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!

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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.

Another day…

208.6!!

Whew. Less than ten pounds left before I am rid of that nasty “two” at the front of that number. I am pretty stoked!

The garden is growing full speed ahead. I’ve already eaten several home-grown squash and will have my first cucumber tonight! The tomatoes have a billion green ones on them, but I think they also have blight which seems to be killing the new buds/flowers on one of the plants. I am going to go to the garden center tonight and look for some calcium rich something or other to put around them to see if it helps. Also, I’m removing all the affected parts and throwing them away so I don’t spread it. I will be super bummed if it affects the tomato fruit and rots them too (it sometimes causes blossom end rot).

Work is also going full speed ahead. We have made a few offers to folks to fill our open positions and hope to have everyone hired and on-board starting the second week in July. Between now and then is a ton of work to do. The best part, though, is no travel until at least mid-July! Almost four weeks straight at home…I won’t know what to do with myself.

Actually, I do know what to do with myself. I will get myself on a regular weekly gym schedule! I still see my trainer once a week, I even rescheduled this week to meet with her today because I was out-of-town Monday and Tuesday. (Yes, I am very proud of myself!) I plan to do more strength stuff at home and then will make a point of getting to the gym at least three days per week for cardio workouts. I am determined to defeat the elliptical…my nemesis. I am also very fond of the rowing machine and the recumbent bike.

Other than that, nothing new to report. Life is busy. Animals are all healthy (OP has fur balls, but it is that time of year). And I think I am going to pick up some Copper River salmon for dinner tonight. Things are alright.

I feel good!

Sore, but good. I lasted a whole five-and-a-half minutes on the elliptical machine today. What is even more impressive is that I didn’t feel like passing out, falling over from jello legs, or like throwing up when I was done. That’s some serious progress for me.

After that five-plus minutes of hell we moved onto legs, core, and shoulder work.

The garden is growing fast and I’ve already started harvesting some squash and herbs, so that has made preparing dinner more fun (and healthy)! I even got to use my kaffir lime tree leaves in some chicken curry I made the other night (I also used my first zucchini in that dish). Tonight I am trying out a yellow zucchini from my neighbor’s garden. It is not a summer squash, but an actual, yellow zucchini. I’ve never heard of them before so we shall see what it tastes like.

Just two more weeks of travel to finish up my old job responsibilities and then moving on to the new ones. There will be some travel in July and August for training – even so, it will be nice to have a different destination activity for those trips and not the same old thing I’ve done the past seven or so years. In the meantime we have done some marathon interviewing of new candidates for our team and I think have found some strong ones. Fingers crossed that the next level of interviews goes well for them.

My niece turns one on Saturday! I can’t believe it has already been a year and I am really looking forward to seeing her and my nephew in August.

That’s all for now…time to get back to the required online training I have to take now that I am officially a “manager”. *sigh*

I have lost 9.5 inches!

I think we might have measured in a slightly different spot for my waist measurement (I have an incredibly high waist so I usually measure slightly lower, but I think today we did my natural waist…which I will just do going forward to keep it easy and consistent). So aside from that big drop, I have lost 1.5 inches in all of my measurements and am down approximately 10 pounds since I started tracking in December. I am definitely not setting any records, but it is nice to see that even my inconsistent working out is paying off. New measurements are posted here.

It also confirms that my shorts aren’t just old and stretched out and baggy…they are really getting to be too big!

Onward and upward…or maybe that should be downward since I am trying to lose? Time to see if I can shed some more size before the first week in August!

This mad race we call life…

Life has been a mad dash since I last posted…work travel, my mom and sister came to visit last week, more work travel, my new job took effect, preparing to do some marathon interviewing for work…in the midst of it all, I must confess I have let my work-outs slide. And I ate a LOT while my family was visiting…and we drank even more. Heh.

It seems I am still moving in the right direction with weight and size, so that makes me happy. And I have a new “deadline” goal to lose some more size…August 6. I head home for a week to visit family and friends and to see my dad get married. I’d love to be in better shape before then. Call me vain, but it will be the week just following my 20 year reunion (which I am missing due to travel costs and I don’t have enough time to take from work), but I know many of those folks will still be around since most still live in the area.

Next Tuesday morning I start back up with my trainer…we will be doing measurements and a weigh-in and then it is back on track!

Fish Tacos

The easiest things to make and fast too…

First the fish – a firm white fish is best. I prefer Alaskan halibut, but cod or tilapia also work. (Note: you could also use shrimp if they are your thing.) Rinse it and coat it with a mixture of chili powder and paprika…season to whatever spicy level you enjoy. Then grill it or cook in a non-stick pan until done. If grilling, it is probably best to brush the grill with some olive oil to prevent sticking. Once cooked through, break up into pieces.

Toppings – chop up some cabbage. Use some shredded carrots. I love fresh cilantro. Maybe some black beans and/or corn. Try some julienned jicima!

Tasty sour cream – mix sour cream (fat-free works fabulously for this if you’re watching that sort of thing), a bunch of fresh cilantro chopped up and the big stems removed, fresh lime juice to taste, salt to taste, fresh minced garlic (yeah, you got it…to taste)…just stir it all together in a bowl. This is best made ahead of time so that it can sit in the fridge to let the flavors meld. However, it is tasty immediately after making, too. (This sour cream mix is also an excellent dip or topping for nachos, veggies, to put on chicken, etc.)

The taco container – I prefer small flour tortillas. It takes some serious hunting to find some that are basic ingredients without a bunch of fillers or tons of fat in them, they can be found. I forget the brand name, but our local Costco carries good ones. You just have to read the labels. Or, if you are really adventurous, you could make your own…I have not been that adventurous…yet. You could also use any other sort of wrap or soft tortillas. Or, if you prefer, crunchy tacos or a taco salad serving style work too…your imagination is the limit.

So there you have it. The fish, when I cook it in a pan, takes all of 10 minutes to cook (depending on thickness…you can even break it up as it cooks to cook faster). Other than that, however long it takes to chop up some toppings and dinner is served. Next time I plan to play with the flavors a bit and try marinating the fish in a honey lime juice mix before cooking.

The great thing about tacos is that anything goes…play with the flavors and fillings and make them your own! Just watch out – if you are being calorie or fat conscious, it is easy to go from extremely healthy and/or low-fat to over the top with calories and fat depending on type of meat and whether you use cheese, oil to cook the fillings, etc.