Friday, January 28, 2011

The Beachbody Chronicles®:
My jump into P90X® Plyometrics

“This is the X in P90X – the mother of all X workouts,” says Tony Horton at the beginning of Plyometrics, the jump-training workout of P90X®.
   Horton’s introduction made me feel awesome because I was able to do Plyometrics all the way through the first time I did it.
   If I could do the mother of all P90X workouts, surely the 10 I have left to try on DVD are doable, too.
   Plyometrics posed an immediate challenge to me because I don’t like to jump. But I know it makes for a terrific cardio workout, as it alternates from periods of intense exercise to short periods of rest.
  That's why I wanted to give Plyometrics a try, and I made it through by modifying the moves or doing them at a slower pace than the exercisers on the DVD.
   An example is the hilariously-named Mary Katherine lunges. With arms up in the air, forward lunges are alternated with a jump in between. I could do it, but had to do it at a slower pace. I didn’t want to sacrifice form to try and keep up.
   The only move I couldn’t do at all was hot foot – hopping on one foot for several seconds, than the other. I did the modification – a simple hop from one foot to another.
   The exercises in Plyometrics use up and down, lateral and forward and backward movements, and include jump squats, leap frog squats, airborne Heisman (jumping from one leg to another) and monster truck tires (jumping from one leg to another while moving forward.)
   There are a lot of fun moves in the workout, such as squat switch pickups, which make you feel like superhero ready to spring into action; rock star hops, in which you jump in the air and strum an air guitar; gap jumps, where you pretend to jump over a puddle; pitch and catch, mimicking a pitcher’s swing; and jump shots, as if you are making a shot at the hoop in basketball.
   Two P90X workouts tried – ten more to go.

My thoughts on P90X Core Synergistics

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Beachbody Chronicles®:
I did my first P90X® workout -- and lived!

I’m very proud to report I did my first P90X® workout yesterday morning and lived to tell the tale.
   I woke up feeling a bit nervous Wednesday morning, wondering if I’d be able to do the hour-long Core Synergistics, one of the 12 workouts in the P90X system on DVD.
   I was able to do it, and surprised myself at how well I actually did. I found it fun, innovative and nicely paced, and I’m looking forward to going back to it and trying the other P90X workouts.
   Don’t get the impression I whizzed through Core Synergistics without a drop of sweat, however.
   It was definitely challenging, and I did have to modify exercises at times.
   The goal of the Core Synergistics is to work multiple muscle groups, all while engaging the muscles of the core, which include abdominal and back muscles.
   I may have been prepared for the core-bending exercises in this workout from some of the other DVD workouts I’ve been doing, including Physique 57, Pure Barre, and Pilates. These workouts have ab sections that make your middle burn like you wouldn’t believe.
  ChaLEAN Extreme and other workouts prepared me for push-ups, which are plentiful in Core Synergistics. They’re so plentiful, in fact, that I have nicknamed this workout the “push-ups parade.”
   There are no less than five varieties of push-ups in the workout, at my count.
They include:
- Staggered hands push-ups: Done with one arm further in front than the other, and one leg balanced on top of the other
- Sphinx push-ups: These start in a sphinx pose from yoga
- Prison cell push-ups: Much like burpees
- Walking push-ups: In a plank position, walking on all fours forward and backward. I found this next to impossible, and so held a plank position while these were done.
- Reach high and under push-ups, which are essentially going from a push-up to a side plank position.

   Other exercises in the workout borrow from yoga and Pilates, including “Superman-banana.” Starting by lying on one’s front, the arms and legs are lifted into the air. On cue, a person turns over, keeping their arms, legs and head off the ground. On cue, a roll onto the front is done, and so on and so forth.
   Cardio holds its ground in the workout with such exercises as weighted lunges and squats.
   My early impressions of Tony Horton, the creator of P90X, are good. I found myself laughing at his jokes, and I like that he understands people may need to modify exercises to complete the workout.
   Forward I plunge with P90X – what workout will it be next?

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Beachbody Chronicles®:
PUSHing my body to the next strength level with ChaLEAN Extreme®

As I write this, my arms are aching.
   I did a ChaLEAN Extreme® Push phase workout for the first time yesterday, and my poor upper appendages, particularly my biceps, definitely know they did something. My core muscles are sore, too.
   ChaLEAN Extreme from Beachbody is a home workout system on DVD designed and hosted by Chalene Johnson, creator of Turbo Jam.
   After doing several sessions of the three Burn phase workouts, the first phase of ChaLEAN Extreme, I felt it was time to move on to the Push phase workouts.
   In the Burn phase workouts, the slow lifting of heavy weights until the targeted muscle reaches complete fatigue or “failure” at 12 repetitions is the goal.
   In the Push phase workouts, the goal is muscle failure after eight repetitions – meaning an exerciser should use heavier weights than the Burn phase workouts.
   I upped the weight load for Push Circuit 1 as encouraged, and surprised myself at my ability to do eight reps with a significant amount of weight. I used two 22.5 pound weights for a squat set, for example. (My husband and I use Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells, but the entire ChaLEAN Extreme system can be done using a resistance band.)
   Following Chalene’s cues and advice on weight loads and proper form are key to get the most out of the workouts. I listen to what she is using for each arm and usually go about seven pounds lighter.
   The exercises in Push Phase 1 are simple enough, which makes sense considering the challenge they represent with heavy weights. Bicep curls, tricep curls, overhead tricep extensions, weighted squats and push-ups are examples of a few of the exercises.
   I’m looking forward to taking on the other two Push phase workouts for the next month or so.
   Then it will be time to move on to the Lean phase, the final phase of ChaLEAN Extreme.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Workout variety is the spice of life

It’s often been said that variety is the spice of life.
   For me, truer words were never spoken when it comes to working out.
   I can’t get bored about exercising. If I do, it kills my motivation.
   My thirst for variety in workouts has resulted in this blog, which currently has more than 50 reviews of home workout DVDs and is still growing.
   I’m not averse to doing DVDs over and over again. That’s not the case at all.
   I will do DVD workouts repeatedly if they meet four requirements: They challenge my body, they challenge my mind, they get results and they have a likeable creator and host.
   If any of those four things are initially missing, or eventually drop out of the picture, I will move on. There are DVDs I have tried that I have never written about here for that very reason.
   I also like to cover all the bases of fitness – cardiovascular health, muscle strength and flexibility.
   And for that I need to be doing cardio workouts, weight training, toning workouts and yoga.
   These days, this is how I’m making sure I cover all those fitness bases.

Cardio: TurboFire from Beachbody, created by Chalene Johnson. No workouts I’ve ever done on DVD have got my heart pumping like these ones do.

Muscle strength: ChaLEAN Extreme, also from Beachbody and created by Chalene Johnson. My muscles burn with the challenge of lifting heavy weights at a slow pace.

Toning: My go-to workouts to get my butt, abs and thighs burning are Physique 57 and Pure Barre, two types of ballet barre-style workouts inspired by the Lotte Berk Method. Both workouts require an amazing amount of stamina and mindpower.
Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners is an excellent core-toning workout.

Flexibility: Though I stretch after each and every workout, I occasionally do yoga as well. A couple of my favorite yoga DVDs are Element: AM & PM Yoga for Beginners and Trudie Styler's Warrior Yoga.

   I’m going to keep trying new DVDs – it’s just something I enjoy doing.
   These days, I’m previewing Beachbody’s P90X and Insanity workouts and will be trying them soon.
   Stay tuned . . .

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Getting sore over ChaLEAN Extreme®

My husband and I are taking turns having aching arms, thanks to Beachbody’s ChaLEAN Extreme®.
   One day, my triceps hurt, while my husband’s shoulders took a turn in the pain zone the next day.
   It’s not a “bad” pain – it’s the kind of soreness that gives us the satisfactory feeling we’ve done something good for ourselves.    Not only that, we’ve been seeing the muscles in our arms get more toned.
   My husband and I are currently plugging away at the three Burn phase workouts, the first phase in ChaLEAN Extreme, created by Chalene Johnson. The next phases are Push and Get Lean.
   In the Burn phase of ChaLEAN Extreme, the workouts are comprised of the slow lifting of weights or the stretching of a resistance band until the targeted muscle “fails” or reaches complete fatigue in 12 repetitions. (My husband and I are using Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells.)
   In Burn Circuit 2, the second workout in the Burn phase, rows take centre stage. Many of the exercises are comprised of lunging forward and either doing a row or deltoid raise, or leaning forward to do a deadlift and row.
   Burn Circuit 2 is also the home to the bowling ball squat and row, which gets a person’s butt burning. It is done by putting one leg behind as if you are about to throw a bowling ball, bending the knees and then pulling up a weight on the same side. Deadly!
   This workout is also the source of my tricep aches. It finishes with triple-threat push-ups, a group of three push-ups starting with tricep push-ups (arms closer together), a traditional push-up, and then a wide-legged push-up.
   Burn Circuit 3 gets to work on the shoulders, and was thus the source of my husband’s soreness in that area.
   Overhead presses, often combined with a squat or sumo squat, are repeatedly done.
   But the legs, and particularly the calves, get taken for a ride, too. There are many calve raises in the moves, such as holding heavy weights on your thighs, squatting down, then raising up on the toes.
   We’re going to keep tackling the Burn phase workouts, feeling the “pleasant” soreness as we go.

Read a post about Burn Circuit 1

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review of Pure Barre: Lowry Lofts 1 and 2

Lowry Lofts 1 and Lowry Lofts 2 are two super-tough workouts released on DVD by Pure Barre exercise technique creator Carrie Rezabek.
   You’ll be forgiven for thinking the fitness ring required for the workouts is really a torture device – I sure did.
   Pure Barre, based on the Lotte Berk Method of exercise, targets the thighs, butt and abs with small intense movements, and sets your body on fire in the process.
   The Lowry Lofts workouts, named for the Denver, Colorado, Pure Barre studio where they were taped, are the shortest Pure Barre workouts yet. The Pershing Square DVDs were 45 minutes long; the Lowry Lofts are 35 minutes long. While the Lowry Lofts workouts are shorter, the pain is as intense as before.
   I had to search online a bit to find the squeezable fitness ring used in the Lowry Lofts workouts. I found a reasonably-priced one after Googling the phrase “Pilates ring.”
   The Lowry Lofts DVDs are the winner of a rather unpleasant award from me: The home workout DVDs that I’ve tried that have the absolute worst warm-ups.
   You’ll feel warm when you’re done them, all right, but only because they’re ridiculously tough!
   The warm-ups delve right into tough abdominal work, push-ups, and plank positions. It feels like the full-blown workout.
   You have no time to prepare mentally for the workout ahead, and I find that frustrating.
   The warmups will only be tolerated by people who are used to Pure Barre, and more broadly, the Lotte Berk Method of exercise. A good introduction to the method can be found on a set of four DVDs called The Lotte Berk Method.
   Lowry Lofts 1 and 2 follow the same pattern, but the exercises differ slightly, great for those who like variety in their workouts.
   After the warm-up comes thigh work. An example exercise in this segment is resting with one hand on a support such as windowsill, chair or counter, standing on tippy-toes with the heels pressed together and the legs inside the fitness ring that is positioned just above the knees. From here, the legs are pressed out against the ring repeatedly – it’s hard!
   Next comes butt work. Example: Leaning forward on the support, an exerciser places the ring behind the knee, with the bent leg holding it in place. From here, the leg is pushed back in tiny movements.
   Then there’s the abs – work that becomes horribly tough with the aid of the fitness ring. Example: Lying on the back, the exerciser places the ring between the thighs. The legs, arms, head and chest are lifted up off the ground, and while doing tiny crunches, the ring is squeezed between the thighs. It gets progressively more difficult with variations such as lifting up the arms in the air while doing the crunches.
   It’s not for the faint of heart, and those who like a good warm-up with their workouts, but Lowry Lofts 1 and 2 deliver the burn, and the tone, to common trouble spots.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles: Fighting diabetes with a combination of TurboFire® and ChaLEAN Extreme®

If cardio and weight training help fight diabetes, then I’m doing a wicked 1-2 punch combo to smash diabetes in the face: TurboFire® and ChaLEAN Extreme®.
   Since my Type 2 diabetes diagnosis more than two years ago, I’ve read here and there that a combination of cardio and weight training can help control blood sugar levels and encourage metabolism.
   That’s why I’m pumped about TurboFire and ChaLEAN Extreme, both created by Chalene Johnson and produced by Beachbody.
   TurboFire is all cardio, cardio, cardio, while ChaLEAN Extreme is lifting weights, lifting weights, lifting weights.
   And both workouts are on the extreme sides of the scale those two aspects.
   TurboFire’s tagline is “Intense Cardio Conditioning” and that’s exactly what you get – fast, heart-pumping workouts that include anaerobic drills. You should be in good physical condition before you even start!
   ChaLEAN Extreme, on the other hand, is about the really slow lifting of really heavy weights.
   I’ve been changing up workouts from the two systems, aiming to get the benefit of both.
   The TurboFire kit even includes a calendar showing when to mix up its workouts with those of ChaLEAN Extreme. I haven’t used the calendar, but it likely provides good advice on when to do what.
   In combination with other DVD workouts, I’m going to continue this fight against diabetes!

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Feeling the burn of ChaLEAN Extreme®

My husband and I are feeling the burn of ChaLEAN Extreme® as we sweat our way through the three Burn phase workouts.
   The Burn phase is the first of three in ChaLEAN Extreme – the other two are Push and Get Lean.
   ChaLEAN Extreme from Beachbody, created by Chalene Johnson, has a calendar detailing when to do the workouts of the three phases, and allots one month for each phase.
   Since I love variety in my workouts and like to change things up often, I’ve ignored this calendar. When I’ve done about 30 of the Burn phase workouts, I’ll move on to the Push phase.
   Burn Circuit 1, the first Burn phase workout, immediately plunges a person into the ChaLEAN Extreme method: Lifting heavy weights at a slow pace. In the Burn phase, exercisers are encouraged to choose weights (or adjust a resistance band) that allows them to reach complete muscle fatigue or “failure” by 10 to 12 repetitions of an exercise.
   In Burn Circuit 1, you’re doing some demanding moves right away, such as lying on the floor and doing a chest press while lowering your legs to the ground (works the abs), and, standing and holding a one weight in both hands, doing a lunge and twisting to one side.
   If you do the moves correctly and choose appropriate weights, as Johnson keeps saying, the workout will be challenging. She’s right: It’s surprising how much I sweat and how much my heart pounds.
   I have already seen results doing the Burn phase workouts: My arms and back are getting more defined, and I’ve seen some slimming in the waist area.
   Onward with Burn phase!

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Heat up your cardio workout with TurboFire®

So you’ve done Beachbody's Turbo Jam® to death – what’s next?
   TurboFire®.
   It’s Turbo Jam 2.0 – the familiar moves are sped up considerably to get your heart pumping in overdrive.
   TurboFire is dubbed “Intense Cardio Conditioning.” It’s a very accurate description. The sweat will flow down your face and back while your heart beats in a happy frenzy.
   Chalene Johnson, the creator of Turbo Jam and TurboFire, is there to push you to an elite level of cardio conditioning in the workouts. In fact, there is a warning at the beginning of the workouts that they should only be attempted if you are in good physical shape.
   The short bursts of anaerobic activity dubbed “Turbo” sessions in Turbo Jam are called “fire drills” in TurboFire.
   Whether or not one of the TurboFire workout DVDs has the fire drills, and its length in minutes, determines its name.
   “Fire 30 Class,” for example, is 30 minutes long and contains fire drills.
   “Fire 55 EZ Class,” is 55 minutes long and does not have fire drills.
   Each Fire class has a relaxing, limb-loosening 10-minute stretch at the end.
   The accompanying guidebook has suggestions on when to do each Fire class, and how to intersperse them with HIIT classes.
   HIIT stands for high-instensity interval training, and it is essentially fire drills back-to-back with short rests in between. In the basic TurboFire kit, there is a “HIIT 15 Class” (15 minutes long), “HIIT 20” and “HIIT 25.”
   Exercisers are warned to never do two HIIT workouts two days in a row.
   Other workouts included in the TurboFire kit are Core 20, Stretch 40 and Sculpt 40.
   For those who are looking to put a whole lot more oomph in their cardio workouts, TurboFire is waiting.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Beachbody® Chronicles:
Fail to win with ChaLEAN Extreme®

Chalene Johnson wants you to fail while doing her workout, ChaLEAN Extreme®.
   Honestly – she says the word failure constantly during the workouts!
   But, of course, the energetic and motivational creator of Turbo Jam® and TurboFire® wants you to fail to win.
   The focus of ChaLEAN Extreme is the slow lifting of heavy weights. You lift heavy weights (or use a resistance band) until your muscles reach full fatigue, or failure.
   In the Burn circuit phase of ChaLEAN Extreme, which my husband and I are doing now, you are encouraged to reach failure by 12 repetitions.
   That means, by the 12th rep, your mind and muscles are begging you to not do another repetition.
   You pick weights that you feel will get you to that point, and then get ready to lift slowly. As in very slowly – it will take a couple of minutes to get through 12 repetitions of each exercise.
   Your heart will pump nearly as hard as a cardio workout, you will breathe heavily, and the sweat will pour down the face and body.
   ChaLEAN Extreme forced me to throw out everything I thought I knew about weight training. There are no fast repetitions with light weights here.
   In fact, if you’re a fitness beginner who has barely picked up weights before, you’re at an advantage – ChaLEAN Extreme is designed with beginners in mind, and you’ll have no pre-conceived ideas of what weight training should be.

Stay tuned to Fantastic Fitness DVDs for The Beachbody® Chronicles – a series of articles about the adventures my husband and I have using ChaLEAN Extreme®, TurboFire®, P90X® and Insanity®.

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