking for a bit after that last set of double jump ropes. (Which I still cannot do.)
I’m not yet managing to follow Natalie, except for some of the routine, but even following Anita, this is a good workout. I am determined to feel proud that I’m persevering with this given that I don’t enjoy it, but it sure is easy to feel somewhat lacking if you’re not managing to do the advanced version by this stage. I’ve got to remind myself — 16 days ago I could NEVER have done what I’m doing now!
Also, I didn’t feel like I was going to die today. That’s an improvement.
Really didn’t feel like doing this today. About five minutes into it I was still not motivated, then realised I was wearing a thermal top. Don’t do that. You’ll get warm enough! Things got better when I got rid of the mid-winter attire.
It would’ve been easy to excuse myself from doing this today because I plan a day in the garden, in which case I’ll be getting a good workout anyway. But that’s not how it works.
So I did it. And it wasn’t so bad. Keeping track of things by writing it down has been a useful thing to do because I can see how much easier it gets, even from one day to the next. This morning I was surprised to find myself doing the walkout press-ups without too much trouble. At the beginning of the month I could hardly do a single press-up. Only two more days on this level! Yay!
Thank goodness I’m finding it easier today!
I was worried last night when I did something to my shoulder. I know, I know, all this moaning about my knee and ankle, and whaddayaknow, I stuff up my shoulder. I don’t think this DVD has anything to do with it, because I did a bunch of lifting boxes yesterday, but then I can’t prove it didn’t, either. In good news, it was fine this morning and I was able to do my press-ups and military bench presses — which, I’m VERY happy to say, are feeling much easier now. I still hate them, don’t get me wrong, but what a difference a week makes.
Question for 33 year old extremely fit people: Is it usual to suffer these temporary but constant aches and sorenesses if you lead an active lifestyle? Or are these the teething problems of a sedentary person embarking on a new regime? I mean, I can sit at my desk all day and sure, I suffer a bad back and neck, but with all these new aches and pains, I reckon I’m coming out about even in the pain stakes.
Then again, there is a difference. There’s good pain, and there’s bad pain. (Bet you got sick of hearing that one when you gave birth.) The soreness after exercise settles into a warm state of relaxedness (looks like that’s actually a word) and you sleep really well.
Except last night I didn’t sleep much at all because of a mosquito which I never managed to squish. I reached for my iPod and listened to a few more Jillian Michaels podcasts, and strangely, this didn’t put me to sleep. She’s actually pretty funny. She’s finds fart jokes hilarious and is likely to bust out with, ‘I just laughed and snot flew out of my nose’ as dishing out serious advice.
Here are a few things I have learnt about Jillian Michaels so far:
- She says she works out half an hour/an hour most days.
- She also rides horses. I’m counting that as exercise. So don’t be fooled into thinking average people can look as ripped as Jillian Michaels on half an hour’s exercise per day. Maybe some can. I know some Maori guys who were permanently ripped from the age of two and stay like that without doing deliberate exercise. But I’m talking about most people here.
- Jillian has a personal trainer. Most of us don’t have that luxury. Instead, we have to find our motivation from within. I’m wondering, though, when people like Jillian Michaels and Oprah Winfrey wax lyrical about exercise and how great it makes them feel, how good does it really feel, when they still need personal trainers to keep them going?
- Jillian sometimes gets heartily sick of the gym, just like the rest of us.
- She is obsessed with counting calories. ‘Obsessed’ is my word for it. According to Jillian, she still has the ‘inner mind workings of a fat person’, and I can imagine she doesn’t want to find herself there again, not after having made her fortune promoting fitness. But if you want to look like Jillian Michaels, most people would have to become equally mathematical in their approach to eating. That’s not for me.
- Jillian takes a lot of vitamins.
- Jillian Michaels has been diagnosed with osteopenia.
Jillian is very open about her own background, her own psychological issues and her own state of health, and also about the fact she is a businesswoman, promoting all sorts of things including the consumption of coconut products over cow’s milk, but here’s what I take away from that last admission:
Listen to Jillian Michaels for your exercise routine, but if you’re thinking of making serious modifications to your calorie intake, consult a qualified dietician.
I haven’t made any modification to my diet. This is partly because I’m not overweight to begin with. I suspect, maybe, that I’m a so-called fat thin person, though. I don’t own any scales, but if I had to guess I’d say I’ve put on a bit of weight this month. I feel like I have put on some muscle — but I’m feeling taller and ‘bouncier’. (I’m not actually any taller. That’s a disclaimer.)
The thing is, it’s easy if you’re of a certain personality to go overboard on these health regimes. (Disordered eating is not just for young people.)
Sure enough, today I feel about Level Two as I felt about Level One ten days ago — like I’m coping with this level, not sore afterwards, and ready to see what the next has in store.
I have mixed feelings about the prospect of an even harder level. I’ve heard Level Three has jumping jacks with hand weights. WTF.
I have noticed that I’m now able to touch my toes during the warm down stretch. So even though the warm down feels very short, it must be doing something for flexibility. This has been a surprise.
DAY TWENTY-ONE — LEVEL THREE
I did it! The jumping jacks with hand weights weren’t that bad. But hey, these things are relative! If I’d watched this level beforehand, to see what I had in store, I would not have predicted that the sumo squats and the rockstar jumps would be the killers.
By this stage I know that there’s no shame in following Anita when you start a new level. I tried following Natalie, but after halfway through the workout I was too exhausted to keep that up, and had to do the modified versions. I managed to do six travelling press ups each time before dropping to my knees. When I started Level One, I struggled to do even one proper press up. The rockstar jump is the only exercise that I felt my body just wouldn’t do. But I did it. I did it anyway! To an onlooker, I was probably jumping about 3cm off the ground, but hey!
I can see why many people prefer Level Three over Level Two, but I can also see why others find Level Three hard on the knees. Plyometrics. Jumping. A lot of jumping about. Again, I’m glad I’m wearing these new crosstrainers.
Also, I recommend a clean floor for those ‘superman’ moves, which aren’t as fun as they sound. I found myself lying with my nose right next to the carpet, up close and personal with a dead grasshopper.
The cool down was quick, and I didn’t feel about to die at any point. I’m curious to know how sore I’m going to be later in the day.
I should have predicted it by now, but didn’t: the second day on a new level feels harder than the first. Perhaps because the newly exercised muscles are still recovering? Then again, I did proper travelling push-ups for the full time, and managed the full version of side plank raise. Those sumo hops are definitely a killer. I couldn’t do that for the entire time. The legs start shaking and then give out. Everything else I can do.
For the record, I wasn’t sore after yesterday’s workout, except for some tightness in the very bottom part of my stomach, and only when bending over. I’m very glad to be without the muscle soreness because I need to get shit done. On the other hand, lack of soreness does make me wonder if I’m doing it right. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t?!
Are you familiar with the concept of ‘stiff knees’? Not sore knees, just stiff. Are there muscles in knees? I don’t even know. I’m not counting this as a particular nuisance; just an observation.
At the moment someone has caused a controversy on the net by encouraging black women to lose weight. I read a few of the opinions which were expressed as a result of this ‘challenge’, and thought this one was particularly worthy of reading:
Some people may look good and have a good physique, but not have good overall health. For example, women who smoke tend to weigh less (and some may use this, in part, for weight control), but they would obviously be less healthy. Another woman might exercise vigorously, yet have a very poor diet. She might have a striking physique, but not such a great health record.
- from Donald Hensrud, at the NYT
Actually, I feel like quoting the entire article, which is very short. I like that Hensrud makes the distinction between self-image, a fit physique and health, because so often we are led to believe that a fit physique (musculature and capacity for cardiovascular workouts) correlates one hundred percent with health, and it does not. This isn’t an excuse for not keeping fairly fit, but I’m more and more inclined to believe that the Jillian Michaels regime is not for those with body-image issues, nor for those who are prone to obsession.
Today I felt really hot doing this workout, possibly because it was a bit later in the day before I got around to it. It’s autumn here, and pretty cold. So I really feel for people doing this in hot conditions. You must be really covered in sweat.
Today felt pretty much the same as yesterday.
I’ve been reading the Health and Exercise feeds that come through my Zite app. Normally I skip reading those because I only feel guilty for not exercising properly.
This article has a title that shouts sensationalism: Never Grow Old from Livestrong, but has some interesting things to say about strength training for the no-longer-young. What they say about squats rings so true. If you can squat this makes a huge difference with minor strength training.
I was moved yesterday to blow the dust off my bicycle — an excellent bicycle once used for commuting but which is presently covered in dust and cobwebs. After trying to blow up the tyres, I realised the front Presta valve is missing its core. So, no imminent cycling for me. I do miss the leg strength I used to have before I got my drivers’ licence, which was later than most people, in my early twenties. But this exercise DVD is reminding me of what it used to be like when I was twenty, bending down and forward and up again with no trouble whatsoever. It’s feeling great. And noticeable for the fact I’ve been cleaning out the garage. Normally I’d be sore after a few days’ energetic lifting and carrying. Thanks to the pain I suffered earlier in the month, I’m spared this latest recovery.
Today is a busy day and I knew that if I didn’t get up really early to do the Shred then I wouldn’t be doing it at all. I had to get it done before breakfast. Tell you what, I do much better with this workout when I’ve put something in my stomach about an hour before it. I realise not everyone has that luxury, though. Also, if you eat too soon before, you can end up feeling a bit sick when you’re doing your plank exercises. So it’s a fine balance.
On a very positive note, I had to do some heavy furniture lifting yesterday and I noticed a marked difference in what I was able to manage. Maybe it’s partly the extra confidence to try lifting heavy things, but placebo effect or not, I was glad to be that little extra bit stronger. It wasn’t just the extra strength in my upper arms that came in handy, but the extra strength in my legs. I was able to bend at the knee safely. It’s definitely worth being that extra bit stronger than our regular, sedentary life demands from us.
Sunday today, and Mother’s Day, which might’ve given me licence to take the day off exercising, and it almost did. But I figured I’d give it a go, just the modified version. I find bargaining with myself helps to get the DVD started sometimes when I’m not feeling enthusiastic. Sometimes for the first five or ten minutes I’m going through the motions thinking, I really don’t want to be here, but something happens partway through, probably because I realise I’m closer to the end than to the beginning.
Something else happens in the brain department when I realise I’m going to hurt. Sumo hops, I’m looking at you. I think, ‘I know this is going to hurt, but it’s only going to hurt for the duration of the exercise, and afterwards I’m going to be just fine’. That helps me get nearer the end.
Someone has just written a new exercise book and says exercise shouldn’t hurt. I see what she means. Why would anyone continue with this long term if it hurts? On the other hand, I hear what Jillian is saying — that if you want to be properly fit, then you probably do have to feel some pain, just like our ancestors would have when they were chasing food across the savannah, or whatever. Of course, they had a longevity of about 30-40 years. So they were only ever young.
To give you an idea of the heat you generate doing this workout, even when you’re doing the modified version for some of them: it’s frosty outside, the living room is completely unheated, yet I removed all my layers about half way through and am still warm. In summer, much use will have to be made of fans. Ideally I’d be one layer lighter when starting out, but I find those first plank positions give me carpet burn on the elbows, so I take off the long sleeves after those. I did pretty well today. I’m doing the advanced version of most things, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do full sit-ups with my feet tucked right in like that. But you know the real reason I hate that particular exercise? I think it’s because sit-ups remind me of high school P.E. class, which I despised and dreaded, not so much for the exercise itself but for the militaristic atmosphere.
Yesterday I did a better job with the rockstar jumps. Today I substituted them with high knees, which are proving to be surprisingly tough on the knees and ankles.
I suppose I should be ecstatic about being so near the end of the 30 Day Shred, but I’ve already decided after noticing a significant improvement in my well-being that I’ll have to continue with this or something similar after the 30 days are up, otherwise I’ll seize right up again.
If you stop moving you die, basically. The oldest, fittest people I know get regular exercise. A commitment to regular exercise is soothing and depressing in equal measure.
Woohoo! Maybe because it was day 30, I pushed myself that extra little bit harder and it was only today, for the first time, that I was able to keep doing the jumping lunges for the entire time. For the dumbbell cleans I switched up to a 3kg weight from a 2kg, because I’ve not been finding that particular exercise hard. Until now, the 3kg weights have been sitting untouched but optimistic in the corner of the living room. When I bought them, I couldn’t realistically foresee a time when I would actually use weights that heavy, but now I can. I’m looking back to my first day of this workout — can’t believe I did Level One without weights and still found it tough.
But if it takes only this long to see such an improvement, I’m sure it takes the body the exact same amount of time to lose any conditioning.
Next, I’m motivated to try Ripped In 30, also by Jillian Michaels.
What I’ve learnt:
- For mothers who never did the follow-up pelvic floor exercises after pregnancy and childbirth, it’s worth doing a bit of jump training just to get back your prior bladder control. I’d assumed it had gone forever, but should have done this workout four years ago.
- If you come at this from a state of unfitness, your body simply won’t be able to do certain exercises, but your body works just like everybody else’s body. It will make muscle, maybe in places you haven’t had muscle. I have bulges in my upper arms that have never been there before. If you keep trying to do an exercise that you can’t do, you’ll eventually get there, because your body needs time to build the muscle. No point expecting yourself to do ten full push-ups if your arms can’t hold you there. So do them on your knees without feeling like a dirty cheat.
- I’m better off exercising every single day. If I were to decide to exercise three times a week, or to even have one day off, I’d waste too much time arguing with myself about which days those would be.
- Food makes a big difference to how your body handles a tough workout. We’re constantly told that food makes a difference to everything, but I’d never really put that to the test like you do when you do the same exercise at the same time each morning, sometimes after breakfast, sometimes not. Knowing that you’ll have to do another workout within the next 24 hours makes you think harder about what fuel you’re putting into your body, even if you’re not following a specific meal plan.
- Some days you really feel like working out. Other days you really don’t. It pays to put yourself on autopilot to get you through those days.
- The exact same workout can feel a lot different from one day to the next.
- Even on those days you don’t feel like working out, the first five minutes are the worst.
- Yes, it is possible to get a good workout in your own living room with nothing other than a DVD and a couple of hand weights. I was skeptical about that before. If you’re used to the intensity level of a Wii Fit or similar, you’ll be surprised at what this programme will have you doing. I’d always thought of exercise DVDs as a bit of a waste of time — if you’re going to exercise, properly exercise, kind of thing. I’ve revised that view now that I can feel the results.
- Good cross trainers are super important.
- At the age of 33, some of these exercises make my joints click in a way they never did when I was doing heavy exercise in high school. The scissor crunches in Level Three are the worst in that regard, with my hips clicking disconcertingly the entire time I’m doing them.
- Unfortunately, you can’t take a picture of how good you feel. I’ve had a fair bit of muscle soreness throughout the month, sure, abating about a week before the end. So I guess those sore shoulders, knees and ankles were teething issues. That sort of soreness is of a different and far less worrisome nature from the sore neck, wrists and back I was getting from doing sedentary work. That said, this hasn’t been a great month to do an experiment on desk related soreness because life has taken over a bit and I’ve hardly been at my desk at all. I’ll be interested to see what happens when I’m able to sink back into my regular desk-work routine.
- On a less optimistic note, I do believe we have a limited amount of self-discipline, and we need to use it wisely. I’ve found that turning on the DVD and persevering with something I don’t really want to do has consumed slightly more mental energy than I’d like it to. I have the added challenge (and privilege) of working for myself, so I also have to force myself to get to my desk on a daily basis. We’re advised to get up from our desks every hour, so I’m feeling this constant back and forth struggle between pulling myself towards the desk, then having to pull myself away to do exercise, just as I’m getting into the state of flow. I predict this will take an enormous amount of willpower over the coming months.
- I’m tempted to modify my diet just a little to see if that would have an equally positive effect on well-being. I discussed the possibility of cutting out white sugar with friends yesterday who pointed out that already I don’t smoke, drink or consume caffeine, and that if I were to give up sugary food too that’d make me a real bitch. Realistically, eating consistently well does take a lot of mental energy when we live in a society surrounded by delicious, not-so-healthy food, and I don’t think I’m prepared to go there just yet. I’ll just assume I’ve got a six pack of abs, under this layer of insulation.
UPDATE: A few weeks after I finished the 30 Day Shred our family did go sugar free. Also wheat free. More on that later.