I started using Jillian Michaels' Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism DVD at the beginning of the month, and I was quite daunted at the start. It was true that I was doing about 45 minutes of exercise every morning last month anyway and I did start to notice a little more weight loss than the usual rate, but those twenty minutes consisted of 25 from Jillian's Ripped In 30 and 20 minutes of high-impact dance cardio afterwards. It wasn't exactly easy but I did it, but the idea of using a 40-minute Jillian Michaels workout - meaning 40 minutes without a break, whereas I'd usually get at most 5 minutes between Ripped and dancing because I'd have to change DVDs - well, it was daunting. I've done it before when I used Hard Body, but that was a while ago and after overworking myself a few months ago I've been quite cautious with how I exercise. Not to mention that Hard Body consisted of two different 45-minute workouts so at least I only had to do each for two weeks a piece, but here I am stuck with one workout, which means if I find it dull or out of my abilities, I've got no choice but to keep going with it or give up. And I have only ever given up once.
But I've been using the DVD for 2 weeks now and I have to say, while I was kind of right to be daunted, at the same time it's nothing to be that worried about at all.
The workout consists of seven 6-minute circuits and, as always with Jillian Michaels, you get very little rest between circuits. I've built the stamina to keep up with it so it's no trouble, but I'm really feeling the exhaustion by the time the cool down sets in. Of course, that's what you want from a workout. But it is still tough, and that's why I was right to be a little daunted.
As for the circuits themselves, though, they are each different - beyond the individual movements, of course. The first circuit is 6 minutes of kickboxing which is one of my favourite forms of exercise, so, for me at least, it's an enjoyable beginning even if by the end of the 6 minutes I'm already quite tired. The second circuit is more body-weight, horrible, nasty stuff like burpees. I absolutely hate them and most of the second circuit, but at the same time I know that it works so I barrel through it. Fortunately the third circuit is general exercise like butt-kicks, high knees and things like that, easy stuff that still keeps you moving and your heartrate up. The fourth circuit is ab-focused and takes place on the floor so it's a good opportunity to get your breath back half way through, and from then on you do another kickboxing circuit, horrible circuit and general exercise circuit, each different from the first three but with the same set-up.
A workout made up of seven circuits is mentally gruelling. You move through it counting them down - and it's the worst when you find yourself counting when you're only on circuit 2 - and sometimes it can feel like it's never going to end. The whole 40 minutes is a tough workout, and it is effective, but when the circuits are so different from one another, it does help. I know I'll get on fine with the first circuit, and I'm prepared for the horror of the second, but while I'm doing the second circuit I can put more energy into it because I know that the next circuit is lower impact, and more effort into that because I know that the fourth is lower impact still. It doesn't take long to get to know it and when you become familiar with the intensities of the different circuits you can put appropriate energy into each in order to get the most out of each circuit and still make it to the end.
In short, the workout is tough, but the beauty of it is that it uses no equipment, just your own body weight, and that means you have to work harder to get a good result. After all, you carry your body weight around every day, so you have to do deeper or more explosive movements to increase the resistance your body weight always provides. This means that it's much more cardio-focused for a lot longer than most Jillian Michaels' workouts which tend to alternate between strength and cardio (though the compound strength moves keep your heartrate up even while you recover a little), and while strength and resistance training is a huge part of weight loss, I've done an awful lot of that over the past two years and I don't feel I've gotten enough cardio in over the past few months, so something like this - for me, right now - is actually a really good thing.
So I'm half way through this month's workout, it's tough and I enjoy about half of it but I have a lot of confidence in it at the same time, not least because I'm seeing greater results already this month than even last month. And yes, it is hard and out of my comfort zone, but often the harder and more gruelling a workout is, the more effective - the less familiar you are with movements and circuits the less muscle memory you have, which means your body works harder, burns more calories and gains greater after-burn by completing the new movements because it doesn't do them automatically.
As always, I'll report back in 2 weeks as well as write up a full review of the DVD - though I kind of feel like I almost did that here, so I doubt it'll tell you much more than this post has!