Sunday 8 April 2018

Cody FitFlow Review

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

   Having used MacKenzie Miller and Briohny Smyth's FitFlow Max workout in November (it seems I jumped the gun), I was curious to try the original FitFlow series. FitFlow Max consisted of five 30-40 minute videos, used six days a week (one video would be repeated) for a month, but FitFlow had 28 videos to carry you through four weeks with no repeats. Wonderful. So I was keen to give it a go, because I loved the FitFlow system that fused yoga and HIIT together with very few static poses, and provided both isolated and total body workouts. In fact, if I'm honest, after months of waning enthusiasm, FitFlow Max made me fall in love with movement all over again.

   FitFlow consists of 28 videos ranging from 10-20 minutes each, a different one for every day, including a restorative stretch session for the 7th day each week. It's broken into 4 workout types: HIIT, FitFlow, CoreFit and yoga. HIIT and yoga are self explanatory, CoreFit focuses on the core, while FitFlow is their signature fusion of the two and the basis of the FitFlow program - didn't see that coming, did you?

   You need nothing but yourself and a yoga mat for grip and comfort's sake.

   Overall, FitFlow isn't too challenging and can definitely be used by a beginner to both yoga, HIIT and fitness in general. The yoga sequences are simple, it's just the names that can throw you off, but they're not hard to pick up, so if you're used to names like down-dog or chair pose, prepare to learn!
   The HIIT consists of basic moves like mountain climbers or high knees, with a few burpees thrown in, but they're not difficult and the pace is ultimately your own, as are modifications. Though HIIT is supposed to be high intensity, meaning going as hard as you can for the entire 30-second move, so it's best to keep that pace as high as you are personally able to and ignore the voice in the back of your mind telling you to hold back because you're only half way through the workout. That voice does nothing but hamper your results.
   FitFlow sequences are a fusion of HIIT and Yoga and may catch you out once or twice, but you can modify using your own experience. I'm speaking largely of crow push-ups. And I mean crow pose push-ups. Yikes. I can only just hold crow for 5 seconds before toppling forwards and bumping my noggin, so I didn't even bother and opted for straight push ups instead. I'm all for challenging and pushing yourself, but in this case, I knew I wouldn't get one full rep in and it would be a waste of my time to try when the window of opportunity lasts just 10-15 seconds in this case. And there's no shame in that at all.
   CoreFit can be a bit unpleasant if you hate working your core like I do - but I was surprised on the second week. The first week was as expected: a variety of crunches. But on week 2, the focus was on the back. I was already well aware that the core actually encompasses the muscles all the way around your trunk - so your upper abs, lower abs, obliques and back - but it's so rare for any workouts to actually point out that the back is part of it. 'Core' has become synonymous with 'abs', and even those in the know seem to forget about that. And the fact that FitFlow took a whole CoreFit session to focus almost exclusively on strengthening the back really reaffirms my faith in their capabilities as trainers and their general know-how.
   The videos do become a little more advanced as the program progresses, and I'm not talking about cardiovascular demand, but rather skill. An example? I cannot do handstands. Even against a wall. Which makes HIIT sessions that have a static handstand hold for a whole 30-seconds kind of useless to me. It's true that you should push yourself to try new things, but when movement and rest time counts so much as it does in HIIT, by the time I'm almost in position, time's up. But: you are totally accountable. For me, handstands are something to practice outside of active workouts, so instead of wasting valuable time in my HIIT workout, I simply replaced the move with a crow pose. A pose I am also not good at, but I learned a trick: stand a yoga block on its tallest end and position it so that it's beneath your forehead when you're in crow pose. Falling forwards is no longer an issue and you can concentrate on arm strength, lifting your feet and squeezing your hamstrings rather than falling on your face. You are welcome.
   Bottom line: this program does get a little advanced, and so if there are moves you can't do, especially in HIIT when timing matters, try to replace them with something that targets similar areas. As for the yoga and FitFlow fusion sequences, try the new moves, that's how you grow, and modify if you need to.

   The structure of FitFlow is great. With different videos every day and no repeats, you can't start freaking out and telling yourself you can't do it before you've even started. They're all separated into lower body, upper body, total and core, and are provided in a mixture of HIIT, FitFlow and yoga practice.
   HIIT generally follows a 4x30/10 structure - 4 circuits of 4 moves, 30 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, non-stop for 10 minutes. One or two are more like 15 minutes, and in these cases there are five moves in a circuit; three moves, two of which are repeated on each side for balance, such as a static lunge.
   FitFlow is a combination of yoga poses, flows and dynamic bouts of cardio, and is generally about 13 minutes and, like HIIT, provides a circuit flow to be repeated 3 or 4 times on each side of your body.
   Yoga flow incorporates static stretching with a few vinyasas, perfect for the end of the week or, if like me you opt to double up and do two a day, is a great finisher. Especially if, like me, you opt to double up and do them after a 30-minute strength session. With a rest day the next day, of course.
   The Restorative Stretch session is wonderful. Filled with stretches held for 1-2 minutes on each side, it's great for recovering from the past week's workouts, and can always be repeated or stacked up with other stretch sessions from the program for an amazing 45-minute stretch session on a rest day. There's also great guidance here about focusing on the stretch and not letting other parts of your body compensate. I never realised how much my spine moves around when I'm stretching my shoulders or triceps until they brought my attention to it.

   As mentioned, every week you work through 6 videos - 2-3 will be HIIT, 2 FitFlow, 1 CoreFit and 1 yoga session. None of them are the same and they're never in the same order, though a few moves will crop up a few times like mountain climbers, warrior poses or bicycle crunches, but they're simple, straight-forward and effective, so they're welcome every time.

   My single complaint is the music - or lack thereof. While that's not unusual for MacKenzie or Briohny's videos, it's a little bit strange during the HIIT videos; you definitely notice it's missing. I played my own music beneath it - The Witcher soundtrack, thank you - and it worked together very well. I could still hear them but the music kept me going, and I know that, without it, not only would the HIIT workouts have been bland but they would also have been much harder.
   I also feel that the videos are too short for me, I'm used to high intensity for 30-40 minutes a day, so dialling it back to 10-20 minutes feels like cheating. If you're new to exercise or short on time, it's excellent, but I like to really focus my exercise, so even before I started I'd decided to double up, and it worked for me that way.

   Otherwise, FitFlow is a versatile workout plan that is great for beginners and intermediate users, whether they have much experience with yoga or HIIT or not. Teaching and guidance is involved, and in some cases is better than that which I've found on other DVDs over my past 4 years of trialling. It's great if you have little time as you can get a workout in in as little as 10 minutes, or it can be used to supplement a resistance workout done beforehand, using HIIT for bonus cardio or yoga for stretching, or you can stack them up to two or three in one go - in order or not; you could stack all the lower body workouts and a CoreFit into one day, for example - and take the following day as a rest day to utilise the restorative stretch before using two or three more the next day, and a restorative stretch the next. But while the program can be challenging, it seems more suited to people who want to stay or get active on limited time. It doesn't seem to be a good program for weight loss, even if doubled up.
   But I would still absolutely recommend it, especially with a free 7-day trial.


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