21 Day Fix: Lessons Learned from a Beginner

I’ve joined a new 21 Day Fix challenge group that starts tomorrow (the “official” 21 days starts on Monday, Oct 5th with four days to prep). If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll connect you with one of the coaches leading the challenge!

With that, I thought I’d put together some lessons learned and lessons remembered from times past (when I was much more fit) that I would have liked to have known going into my first try with this program:

  • You CAN do this! I am a 110% bonnafied couch potato. Even when I’m fit I’d rather sit and read a book or lounge on the patio with a beer than do pretty much anything. Especially *gasp* workout. That said, I am LOVING this program and actually look forward to my daily sweat sessions. And you will be amazed at how quickly you progress. However, also be patient. You will progress quickly, but it may not be in areas you expect or can see. That’s OK! Progress is progress and you are building the foundation for those visible, tangible changes.
  • Is is absolutely OK to modify! I modified the heck out of the modifications my first go around and still do for some of the moves even five weeks in. However, other moves I can now not only do “properly” but with the heavy weights! (I use 3, 5, and 10 lb weights…I strongly recommend getting a set of 8lb to bridge the 5 to 10 gap if you’re able.)
  • Stay hydrated! And I mean follow the eating plan which includes water intake. It may not seem like it matters, but it does. You’ll see what I mean on those days where it just doesn’t happen that you get in all that water. Also, following the eating plan is NOT a “diet”. It is a new view on balanced meals and portion control using real, unprocessed foods. You can use this “plan” forever. My goal is to eventually find a happy balance of including more cheese and beer in my weeks, but that’s after I see more progress toward my current weight-loss goals. I strongly recommend planning each week out over the weekend (or whenever your non-work/free days are). I only cook for one so it is a little easier to plan on the fly and even with that, I still plan on Saturday and shop on Sunday.

All that said, I’d also like to throw in some “technical” pointers:

  • Don’t grip the weights too tight. While obviously you want a firm grip, of you find yourself in a death-grip on them you will wear yourself out fast and potentially put a lot of unnecessary strain on your hands, wrists, and forearms. I learned this from a past personal trainer and “re-learned” it my first week of the 21DF program. Heh.
  • Do NOT let your knees go past your toes when doing lunges or squats. Autumn will mention this during some of the workouts, but I think it’s important to note this ahead of time. Hyperextending your knees puts undue strain on them and can quickly lead to injury.
  • Keep a tiny bend in your knees and elbows (don’t “lock” your joints). Autumn also mentions this at some point in one or two of the sessions, but I think it is better to know up front. Not only does locking your joints run the risk of injury, you also aren’t fully engaging all the muscles and thus aren’t getting the most of your move. Along this same line, control your moves. Don’t swing or kick out, but make your moves purposeful. This also increases the benefits of the move and reduces injury risk.
  • Above all else, listen to your body! There is “holy moly I’m sore because I haven’t used these muscles in over a decade” and there’s “oh wow that ankle REALLY hurts and looks a little swollen”. If you have former (or current) injuries, take care of them. I currently do the Total Body Fix twice a week, substituting it for the Cardio Fix. I do this because the Cardio Fix simply has too many high plank moves that I can’t do due to a former wrist injury (I also have to do alternate exercises during the push-ups on the Upper Fix day). They key here, though, is to keep moving. Find a move or workout that is (somewhat) similar and keep going! (Some high plank moves I can modify and do from my forearms.)
  • Stretch!!! Sore muscles like to be moved…gently. My advice here (in addition to my friends The Hot Bath, Ice, and Advil) is two-fold: first, use the cooldown moves from the end of each of the big workouts either in the morning or in the evening each day (or both!). Stretching is your friend for keeping things loose and also general limberness. Second, keep moving throughout the day. Try not to sit too long at any given time if at all possible. As an example from a bonnafied couch potato – I’m stuck at a desk on conference calls 8-10 hours per day, so I try to use my speaker phone so I can stand and/or walk around a bit and it makes a world of difference.

There you have it. Everything I would have like to have known or be reminded of prior to starting my first round of 21 Day Fix. My last bit of advice would be to spend a little time to watch the workouts without participating. So much easier than trying to figure out what’s coming next the first time through.

I hope I can get some folks interested. I’ve never been one to join the “trendy” workouts or the newest and latest “diets”, and was incredibly skeptical of this until I heard how successful folks who I know and trust have been with it. I decided to give it a shot and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I truly believe you won’t be sorry if you also give it a whirl!

21 Day Fix: Round 1 (-3.9 pounds, -7 inches)

The program suggests writing down your reasons for wanting to make a lifestyle/health/fitness change. My reason, aside from my overall health (which to date doesn’t seem to be much of a motivator, just something that bounces around in my head), are my nieces and nephew. I need the energy and fitness to keep up with them. I need my health so I am around to witness all their amazing life milestones. And I want to be another good example for them (I’m the ONLY unfit, overweight person in our family).

Back in August I picked up the 21 Day Fix program after hearing great things about it from several friends I trust. I dove right into the eating plan (portion control and “real” foods are the primary focus), but I never really got going with the workouts. Then a friend put together a “challenge” group on Facebook. It’s all about support, encouragement, and the real biggy….accountability. I did it! Successfully even. So here are my thoughts and lessons learned.

First, the program as a whole:

The premise is that it takes 21 days to learn a new habit (better fitness/better eating). I love it. The eating plan isn’t a “diet”. It focuses solely on portion control and types of foods and also helps show you how to spread it out over the course of a day. The idea being that these foods and this plan isn’t something to wean off of or change at the end of the program…it is a lifestyle change to stick with forever. For me, the types of food were easy. I already eat healthful, real foods. It was the balance and portion control I needed to work on (less cheese and spread it out through the day, not all at dinner time).

The workouts are tough, but scalable. 30 minutes, every day (seven days per week). Me being a 110% couch potato could muddle my way through each one, adjusting and modifying as I needed to to accommodate my ability level and some old injuries I need to take care around. And as I got (and continue to get) stronger, I can increase the intensity. Hand weights or resistance bands are the only required equipment. Even I can find 30 minutes in a day, and I’m the Queen of Excuses!

My Round One Results:

Back in August I weighed in at 215.4 lbs and just following the eating plan (which, by the way was MORE food than I had been eating) I lost five pounds. I’d also like to note that while that weight makes me sick to look at, it isn’t the heaviest I’ve been, but seems to be about where I’ve stabilized at for many years now.

The official results for the full 21 day challenge program (starting Aug 31): -3.9 pounds and -7 inches!!!

210.4 to 206.5 lbs, -2 inches in my chest, -4 inches in my waist!!, -1 inch across my hips, and -0.5 inches from my thighs. No measurable change in my arms, but I can SEE and feel the muscles building there.

Lessons Learned:

  • I am stronger than I think I am. Both physically and mentally.
  • I am grateful for my genes and my inherited flexibility…even though I’ve got more to go, I started from a lucky place.
  • I really do need to be careful of a couple old injuries (wrist and ankle), and it is OK if I can’t do all the moves (full planks and push-ups, or moves based from that position, probably won’t ever work for me)…it is OK to find other moves that work!
  • I love rowing – I will be forever grateful to the trainer I went to many years ago who introduced me to rowing.
  • I am worth the effort!
  • I miss cheese and beer…after more progress is made, these will be worked back in in greater quantities! Life is too short to completely give up indulgences you love…within reason.

I feel amazing!!! I still have a long way to go…50 pounds (give or take – I’m not set on an actual “goal” number, but set one as a general target to give me something specific to aim for). I owe a lot of my success to the fabulous women in the challenge group. No judgment. We all had our struggles. And we are all successes.

The next challenge group starts Oct 5th and you can bet I’ll be participating! It’s time to step it up a notch. I’ll be adding 30min of rowing three days a week and three days will include the 10min Abs workout that comes with the 21DF program. I will be working these changes in between now and the 5th…no losing momentum and undoing progress now! I’ll be checking back in toward the end of October with (hopefully) more good results.

Zzzzzzz…

Holy macramoly I’ve been tired lately. Exhausted, in every sense of the word. I really want to go back to bed and stay there for about a year. Alas, life tends to get in the way of year-long sleep (unless you are a princess in a fairy tale) so I am up. Not very awake, but up.

Aside from the sheer exhaustion, things have been in a crazy state of limbo. I have a very vague sense of what I need to be doing, but no clear direction. Add to that the insane amount of work to do, especially without the clear direction, and my head is spinning. Thankfully, all this seems to be pushing me to exercise more. I guess the adage is sometimes true that there is a silver lining to things. And don’t get me wrong, I think I am going to love my new job once things finally get settled, but the unknowns are making things stressful for everyone right now.

And my skin is breaking out. I am assuming it is due to stress because the only other time I have skin problems is when I catch a cold. I know. I am lucky that way and probably shouldn’t complain.

Time to go tackle the pile of paperwork waiting for me…

 

Stagnation

The weight-loss part of my journey seems to have come to an utter stand-still. While I am definitely getting more fit and I feel fantastic, my pant size is not dropping much, if at all. My weight hasn’t changed in weeks (outside of normal daily fluctuations) and that is frustrating. As much as I am trying not to focus on the number it does still need to come way down. The good news is that though my waist size hasn’t gone down, my legs and arms are getting thinner! My jeans are getting loose in the legs again which makes me very happy.

Other happy news – I got a promotion! Though, I don’t really like to call it that since I had to apply and interview for the job. So, I got a new job! I will be a team manager and will continue reporting to my current manager. Our group is growing and will be divided up into three teams – my co-workers who got the other two manager spots are very, very deserving of them and I am excited to get to work with them in our new leadership roles. The toughest part of this new role will be that my team will be nationally located, whereas the other two teams are regional East and West teams. I haven’t worked out details yet, but I think it will mean adjusting my “office hours” to slightly later in the day – 9 to 6 or maybe even 9:30 to 6:30 to make myself more available to all time zones…at least while we are hiring and training.

The best part of the new job is less travel (eventually). I will only be required to travel approx one week a month, sometimes two. That is all after we are done with training new folks – during that time I will probably travel more, but in a different capacity so that makes it easier. I will get to continue to work from home which is another big plus. Eventually I might get to a point where I can start doing some volunteer work that I’ve been missing out on, or at least get to attend weeknight events that right now I cannot.

The “bad” work news I got today was that I did not pass my certification exam. Back to the books for me. At least now I know what to expect and where to focus my studies. And again, with my new job I will have a better schedule to work in the study group calls that are on Tuesdays and Thursdays (those were my travel days and I missed out on a lot of the meetings this past time around). I am still very bummed though – I really expected that I would pass this thing. C’est la vie.

Mom and Sister are coming to visit the week after next. I can’t wait! I miss them both tons and am excited to have a “girls” week of hanging out and drinking beer and wine and catching up on the randomness that is part of being family.

I am still seeing my trainer…and I still love working with her! Less travel is going to make it easier to get into a better routine of hitting the gym on my own and it will also help facilitate eating better. The timing is perfect and will hopefully help me break out of this stagnation I’ve hit…we’ll see.

I still owe y’all the fish taco recipe too. I will post that this weekend. I promise! For May I have promised myself that I will be more careful about what I eat (and how much)…fish tacos are always a win for that!

First Five!!!

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215.2

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As of this morning’s weigh-in I have officially lost my first five pounds!!! And because I might not have been completely accurate with my starting weight since it was over the holidays and I was bouncing all over from 220 to 227, really this is probably more like my first seven to ten. What is even better, I have lost a half to a full inch in size all over! (I need to confirm this with Sue-Ann on Friday since I have a little trouble measuring myself sometimes, but I am usually pretty close.) I will update my measurements page shortly.

So, after one full month of exercise and focusing on eating better (smaller portions, trying for three meals a day, etc.), it is starting to pay off – what a great way to start the new year! And what great motivation to keep at it since I leave shortly for yet another work trip…

It is ON!

I have exactly fifteen weeks before my mom and sister come for their annual visit. I am 110% determined to be thinner than I’ve been in years before they get here. (And no, I do not at all expect to reach my ultimate goal…I am being realistic about all this, still.)

216.2 – my current weight. I seem to have stagnated a bit, though I am down a tiny bit from my last weigh-in. I can deal with it, though, I haven’t gained!

With a realistic average of losing 1.5 to 2 pounds per week over 15 weeks, I should be able to lose between 22.5 and 30 pounds. Which then puts me between 193.7 and 186.2! I don’t even care about the end number – barring some unforeseen accident or problem, I will easily be able to get myself under the 200 mark and that is a huge deal for me mentally.

Around April 1 (April Fool’s Day – go figure), I will be looking to run my first ever 5k race! By then I will have finished the C25K program and should be in decent enough shape to not worry too much about injury. Then sometime after my mom and sister’s visit, I am planning to run a 10k race. Knowing myself, though I do  want to complete a 1/2 marathon someday, I really want to focus on 5k and 10k distances and time. I am a natural sprinter. I enjoy shorter competitions. And the result is still the same – I lose weight, get in shape, and am overall healthier for it.

My training weeks will run Monday through Sunday – Tuesday is my rest day (typically my travel day as discussed in a previous post). The C25K training will be somewhat modified due to travel. One day per week of it will be on cardio equipment of some kind (depending on hotel equipment available it could be either on a treadmill or a stationary bike). Saturday and Sunday will be through my neighborhood (hopefully with Moo in tow – she needs the exercise as well). The other three days are strength, with two of them being trainer directed and one on my own.

Which leads me into some sad news – my trainer’s mother passed away late last week, so we haven’t had a couple of our sessions. I feel terrible for her as it was very unexpected. We are trying for Friday morning, but I told her to let me know if she wasn’t feeling up to it. I hate these sorts of situations as I never know how to handle them.

In other semi-related  and more exciting news – the new sports bras that I ordered arrived and actually fit! This is a minor miracle as stores around here do not carry my “well endowed” size in stock, so I have to guess at sizing, place an order, and then it is trial and error with mostly errors (the bras I ordered last week all had to go back). I have had the best luck with Champion bras – there are other, higher priced brands that I hear good things about, but I am hoping to not be wearing these sizes long and thus don’t want to spend that kind of money. On sale I got four nice quality bras for under $100. I have to exchange one because I was unsure which band size was right for me, but that’s an easy thing with them. So WOOHOO!

 

Stuff & Things

I’m still struggling with getting an exercise routine down when I travel (for newcomers to my blog, I travel almost every week for work). Different cities, different hotels, different flight times and schedules…bah. I know – excuses, excuses.

I guess I am just going to have to make myself be a “morning” person when it comes to exercise. I do it Mondays and Fridays to meet my trainer, but on my own, I prefer mid-day to evening. Though I should have known better, I thought I would get home yesterday evening and then go out and do the C25K day. However, because of some craziness with work stuff, I ended up not getting lunch and was starving when I finally got home so we went out to dinner instead. No running for me. And then there are my departure days…which is why I made Tuesday my rest day. There’s no telling how early I have to be up and at the airport and after traveling and working all day, I have zero energy left for anything else. So, that’s all hunky dory for Tuesdays, but lately I’ve had to travel Monday which puts another kink in the scheduling.

I will go run today since I didn’t have a training session (another story for another time), but that is beside the point. I really need to get a better schedule down, at least while I am getting back into pounding the pavement. Once I am in better shape and will (hopefully) be less prone to injury, I will feel a lot more comfortable with a random running schedule. That and I am a little OCD and like to plan things. And once they are planned I like to stick to the plan. I guess I am just going to need to try to be more spur of the moment and flexible with things. *sigh*

At least eating is going OK. This week the hotel had a decent bistro in the lobby that had sandwiches, soups, and salads. And I have worked very hard on watching my portions which is even more important than what I’ve eaten since I typically eat pretty decent food.

Overall things are going well…I need to invest in some rain gear for running outdoors, but thankfully, the sun is back out for the next several days so I’ve got time to get around to that. Hope all is well with everyone out there.