Monday 31 March 2014

April: 30 Day Shred

Read also: Level 1, Level 2Level 3 & DVD Review

Fun Rating: ★★☆☆☆    Difficulty Rating: ★★★★☆     Results Rating: ★★★★☆
   For April's fitness trial, I decided I'd try the biggest challenge yet: a 30 day shred. Jillian Michaels is one of the most famous certified fitness instructors in the world, and her DVDs are some of the world's most best selling fitness DVDs. But they are not for the faint-hearted, and while I wouldn't describe myself that way in regards to fitness, I am under no illusions about her technique. And so, it is with much caution that I begin this trial.
   You'll also note that I'm starting April's trail on March 31st. I know I've gone on and on about pedestals in the past, but since the 1st of April was a Tuesday, I figured starting a day early would be a good idea.

   There are a few things I feel I need to say before beginning my trial however, for the benefit of others who are interested:
   Shreds typically use weights and are very much power-filled workouts. The thing with them is, however, you shouldn't really use weights more than 3 times a week, and you should definitely take a day or two off of workouts to rest up every week. A 30 day shred doesn't accommodate this. You're supposed to work at it for 30 days straight, and to an extent that isn't really all that good for your body. I think that part of the reason you have to go for 30 straight days, is because it's only a 30-day workout, after which point you have to find something else to do. You should not repeat the DVD so soon, and you should not expect it to be easy - but definitely don't go into it expecting to fail.
   Women who refuse to use weights because they're afraid that they'll turn into a super muscular woman are absolutely pathetic. Gaining a body similar to that of a body builder does not happen by accident, and it does not happen quickly even then. They go through a lot of training and use weights you'd never be able to lift without practising on much smaller weights first and moving up. There is no way you will turn into a body builder even when using an 8kg kettlebell and 4kg dumbbells, it just won't happen, so never ever shy away from weights. You absolutely should use them if you're trying to slim down, and the reason for that is this: strength training builds lean muscle, and lean muscle improves the rate of calories burned as well as your metabolism while resting. What's lean muscle? Lean muscle, simply put, is exercised muscle. Think of it this way: we all have muscles, that's how we're able to move. Lean muscle is muscle that has been used and toned with weights, kick boxing, sports and so on, muscle that has been used for more than simply walking to the shop and carrying home the shopping. So pick up the dumbbells, buy some weighted gloves (I swear to you that they're totally worth the money) and get lifting. Add them into your dance DVDs, your yoga, even while doing house work. They will boost your workouts.

   A 30 day shred will give you results if you dedicate yourself to it and do it right - and by 'dedicate yourself to it' I don't mean drink only protein shakes and swear off chocolate, though the latter may help. I just mean make sure you rest properly, don't overdo it, and eat properly throughout those 30 days. The trouble with the results, however, is this: 30 day shreds are, to a degree, a quick fix. They do get results, but you have to continue to stay active to keep them, and by calling it a '30 day' workout plan, you're less likely to want to workout after completing it since you'd have gone 30 days without rest, telling yourself when it got tough that 'it's only 30 days'. Once those 30 days are up and you see your results, you are likely to revert back to normal after a few weeks if you don't keep active and eating properly. No, this doesn't apply to everyone, but it is very basic psychology, and a lot of people will succumb to it. The simple way around it: line up another workout DVD to follow on after the 30 day shred. Try something that's more fun like hip hop or latin dance, or something empowering and fun like kickboxing. 10 Minute Solutions have 2 hip hop, 2 kickboxing and 1 latin dance DVDs, plus plenty of other types of dance and other kinds of workouts too. If you go into the 30 day shred with something lined up to do after those 30 days, you'll get through the shred easier, and learn to keep the weight off.
   You'll be strengthening and toning your muscle in this workout as well as increasing your heart rate, so it's important to remember that muscle weighs more than fat. There is an enormous visual difference. How enormous? That enormous ↓ That's 1kg of fat beside 1kg of muscle.

You can lose an inch from your waist but gain a pound. That's why it's a very good idea, regardless of what you're doing, to both weigh yourself and measure yourself every 2-4 weeks. Any more frequently than that and you're less likely to see any honest difference, but rather see fluctuations that will mess with your head. Also you have to keep in mind: do you want to weigh less, or do you want to be slimmer? If it's the latter then keep with the weights and don't take what the scale says to heart. A tape measure is your best friend. And when using weights, it's also important to realise that BMI, or Body Mass Index, completely goes out of the window, so you should ignore that completely.

   I've decided to do this DVD because it's been praised to the heavens and I want to see for myself a) if it is any good, and b) just how hard it truly is. I'm expecting it to be harder than I think, not easier, and I'm going to go in fighting. These things will affect different people differently, that much is certain, but I'm looking forward to seeing how my body will react to it.
   I do, however, have no intention of stopping exercising after the 30 days are up. I intend, of course, to continue with other workouts, but I do, perhaps foolishly, expect to see results from this. There are a few reasons, other than its praise, as to why I expect this: 1) I am used to taking a break, not working out for 30 days non-stop, so this will shock my body, and, I hope, help to keep a plateau away, which is why I've taken up this new year's resolution in the first place. 2) I usually do cardio in the mornings, not weights (weights and strength I do in the evening 3 times a week), so this is hopefully another big change that will get my body working harder and out of its normal routine.
   However, because I know my body and I know what my stamina is like, I decided a week ago that I would dedicate Saturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th to resting, breaking the 30 day shred into two different parts. Those two days will do wonders for my recovery - it may seem too little compared to 20 days of exercising, but from experience I'm confident that it will be enough, and I also know that I'll need it.

   The 30 day shred is a 60 minute DVD broken up into three levels, each of which is 20 minutes long. You spend 10 days on level 1, 10 days on level 2 and 10 on level 3, using the DVD for a measly 20 minutes a day. You can spend a few extra days on each if you don't feel confident enough to move on, and by doing so you'll be dragging the shred out a little longer and doing a bit more work by the end of it, but you don't truly need to. You must also try to realise that you probably won't be able to do everything she tells you to at first, which is why you're more likely to spend a few extra days on the first level rather than on the others. You'll loosen up quickly, however, and learn the moves, and you'll be able to do the next level when it comes around.
   Another thing to keep in mind is that the heavier the weight, the better the workout, but if you honestly can't handle the weights this superwoman suggests, go for a lighter weight, but whatever you do, do keep at the DVD. You can always increase the weights when you come back to the DVD a few months later (I mean, who buys a fitness DVD and uses it once?). In the US weights are measured in pounds (lb), whereas in the rest of the world, weights are measured in kilograms (kg). 1kg is equal to 2.2lbs, so yes, weights in Europe weigh a little more than they do in the US because they're generally used in whole weights (ie 2lbs, not 2.2lbs; 2kg, not 1.8kg). But, if you want to try to make it a little easier for yourself, round it down. If they say to use a 2lb weight, don't look for a 0.8kg weight, us a 1kg weight. Half the number of pounds to get the number of kilograms. I'm currently using 2.5kg dumbells and 4-6kg kettlebells.

   I won't be doing just this DVD in the mornings. I will probably be completely exhausted, but I'm going to continue to use a hula hoop (just because the month has finished doesn't mean I'm done with the workout!) and spinning machine afterwards, more low-key stuff in comparison. This will keep my heart rate up and allow me to burn more calories, but also give my mucsles a chance to wind down and stretch out and allow my whole body to gradually recover, as opposed to stopping suddenly.
   I'll be sure to post again when I've finished level 1 with an update, assuming my arms still work, and then again at the end of level 2, and then at the end of the shred with my verdict, and, hopefully (all fingers crossed), my results.


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