The Body Coach App Cycle 3 – Review

And here we are again. It is Body Coach App check in day. Somehow that came rounds quick. If you want a run down of how the app works have a look at the my thoughts on the first cycle here. I was sort of hoping that after a bit of a motivation blip in Cycle 2, Cycle 3 would be better and I would really see some good progress. I couldn’t be bothered to write yesterday and I have done my check-in stats this morning so this review is actually coloured by how I have got on. Overall though Cycle 3 has been better than Cycle 2 in terms of motivation but progress has been limited. I’m not actually surprised, just a bit grumpy with myself.

The Exercise Sessions

Cycle 3 has, as usual, 5 sessions all of which are 30 minutes long. The first 3 sessions have 35 seconds work, 25 seconds rest and I didn’t do them very often (possibly only once each). Workout 4 is a 30/30 rest to work ratio but is split into 3 sections focusing on lower body, then upper body and then cardio. I bizarrely quite like that one even though it is really quite hard. Workout 5 has one round at 35 seconds work, 25 rest and then the same round of exercises at 40 seconds work and 20 seconds rest. I quite like that one too but did it once when my head wasn’t really in it and found it really demoralising because I could barely do anything for the full 40 seconds. I tried it again and it was much better so it really was just about frame of mind. I have also done 2 of the Saturday Sweat live sessions in this cycle and am planning on doing the 3rd one on demand today. Quite enjoyed them too.

The Food

There are some nice recipes in Cycle 3 and some of our favourites from Kath’s 90 Day Plan appeared. Most of our meals came from Joe Wicks this cycle and the cooking hasn’t really been an issue. It hasn’t been as much fun as early on but I think maybe that’s simply because I have gone back to work and there is less time to just potter about in the kitchen without any pressure and because we are now more constrained by timings of work meetings etc. Granola, bacon and avocado tacos and courgette and cheese muffins continue to be breakfast favourites. The fish biriyani has been a winner for the refuel meals and the haloumi burger is still our go to quick lunch and the sweet chilli salmon kebabs were really nice too. Throughout this cycle we had a total of 77 General recipes, 63 refuel recipes and 24 snack recipes available so lots of choice really. Some of them are simple variations on a theme – like smoothies or granola or steak done slightly differently but they’re good for ideas and variations. Some of them I don’t pay any attention to – I am not a smoothie person, or at least not smoothies made with protein powder but even taking that into account we have lots of good recipes to choose from.

We were sticking to 2 refuel meals because that seems to work best, particularly as Kath is stepping up her running miles and will need the extra carbs. For snacks we had some peanut butter cookies, fruit cake (not JW but Runners World recipe) and some date and peanut butter bars. All very yummy.

How did I get On?

I feel a bit grumpy about Cycle 3 but that’s only because this last week has been a bit rubbish and I have really struggled with energy levels and motivation. Anxiety has also been pretty high. Partly that’s about going back to work and unresolved stuff that quite frankly just needs to get sorted (and it will) and is stressing me out and taking time, headspace, energy and calm that I would rather channel into other much more productive things. The first three weeks were actually pretty good. I still haven’t quite managed to sort out my knees. Doing the workouts in HIIT trainers definitely helps and for squats and lunges I am trying to really concentrate on form even if that means I do far fewer reps. Still niggly though. I would really like to step up the yoga and stretches as I suspect that’s the issue here and the key to solving the niggly knee problem. My yoga app (Yoga Studio) has a yoga for knees series and also a new lower body series so I am thinking they might help and would be good to do regularly and consistently. Knees aside though I feel overall stronger.

In week 1 I did 4 sessions from the app and went for 3 runs. In week 2 I did 5 workouts and went for 2 runs. In week 3 I did 5 workouts. I am really pleased with that because that was my period week and I managed to stay much more positive and active than in Cycle 2. I swapped one of the HIIT sessions from the app for one of Kath’s old 90 day plan where Joe introduced the weights so there was no jiggling about or bouncing or going upside down and that worked quite well. It wasn’t comfortable but I kept moving and overall felt better for that. I didn’t run because going out to run was scary but that’s ok. Week 4, the week just gone, I stepped up work a bit as part of my phased return so worked 3 full days and some of that was pretty intense. I have been tired and my head’s not been in it. Fitting in a HIIT session or a run has somehow felt really pressured. I have done 2 HIIT sessions, no runs and I plan to do yesterdays live session on demand later today. I did do a couple of short yoga sessions but I haven’t been hugely active in this cycle at all. A few short walks and 2 Sunday live stretch sessions on the app but nothing much. I was a little irritated with myself for not making more of an effort until I had my therapy session on Thursday. We didn’t talk about this much but just at the end touched on exercise and stuff and the fact that I may well still be post viral and/or that everything is still weird. I have hugely fired up the brain to get back into work stuff and deal with everything going on so it would be odd if I wasn’t tired. It helped me remember to be kind to myself, to give myself permission to rest, to not push too hard on the exercise and to slowly try things and find a balance that allows my system to recover fully and feel supported while also working on gently building fitness. I felt better after thinking that through.

I have enjoyed the food but I have also been snacking quite a lot. I think it’s probably a stress response. I’ve had extra peanut butter, extra nuts, a chunk of cheese here and there, chocolate with a cup of tea and on quiet a few days a slice of toast in-between and we’ve had lots of hot chocolates through the cycle. I’m not concerned about any of that really. It is what it is and I am certainly not going to start telling myself off or feeling guilty for having toast or chocolate but I am just conscious that mostly I haven’t had them because I was genuinely hungry or needed them for fuel for running or anything. It’s the classic stress eating pattern and seeking out comforting things like toast, like hot chocolate…

I am struggling to drink the 3.5 litres of water. I have managed it on 8 days. And on all but 1 day I tracked over 2 litres so I am drinking more than I was which is good. I do really need to track my water intake though otherwise I hardly drink anything. It’s funny how it focuses the mind. I’m sure I also feel less tired and sluggish when I manage to drink over 2.5 litres. I’d have to keep much better notes on how I feel each day to be sure but that’s my gut feeling.

The numbers

So stats then. I have lost 1kg and a total of 7cm. We were struggling with measuring in the same place consistently but someone on the Facebook group suggested measuring waist, hips and thighs in line with elbows, wrists and finger tips respectively (when you have your arms by your side obviously) so we re-did the measurements like that. Waist and hips we had done correctly previously as far as we can tell but thighs we clearly measured too low (based on a little freckle to try and remember the spot) so my official stats actually show an increase here but measurements should be more accurate from now on.

Any wins?

It doesn’t feel like a ‘win’ sort of 4 weeks. The change in terms of numbers is tiny. I’m not sure my ‘transformation’ photos show any sort of difference. Maybe the one from the back does but it could just be because I am wearing a different bra in the latest one. I’m not sharing them for you to judge – see my comments in the last review about posting the pictures. I don’t, as I sit here typing anyway, feel more energised or positive or happy. But then maybe I do, we don’t know what I’d feel like if I hadn’t been doing the exercise. But yesterday I realised there is a win. It’s just about putting it into perspective and remembering it today when I feel a bit crappy about everything. Yesterday I didn’t really feel like doing a workout. I also knew it was just laziness rather than genuinely feeling too tired. Initially I thought I could just do the live workout but that seemed really daunting. I didn’t know if I had 45 minutes in me. Then I suddenly got really scared about the workouts from cycle 3. So I went right back to Cycle 1 and did the final workout from that cycle. 12 moves, 2 rounds with a minute rest in-between rounds, 30/30 work/rest split. I put music on and got on with it. It’s not that the workout was easy as such. It wasn’t. But it felt so totally doable. For both rounds I could do every single exercise for the full 30 seconds, for most of them I added a few seconds on because it felt like I could and even though I did push myself, I still felt like dancing to the music in the rest breaks. I had fun because it wasn’t daunting. I wasn’t worried about being able to complete it all. It was really nice to feel like that.

Plans for the next Cycle

So today now marks the start of Intermediate Cycle 1. I don’t feel ready for intermediate. I did actually think about delaying the check in because I didn’t really feel ready to step up the exercise. I don’t feel like I have a handle on Cycle 3 yet. But when I mentioned it to Kath she rightly pointed out that we do not have to follow this so rigidly. Check in gives us a new set of exercises and recipes to try. But we still have the ones from earlier cycles. So in the same way that we go back to the old recipes, there is nothing stopping me going back to the old sessions. I’ll have a look at the workouts for this next cycle but if they look a bit scary and anxiety inducing I might just do workouts 4 and 5 from Cycle 3 a few more times and I need to remember that when everything feels scary, I can go back to Cycle 1 and enjoy something that feels easy in comparison.

Overall Thoughts

Actually in this cycle the app did exactly what I hoped it would. I have times, sometimes days, sometimes weeks, where everything feels too much, where leaving the house to go for a run is impossible. I’ve had a couple of weeks like that and without the app I would have done absolutely nothing during those two weeks. I might have done a little bit of yoga but maybe not. The app meant I moved, I still got my heart rate up, I still worked on getting fitter and stronger. The app helped to make sure things did not spiral and get worse. The app will help me get out and run again sooner and without having to go back to the beginning of my running programme every time this happens! This is what I wanted it for, it’s working perfectly so I should just stop being grumpy.

The Body Coach App Cycle 2 – Review

I am again writing the review as I go through the cycle and before I see my stats so that my thoughts are not skewed by what the numbers eventually say. I will add the stats and update the post just before I publish this. So, The Body Coach App Cycle 2. Hm. As I wrote earlier, Cycle 1 was pretty good. I have struggled more with cycle 2. I suspect progress has been limited. If I had to guess I would anticipate a slight weight gain and a small loss around my chest and maybe waist with everything else staying the same. Motivation has been harder to come by and a lot of Cycle 2 has been a little half hearted if I’m honest. Or at leas that’s what it feels like. It actually isn’t all doom and gloom when I think about it. Week 1 was pretty solid. Week 2 threw me off and weeks 3 and 4 were mixed. If you want a more detailed look at how the app works, have a look at my review of Cycle 1

The exercise sessions

Cycle 2 steps up a little from Cycle 1 but it is not unmanageable. On the beginner level there are no weights, so all exercises are bodyweight only. Having already done some of the bootcamp workouts that Joe Wicks did live on the app throughout January and which are available on demand, Cycle 2 workouts feel ok and not really a huge step up from what I had been doing in Cycle 1. I do think if you just do Cycle 1 workouts in Cycle 1 and then step up there is quite a difference though. Cycle 2 workouts definitely do not feel easy. I quite like workouts 4 and 5 which surprised me because I generally don’t like a low number of exercises and high number of sets. I generally prefer lots of different moves and just 1 or 2 sets. So the workouts are fine and challenging and sometimes fun and sometimes just bloody hard. The first 3 workouts continue the ratio of 30 seconds work and 30 seconds rest familiar from Cycle 1 but they are 30 minutes long rather than the 25 of most of Cycle 1. Workouts 4 and 5 go to 35 seconds work and 25 seconds rest. Who would have thought those 5 seconds either way make such a difference. Well, they do! Workout 4 doesn’t look like anything. It’s 5 moves six times and I have picked it twice thinking it would be a bit easier so I would have enough left in the tank for a run. Ha! It’s a bugger. It must be the repetition and using the same muscles. I have been a sweaty mess with jelly arms and legs every time. I have also done the odd bootcamp session. I think I have done all 20 at least once now. I like 17 which is a bums, tums and core one and I have a love hate relationship if 18 which is a killer cardio session (and I can’t do it all but will keep working on it) and 20 is just plain evil with the 40 second work/ 20 second rest ratio for the second round.

The food

Initially when we scrolled through the food for Cycle 2 we weren’t excited. There didn’t seem the be the same number of meals that made us think ‘oh good, yummy’ as there had been on Cycle 1. But when we actually sat down to plan our food, there is actually plenty of yumminess there. Refuel favourites have been Spaghetti Bolognese, Toad in the Hole and the Full English Frittata which I prefer deconstructed to a full english breakfast. The Chicken Jalfrezi from the general meal section is delicious, as is the Low Carb Lasagna. It was nice to try more new recipes and add some to our list of keepers and know that some others were just not for us (I am just not a Chia and Coconut Breakfast Bowl with Spiced Plums kinda girls, just no). For many the biggest change from Cycle 1 to Cycle 2 is that the plan now suggests 2 refuel meals a day rather than just one after a workout. We’d already been doing some of that because we know from when Kath did the 90 Day Plan that it works better for her.

So how did I get on

Well week 1 of Cycle 2 kept the motivation and enthusiasm from Cycle 1 up and I had a strong week with 5 workouts and 4 runs. I felt pretty good and like I was getting stronger. In week 2 I started the period from hell. I only ran once and while I did manage 4 workouts that week the first 2 were a little half hearted and I didn’t really push myself and the the other 2 were half hearted and lower intensity. One was bootcamp 17 which was focused on core strength and the other was the introduction to weights from the 90 Day Plan. I definitely didn’t want anything jiggling! Week 3 still felt a bit half hearted. Period bleurghness lasted the full 6 days rather than being confined to days 1 and 2 and I felt sluggish and heavy. I did however manage the 5 workouts and I went for 2 runs. One of the workouts was just a short ten minute one but still. In week 2 the February Abs Challenge started on the app and I managed 2 of those and then did 4 of them in week 3. Week for was a funny one. I had more energy and worked harder during the workouts and deliberately chose harder ones but motivation was tricky and I ended up not doing anything on Thursday. I did have good runs on Wednesday and Saturday managing to run for 30 minutes without walk breaks for the first time in absolutely ages. Maybe the way I have the rest days structured at the minute needs a little re-think. The Saturday rest days seems pointless as I often want to do something so maybe I need to put both rest days in the week.

Week 1 was mostly still using Cycle 1 recipes just because of when we do our shopping. From memory week 1 was pretty good in terms of meal planning and sticking to the plan. We used recipes from Joe Wicks’ books, the 90 Day Plan and the app throughout this cycle and meals were overall good. Snacks however are another story! I made some peanut butter fudge things but got my measurements wrong because I didn’t realise my scales were wedged on a spoon – so they had far too much peanut butter in. They were delicious though and I couldn’t stop eating them – a snack was meant to be 2 of my little pieces but I could have eaten them all so I gave most of them away to Kath’s mum. It was just pre period which explains everything. I continued to have ridiculous period cravings and basically just hoovered up any food I could find. I had toast, I had extra peanut butter, I had nuts, I had chocolate, I had cheese and and and. We’ve also had hot chocolate on most evenings throughout the Cycle. Somehow it has felt important and nourishing and calming to have a mug of bliss as we curled up for some downtime before bed.

In all the general grumpiness I stopped tracking my water intake and of course drank less as a result. A lot less I think. I restarted the tracking for week 4 and intake went back up but I am still not hitting 3.5 litres. I’ll keep trying.

Towards the end of week 3 my cravings and general food hoovering finally subsided and I felt like I had more energy for the workouts. During weeks 2 and 3 my knees had become really quite sore. I am not sure whether it was just because the workouts were getting harder and therefore my knees were struggling or whether my technique had been poor because my exercise had been a bit half hearted and I had aggravated something. I tried switching from barefoot to trainers but that made things worse so I ordered some HIIT trainers which arrived in time for week 4. I also stepped up the stretching for a couple of days with some 20 minute post run yoga sessions which really target the hamstrings and calves which, as usual, are stupidly tight. The combination of stretching and HIIT trainers made the first half of week 4 ok on the knees. There was still some residual nigglyness but easing and not getting worse during workouts but on Friday after the HIIT session they were really sore. I had been really careful during the session, had avoided squat jumps because my technique is a bit questionable when I get tired and had really focused on form -so it was annoying. I decided not to go for a run on top. During the Saturday run my knees were fine but a bit niggly during the day walking upstairs. More stretching needed!

The Facebook group is still not my tribe. I thought I might try and engage a little – after all you generally get out what you put in. I have commented on some posts and posted a couple of things but I’m not feeling it. There is too much diet talk, too much I have x amount of weight to shift, too much ‘my progress is too slow’, too much ‘how can this be allowed’, too much feeling guilty of going ‘off plan’. I find it quite hard to read that. So many people basically feeling guilty for living their life normally. I can’t decide if I want to hug them or scream at them. I scroll on. There are also lots of repetitive questions about stuff that actually is really clear on the app if people bothered to read the information or which has been answered countless times in the group if people bothered to search or even just scroll a little. Odd. Why pay for an app and then not look at it properly? Weird. The other thing I just don’t understand is sharing the progress pictures. Keep in mind these are generally pictures of you in your underwear. Why would you want to share them with a bunch of strangers – lots of strangers – on a social media platform? I just don’t really get that. The pictures are actually a really good way to see progress but the progress doesn’t change depending on how many people see or like the pictures. I’m not sure posting pictures of yourself in knickers and bra in a Facebook group with close to 10000 members is a smart thing to do. And I generally have no issues over-sharing!

The Wins

Like I said, this cycle was harder, I pushed myself less because of general life stuff and because my knees were sore. I also snacked quite a lot, particularly through week 2 and into week 3 and I didn’t once hit my water target. But there were still wins. My push-ups are getting better. Obviously I still can’t do a full one but I can now do 10 from my knees and I am getting much lower down than I was. I have started jumping out and in for the slow motion burpees rather than just stepping out and back in and I can now hold the bear crawl pose without the crawling for the duration so next time will try a little crawl with it. I haven’t felt hugely energised or motivated or more confident or anything like that but I also haven’t felt worse. My black puppy, while still very much there, has been confined to her place in the corner of the room and is allowing my poorly brain to recover and heal. I think the exercise and the relatively healthy food allowed things to stay calm-ish over the last 4 weeks and that’s a big win. Remember also that my main exercise thing is running and that’s really the only exercise I don’t hate. If I keep the workouts in perspective as something to help my running I find them easier to get into and more fun. Seeing benefits in running helps with that. And there have been running wins. I ran for 30 minutes nonstop twice this week and I can really feel the increased strength when, for example, running up short sharp hills. I have butt muscles and they activate and work! Whatever the numbers say, the app is doing it’s job at keeping me vaguely on track to do the things I want to do.

The numbers

So, Cycle 2 round-up. I struggled. Motivation didn’t come easy. I think that horrendous period has a lot to answer for here though rather than it being a reflection on the app. I definitely had the munchies but I don’t think that had anything to do with the food plan or portion sizes. There’s also been a lot of crap to deal with and I can’t wait for all that to be over which I think will help with head space and motivation to get off the sofa. Overall I have done 16 full HIIT workouts, 1 short body blast, 7 abs sessions and I have been for 5 runs and 2 longish walks. I have not yet done anything today on the final day and maybe I should have done before doing check in stats but that’s not how it worked out this morning. Given that my knees are still niggly I think I will run instead of a HIIT today and maybe tomorrow as well. I have lost 1kg on this cycle and a total of 8cm although apparently gained 1cm round my chest. The thing about some of these is though that it is actually hard to measure in the same spot each time so the measurements are not actually likely to be all that accurate. Interesting to note how the one place I felt like I might have lost a bit is the one place where the numbers suggest otherwise – and we measured repeatedly to check!

Roll on cycle three and a new set of recipes and workouts. I think it might even be quite fun.

Above the Clouds – Review

I am tidying the blog. Well tidying is too strong a word. I was scrolling through draft posts to decide what is worth saving and finishing and what I should just bin. Mostly I just binned things because they were things written about at a particular moment in time which are not really relevant anymore. I did think that this review was worth finishing though. I wrote it in September last year when I was really struggling with fitness and didn’t really know what was going on health wise. Not sure why I never finished the edit and posted it because the review was pretty much finished. So here it is:

A week ago I curled up on the sofa to read Kilian Jornet’s ‘Above the Clouds’. I am grumpy about not running or exercising much at all. I couldn’t get passed the 8 minute runs on the 5k plan and the Nike app just doesn’t seem to work for me beyond a week or so. I was and still am feeling unreasonably tired and this last week I have been for a few walks, slow walks, and I have been aching and tired like a ran a half marathon and didn’t stretch. I have a blood test on Thursday that will hopefully provide some answers. If everything is fine and I am just less fit than I ever have been then ok, well I guess I can work with that. But let’s just wait and see and then go from there.

I finished ‘Above the Clouds’ in an afternoon/evening and it is a nice and easy read. If you are interested in running and in particular running in the mountains then it’s worth a couple of hours of your time. But it’s not the snippets about training or races etc that stick with me from the book. Instead it’s the things left unsaid or hinted at. It’s clear that Kilian Jornet is not a people person and that he would rather just be running in the mountains or recording his thoughts just for him rather than sharing them with the world. There are passages of the book that made me smile because the reluctance to share too much of Kilian the person rather than Kilian the personality is tangible. Engaging with us, the public, through the writing is something he sort of has to do as part of the job. And presumably publishing the book then also means activity to promote the book and so more people stuff… So maybe I should start the review by saying thank you to Kilian Jornet for doing this, for sharing and for allowing us a glimpse into his extraordinary life and give us so much to think about and reflect on.

So the book provides an insight into Jornet’s journey that led to him climbing Everest twice within a few days and I really like that this is positioned both as something that has been in the making all his life and a sort of endpoint as well as just another thing he does. It’s that mixture of acknowledging the extraordinary while also recognising that for him that is actually just what he does, his normal if you like. This tracks through book and it made me think about how many people I would call inspirational just go about their normal life. For them, what they do is not special or record breaking or pushing boundaries (it might be but that’s not the point), it’s about them doing their thing their way. And in some ways this is so ill at ease with the social media world where clicks and likes are everything and doing your thing your way is difficult – particular where your thing your way does not conform to expectation. That juxtaposition between making a living doing what he loves – running in the mountains – and having to to the things which allow him to make a living doing what he loves – being an influencer and content creator – is an interesting one and one he clearly struggles with.

It made me think about social media and how we often view the sort of content created by these sporting greats. We see the big views, crazy mountain runs, snippets of what they choose to share on line with their sponsorship agreements and brands. That’s fine, that’s what it’s about. However it leaves a whole load of stuff unseen. We rarely get a glimpse of the ‘I can’t be fucked to get out of bed today’, ‘I am struggling with motivation’, ‘Everything hurts and I can barely walk never mind run’ stuff. It doesn’t fit with the influencer role. Except that there are glimpses of this in the book. Glimpses of losing the reason, the why, and therefore struggling. It also links, I think to something else Jornet writes about: The difference between training to compete or competing to train. It came as no surprise to me to read that Jornet competes to train. Throughout the book it is clear that his end goal is never about competition or records. It’s about him. Competition/races can provide motivation to train but the race is not the end point. I think maybe us mere mortals could also learn something from thinking about the difference between the two approaches – and we may take a different approach at different times in our lives. Practically I might do much the same but I think the mindset is completely different.

Something that resonated with me, which isn’t really about running at all, is the idea of home as feeling rather than place. Home for me has always been about a feeling not a particular place. When I say ‘home’ my meaning is completely dependent on context. I might mean the house Mum and I shared in Germany, I might mean my Dad’s flat in Hamburg, I might mean our very own corner of West Yorkshire. Sometimes it might mean a hotel room or a cabin or apartment. That’s not to say that I call every place I am staying at ‘home’. To me it’s a feeing of settledness and calm, maybe partly of familiarity but it’s more than that. It’s about what it feels like to be in the particular space. Home is Ilkley Moor when the curlews are circling, home is the flash of orange and blue as a kingfisher darts passed along the Leeds Liverpool Canal, home is the smell of Gl├╝hwein in Hamburg in the run up to Christmas or the icy blast of air conditioning as you come through the front doors of the Contemporary Resort at Disney. For Jornet home is always in the mountains but as it is for me, it is more a feeling than a place.

Jornet writes: ‘To me, sport doesn’t mean a life full of sacrifices but rather one full of choices’. This is sticking with me because it runs counter to how we so often think about life. The narrative of ‘achievements come on the back of sacrifices’ is really quite strong. Not just in sport but in other areas too – careers, relationships even. Reframing sacrifices to choices is a subtle but important difference in thinking about what we do and why. So some of the choices Jornet makes might seem extreme to us. The training he is capable of and chooses to do, the risks he chooses to take, yep, mad. But making choices to do x and y is a rather more positive way of thinking about achievements than sacrificing a and b to achieve them. So rather than sacrificing an hour in bed, I am choosing to get up and see the run rise during my run. Instead of sacrificing my chocolate fix and love of cake, I chose to bake my own healthier versions and instead of sacrificing ‘bad’ food, I choose to learn more about nutrition to help fuel my body better. Sacrifice feels imposed, unsustainable and a bit forced and miserable. Choice feels empowering, sustainable and positive. I don’t know if that’s what Jornet had in his head as he was writing but that’s what is sticking with me.

So overall reading the book left me with a sense of contradictions. Contradictions that are inherent in us all but which come out so clearly when someone like Jornet writes about his life. The book isn’t an amazing feat of story telling, it’s a bit chaotic and the sections don’t always link together easily. It’s not even a particularly well written book but there is something raw and honest about it. It is the story of an introvert who would clearly rather be running in the mountains than writing the book and who is certainly not looking forward to the promotional work the book will require. It’s the story told as it would be told in a cafe with friends with asides and tangents and chaos and an assumed familiarity with his life and work which sometimes means there is a lack of context. I loved the book because it felt real, it felt human and because there was no attempt to hide the lack of need for other people or the disdain felt for many of his fellow humans. There was also no attempt to gloss over the contradictions. Jornet comes across as supremely arrogant in some ways and vulnerable and humble in others. In other words, he’s human with all the flaws, contradictions and issues and the book not only doesn’t hide them, it acknowledges and embraces them. That’s rare in a book by or about elite athletes.

Happy reading.

The Body Coach App – Cycle 1 Review

As promised, here’s my review of the first 4 weeks of using the Body Coach App. It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me that when Kath decided she was going to do the Body Coach 90 Day Plan last year I was sceptical. It all sounded too much like diet to me. However, we were already cooking quite a lot of the recipes from Joe Wicks’ books and as Covid-19 meant the gym and sessions with RunRight weren’t an option, having a structured set of exercises to do at home did make some sense. I was in no state to join the 90 Day plan at that point but I very much enjoyed the food and had a go at one or two of the sessions towards the end of the year.

The more I looked at the meal plan and the more I looked at the exercise stuff, the more I thought that actually maybe the structure it provided would be quite useful, the workouts would push me and make me do some of the strength work that would help with running. Once I got back to running it would also provide a way I could do stuff at home if I had run out of brave to make it outside. So just as I decided that the 90 Day plan might work, the app was launched. I wasn’t sure about an app. It somehow in my mind made it sound even more diet like. But then maybe that’s just because my brain went straight from ‘app’ to ‘tracking’ or ‘counting’. After a bit more research I decided that I did want to give it a go. So both of us signed up to the app at the end of December.

Here’s how it works

You sign up and chose your level – Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced. You start with cycle one. Each cycle lasts 4 weeks. At the start of your cycle you add your starting stats which include weight, hip, chest and waist as well as arm and leg measurements and if you want to, photos. Then you ignore all of those things for the entire cycle until it is time to check in again 4 weeks later. The check in triggers the move to the next cycle. As I understand it there are 3 beginner cycles and then you move up to intermediate where there are also 3 cycles, then to advanced where it seems cycles will be unlimited. Workouts and recipes then move into your library so you can get back to them if you want to. The recipes will adjust automatically so the quantities are always tailored to you. I like the fact that the workouts stay there. While I want to push myself, I also know that on some days my head won’t play ball but when that happens it might still be persuaded to have a go at one of the easier and familiar workouts.

In cycle one we got recipes for 27 different refuel meals, 33 general meals and 12 snacks. Each of those recipes has the amounts tailored to us individually using our basal metabolic rate. I have absolutely no idea how accurate this is at all. And I don’t care. The cycle also provides 5 Cycle 1 workouts. They are pre-recorded and easily accessed from the app. The idea is that you do 5 workouts per week and have a refuel meal after each of those workouts. All other meals should come from the general plan and you should also eat 2 snacks each day. In addition the app recommends the amount of water you should drink. Right, there are a lot of shoulds in there. I am not good with should, at least not without understanding things a bit more. But it does all make sense. Hydration is important so I’m good with the drink lots of water (I’ll come back to specifics in a minute). Giving your body what it needs after a workout also makes a lot of sense – so eating a meal which is higher in carbs within a short-isn window after a workout seems sensible as it replenishes the body and aids recovery. Not eating loads of stuff we don’t need and which isn’t good for us obviously also makes sense – as does the idea that sometimes we all need a treat and that what we fancy as a treat might vary so chocolate can be part of a snack and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of popcorn!

The Workouts

I started the app a day before Kath although I will do my check in on the same day as her so we are back in line, so I did workout 1 twice. On the 90 day plan I found the cycle 1 workouts challenging when I tried them. I really noticed that the Beginner Cycle 1 workouts on the app are much more beginner level than on the 90 Day Plan. I like this. My critique of the Plan would have been that the cycle one workouts were not beginner enough. The app is gentle and gentle is good. It builds confidence. In the first week we simply did workouts 1-5 in order and I liked them. I could do them mostly and occasionally I could even do the next step up. So instead of marching on the spot I could jog, I could do an elbow plank without having to go from my knees and I can do star jumps rather than stepping out. So I am impressed with the beginner workout and I am also impressed with the way Joe Wicks presents the exercise to beginners. He takes care to demonstrate good form and to remind us as we go through and he makes absolutely clear that it is ok to pause the workout if you need a longer rest or to miss out an exercise or substitute it for something you can have a go at or to just do what you can and have a longer rest. Having lost all confidence with exercise, this was all really good for me. I never actually paused or took additional rest but it was good to know I could.

Our second week then coincided with the start of the January bootcamp on the app. This was/is a series of live workouts 5 times a week at either 7am or 7pm and they were obviously aimed at everyone using the app at whatever level. We did the first one live simply because it was about the time we were going to do a session anyway. The live workouts save to an ‘on demand’ section though so can be done at any time. I was anxious about having a go but actually have enjoyed all of the ones I have done so far. They work well when Kath and I do our workouts together because Joe gives different options for different levels of intensity. I have done 11 of the bootcamps and they have allowed me to push a little harder than the Cycle 1 workouts and have probably given me confidence to try things I didn’t think I could do. On a few occasions I went back to workouts 4 and 5 of Cycle 1. The first time because I wanted to wait for Kath to do the next bootcamp, the second because I was thinking about perhaps going for a little run and wanted something comparatively easy and the third because I had been for a run earlier in the day and it was late and what I really wanted to do was go to bed. On the first occasion I really noticed how much easier the workout was compared to the bootcamps and that to push myself to the same extent I needed to step it up. It was a nice feeling. The second time was this week on Thursday when I had a crappy weird day and couldn’t be bothered with the world. I was too scared to go out and thought that maybe a workout would help me snap out of it and I could go for a little run and get some air after. Well I was just dead. Some days you just don’t have it but I managed to finish the workout and I did feel better for it. Friday was really the first time I nearly didn’t do my workout. I wanted to go to bed really but instead I had a go at workout 4 and while I didn’t enjoy it much, I did enjoy having done it. This morning I did workout 5 of the first cycle and Kath did it with me after having done a bootcamp workout already (mad woman). It felt fitting to finish cycle 1 with a cycle 1 sessions. So in terms of workouts, I have really just done what the app told me to do. That’s not likely to last is it!?!

The food

The food wasn’t really new to me. Kath did the 90 Day Plan and we have several Joe Wicks books. We also know at least a little bit about nutrition and from our running etc have a pretty good idea about what our bodies need in terms of fuel. I think it is also important to remember that this isn’t meant to be a diet. So no, I didn’t stick to the food plan all the time. All meals over the last 4 weeks came from Joe Wicks but no all of them came from the app. When using the books we adjusted the quantities to be more in line with the quantities in the app recipes and when using recipes from the 90 Day Plan we used Kath’s quantities from that plan which are very slightly lower than mine. The biggest deviation from the app was probably that we realised quickly that Kath in particular struggled on one refuel meal and was tired, hungry and a bit flakey. So on some days we had 2 refuel meals and one general. We did try, and mostly succeeded, to have a refuel meal after a workout but sometimes things changed and we didn’t do the session when we had originally planned. Yesterday we were meant to have some home made fish and chips but our heads just weren’t in it so instead of sorting breadcrumbs and coating the fish and faffing, we had fish fingers from the freezer. Yep, that’s right, it has to fit in with life or it’s just another diet to make us miserable. We also had quite a lot of chocolate and biscuits left from Christmas which we enjoyed without the slightest hint of guilt and Kath made a delicious fruit cake which we enjoyed with cheese from our monthly cheese subscription. I am really happy with the food. It’s all lovely, none of it is difficult to make, we haven’t had any major cooking disasters and I love the idea of peanut butter and apple as a snack. Of course I could do much more to ‘be good’ but I don’t really want to be good. I want to enjoy yummy food that fuels my body well and provides the energy to do the things I want to do and I want to enjoy a biscuit or three.

According to the plan I am supposed to drink 3.5litres of water. Hahahahahaha. Yes well. I might as well just sit on the loo, stay there and pour water in the top. I started using Garmin to track hydration as that seemed the only way I was actually going to manage to keep an overview of how much water I am actually drinking. I have been tracking for 15 days and have drunk 3.5 litres on 6 of those days. I am consistently reaching at least 2.5l sthough which, I am fairly sure, is more than I was drinking before.

The Facebook group

The Body Coach website and app are clear about what it is, the app also gives loads of useful information. It’s all there, it’s all pretty clear. The key message is always, it seems to me anyway, that the app is about helping people become healthier and fitter. It’s basically a training and food plan for those of us who are too lazy to figure one out for ourselves. The focus is most definitely not on weight loss. It’s not a diet. If I thought it was I wouldn’t be doing it. That is not, however, what the Facebook group feels like. I joined the Body Coach app official group on Facebook because I sort of presumed that it would be a very supportive and positive space to share thoughts and ideas. I was quite shocked. There are clearly lots of people who do find it supportive and inspiring but mostly I was really taken aback by how much focus is on weight. I was disappointed to see how many in the group seem to measure their moral worth by the number on the scales and how many are really disappointed when the scales don’t move even when they admit that they feel better and stronger. I was surprised at people apologising for going ‘off plan’ or ‘falling off the wagon’. I was concerned about questions about alcohol or biscuits or whether the plan would be less effective if you use natural yoghurt rather than fat free versions. The Facebook group mostly talks about this as a diet and there are lots of posts about how great the food is with comments like ‘how can this be allowed?!?’. After first scrolling through the posts I was quite upset and I took some time to think about why.

I thought about why I was shocked. Over the last few years I have been a member of various exercise, or rather running, related groups on Facebook. There was the Too Fat to Run Clubhouse, various runDisney groups and of course the fabulous Trail Running Magazine Run1000Miles group. While the general runDisney and also the specific Dopey Challenge groups had their fair share of stupid questions and questionable running advice at times, they were never about weight. Too Fat to Run was about being fat and running and I left when discussions about weight started being policed a bit too much which bizarrely seemed to push a focus onto it more than there ever was when there were no rules about posting about weight. Run1000Miles is just about the joy of being outside and enjoying putting one foot in front of the other. The tone when people do post about weight in any of those forums is markedly different. People celebrate their own weight loss, or that of others in a completely different way. There is no moral victory assigned to the weight loss or for that matter any moral value to weight. If someone wanted to shift a few pounds because being a bit lighter makes running easier then that’s something to support and celebrate. If someone managed to stick to a strength training plan or a series of HIIT sessions they wanted to do because it makes them stronger and fitter then thats something worth celebrating too. And the groups I have been in did that. There were some incredible weight loss stories in all of the groups but they were framed in terms of health and fitness and what it allowed the person to do and not in terms or weighing less making you a better person. What shocked me was how normal it seems for so many to think that to be valued and valuable you have to weigh less than you do now and of course be thin. It made me realise how lucky I have been with the Facebook groups I am part of. In particular the run1000Miles group which is so supportive of everyone’s achievements whether that is running a mile or 10, whether it’s a 7 minute mile or a 14 minute mile and whether it’s a 100 mile week or a 100 mile year. The group also overall projects a much healthier relationship with food. That’s not to say that individuals within the group won’t have their own issues. Food and weight can be tricky in all sorts of different ways but overall conversations are about fuel needed for running, treats that nourish body and soul and that food, all food, is part of our lives and often part of what makes it pleasurable and sociable. There isn’t anything that ‘isn’t allowed’ although I’m sure we’ve all made bad pre-run choices that have come to haunt us a few miles in!

So the Facebook group that goes with the Body Coach app just isn’t my tribe. Partly I am tempted to reply to so many of the posts or even post what I just wrote but I would be screaming into a void. Marketing is powerful and the diet industry even more so. As a society we have so much work to do. I have remained in the group and every now and again I scroll through for the odd good tip on modified recipes but I have turned off all notifications and the posts don’t appear in my feed. I spent too long working through my own issues and moving away from the number on the scale meaning something to be dragged back to having debates about the moral value of fat.

Is the app working?

Yes it is. I have done 19 of the pre recorded or live sessions on the app and 6 30 ish minute runs in Cycle 1 and I have enjoyed the food. I am feeling a little bit fitter and a little bit stronger. I haven’t really struggled with motivation to do the exercises. Once or twice I’ve had to give myself a kick but mostly I have enjoyed the routine of ‘this is just what I do’. Of course that has been relatively easy as I haven’t been working and even if I had, I’d just be at home. So the routine aspect of this and the planning ahead and then just doing what it says on the plan without having to think about it might become more important as I go back to work and eventually even actually go to work, as in – leave the house. So I wanted to get into a regular exercise regime that ultimately supports my running and which can be done easily at home to deal with those days where going out is just a step too far. I wanted to build fitness and strength and feel better, more energised. I also wanted to try new recipes and move away from the same handful of meals we always used to have. So by those measures of success, the app is doing exactly what I wanted it to do and I am very happy with it. For those of you who care more about metrics: I lost 3.5kg, I lost 2 cm each off my chest, waist and hips and another 5cm total off arms and thighs. And just to make sure that my evaluation of the app isn’t coloured by those stats but is based on how I feel, I wrote almost all of this post yesterday, before doing the measurements and photos and hopping on the scales this morning after workout 5 of Cycle 1. I’ll report back after Cycle 2.

Plyoptic All in One Yoga Mat – Review

I hope everyone has had a good first few days of 2021. It is funny how the calendar rolling over from one year to the next invites us to re-set. My running etc re-start actually kicked off a little while ago and has nothing much to do with new year. I have started the Joe Wicks App – again nothing to do with New Year but simply with when Christmas and my birthday fall as it was a present. I didn’t wait until the 1st January to sign up and get going but the first proper week following the food and exercise starts now as we still had so many left overs etc that we fudged the food last week. I have however done all 5 workouts from the app for the first week now (the first one twice) and joined the live bootcamp this morning – but I will review the App more fully when I have finished the first cycle.

I have also come back to yoga more and have done some yoga every day for the last few days. I forget how much I enjoy it. We got new mats for Christmas, we chose them but Kath’s mum bought them for us. I wanted to spend some time reviewing them now that I have done a variety of exercises, poses and moves on them. Our old yoga mats did a pretty good job but one of them was too thick to do some of the moves and certainly too thick for any sort of HIIT workout. The other one was textured and the cats loved to use it as a scratching carpet (or post if rolled up) so it was looking rather worse for wear. It also repeatedly tried to kills us by scrunching up during exercise and making us roll our ankles or trip. We spent ages looking for new mats and reading reviews and really trying to find something that we could use for yoga and some strength work and HIIT. The mats we eventually settled on were chosen because several reviews said they did not slip or move on carpet. Well.

The mats are from Plyoptic and they are gorgeous. Plyoptic do several designs and they are all stunning. Ours mats come from their All In One range so are intended to be reversible so that one side is yoga etc with the beautiful designs and the other is for other gym type workouts you might do in trainers etc. I really like the feel of the mat on my hands and feet for yoga, it doesn’t feel cold and it feels grippy. The rubber side also feels fine. A little cold maybe if the room is cool but I guess the idea is that you’d probably be wearing trainers anyway, I wasn’t. The mats smell a little rubbery but not over-powering and nasty like some. They roll up easily and come with a carrying strap. The strap on my mat was missing but when I contacted Plyoptic they sent one in the post immediately. So they look great and feel pretty good but do they work?

Well, let’s do yoga first: I don’t slip, even when I get a bit sweaty. So that’s great and better than my previous thicker mat which was a bit slidey when my hands and feet got sweaty. They’re thin mats but that’s no issue on carpet which provides plenty of padding. So for general yoga they are really good mats and the designs add something. But they do scrunch on carpet. I left the mat down for a HIIT session and star jumps or even just marching on the spot were a non starter. I would have risked breaking my ankle leaving the mat down as it was. I ended up just using it for the press-ups and moving to carpet for anything else. I did leave it yoga side up though…

So for the next HIIT session I flipped the mat over. That worked a little better. I would still not be able to run on the spot on the mat as it scrunched up but I did do star jumps without risking tripping. This way round the mat also stayed in place better for things like mountain climbers although I was doing a slow version. Slow motion burpees were also ok. There is some scrunching and the mat needed re-adjusting during every rest period after an exercise burst but it was much better than trying to do the same thing yoga side up.

So where does that leave us? Well I am a bit disappointed. The whole point is the beautiful design and now much of the time I am not going to see that while exercising. And even when flipped over, the claim that the mats are good for use on carpet just isn’t true. They still scrunch, just not as much and some things we will definitely not be able to do on the mat which means the plan of protecting the carpet a bit needs a re-think. Honestly, if we were just buying a mat for doing yoga and nothing else, we probably would have gone for something cheaper. There are plenty lovely yoga mats out there that are much less expensive and do the job we need them to for yoga. That’s not to say that the mats were really really expensive – in the scheme of yoga mats they were what you might call mid range at about 50 quid each (they’re showing as more expensive on the Plyoptic page now). So would I recommend them? Well yes, if you have that spare cash and fall in love the design and want to stick to yoga poses/flow but you could also get something cheaper – including something cheaper from Plyoptic. The environmental credentials of these mats are probably better than most of the cheap ones I’ve seen elsewhere – they are made from biodegradable materials and are PVC and toxic glue etc free so for that I think it was worth spending a bit more. However, if you’re looking for something that won’t move or scrunch on carpet for whatever exercise you want to do – these mats are not it. We’re keeping the mats and I will enjoy doing yoga on mine but there’s this niggle that it’s not quite what I thought it was going to be. And if anyone does know of any mats that really honestly do not scrunch up on carpet when you use them, please let me know.