The Pull-Up: Mastered. Kind of.

Finally, a breakthrough.

After a few weeks using a resistance band to do assisted pull-ups as part of my Coach weeks, but also as extra practice, I surprised myself yesterday.

Coach gave me 4 strict pull-ups as part of my conditioning workout. I rolled my eyes and thought ‘yeah, right’. Usually I’d not even attempt to do the pull-up properly. But yesterday, for some reason, I went to the bar without the band.

And I could do it! I did three pull-ups with correct form! Arms extended, feet off floor and then chin over bar. Couldn’t do the forth properly, but fuck it, I’d actually done three properly!

So how did that happen?

I’ve been doing Freeletics for nearly two years. Far longer than the 15 week transformation videos posted on YouTube. If you read back in this blog, you’ll see that I’m far from the disciplined trainer. I might be fairly good at training regularly, but I’m slack on diet and I drink alcohol.

And I’ve always struggled with the pull-up. I was a skinny kid. I didn’t have the muscles in my arm to pull up my bodyweight. So for nearly two years I did jumping pull-ups. And then when I was staying at a hotel, I used a resistance band for the first time. And suddenly being able to do a proper pull-up felt a lot closer. And so I bought one from the Freeletics Store and have been using it nearly every day since.

I think the good thing about using a band rather than the jumping pull-up, is that the band actually makes you use the muscles needed in the pull-up, whereas the jumping one doesn’t really. I’m no expert here, though, so please do correct me if this isn’t true.

Either way, by doing the assisted pull-up regularly I must have been training my arms in the right way. The challenge now is to build up beyond three (!). My plan is to keep doing assisted pull-ups until I can do more than ten without a break.

I had to do a further 30 assisted pull-ups as part of the day’s training, and they also felt easier, although I can’t do 10 back-to-back yet.

Today, I also did 28 lengths at the pool. Every time I go I’m adding two lengths. The window to swim on a Sunday is only 45 minutes after classes and before the pool closes, so there’s no hanging around. When I first started going I could only manage 20, and I had to take breaks every few lengths. Now I can do 28 without a break, with time to spare. I’m aiming to get to 40.

So all in all, I’m feeling good. And all this after a week off last week. I was tired, work was busy and I kind of got off on the wrong foot on Sunday. So I didn’t train at all last week. Managed a swim on Sunday and that was it. I was waking up late, not eating much fruit and veg, not drinking enough water.

But this weekend I’ve had lots of sleep, got all the food in for the week and cleaned my flat, so I’m ready for the week ahead.

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Um, this is not me. Photo by @japhethmast on Unsplash.com
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The Pull-Up: Mastered. Kind of.

Sundays in your thirties…

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Photo by Artem Verbo on Unsplash (this is not me in the photo btw)

Sunday again. Yesterday I was out of town for work all day and only arrived back late. My boyfriend was out drinking and wanted me to join him, but I was exhausted and headed to bed.

I was thankful of that this morning. I’m in my late 30s now, and the feeling of waking up fresh on a Sunday is beginning to seriously outweigh the fun of getting drunk. This morning, I woke up at 8am, read for an hour and then did Freeletics.

16 Sprawls
2 Pikes

Conditioning: Upper Body, Abs
3 rounds of…
10 Assisted Pull-ups
15 Pushups
30sec Superman Hold
15 Hanging Leg Raises

4/10 Gaia

Firstly, I do find it amusing when Coach assigns you to do 2 or 1 of something, so those Pikes were over quickly…

I enjoyed the conditioning. For some reason it feels like Coach has been focussing more on my lower body recently, so it was nice to do a proper upper body workout.

My new Freeletics resistance band means I can now do Assisted Pull-ups at home. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know how hard I find pull-ups, but the band is actually making it feel possible that I might be able to master them one day. I can still only do 5 or 6 Assisted Pull-ups without needing a break though.

Also, hanging leg raises are tough.

To have finished my workout by 10am felt amazing. A far cry from the dry-mouthed, fuzzy-head Sundays of years gone by.

I also did about half an hour of cycling to and from my boyfriend’s house, and went for a swim. Go me.

The pool was really quiet. When it’s not so busy I find it much easier to get into a flow. And I’m noticing how much my endurance has increased. When I first took up swimming again a few years ago I could barely do two lengths without needing a break. Today I did a full 24 lengths with no break.

There is only lane swimming at my local pool for 45 minutes on a Sunday, so I can’t hang around. And recently I decided to add another 2 lengths every time I go, so I’ll need to start working much harder.

I felt like I deserved that roast dinner and a film tonight.

Sundays in your thirties…

A bad week

I had such good intentions. But this week didn’t go so well. This is mainly due to having a friend/colleague visit from another country. I’ve been on tour-guide duty, making sure she met the right people, saw the sites and ate at the right places.

It started well. I did a good swim on Sunday and I did fit in a Freeletics workout on Wednesday morning. But the rest of the week has been pretty lazy. And I’ve been eating out and drinking alcohol.

I’m trying to save money at the moment, so both of those things aren’t supposed to be on the agenda.

But I guess I’m going to cut myself some slack. It was important to be there for my guest. And I’ve had a really nice week.

Today is Friday, and I’m working from home. I’m going to get a good few hours work under my belt and then do a workout later on. And I have to get up super early on Saturday to go to London for work so it’s no drinking and an early night tonight. Lots of water.

You can always reset and start again. And next week is all fresh and new.

A bad week

Making progress…

This week I’ve being reflecting a bit on how far I’ve come since starting Freeletics nearly two years ago. Sometimes when you’re faced with Aphrodite again, it’s hard to step back. When I started I could barely get through the warm-up without getting sweaty.

Here are the things I’ve noticed this week

  1. When I’m cycling now I notice I have more power in my legs. I can go faster for longer and I find hills much easier
  2. I feel more flexible
  3. I actually look forward to working out most days
  4. I drink more water
  5. I eat better – less sugar, more vegetables, less saturated fats and processed food
  6. My body shape is more in proportion. I feel more attractive.
  7. I have stronger arms and can carry heavier weights
  8. I can almost 
  9. I have more defined abs and pecs
  10. I have more energy
  11. I am able to apply the stamina developed through Freeletics workouts to other parts of my life

And here’s a progress photo to show how I’m doing…

Making progress…

Entering the final week of #CoachChallenge

Tomorrow I start the final week of #CoachChallenge.

I have to say, I’ve found the promise of a voucher and the Week 3 40% discount has encouraged me to not break my routine. So often with Freeletics, I’ve had breaks or a week where I haven’t exercised once. Hence why, even though I’ve been doing Freeletics for nearly 2 years, I’m still only on Week 47. But now I’m in more of a regular routine, exercising in the mornings rather than evenings, I find it much easier to stick to the plan.

I used the Week 3 40% discount to buy a new pull-up bar, which I can adjust to do the exercises that require a lower bar (incline rows, negative bar dips etc), and an a resistance band which I’m going to use to try and finally crack pull-ups. Annoyingly they arrived yesterday when I was out, and tomorrow is Monday, so I hope I’m not going to carry on missing the delivery every day this week.

Last night I went to my friends house for a cheese and wine party. Four of us. Twelve cheeses. Bread. Meats. Lots of wine. Not good for that six-pack. So today I ate loads of vegetables and healthy carbs, went swimming and did about half an hour cycling around town. And I’m going to try and have a good week sticking to all my habits.

Now it’s September, I’m a bit annoyed with myself that I didn’t push myself harder to exercise outdoors more this summer. I only did it a handful of times, mainly because it’s so easy to do it in my living room and I still feel a little self-conscious doing it. But when I do, it feels so good.

Just in case you’re interested, here’s my final #CoachChallenge week:

Day 1
10 Straight Bar Dips
Conditioning (Legs, Core): 3 x rounds 30 Squats, 15 Arm & Leg Lifts (L&R), 15 Standups
Krios

Day 2
8 Crunches
Conditioning (Upper Body, Abs): 3x rounds 15 Pushups, 20 Bicycle Crunches, 15 Plank Switches, 10 Leg Raises
4/5 Hyperion

Day 3
10 Split Lunges
12 Pushups
4/5 Aphrodite
400m Sprint
400m Sprint

Day 4
6 Jumps
10 Strict Pullups
Conditioning (Legs, Abs): Split lunges, Calf Raises, Leg Raises, High Knees). 3 rounds x 20 each

I still don’t really have anywhere to do sprints. I need to find a big flat place. All the parks near me are on hills and all the quiet roads are hills too. Hmm.

I’ll let you know how I get on. Have a great week.

Entering the final week of #CoachChallenge

Why I’m ditching MyFitnessPal and other news…

I haven’t written for a while, so here’s a big old update.

New Coach review update

I wrote about the new coach a while back (here, here and here) when it first came out. I was into it. I found the workouts shorter and more intense and felt like they were working my muscle groups harder.

Since then I’ve read people on Reddit saying that the new coach isn’t anywhere near as difficult or challenging, and that they’re frequently ending work-outs not as exhausted or drenched in sweat as before.

Now I’m no fitness expert, but here’s my take on this. What I love is that you’re made to focus on technique first – although I’m not sure what the point of doing 1 pike is, as I was asked to do the other week – and then you do conditioning, and then one or part of the existing Freeletics Gods work-outs. I find the workouts more varied, and I am increasingly as exhausted and satisfied after each session as before. This might be that I’m being really careful with my feedback to Coach, and therefore my work-outs are being tweaked accordingly.

It seems like Freeletics have realised that just working people until they drop doesn’t necessarily get the best long-term results; that exhaustion doesn’t always mean a work-out has been effective. They’re helping us get better at technique.

I also find that the benefit of not being made to do full Freeletics Gods work-outs means I’m not as daunted (or bored) by my coach weeks.

Warm-ups and cool-downs

I also really love the new warm-ups and cool-downs. My biggest complaint about the app as it was was that it was really difficult to time your stretching at the end, but now it times each stretch, and I feel like the stretches are working my whole body.

#CoachChallenge update

I’m into week 4 of #CoachChallenge and I have to say the promise of money off Freeletics stuff is really keeping me going. I managed to keep to my schedule despite being away from home twice in environments where drinking and staying up late is part of the work. On my first trip there was also a gym in the apartment block which had a great pull-up bar and assistance bands, which were brilliant. Going to buy one.

Diet update

I’ve stopped using MyFitnessPal. I’ve been using it for ages and it was beginning irritate me. Also, it wasn’t particularly helping me lose weight or eat better, it was just telling me every day that even though I regularly came in under my calorie goal, my macros were always off (too many carbs and too much fat and not enough protein).

So instead I’m just being really mindful of what I’m eating and actually I think it’s making me eat better. For some reason, not counting everything means I try harder to eat well. I also think it’s helping me make better permanent changes to the way I eat.

I also think MyFitnessPal was damaging my relationship to what I eat. I love food. I love cooking. I don’t want to become a clean eating freak or one of those gym bunnies that only eat grilled chicken and protein shakes. I want to eat a balanced, healthy diet that makes me feel good, that is fresh and not processed and that tastes really good. I don’t want to reduce what I eat to numbers and pie charts. It’s not good for the soul.

Over the past couple of years I’ve read enough about food to know what’s good for you, what to eat in moderation and what to avoid. So I’m ditching the app and just trying to eat well. And it feels great.

Why I’m ditching MyFitnessPal and other news…

#CoachChallenge

ContentNEW_CoachChallengeI had a really good week last week. Exercised five days straight. Four days of Freeletics and one day swimming.  I ate well. Loads of vegetables. Lots of water. Felt amazing.

I was partly working so hard because I knew I was going to a festival at the weekend. And that it would very much be a weekend off.

And a weekend off it was. Loads of beer. Burgers. Pizza. Late nights. Sleeping in a tent. I suppose dancing is basically cardio, right?!

And as I did my last Freeletics session on Thursday, I checked next week’s coach and low and behold, it’s HELL WEEK. Seven days. Seven workouts. I do notice that Hell Weeks aren’t as intense as they used to be. Sometimes you had at least two workouts on quite a few of the days. This time it’s just one complete Bodyweight workout each day. Mine looks like this:

Nemesis
Venus
Aphrodite
Poseidon
Nyx
Aphrodite
Athena

I’ve done days one and two so far. Managed to just about push myself through Nemesis on Monday. It’s now Wednesday and I skipped working out yesterday because I slept terribly the night before and now I’m in my mid-30s I basically get three-day hangovers.

And then yesterday I got the email from Freeletics about #CoachChallenge. I’m really up for this. Completing 6 weeks of bodyweight coach for a fifty euro voucher. Just need to not break for five days on the trot.

I’m going away twice over the next 6 weeks, so I’ll have to be pretty strict about working out when I’m away. But why would I not do this. It’s basically free money for working out. And I’ll probably use the voucher to buy an adjustable pull-up bar.

Are you doing #CoachChallenge?

#CoachChallenge