This has been the toughest month so far, and I'm only half way through. Every month I change my workout to avoid plateaus, but I also attempt to target my body from different angles. Sometimes that means a challenging workout, maybe something out of my comfort zone, or using kit I'm unfamiliar with and so on, but this month it's been endurance. My workouts are usually 30-40 minutes long every day, and my body is prepared for that. But this month it's been 75.
I really wanted to get the most out of Hard Body and Yoga Inferno. No, the DVDs aren't too expensive, but I don't want to miss out on either the opportunity or the experience. My original plan was to alternate them, but that meant, with Wednesdays and Sundays off, I was only going to get 3 days of Hard Body and 2 days of Yoga Inferno in a week, meaning only 6 days of each level of Hard Body and 4 days of each level of yoga. That, frankly, is not enough time to get much out of it at all. It takes me, personally, about 4 days of use to get to grips with a workout before I can really throw my all into it - learning the individual moves, learning the circuits, figuring out where I should put more of my energy and where to conserve it for the next set, how many reps are involved and so on. With the yoga in particular, just as I would be ready to really go for it, it would be time to change. Plus, while the 45 minutes of Hard Body is tough, I also wasn't happy with the idea of taking Wednesdays off, even though I needed the rest. Rest days feel counter-productive, so it's hard to take a day off and sit still when I don't feel I've been working hard enough to need it.
So I changed my plan. Perhaps I'm pushing myself hard, but at least when Wednesday comes along I'm happy to take the day off, and I believe I'm eating the right stuff because I'm not getting light-headed, tired or physically weak after the Thursday/Friday/Saturday 3-day stretch.
How did I change it? I've used both DVDs every day. I did give myself a little bit of an ease-up, though, as, rather than opting for the easier workout on each DVD for the first 2 weeks and the harder of each for the second, I've switched them, opting for level 1 of Hard Body and level 2 of Yoga Inferno for the first 2 weeks, followed by level 2 of Hard Body and level 1 of Yoga Inferno, just to offer a little balance and assurance that at least in some way it'll get easier.
So, yes, it's been tough, I've been working my ass off, but I said I had high expectations of this month and I think this is how I'm going to reach them, and as long as I take in enough calories, keep myself healthy and take suitable rest, I shouldn't over-work myself. In theory.
Anyway, about the DVDs themselves:
Hard Body is difficult. It really is. I had expected it to be a little slower-paced because it was 45 minutes long, but it's not. It's like doing one of the 30 Day Shred workouts twice in one day back-to-back, but harder. The 30 Day Shred is tough as it is, I'm not downplaying that, but the moves in Hard Body are more advanced and even tougher. There are 6 circuits that add up to about 20 minutes, and when you've completed all 6 you go right back to the beginning and do them all a second time, targeting the other side of your body. Most of the moves aren't one-sided, however, so your full body gets a great workout, and while all circuits are consistently tough, it goes without saying that they will start out a little easier and gradually get slightly harder, so when you go back to the beginning you at least know you can manage that first circuit again, and it feels easy in comparison to circuit 6.
Hard Body is not a DVD to use if you're new to Jillian Michaels' methods, however. You won't be able to complete it. If you keep stopping in the middle of sets you will lose out. You have to be able to keep going. If this means using lighter weights in order to complete the set, then use lighter weights, but if you can't complete a set even with the lightest weights, it's out of your league and you need to build up to it with another DVD. Even the beginner modifications are relatively advanced, and even after 2 weeks I was still doing a considerable number of them with those easier modifications.
Yoga Inferno is also not really much good for people new to yoga. Yes, there are modifications again, but the poses are advanced and there's only so much you can do to modify it. I would definitely recommend using Yoga Meltdown first, or having some experience with yoga of some kind. Like I said above, I started Yoga Inferno with the second work out rather than the first, which uses light hand weights, making it quite tough. She states at the beginning that if you're new to it you can forgo weights entirely and still get a lot out of it, but she doesn't explain the poses. She gives you the name and expects you to already know them. Of course, if you've used Yoga Meltdown, you will know them, but that right there will really frustrate new users.
As for my daily set-up, I always start with Hard Body, and rather than do 10 minutes of dance cardio from a random 10 Minute Solution DVD as a warm up first like I used to in order to make sure I got the most out of the DVD, I jumped right in to Hard Body and used the warm up on that like a normal, sane person would. The workout is 45 minutes long, not 20, so I didn't have the worry that I hadn't warmed up properly to get the most out of it. In some of the other DVDs I have the warm ups are too brief and that's where that paranoia has come from. Hard Body is also the tougher of the two DVDs, so by doing it first, I can make sure I have the energy to complete it rather than spending myself on the easier workout first.
Despite how tough it is, though, I do always have energy left to do Yoga Inferno afterwards. Being a different kind of exercise, I'm able to find some new enthusiasm even after a tough 45 minute workout. Level 2 of Yoga Inferno uses weights, but Jillian recommends using lighter weights than those she recommends in Hard Body. So, for the first 45 minutes I'm using mostly 2 & 2.5kg weights (the heaviest I have). For Yoga Inferno, I'm using 1 & 1.5kg. It gives me the chance to keep working my muscles, but by using the lighter weights I'm able to gradually turn it all down, polishing them off.
Ending on yoga also enables me to get a really good stretch with muscles that are already warm and limbered up, which also helps prevent injury in yoga by stretching cold muscles. This also means that even after a 75 minute workout I'm not aching when I get up the next day. The deep breathing - especially ending in corpse pose - really helps to draw the workout to a close, too, which is a great end for the yoga DVD alone, but even better after Hard Body as well, and, believe it or not, I'm re-energised at the end of it and totally ready for the rest of the day.
I know it sounds a bit much, but I've been getting on really well with it, and the after-burn that comes with repairing muscle tissue after all of that keeps my metabolism revving away. I even still had the energy to ride a horse after that full workout on Friday, which was freaking awesome, and I didn't suffer the next day, either!
Tomorrow I'm starting on Hard Body level 2, but Yoga Inferno level 1. So, while I know I'll struggle with Hard Body, at least I can go through it knowing I have easier yoga afterwards, and level 1 of Yoga Inferno doesn't use weights, so that will also be a welcome change.
This spur-of-the-moment adjustment absolutely isn't one I plan to make often, but I admit that I probably will next month, but next month the workouts I plan to use are 30 and 25 minutes long, not 45 and 30.
On a foody note, USN's Whey & Oats which I've been having for breakfast is great, too. I used to have Special K for breakfast with Greek yoghurt which was delicious, and I'd have that at 7:30, but I'd be hungry by 9. I have a bowl of these oats at the same time and I don't feel hungry or have the mind to think about food until I finish my workout at 11. Even on my rest days I don't feel hungry until 11:30, and I have the time to daydream about food at those points. The main reason for this is the protein. Protein is key when it comes to keeping you full because it digests very slowly. Carbohydrates digest much quicker and are your body's preferred source of energy because of it. Unfortunately, this also means that your body can get overloaded with energy if just carbs are eaten, and lots of that energy won't get used which is why people associate carbs with weight-gain. But, by eating your carbs with protein, the digestion slows. This means you get a more regulated release of energy so your body gets the chance to actually use it rather than store it, and you stay full for longer meaning you obviously eat less frequently because you're simply not hungry. So a protein-rich breakfast is key, but you need to make sure you get carbs alongside it to make sure you actually have energy to start your day. This breakfast has that, as well as a good amount of fibre. I always add flaxseed to mine for an extra boost of fibre, and a good dose of Omega 3.
I like to have the apple & cinnamon when I wake up feeling motivated and serious about my goals, and the marshmallow cookie if I feel a little more light hearted, had a good day the day before, or, in contrast, need some help finding a cheerful start. It tastes and smells like cake. It's amazing.
Oh, and, as a side-note, your metabolism as at its peak in the morning, so eating cake for breakfast isn't the worst idea in the world. Your body is far more likely to use the energy gained from it through the day and, let's be honest, it'll put a smile on your face. Not that I'm condoning unhealthy breakfast choices, but, in case you were wondering when your birthday rolls around, it's not something you should feel bad about. I know I'll be keeping it in mind...