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Completing the 30 Day Shred

19 Nov

So. I did it! On Wednesday I completed Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred. It took me 32 days to do (with 2 days off – one for a wedding, and one for a work day where I ended up chairing an evening event on a day that already had contained no breaks!), and I am SO PROUD of myself!

These posts are supposed to contain before and after photos, but I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos or measurements before I started. Thinking about it, I think I was so worn down by the blubber surrounding my form that I didn’t want to draw even my own attention to it, so I have nothing but perceptions to base my thoughts on.

When I started, I was 12 stone 12 pounds. I’m now 12 stone 4 – and I’ll take that eight pound weightloss, thank you very much! The key change though is, wow! how different my shape is. I have strength in my arms and legs I didn’t think I had. I can lift weights again. I can do 40 situps without a pause. My balance is transformed. I can run – today a kilometre without stopping. I have lost inches and inches on my worst areas – ribcage and stomach. Being barrel-chested is no fun at all, and means I don’t “go in” like other people under the bust area – plus I have tiny tits. From the side I’m straight up and straight down, no matter how much weight I lose. My mission is to add a bit more definition – some in and out – to my profile. The last month has really helped with this – my waist is more defined, the ribcage isn’t straining against my bra and popping out over the top of my jeans, and my tummy is a gentle curve rather than a bulging roll. (I’m crediting the 30 Day Shred alongside not drinking for two weeks for that.)

Clothes-wise, I’m now a size 14 – squarely in the middle of the dress size. I’ve fitted back into my size 14 dark-blue long length jeans, which is a real achievement. Sadly they’re bootleg, so I look like a 2007 throwback (the last time I fitted into them!) walking about town, but I don’t care – not going to buy anything new while I’ve still got more than a stone to lose. On the topic of fashion whilst dieting, Almost Athletical Ali has a brilliant post on getting through the middles when your old clothes don’t fit but you can’t buy new ones as you won’t fit into them for long…

As you can imagine, I didn’t let getting to 30 days stop me – I’ve turned right round and moved back on to Level 1, and I’m going to march straight through another 30 days, with added ten minutes running at the end each day I can manage. I’m even beginning to worry a bit about what I’ll do over Christmas staying with my folks – there is an LA Fitness near them, but my mum tends to schedule every moment, and I can’t bear the thought of five days with no exercise. Belgrade over new year also presents a problem… but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.


Running, a film, remembrance

13 Nov

My weekend was mainly uneventful, but two things did happen: I went to the cinema; and I started running.

Londonshrink has been running for a while, and completed a half marathon in 1 hour 44 minutes earlier this year. He’s been very keen to get me to do a 10k race, and I have finally succumbed. In February, I will be running a 10k somewhere in the south of England (not sure where yet!). My hesitation was about my balance (which is poor, due to longstanding ear problems), my legs (poor balance and co-ordination leads to lots of falling off things and over things, so have weak knees and ankles) and shin splints (ow ow ow!). But he started me off on the scary treadmill to do ten minutes’ worth of 30 seconds running, 90 seconds walking on Saturday afternoon. I soon switched up to a minute of each alternating, and was getting well into it (helped by a new episode of the Freakonomics podcast) when Londonshrink came to stop me, cautioning against overdoing it. Though it was a tiring ten minutes, it felt well within my capability.

I also did my first Bodypump session in about two years on Friday night. The music has obviously changed (and we’re up to 79) but I fit right back into the groove straight away. I think I probably overdid the weights, though, as I just picked up what I used to use, forgetting all the degradation in the meantime. I was completely defeated by the speed of the choreography on the shoulders track, and the lack of alternation between legs on the lunge track had me wailing, but the rest were pretty okay. And I stretched out well enough at the end that I didn’t feel too stiff and painful the next morning.

So, exercise-wise, it’s been a good weekend. I’m on day 27 of the 30 Day Shred, so the end is looming, though I still don’t feel as though I’ve mastered level three. Two moves are as yet unmastered: the plank with rows balanced on weights and leg raises (partly this is because whichever surface I’m on I can feel the weights slipping under my hands and I panic) – I know I could do either leg raises or arm rows, just not both together – and the rockstar jumps, for which I’ve been substituting jumping jacks with weights, as I’m terrified of not getting my legs back down to land on, and crashing down onto my knees. Still, I can now do the whole two sessions of mountain climbers without stopping! I wish Zaggora would hurry up and replace my Hotpants, though. Terrible customer service from them.

On the food front it’s also been a good weekend. I cooked another prawn curry for Londonshrink yesterday at his request, and tonight I did chicken with honey and herbes de Provence, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and steamed broccoli, which was delish.

Our treat for the weekend was going to see The Ides of March, starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling and directed by George Clooney. I’m a massive The West Wing fan, and the premise of the film appealed: young, starry-eyed staffer on an American presidential primary campaign becomes a jaded old-timer. Nothing could ever touch Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, of course, but the film reviewed well, and I was hopeful. Although it was an intelligent and tense film, with some strong performances, I didn’t overall buy it. For me, the obvious cartoonishness of the liberal-wet-dream candidate, played by Clooney, ruined the authenticity of the piece, which otherwise was dead-on. The storyline is shocking, and that the climactic shot is merely of a parked car in a motorcade into which a character has just climbed is nothing short of brilliant. One could counter by saying the Jed Bartlett in The West Wing is also the stuff of left-wing fantasy – and yes, he is, but for me the family lineage and wealth – no grandson of an immigrant, he – and over-the-top Catholicism count against that. As for the film’s message as a whole: I tire of the idea that idealism counts for little, and grubby pragmatic compromise is all. Certainly the people I know in politics compromise on the little things to make a difference on the big, and world-weary cynicism is there to be fought.

The message of the film sat oddly with this morning’s Remembrance Sunday service. As usual I went to the open-air service at our war memorial in SmallCity; it’s a multi-faith service, with Catholic, CofE, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh representatives leading the worship. As always, I was choked at the parade of veterans – this year including ten Gurkhas. Thoughts of the first world war always make me turn to the pride and foolishness of the leaders of the day, taking half of Europe into a needless war of pride and grandstanding; thoughts of the second world war remind me that Churchill was turfed out at the end in favour of a party who promised a National Health Service. In the end, politics affects us all: I hope for politicians who hold steadfast to what they see as right, take the time to explain, and avoid world-weariness.

As I stood there, I thought of my grandfather, a Royal Engineer deployed in Holland in WW2. An ordinary guy, a road-layer, lucky enough to come home when so many did not. I thought of the vivid picture Vera Brittain paints of the horror of waiting and hoping and praying during WW1. I am glad to be of the second generation never to have to face that in our lifetime.

Miscellany: goals & shredding

3 Nov

I gather the done thing in the lifestyle blogosphere is to set goals. Here are mine for November (first drafted at Jenn’s place in response to her review of October. Thanks for the encouragement Jenn!)

To blog every day, tuning up my writing and relaxing my mind (daily writing is supposed to be a marvellous discipline and form of self-therapy)
To complete the 30 day shred and then start over again to make it 60 days by mid-December
To put some cash aside for Christmas, and buy at least fifty per cent of the presents I need to get this year for my four loved ones (Londonshrink and I have already bought one another a new year’s trip to Belgrade, so nothing needed for him…
To put aside some cash for said trip to Belgrade
To cook at least four healthy new meals
To practise conscious kindness in my everyday life, especially with those closest to me
Not to drink any alcohol during November unless not to do so would cause offence
Not to buy any new clothes but do only charity-shopping

Sadly, I’ve already broken one of my resolutions: I failed to pack gym bottoms this morning, so had to do a gym-bound mercy dash via M&S’ leggings section this evening.

This was caused, though, by my beflusterment at the HotPants disaster. Mid-Shred, yesterday, after just one outing, the new Groupon’d hotpants shredded themselves, perhaps in sympathy with my screaming muscles. I completed the Shred cycle with one leg of hotpant open down my side and thigh from top to bottom. Thank goodness for M&S full briefs for saving my modesty – there was no way I was leaving my daily session half-done! I rather think the fella next to me was rather careful to keep his eyes on his own posture, though. Anyway, the hotpants are on their way back to Zaggora, wrapped in brown paper and disappointment.

Exercising in said new leggings this evening, I was bemused to find the studio next to me was full of young women in skimpier-than-usual gym gear shimmying up poles. Well! I marched up to the manager at the end of my workout and pointed out, in no uncertain tone, that sexualising the gym space was not what I paid my subs for. I doubt I shall be using that branch of LA Fitness again.

Still, I’ve now completed 19 days of the 30 Day Shred; not even pole-dancers, obstreperous gym managers and shredding Hotpants are going to stop me getting to 30!


31 Oct

Today, after more than a week of impatient waiting, my Zaggora HotPants finally arrived, hurrah! I’d been reading some of the reviews (not least on Where are my knees where they’ve been running a giveaway) and thought I’d treat myself. Then, the Friday before last, they pop up on Groupon for just £19 rather than the usual £45 – I had to have some.

I did my first workout in them this evening – day 15 of the 30 day shred. My conclusion: great workout shorts than provide real support and are immensely flattering, holding you in for that all important mirror boost as you get sweaty. As for the much advertised inchloss: we’ll see. Be assured I’ll share the results!

Jillian and me

30 Oct

Trainers and iPod

Tomorrow I reach the halfway point on the 30 Day Shred – day 15. A milestone, of sorts.

I’d never heard of the Shred until the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards nominees list, stumbled upon by accident, tipped me into a whole world of women who write about food, style, weightloss and exercise. Reading someone mention the Shred, I casually googled, and was quite taken by what I found.

The Shred is a Jillian Michaels workout. She’s “America’s toughest trainer”, apparently, and is a cornerstone of a TV game show/reality piece where contestants compete to lose weight. Since starting the Shred I grew curious to see it, so Tivo’d an episode. It was like the US version of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, all crashing music and manufactured conflict, with Jillian obviously cast as the ogre.

But on her exercise films, she motivates rather than barks, and I find her chatter endearing.

The USP for the series is simple: you exercise for 20 minutes per day, guided by Jillian, every day for 30 days. There are three levels which are increasingly exacting. Each workout is three sets of three minutes of strength, two of cardio and one of abs work.

For me, of course, the discipline of a daily short workout is perfect. My gym membership with LA Fitness allows me access to clubs all over the country, so wherever I am there’s usually one nearby. My home gym is SmallCity, obviously, but I can frequently be found in several London clubs too, frantically switching through the routines to Jillian’s pace. I’m completely bemused by home DVD workouts, and wish to retain cordiality with my downstairs neighbour, so exercise to the video on an iPod in the gym.

As I said, I’m on day 14, and the changes are apparent. My flexibility and balance have come on hugely, and there’s definite toning apparent to waist, abdomen, upper arms and thighs. But, infuriatingly, despite transforming what I eat, I’m completely plateau’d at 12st 10-12lb. All the guidance says this is to be expected early on, as you replace fat with muscle, but I am more than a little discouraged to be working so hard (it’s damn tough) with no further progress to that elusive 11st goal.

Still, I have made a deal with myself, and there’s no way I’m giving up now. Tomorrow you’ll find me once again with the jumping jacks, military presses, chair squats and chest flies…