Why I Owe Jillian Michaels A Drink*
*Or perhaps a super healthy vegetable juice or something.
I’ve got a bit of a love/hate relationship with Jillian Michaels. For those of you that don’t know, she’s the perky, intense, American lass that fronts the 30 Day Shred workout DVD. I’d never watched The Biggest Loser so I had no idea what to expect beyond what the WAMK girls had been tweeting. Let me put my abilities into perspective: prior to doing the Shred I’d been going to the gym two or three times a week for five months. Before that I’d spent 27 years effectively sitting on my rapidly expanding behind so I was by no means an intense gym goer, but I wasn’t exactly the couch potato I used to be either.
Was it going to be insane? There were tales of people not being able to walk after the first workout, people in pain for days and people giving up after day two so when I put the DVD on for the first time I was more than a little apprehensive. People talk about the 30 Day Shred a lot. There’s a hashtag on twitter, it’s all over the Weightwatchers forums and there are varying degrees of pain but everybody says if you stick with it the results are amazing. & you know what? It’s totally true.
Don’t get me wrong, 30 Day Shred is hard. Not the exercises particularly (although the side lunges with an anterior raise can still burn in hell for all I care) but more the constant grind of it. You wake up on day four knowing there’s another twenty six days to go. Even when you hit day fifteen being halfway feels like scant consolation when you still have to do enough plank exercises to reasonably assume you could now pass for a pirate ship. It's hard to motivate yourself to do it. I tried hard to remember why I was doing it in the first place – I wanted to tone up my arms and abs, and I didn't want to have to get out of my pyjamas to do it.
I had some extra motivation for my challenge – I’m extremely stubborn and my fiancé promised me he’d buy me something nice if I finished it. I watched the girls on twitter drop like flies after day ten or twelve (or some on day two or three) and I thought “That’s not going to be me.” For some people that isn’t enough of an incentive but boy did I want to be the one to actually finish.
Most of you will know but in case you don’t, the Shred is broken down into a few component parts. There are three levels and each one is designed to be followed for ten days at a time. I did this, although there are people I know that skipped to level two quicker or did level one for longer, it’s really up to you and how you feel you're progressing. Each level targets a different area of the body tho so it's worth doing them all if you can.
Each level comprises of a 25 minutes workout and within that there are three circuits. Still with me? Each circuit has three minutes of strength exercises, two minute of cardio (often the most fun part) and one minute of abs. I found the ab exercises the easiest to do for the most part, and the most effective.
After day eight I measured myself and I’d lost a whopping six inches from my measurements. I was expecting that to carry on over the 30 days but in fact by the end I’d only lost another couple or so – it would appear the first week is pivotal in the loss. I did find, however, that the muscle tone really began to show through in level two and by level three it was really obvious. It’s been three weeks since I finished my 30 days and my abs and my arms are still rock hard, I’m not kidding. I also think it’s increased my metabolic rate a little because I’ve come off Weightwatchers now but am still managing to maintain my weight pretty well, even tho I’m eating a bit more junk than I was whilst I was dieting.
My top tips for completing the Shred are:
- Dedicate an area of your house to it. If you have to keep moving things out of the way to work out you probably won’t. I did mine in a 2 x 3m space next to my bed, it really doesn’t need as much space as you think!
- If you can, invest in some proper weights. I bought a set from Asda about four years ago for £10 – it has three sets in different weights so I could use something heavier if I felt like I could handle it and drop back to the lighter ones if I was struggling. If you can’t afford it at least try and use varying weights to make your workout harder. By the time you hit level 3 you should be using something heavier than a can of beans to really make it count!
- Try and do it somewhere with a breeze, or a fan. The Shred is sweaty work, people. If you’re not sweating, you’re not doing it right.
- Do it as soon as you can. I'm not really a morning person so I did it when I got home from work. The days where I waited until later in the evening were much harder than doing it and then having my evenings free.
- Stretch! Make sure you follow the warm up and the warm down. She includes them for a reason – it's not worth the aching you'll get if you skip them all the time.
- It’s okay to follow the lower impact moves. I found that day 5 of each level was where I found my feet – before that I would try and follow the regular ones and adjust it down until I was comfortable.
- Level 2 is the hardest level, unless you’ve got a very strong upper body and core muscles already. It’s okay. It will end and level 3 is much easier.
- It’s alright if you miss a day. I didn’t because I wanted my shiny something at the end but if you do, don’t beat yourself up about it, just pick up the next day and carry on. You don’t have to start again if you have a one day break.
So. That’s the Shred, in a nutshell. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Jillian Michaels almost killed me and 30 days in a row once around is enough for me, thank you ;) But would I recommend you try it? Completely. You can finish it. Just be dedicated, motivated and most of all stubborn. The results will be worth it, I promise.
You can also find Sarah on Twitter if you have any questions.