For those of you that are new to the blog, I have recently just completed a twelve week work out program by Kayla Itsines and I literally can’t believe I’ve managed it. A couple of girls I know did it last year and the whole time all I could think is how I absolutely could NEVER do anything so intensive and consistent, something so committed and requiring so much self-motivation. Somehow, I have stuck with it until the end – you can read about my four week progress here as well as my eight week progress update here!
My main issue with starting a program that requires you to work out so regularly was the aches…those god damn DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). I really suffer with aches post work-out, partly due to lack of protein I think but I believe a lot of it just varies from person to person. I really was suffering through the first two years of working out – after a ‘Legs, Bums and Tums’ class I would barely be able to walk for up to five days and stairs, bending over or generally moving in any way was such a struggle. Even rolling over in bed was difficult at times and I already hate mornings as it is.
Strangely enough, working out more regularly is actually something I found way easier than I thought I would. It is time consuming but physically during the BBG program I have been much less achey between sessions than I previously was, which has led me to adopt more of a ‘little and often’ approach to my routine rather than doing a few really heavy sessions a week. I think running on my days off has helped, as has yoga, but just generally upping my activity has stopped me from sitting at my desk and bringing on the DOMS because if you don’t stretch thoroughly and regularly, it just makes everything start to ache.
When I write this blog, it comes from a place of zero professional knowledge. So many people come to me every day for help and advice because I’m a normal person. Often with health, fitness and wellbeing we are sold these ideals of beautiful women that look stunning all the time, full face of make up and the perfect figure just hidden enough by expensive but very flattering gym wear. A flat, toned belly full of vegan smoothie bowl and skinny teas and that’s just not what it’s like for most of us in the real world. I don’t have a beautiful kitchen full of gorgeous kitchenware and expensive supplements, in fact most of my food/surroundings is not ‘Instagram friendly’ at all because it is just food and I’m not a fancy pants chef. It is just fuel and, unless I’m cooking for someone else, I am not one for presentation. I want to encourage you to make small changes in your life to lead you to a happier and healthier place, a little bit of inspiration that will work for those that aren’t naturally skinny and rich with all the time in the world to try every new type of yoga. Don’t be put off by media imagery that you think is ‘too far away’ from what you are likely to achieve because your results are *only* your results and always will be. Me and my best pal have done this whole routine together and we look completely different – not only because of our body shapes but certain areas have toned up differently on each of us even though we’re doing the exact same workouts! It’s all about finding what works for you and your shape because it will never be as simple as copying someone elses routine and looking the way they do.
Diet: I’m a fairly lazy vegetarian so I don’t cook many complex meals and whilst I have made a conscious effort over the past year or so to eat more protein, I don’t fuss over it. I add a scoop of protein to my porridge every morning and lunch I’ll generally have eggs and maybe tofu at dinner but quite often I find myself thinking, ‘I’m having halloumi…because that’s protein!’ when, no, I’m having halloumi because it’s halloumi and it’s fucking delicious. I really should make more effort to ensure I’m snacking on enough protein throughout the day because although I have managed to change my tastes and habits to be fairly healthy ones, I’m definitely not focusing enough on protein for the amount I have increased my exercise plan. I thought that by working out the amount I am, I would be in some kind of olympian standard shape…I’m not. To get that level of fitness you do have to be really strict, which is something I am not interested in doing and a fitness level I don’t aspire to…luckily, because that would be way too hard!
One thing people always say to me is kind of a, ‘good on you – but I could never restrict my food‘ type comment so I thought I’d just make clear that I am not remotely on any kind of diet, the program doesn’t come with a diet and I don’t really deny myself of anything. It’s very easy to tell yourself when ‘fitness freaks’ say this that they’re lying but whilst I may not eat crisps, sweets and cakes all day…the point is more that I don’t want to. Once you have those things less and you start being more active and healthy, chances are you genuinely won’t miss them so much. You’ll want to eat a better diet so you don’t get tired during your work out. I still went out for lunch yesterday, had a cake afterwards followed by going out for dinner (mexican – my fave!) and then even got up today and went out for a full English breakfast. There are things I used to love as a special treat and, now, they’re really not so special. Without the addiction to eating certain snacks regularly, some of them just become a little disappointing! I’m so glad because I absolutely love food and I’d really struggle to limit myself otherwise. It’s mostly about picking and choosing when you’re going to let rip and eat everything. I love having dessert when I go out for dinner in a restaurant, so I very rarely have proper puddings at home.
Circuits: The first week of Kaylas BBG was absolute hell. I don’t know what it is about it but everyone I’ve recommended it to I’ve said the same thing – PLEASE don’t get put off. It’s hard. It’s really fucking hard, you’re going to really struggle, probably going to think you can’t do it and that’s okay. You will do it, even if you’re flailing about and doing half of it wrong. The Kayla Itsines guide does get pretty difficult by the end but because your fitness levels have improved by that stage and the workouts are time restricted, you generally end up doing the more difficult moves slower and sometimes I was only getting through the sequence once in the 7minute slot rather than 2/3 times like the earlier weeks! The circuits also change as the plan goes on, becoming; Monday (legs), Wednesday (arms) and Friday (abs) so they’re very targeted at this stage at this stage whereas the previous weeks had much more cardio elements and you’d usually be working on two areas at a time, rather than just one intensively.
The work outs are still composed of two circuits, A and B. You do circuit A for 7mins, short break, B for 7mins, short break and repeat. A 28minute workout that will likely take you twice the time with resting and faffing to put it off but I’ll pop the final abs routine for you to try at the end of this blog and compare to the last example I gave in the previous blogs: Here and here. It’s pretty tough.
Cardio: I try and do one HiiT ‘sprinterval’ session a week usually before my Sunday yoga session at Fit4Less Southampton but I should try and squeeze some HiiT in front of both classes. I also run with a club at Sweatshop every other Monday and then once or twice in the week.
I’m still only running 5k and my times not really getting any faster but if I’m generally paced at 10mins per mile I’m happy, but to be honest, I’m really struggling to make any improvements on it as running is something I naturally find really difficult. It comes it waves, where I’ll feel really demotivated for a few runs and then surprise myself but I really struggle with breathing when I run and as I’m not stopping I find it difficult to recover. This frustrates me and makes me think it would be completely impossible for me to go any faster. I run 5K in about 29mins on a good day, most of my friends are around 25mins and it’s hard not to compare yourself. Luckily, I’m not too competitive so as long as I’m not getting worse…I’m happy to just get it done.
Recovery: The new gym I use in Southampton Fit4Less has been a god-send as I’ve started doing two yoga classes there a week – Thursday and Sunday, but there are a few others there as well. If anyone would like to try it, it’s on London Road and if you pop in with my code Gemma5Day they will sort you a free five day guest pass! For recovery, it’s important to have rest days so I generally don’t do anything on a Tuesday or Saturday and then Sunday is just yoga. Maybe I’ll run on one of those days if I’m feeling okay or haven’t done as much that week but generally if I’m too tired I do excuse myself from working too hard because you *need* and deserve a break.
My progress: My thoughts on my progress have always been a bit up and down and this last portion has been no different. It’s a bit of a battle of the mind to decide how much progress is enough progress – especially when I haven’t weighed or measured myself this whole time. I still feel like I can see almost no difference in my butt/thighs (my problem ‘fatty’ bits) but every now and again I’ll notice something really small and unexpected, like some definition in my calf. This is week 0 versus week 12:
I feel really confident at the moment that this routine is something I will stick with but I’m going to switch it up a little bit, cut out the ‘leg day’ circuits and replace it with heavier lifting exercises…I’ve really missed deadlifts! But the ache in my legs right now says otherwise. I like heavier/more controlled work outs as it doesn’t get me so out of breath and with all the cardio I’ve been doing running and boxing, I don’t think I really need hellish cardio leg circuits on top of it. Most importantly I just always dreaded it so I want to change that. I often get messages from people saying things like ‘you’re so lucky to have your figure‘ or ‘you’re so lucky you enjoy working out‘ and I think that really downplays the effort and motivation needed…I work out eight times a week sometimes, there’s no luck involved. I have to motivate myself and various pals to gym when none of us want to and sometimes they have to do the same for me. I don’t always want to get up and go to the gym…right now I’m putting off running whilst writing this sat in my onesie because I’m worried it’s going to be too warm outside and I’ll run slow and not be in the mood for it. When people make comments like ‘it’s alright for you, you can eat whatever you want and you’re skinny‘ it can get frustrating because if eating what I want means eating cakes and bread all day, I don’t do that. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my fitness experience, it’s appreciating the amount of time and effort that it takes for people to achieve their goals, I personally have no idea how I could be doing much more than I am already but I wouldn’t want to. I’m happy with the level I’m at and only need to make small changes but mostly it’s important to remember that 12 weeks is nothing – I’m excited to see where I could be in 24 weeks and in a years time.
If you’d like to try something more difficult than the previous example, you can give the final abs circuit a go: You’ll need a bench, preferably a comfy mat and one dumbbell, I use 5kg – 7kg but lower or without if you don’t think you’re quite there yet! Set a timer for seven minutes and repeat this sequence, don’t hesitate too long between exercises…you will get a break soon I promise:
– 50 x Snap Jump (squat thrusts…yes…50)
– 16 x Spider Push-Up (From a plank position, bring one leg up to the side of you, knee bent, Spider-man style…think dog-pissing-on-a-tree, return your leg to do a press up. I do push-ups on my knees.)
– 40 x Scissor Kicks (Laying on a bench, legs straight off the end, engage your core to and kick your legs like you’re swimming for 40 counts)
– 30 x Bench Hop (Stand one side of the bench, holding onto it, hop sideways over the top of it keeping your hands in the same place throughout, back and forth)
Now give yourself a two minute rest before resetting the timer and getting back on it, have some water, breathe and then:
– 20 x Leg Raise (laying on the bench again like Scissor Kicks but this time hinge at the hips, lifting your legs up to a 90 degree angle and back down parallel to the floor)
– 20 x Straight Leg Jack Knife (Lay flat out on the floor, similar motion to the above but lift your top half and your arms to reach your toes. So you’re essentially keeping your body straight and hinging in the middle to come up in a V shape…crazy.)
– 20 x Weighted Bent Leg Jack Knife (Same motion as above but this time bend and crunch your legs in, I find this one much easier even with the weight. If you’re using a weight, laying on the floor hold it above your head arms out-stretched and then crunch your body up and return)
– 15 x Burpee Bench Jumps (Because burpees are so great, why not make them even better?! Start with a burpee but instead of jumping in the air at the end, you’re going to squat jump onto a bench, then jump back down into your second burpee)
Repeat this until the alarm rings. Two minutes rest, repeat both sets again. If it’s possible…Abs is what I find the easiest but there’s something about this routine that (upcoming TMI) I just think feels exactly like period pains, it’s the weirdest feeling! This is working your lower tum a lot which is great for anyone trying to get rid of that extra little bit of wobble that likes to hang out there.
You can now download Sweat With Kayla which is a new routine by the same woman that designed this guide, I haven’t used it myself but it’s a fitness app that is constantly changing. Alternatively, there are lots of great work outs for free online.
Let me know what you’d like to hear about in the future – thanks for reading!