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.
This is a quick post to say that I very nearly fell at the first hurdle today. It’s so easy to make all these promises about what you’re going to do in the week on a Sunday. And then on Monday, a colleague said casually, “My meeting has been cancelled, so if anyone fancies a pint in the sun after work, I’m game”. It was on the tip of my tongue to say yes. I’d submitted a big proposal, had a productive day and the sun was shining.
But then I played a mental game with myself. I fast-forwarded to later in the evening. I’d arrrive home a bit tipsy after drinking on an empty stomach (one pint would no doubt turn into 2 or 3). I’d eat a big bowl of pasta (because it’s quick and easy).
Then I fast-forwarded to tomorrow morning, when I’d wake up a bit groggy and not want to exercise. So I’d miss another day. And then I fast-forwarded to the end of the week. I wouldn’t have been able to tick off my ‘no alcohol’ and ‘Freeletics’ goals on Coach.me.
Did I want to set that train in motion, or did I want to come home, exercise and then cook a healthy dinner? Early night, up early tomorrow morning for another Freeletics session?
I knew that the high of a cold beer in the sun wasn’t worth as much as the feeling of accomplishment if I stuck to my plan.
So I stuck to the plan. And now I’m sat at home, having had a delicious low-fat, high protein stir-fry after Freeletics, feeling pretty. damn. smug.
I have one thing to say about my work out today. Can anyone actually do Jackknives like the guy in the photo/video? I mean really? I can barely lift my shoulders off the floor. When does that get easier? I feel so ungraceful when I do them.
I’ve now done two more days of the new Coach. And I have to say I’m really enjoying it. The workouts are shorter and more intense, and I’m finding that they’re really working my muscles a lot harder (I’m have more of that satisfying soreness – is it satisfying?).
Yesterday I did:
The jumps, pan, no problem. I did Poseidon in 04:09, but no star because I still can’t do perfect form pullups.
And then today, the final day of my three-day Coach week, was
Interval: Core, Upper Body.
3 rounds of:
Commando Pullups Left x10
Side Plank Twists Left x15
Side Plank Twists Right x15
Commando Pullups Right x10
Plank Switches x10
Taking each in turn:
Commando Pullups I found these relatively straightforward although I’m not doing them correct form. I could just about do 3 the other day and it was the same this time. Then I started having to give myself a little jump start.
Side Plank Twists I liked these. I could feel that they will be good for core strength, but they were also nice stretches. They got more testing later on in the workout.
Plank Switches I also enjoyed these. They were fairly tough later on, but they were a nice change from pushups.
I’m really liking how the workouts are quite quick, but work your muscle groups really hard. I am finding it much easier to do before work. And not racing against the clock means that I’m much more likely to concentrate on whether I’m doing things right, rather than trying to beat a PB.
I’ve set the next Coach week to 2 workouts which I’ll do later this week, as I’ve now done four days in a row (including two swimming sessions and an hour’s bike ride).
While I’m here, a quick update on nutrition…
I’ve been making some really conscious changes to my diet. These include:
Cutting out bread as much as possible
Low carb lunches (usually a chicken salad or similar)
Porridge or overnight protein oats for breakfast
As much fruit and veg as possible, certainly more than five pieces a day
Shit-loads of water
Cutting down on beer and wine in favour of spirits, and cutting down my drinking alcohol at all to one or two nights a week.
Higher protein content in most meals (last night’s steak was delicious!)
I’m currently on Week 24, so give or take I’ve taken about twice the time I should have done to get this far. I stopped for a month, and some weeks I just can’t fit in the workouts (or can’t be bothered!).
But this week, something switched. I’ve hit PBs on every single workout so far. Today I had three sets of 50 burpees and I found them pretty straightforward – did them almost continuously without stopping and beat my PB on each set. And then I did 2x Morpheus, which was fun. Yes, FUN.
I’m noticing I’m much more flexible, have more energy, my body shape is changing significantly (particularly noticeable on my thighs, shoulders, biceps and chest), and I find myself looking forward to workouts. And as I get quicker and my form gets cleaner, I find that I want to work outside more. Freeletics clears my head.
At the beginning of this journey, I read the evangelical blogs and transformation videos with a degree of scepticism. I doubted that working out could feel so good. But now I get it. I totally get it.
So what have I learnt this year?
Pull-ups are really hard
If you haven’t worked out regularly before doing Freeletics, and you’re slim, you’ll probably find doing correct-form pull-ups really hard. Impossible even. I’ve been trying all year and still can only do Jumping Pull-ups. But I’m doing at least 10 every day and recently I’ve noticed that I’m almost doing proper pull-ups now. Keep at it. As for the other skills you need to unlock on the Bodyweight app, sheesh. I’m nowhere near those yet.
Exercising outside is by far the best way to do Freeletics
It took me a while to pluck up the courage to work out in my local park despite it being less than a minute from my front door. I was worried about people giving me funny looks, or that my sweaty, red face would scare children. I was also anxious that people who also used the park to work out would be critical of my form (which was also a reason why it took me a while to work out at the gym). But actually, no one gives a shit. I certainly don’t look at other people when they’re working out. And the fresh air makes you feel really good. Can’t recommend it enough. Here are 7 tips from Freeletics about training outdoors in winter.
You won’t see a big transformation if you don’t make a radical shift with your nutrition
I started Freeletics because I noticed I was getting a slight beer belly. And while it has certainly reduced it, I haven’t seen the huge transformation that the YouTube videos promise. And that’s because I really enjoy red wine and beer. My diet has changed. I eat more protein, less carbs, more vegetables. I drink less, I’ve cut out sugar in coffee and I eat almost zero junk food. But I haven’t radically shifted my diet. I haven’t bought the nutrition coach. I still drink alcohol. But I’m okay with that. I’m fitter, more healthy and my body has changed.
I find it really hard to get up first thing in the morning to exercise
I’ve tried everything: setting a timer on the TV to come on, going to bed earlier and so on, but I still find it really hard to get out of bed and exercise before work. But when I do, blimey it feels good. You feel like you’re ahead of everyone in the day, it gives you energy, a sense of achievement and forces you to have a good post-workout breakfast. Basically it sets you up for the day. But for some reason all of that still doesn’t make me jump out of bed.
Don’t sit down on the sofa!
And if you didn’t work out before work, then avoid sitting down on the sofa when you get home at all costs. I make myself strip out of my work clothes and change into my workout gear straight away otherwise it’s so much harder to get going.
You won’t stick with it if you don’t buy the coach
I tried doing Freeletics without Coach and I think unless you have superhuman discipline and motivation, it’s really hard to stick at it unless you stump up. Coach pushes you to do harder work-outs, it makes sure you work out your entire body, and it you get the satisfaction of ticking off days and weeks as you go (and no, I don’t get paid by Freeletics to say this!).
Form trumps speed
The app foregrounds beating your PB with each work-out, but often taking your time and making sure that all your exercises are correct form is far more important. I seem to get better results doing that and in the long run it helps you get quicker too.
And finally, stretching works. It might be boring, but it really works. And it makes you feel much more flexible and strong. And reduces muscle pain when you push yourself. Why would you not?
The community works
I don’t feel like I’ve properly tapped into the Freeletics community yet. I followed some people by reading the sub-Reddit, and by looking at other people’s followers. Hardly any of my Facebook friends are on Freeletics and those that are are all at Level 1. And there isn’t a Freeletics group in Bristol, so I don’t have a crew of people who I train with (although I am considering starting one). But when people who follow me give me a #clapclap or comment on and like this blog, it’s a real boost. Thanks guys!
Had a big night out last night with some friends. Cutting back on drinking is often hard on the weekends when you want to socialise, and when the social norm is to get absolutely shitfaced.
But what’s been really helping me cut back isn’t so much the obvious health benefits, but the thought of having a nice Sunday with a clear head.
So last night I had friends over to my place for pizza and pre-drinks, and then we headed out. I had a few glasses of white wine at home but then once we were out I just stopped drinking. It helped that the club was the packed and only seemed to serve Red Stripe in cans and tiny G&Ts in flimsy plastic cups.
I hung out for a bit and watched some of the live performances that were on, chatted to some friends and then headed home about 2am. By that time the effects of the wine were wearing off, and I slept soundly for a full eight hours. Bliss.
And then today has been about good food, relaxing, doing washing and my weekly swim.
I’ve blogged about this before, but I find swimming a real head clearer, and it uses my body in a very different way to Freeletics. I’m not a very strong swimmer so a quick 20 lengths is about all I do, and then I go to my new favourite coffee shop and watch the world go by. So much better than lying on the sofa nursing a hangover and eating junk food.
That was tough. I’d had a month away from Freeletics and when I picked up where I left off, I realised I had one week left of the initial 15-week programme. So I didn’t feel like I was entering Hell Week at peak form. My diet hadn’t been great, I’d been drinking quite a bit and I hadn’t exercised for ages.
But I made a promise to myself to complete the week in the correct time (i.e. not leaving any gaps between days) and I bloody well did it!
Here are my observations on the rest of Hell Week:
I read somewhere that your mind underestimates what your body can do. This is totally true. So many times throughout the week my mind was telling me that I couldn’t do any more, but if I just pushed my body one step further, pressed go on the next set, forced myself to do just 10 more burpees, it was amazing how much I could achieve. I really didn’t think I’d be able to do all the exercises back-to-back, but now it’s done it doesn’t feel so daunting. And now I look at next week and think ‘what a breeze’
Sleep really helps. You can do so much more when you’ve had a good night’s sleep
I don’t think I’ve ever drunk as much water as I have this week, and yet I seemed to always be thirsty. Maybe like 3 or 4 litres a day.
My appetite was also huge. I tried to make sure I ate well this week.
There were a lot of pull-ups in my workouts this week. I still can’t do the correct form, so replaced them all with Jumping Pull-ups. I’m getting stronger though
It’s a clever trick of Freeletics to give you Hell Week at the end of Week 15. I saw my body transform more quickly that it has been, and I reckon if I’d stuck to good nutrition and done the programme in 15 weeks rather than 25 I think I’d have been submitting my transformation photos to Freeletics. But I still feel like I’ve got some more work to do.
I like Krios. It’s a nice workout
I hate 3x Metis Strength. Hate it.
I really like working out in the open air rather than inside. Especially in summer.
I also downloaded the Freeletics Nutrition app this week and signed up for the Coach. But then I have to say that on looking at the recipes, I got an immediate refund. I just didn’t like the look of the programme, and have seen better and more tasty lean recipes elsewhere. Food is just too important to me. So I’m going to continue eating lean and healthy, but I don’t really want to have that level of control over what I eat. It’s enough to have a work-out routine. Sorry Freeletics. Not for me.
So there we go. 15 weeks down and where am I?
I am much stronger, fitter and in much better shape than when I started
My stamina and endurance has increased hugely
Freeletics has had a positive effect on my mental health, reducing anxiety and giving me a cheap, enjoyable way of escaping work
I have more self-esteem and more pride
I have a better diet, drink less and look after my health in ways I never used to before.
Here’s to the next 15 weeks! Who knows where I’ll be then!
My job involves a very intense period of work over one particular month of the year (May). The whole year is geared towards that month and so it becomes all consuming. Long hours, lots of socialising, lots of mental and physical energy.
I’ve been doing Freeletics since December, and I always kind of knew that April/May would be really tricky. It’d be hard to find the energy to work out after a challenging day and when there was frequently alcohol involved at the end of it. So I took the decision to not beat myself up about that, and to give myself a break for a few weeks. Four to be precise. I did continue to practice my pull-ups during that period – finding a minute here and there to do them at the start or end of the day. So I guess in the strictest terms, I didn’t have a break. But I did take a break from Coach. Sorry Coach.
So when I returned to freeletics last week, I had one day of Week 14 still to complete. A load of burpees and 3x Metis (Standard). Suffice to say I didn’t beat my PB on any of these. I had noticeably put on weight (pretty much directly from beer and wine – I had a pretty good diet otherwise during my time away from Freeletics). I huffed and sweated my way through those exercises and gave myself a pat on the back for getting back on the horse. WELL DONE ME. And once I’d finished that final Week 14 day, I naively selected 3 days workout the following week, thinking ‘I’ll ease myself back it’. Ha. How wrong I was. I had forgotten that Week 15 is HELL WEEK.
However, once I’d finished staring open mouthed at what Coach had in store, I was kind of excited for the challenge. What better way to get back into working out after some time away than by the physical equivalent of flooding therapy. Here’s what Week 15 looks like:
Day 1: Kentauros, 2x Metis Day 2: Hermes, 2x Morpheus Day 3: Hades, Hermes Day 4: Uranus, Hades Day 5: 3x Metis, 25 Pullups, 25 Pullups, 25 Burpees, 25 Burpees Day 6: 2x Krios, 100 Burpees, 100 Burpees Day 7: 3x Krios, 100 Burpees, 50 Squats, 25 High Jumps, 25 High Jumps
First things first, this is way more work-outs than I’ve ever done in my life, ever.
Secondly, all those pull-ups (there are pull-ups in the workouts too), are going to be hard. I can’t really done any pull-ups at all. So far, I can only do jumping pull-ups. So I’m not sure how that’s going to do.
But before we get into Hell Week (I’ve already done Day 1 and 2 at the time of writing), I want to talk about a few other things.
I’ve touched on this before, but I think that for me, and probably for many of you, alcohol is the most significant factor in weight loss/gain. When I look back at photos of myself during Dry January, I hadn’t really realised how much it had an effect on visible body fat around my belly. And now, after a couple of months of fairly regular beer drinking, I’ve definitely brought back the beer belly, which was the entire reason to star this whole thing in the first place.
I’ve noticed that Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) says that he only “gets boozy” twice a month, and when he does, he drinks gin and tonic. Far less fatty than beers. I’m kind of kicking myself that I drank so much over the last couple of months as I’d love to be entering Week 15 with a proper transformation photo. That will have to wait.
Here we are in HELL WEEK. Yesterday was a bank holiday. I was exhausted from a long weekend, but forced myself to do the two workouts in the evening, and was very glad I did afterwards.
Kentauros was as appalling as ever. I really fucking hate that workout. But I beat my PB by about 4 minutes. I was a dreadful sweaty mess at the end though. And then I did 2x Metis, which was FINE, but didn’t beat my PB because I’d already done about a million burpees and my poor body wouldn’t let me go any faster.
Then this morning I woke up early and took advantage of a bright, sunny day to go to my local basketball court. I always feel a little self-conscious working out outdoors, but it was early and there was no one around. I actually quite enjoyed it. Hermes is a dream. It’s probably one of my favourite workouts because you get those little rests. And then 2x Morpheus was harder than I thought it would be, but not too bad. I beat my PB on Hermes but not on Morpheus, a pattern I reckon will continue throughout the week.
Tonight I have a work do, but I’m not going to drink, and then I’m going to get up early again tomorrow to do Day 3.
I’m determined to do this properly (i.e. not have any gaps), but I think good sleep and the right food is crucial to me being able to do this. Keep it here, folks, and thanks for reading!