Sunday 10 December 2017

FitFlow Max Review

Price: £14/$20
Length: 5x 30-40 minute yoga routines
Workouts: Upper, Lower, Core, Total, Yoga, Stretch
Suitable for: Intermediate - Advanced
Overall Rating:   ★★★★★
Enjoyment:  ★★★★☆   Difficulty:  ★★★★☆   Results:  ★★★★☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.

   I do yoga often but I admit that, while I change up my workout every month, I rarely vary my yoga. I use it more as a means of unwinding after lots of resistance workouts rather than something I practice or try to get better at - though I  have definitely seen improvements stemming from frequent use and the strength and flexibility gained from other workouts. I have few DVDs and sequences, and while they're relatively intermediate, none of them feature anything outlandish like the yogis you see on Instagram.
   That said, as someone at the low end of intermediate, this yoga program was something I found myself able to do, but was still physically challenged by. And while I may look for a simpler routine where yoga is used as a recovery, if a yoga routine is taking its place as my month's workout, such as this HIIT-yoga fusion, 'challenging' is a detail I hunger for.

   This program features 5 yoga workouts varying from 30-40 minutes long; three are HIIT-structured with a focus on the upper body, lower body and total body, and the rest are more recovery-based, with one focusing on core and stretching, and the other a fluid yoga sequence to counter the resistance and cardio of the week. It's a 6-day-a-week, 4-week program wherein each week one of the workouts will be repeated.
   There is no music, which I thought would be an issue, but surprisingly it isn't, and I put that down to the way Briohny and MacKenzie chatter. Rather than distracting or all-business, it actually feels like you're a part of the class. I've used programs with chatty instructors before, but I've never felt so involved. But if it bothers you, you can easily play your own music beneath it.

   A yoga mat for grip and comfort is essential, and they do use yoga blocks. I didn't have any when I started so I made do with the floor, and while I managed, I did end up buying a yoga block. Not so much because I couldn't reach, but rather I was over-extending and couldn't keep a flat back where it mattered. But these can be picked up on the cheap from most sports stores.

Difficulty & Guidance
   As I said above, as someone who usually practises yoga at the lower end of intermediate, this workout was something I could do, but was still challenged by. Most of the movements were familiar, but those I'd never seen before - basic or variations - were all well-demonstrated, well-explained and well-cued, so you always know where you are. I never got lost once.
   The HIIT element isn't that bad, it's made mostly from repping in and out of the poses with a few more obvious cardio sequences, but those reps and cardio sequences are necessary to building heat and raising the heart rate, and what's HIIT without a thumping heart?
   Variations for beginners and advanced are offered throughout, and being intermediate (I'm relatively advanced in most workouts) I was given something to strive for in almost every movement. And I was so impressed with myself when I succeeded.

Warm Up
   I wouldn't usually write about the warm up section, but I'm mentioning it for the simple fact that there isn't one. If this was ordinary yoga it might not be an issue, but repping in and out of movements and really engaging your muscles...well, on cold winter mornings, you really, really do want to warm up first. I generally spent 5 minutes jogging on the spot, doing arm windmills, jumping jacks, standing toetap kicks and so on. When chaturangas and crescent lunges are involved, you really do want warm arms and legs. I quite successfully pulled my hamstrings on my first day following the lower body workout because I trusted too foolishly.
   There is also no cool down, and while that's not a problem on all of them, you definitely want to make sure you stretch your arms out after upper body and legs after lower.

Lower Body - 35 minutes consisting of 2 circuits, repeated three times on each side, alternating. The first set of each circuit on each side is slow and painful (in a good way), but the second and third rounds are faster, both in movement and in duration. And it may sound strange - it was strange when they said it - but while adding a hop to crescent lunge reps is a challenge in the first round, it's actually doable in the second, and nearly easy in the third. Rather than tire yourself out, you seem to just heat yourself up and get better with every rep. It's a wonderful and powerful feeling.
Upper Body - 30 minutes of one long and dynamic circuit, repeated three times on each side, alternating. You spend a lot of time in plank and downward dog, but don't be fooled, your legs get involved and your heartrate rises. And, as with the lower body workout, each set gets easier as you go along. I struggled with this one and was quite clumsy at first, but I soon found my rhythm. But you will seriously feel it in your arms, chest and shoulders by the end.
Total Body - 30 minutes of two circuits, but definitely the most complicated. A lot more balance is involved in the total body section, and it's tempting to try to keep up with them as the sets get shorter and more fluid, but the fact is, by rushing along, you don't get the depth and you will end up falling over. It was only on the very last set on the right side that I realised my mistake, and noticed an immediate difference when I slowed down a little, catching up in the vinyasa. It doesn't feel like the whole body is getting a workout, and while it's true you don't feel the burn as intensely as in Upper or Lower, you will notice it the next day, and you will raise your heart rate. There are also a few brief cardio intervals to raise the heart rate, too.
Core & Stretch - This 40-minute workout isn't made with the same circuit set up as the others. Instead you roll through the movements and generally progress from start to finish, repeating movements only when individual sides are concerned, and there are few in this case. The core hurts, and not just your abs. Your legs and hips get involved a fair bit, which is nice for a little extra work, but it's certainly lower impact than the others, with the hard work mostly focused in the first 20 minutes and more stretching and static poses in the last.
Yoga FitFlow - This 40-minute yoga sequence features intermediate moves and a fluid flow from one position to the next, with no circuits involved beyond balancing out the sides as in Core & Stretch. There's little repping in and out of the poses so the cardio element is low, but  there is a little more leg strength involved than expected for a routine designed to counter and stretch after the other workouts. But while the power in the legs isn't too demanding, the sequence itself is a challenge for someone of my abilities and the instruction isn't as clear as in the others. I muddled through the first usage, however, and improved with every subsequent use, as is often the case with all workouts.

   It's true that a HIIT-yoga fusion was never going to be as powerful or fat-burning as a more typical HIIT workout, nor as calming as a typical yoga workout, but it was a very well-balanced fusion nonetheless and provided, where promised, HIIT intervals that did make me sweat and did get my heart pounding. But the resistance was also brilliant, and even repping in and out of a crescent lunge, you are going to feel it.
   Not for the beginner, the movements in this program, especially when flowing from one to another, is more suited to the intermediate user while still providing plenty of room to grow, and advanced yogis can get their fill, too.
   Highly recommended if you're looking for more than just yoga, but not if you're after something traditional or something high-impact.


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