Exercise: A 7-Day Challenge

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I've been in a pretty deep plateau for a month or two now. I'm not sure if it is because I started strength training (and rapidly built up some muscle) or if my body has just needed some time to adjust.

In an effort to kick the plateau, which has been really getting to me, I decided to decrease my workout length/intensity a bit and increase frequency to every day.

Originally, I envisioned continuing to do Billy Blanks 55-minute boot camp workouts every other day, and yoga or walking on my off days. Long story short, this morphed into trying Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred.

I started Level 1 on Wednesday. (Before this, I had been doing Billy and yoga, on an alternating schedule.) It is about 27 minutes including warm-up and cool-down, or about 18-20 minutes of circuit training. Considering I had been doing Billy Blanks for about 2 months (3-4 weekly 1-hour sessions of total-body cardio & strength training), it actually wasn't super hard.

However, I stuck with it for 3 days because I did need to work on my sustained cardio (JM does 2-minute circuits of cardio; Billy works it in - so I was able to do all the cardio but it still felt challenging) and also my lunges (I pulled a muscle a couple weeks ago doing lunges and I have been wary ever since).

Today, I pulled out Level 2. It's the same length and definitely tougher. I still think I'm fairly well prepared for it, though (Billy has done me well!). I will stick with it a few days - maybe increase my weights - because it is plank-heavy and I am not up to snuff on those. It also has some better ab moves (I never even felt the ones from Level 1), still does the 2-minute cardio sets, and actually increases the lunge intensity a bit. So it's a great step up - I won't be losing anything I worked on earlier in the week.

And, for the first time in days, I got my workout high. Yes! I really needed that stress bust.

I will definitely go back to Billy, for awhile at least, after JM's Shred. His "Elite" set, which I wasn't quite ready for, will be a great every day workout, because each video is a different group of muscles, making them safe to do back-to-back as long as you don't repeat the same muscle group too often (like lower body two days in a row). I will also definitely work in some yoga once or twice a week... those planks are killer! (And yes, it's relaxing too - but I forgot how much of a workout yoga can be.)

I also heard that JM has a series... Ripped in 30, maybe? ...that works similarly to Shred, where there are several levels and you progress through them. That might be fun once I get bored of BB Elite.

Once I'm satisfied that I am strong - perhaps in the fall or next spring - I will try once again to take up running. But I want my body to be very prepared for that. I also want to be strong enough to run AND strength train, without overtraining, hurting myself, or fatiguing the muscles too much. I feel like I'm still building my strength training and I'm happy working on that for now, with some cardio worked in on the side.

Soon, I'll be moving (7 days!) and there are a few area gyms. If I can find the funds, I might see if there is a class or something that I could take once a week, just for some interest and some get-out-of-the-house-ness. The people we will be staying with are also planning on getting a big-breed puppy, and I volunteered to walk him/her. I will add the walks to the every day exercise, not substitute.

Once the heat wave breaks - and possibly after the move - I will do a second video after JM's Shred, either every day if it is lightish (like yoga) or every other day if it's something like Billy (his ab video comes to mind). This is partly because I feel like I get a significantly better boost to my mental health if I work out for closer to an hour, and partly because I'm worried that Shred is actually a bit of a step down overall, at least in certain areas (although is a step up in some as well). I don't want to lose any fitness. Every other day + puppy walks might suffice! I'll test it out when I get there and see what my body likes and needs and responds well to.

So. I've worked out every day for 7 days now... yes, even in this crazy heat wave that had me wanting to rip off my skin. I was literally spitting out my own sweat, practically slipping on it on the mat, and resisting the urge to promptly burn my exercise clothes upon peeling them off. I'm kind of proud of myself, even if they were only 27-minute affairs.

Did it bust my plateau? I think so. I say "I think so" because I tend not to trust my scale until it gives me the same answer at least 2-3 days in a row, and I was a bit worried that maybe it was just lost water from all the heat and sweating.

But I think I am 142-3 (officially logged as 143 until my scale confirms the 142 sighting), which is a 2-3 lb loss (some of which I was working on before this week, no doubt, because as I've said, despite sticking to a strict diet, have had no loss in weeks). So I don't expect this every week, and I'm still a bit skeptical.

Also? I had noticed the muscle in my thighs (especially the tops and around the hips - anywhere with less fat is way more noticeable, of course) and the tops of my arms (same reason - less fat there) and even my butt... but not my abs... until I randomly poked them today. There IS muscle in there! It's not showing to look at but it is unmistakeably there!

Going back to my last post:

I was successful on all three of my current aims, although I modified #2 a bit in order to start JM's Shred. I actually definitely met Goal #1 (break the plateau!) because I'm certain I'm down at least 1 lb. I quite possibly met Goal #2 (become "normal weight" aka lose 2 lbs). And it's too early to tell, but I may even have met Goal #3 (get on track to lose 1 lb, at least, every week or two). Goal #4 will never fully be "met" and is ongoing, but I definitely worked on it this week (expand fitness horizons).

Goals 5-7 are a bit more long-term and will take awhile. But I'm so happy just to be progressing again on the weight loss front!

Soon, I'll post something more motivational and thought-provoking, and less technical. I just feel it's important to log successes and this week was a success - I pretty much did not want to work out any of the days, and I did anyway.
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