my short journey from fitness dabbler to workout junkie
I have to admit that sometimes I can be a bit of a cliche. As the new year rolled around and after some highly enjoyable but excessive indulgence over the festive period, I was looking towards ways to exercise regularly and improve my general fitness.
I have long ago realised (after trying and failing) that I am not the kind of person who will get up and out of my warm bed, navigate the epic quest to the gym in order to engage in 1hr of physical torture, come home, shower and then go on to start my full time work day. I have to accept that if I couldn't do it quickly and couldn't do it at home, it just wasn't going to be done.
I have had Jillian Michaels' "30 Day Shred" DVD for several years but have never actually completed 30 workouts in 30 days. From memory, my previous efforts had petered out around the 15 day mark. I decided that this time would be different.
My commitment was 30 workouts in 30 days. I decided to only make one big life change at a time so I did not change my diet (except to try and cook more and eat take out less) - and just to be clear, my normal diet does not only consist of chicken breast, broccoli and greek yoghurt.
Where to buy: Some DVD stores Itunes Google Play Ebay/Amazon/Gumtree Equipment required: dumbbells (I used 2kg) and exercise mat (if you don't like doing ab work on the ground)
About the Workout
The 30 day-shred is designed to be completed daily - 3 levels of difficulty, 10 days each. It is a circuit style exercise program that lasts 20min (excluding warm up and cool down time) that includes a combination of strength training, cardio and ab exercises.
Jillian initially takes you through a series of Jane Fonda style dynamic stretching exercises to warm up. Although I know this is not kosher, I did often fast forward through this section (I hope this isn't too much of a dent on my credibility).
Circuit - 3min strength (alternating 45 sec moves) - usually a compound strength move working both upper and lower limbs 2min cardio (alternating 30sec moves) - more or less some form or jumping or running around 1min abs (alternating 30sec moves) - nothing that anyone with even the slightest fitness interest would not have seen
There are 3 rounds with different moves for each round. For those that like variety - each exercise from start to end is a total of 18 unique moves. It sounds easy, but it's not (well, it wasn't for me). Each level is naturally more difficult than its predecessor culminating in a circuit in level 3 which includes one full minute straight of old school sit ups.
For those of us who come from a baseline of a little less than shredded - there are modifications for most exercises. However Jillian takes a firm stance against any modification for a jumping jack (or star jump) - apparently anything other than a jumping jack is just completely unacceptable.
The last few minutes end with some static stretches and some affirming words from our host. I spend most of this time as an excuse to lie on the mat and try not to die.
Personal lessons from completing the 30 Day Shred
Lesson 1: the 100% rule
Firstly, there was something liberating about committing to 30 days with no excuses. Trying not to sound to preachy, it was a change in mindset from the question of "should I work out today?" to "how can I work out today?" that made all the difference. Suddenly, it was a priority and my life was getting planned around my workouts. My other half had to wait for dinner so I could fit in a 20min workout. We even went on a holiday during my 30 days (poor planning on my part, but life happens I suppose) and I fit my workout in every. damn. day.
Lesson 2: imperfectly done is better than nothing
Ok, I have a confession to make - I completed the 30 Day Shred in 31 days. There was one particular day on day 29 that I just could not make it. I could have given up bit more sleep or really pushed myself but on balance I realised that forcing that particular day would have just caused more harm than good. So, I accepted defeat and made up for it the next day.
There were also times when I was exhausted even before I began - don't we all? In the past I would often say to myself "well you're too tired to give 100% anyway" and satisfy myself that I was justified in giving it a skip. But I realised that even a half-hearted attempt at each move and still getting through was infinitely superior to the alternative of lying on the couch and eating ice cream. I mean sure, 100% is ideal - but isn't 50% better than 0? We are all human after all.
Extra Tip: Repetition can be annoying
The first few times through, the affirming words and "boot camp" instructor style is somewhat endearing - it gets pretty old after 10 repeats. So I bought the Seconds App and made my own circuit with her workouts (this takes a bit of time, but in my opinion worth it) - that way I could do the work outs while listening to music (or playing Netflix) instead of watching the DVD over and over.
Disappointing and surprising as it is, after 30 days and no change in diet, I did not resemble a Victoria Secret model - but who wants that anyway? I also did not achieve any weight loss.
Things I did achieve
- general feeling of accomplishment and bragging rights
- being able to do 10-15 real push-ups
- looking generally leaner and more toned
- proving I can fit daily exercise into my life
In summary, the 30 Day Shred is an efficient and effective workout that is achievable for the average fitness dabbler. It certainly delivered some noticeable results which I think could be compounded by eating healthier.
Lets be real - can any one DVD really guarantee a shredded body and the solution to all life's problems? No. But some progress is better than no progress, so why not give it a try yourself?