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.

Eeyore-ish post about running life

I started a blog post yesterday. I was tired and grumpy and a bit worn down by general crappiness, lockdown and stuff. I wrote

Well, I am about half way through Cycle 2 of the Beginner Body Coach app and my mojo has sort of disappeared. It’s not the app I don’t think. I am just generally not feeling it. I can’t be bothered. I think my really bad period I wrote about the other day sort of threw me off a bit. The bleurghness lasted for the full 6 days rather than just the first couple and I still feel a bit sluggish.

We went for a short run on Sunday. It was our anniversary and it was a lovely start to the day. We saw deer and a kingfisher and I managed to up the running intervals to 45 seconds. It was good. But I haven’t run since. Partly because it’s been cold and potentially icy. I am pretty sure the roads round here would be fine for a 30 minute loop but I just haven’t felt like pushing those buttons. I have missed one Body Coach workout last week and I haven’t done one today. My knees are a bit niggly. I have just started wearing trainers when doing the sessions to see if that helps but if they don’t work I might buy some actual HIIT trainers.

And then I went to bed.

I thought after a good nights’ sleep I might be in a better frame of mind. I wasn’t. I procrastinated for a while. Then I grumped quietly into my coffee for a bit, then I scrolled through social media trying to find something to either grab my attention or provide some inspiration or motivation. Nope. Then I thought I might as well go for that run. It’ll be awful but at least it will be done and it’ll kill half an hour or so.

So I got changed and went out. It’s gloriously sunny and bitterly cold. I don’t really remember thinking anything when I set off running. I wondered if the 45 second running intervals would be hard given that I haven’t run all week. They weren’t. I wondered if it was going to be slippery. It wasn’t. By the time I hit a mile I was sort of settled into a very slow and gentle happy plod. I didn’t know which way to go so when I got to the junction at which I had to decide and there were walkers, bikes and cars seemingly everywhere (there weren’t, just felt like it), I looked at my watch, realised I had done 15 minutes and decided to turn round and just go the same way back. Now this might seem like a bit of a cop out. It’s not. My plan says 30 minutes so doing 15 minutes out and then back is fine AND the way back would be mostly uphill. The kind of uphill I don’t usually bother with because it’s too hard. This time though I did it. Same intervals, no additional walk breaks and only one minute per mile slower than on the downhill.

So do I feel better now? A little maybe, less vague and generically grumpy. I am pleased I went out. The sunshine was lovely and it was nice to manage the uphill running bits.It feels like I have achieved something today. And in a fit of optimism I have left my sports bra on to do a Body Coach App workout later on this afternoon. In the meantime our two youngest cats are keeping me entertained fighting over the hammock (Odin is currently holding the position but Kilian wants it, or just wants Odin not to have it).

Period Talk

‘Everything hurts and I’m dying’ sums up how I have felt the last couple of days. I am usually an emotional and rage filled mess the day before my period starts and then on day 1 suffer from cramps, back ache, sore boobs and a general feeling of bleurgh. Day two is sometimes fine and sometimes a repeat of day 1 but by day 3 I’m usually fine. I also feel heavy and sluggish and like I could really use a wheelbarrow for my tummy.

So that brings me to exercise. Generally the last thing I want to do the day before and for the first two days of my period is move. Ideally at all. What I really want is to eat all the food, cry all the tears and stay under the duvet with permission to snarl at any living being coming within 5 feet. Curling up and hiding isn’t actually all that helpful though. Mostly I feel better if I can manage to do some exercise. Mostly, but not always.

This week my carefully crafted plan has gone out of the window so I am already a bit grumpy about that. I was tired after my longer run on Sunday and decided to take Monday as my rest and move things around. Tuesday I did a very half hearted workout. I had a thing in the afternoon and I was anxious and edgy and couldn’t really focus on the workout. I got through it, it was one of those you just tick off. I did feel better for doing it. A little more focused afterwards.

Then yesterday was the bleurgh day. I was tired and emotional and hugely pre menstrual. I slept badly and unusually my period started in the middle of the night at 2.30am and I have been drugged on ibuprofen and caffeine pretty much since then. I could quite happily have stayed in bed. But I got up, I had breakfast and drugs and we did the food shop and then I kept hoovering up any food within reach. Kath went out to run and I wondered whether that might be a nice thing to do. But the thought of leaving the house and bouncing the bloated belly down the street was enough to make me go for another spoonful of peanut butter.

Once Kath finished work she persuaded me to at least have a go at one of our Body Coach workouts. I was skeptical. I mean, leaving the sofa felt like an exertion and there was cheese in the fridge that I could eat with minimal effort. But the ibuprofen I’d taken a while ago would wear off soon so it was now or never. I agreed to try, squeezed myself into my shorts, coaxed my poor boobs into a sports bra and started swearing at Joe from the minute he started talking. I huffed and puffed and whimpered my way through bootcamp 20 on the app. I felt weak and crap and struggled to complete some of the exercises. It was pretty grim.

So do I feel better and energised and proud for having done the workout. No. I don’t. Sometimes this ‘You’ll never regret a workout’ rhetoric and this forced notion of always feeling better really gets on my nerves. I appreciate that it probably did me good. I also think I’d probably feel worse if I hadn’t done the workout because I actually quite like ticking them off and sticking to the numbers of workouts per week. But I have absolutely zero strong feelings about the workout. It did not change my day, it did not change my mood, it did not make my cramps disappear. It was grim, it’s done. And I guess sometimes that’s all it needs to be.

But I do think we need to start talking much more about how our periods impact on exercise and diet. It’s nice to see more conversations, more research and more writing on this but I think it is still missing from our general talk about exercise and how we fuel our bodies. So today I had several spoonfuls of peanut butter, a handful or several of chocolate beads, a scone, cheese and my 3 meals, plus some biltong and some cherries and whatever else I have now forgotten. That’s ok. I was busy containing rage and dealing with a very cross lower back. I wasn’t about to worry about the extra fairly random calories. I also hated the exercise. That’s fine. We don’t have to love it every time. I hated that I couldn’t do it and I am cross at myself for even expecting myself to be able to do it. I mean obviously I couldn’t do it. I feel about 3 stone heavier than I actually am, standing up unleashes a tidal wave of menstrual fluid thus making squats particularly fun and my boobs are under so much tension that quite frankly anything could happen when I run on the spot.

So can we just give ourselves a break here. Can we just accept that sometimes our periods will have a huge impact on our day and our routine. I am actually not bad every month, sometimes I can carry on almost as normal but more often than not expecting the same levels of energy, the same good food choices and the same enthusiasm for moving never mind exercise is just madness. It is tempting to be disappointed at not sticking to the Body Coach food framework (which is about a lifestyle and not a diet so should in theory work for periods too, in fact it should have an extra period snacks section I reckon) and frustrated at how awful the exercise was and the fact that there was no way I was doing a workout and a run today. But we need to work with our periods, they need to feature in how we think about living healthy lifestyles. And for some of us our periods become less painful or heavy or have less of an impact as we get generally fitter but that’s not universally true. For some of us exercise helps relieve some of the symptoms but I don’t think that’s universally true either. I think, like for so much with running and exercise and healthy living and all that generally, we need to figure out what works for us. Forget the ‘should’, forget the ‘this works for me so it must for you’ and certainly forget the ‘just push through’. Make those bleurgh days about you and what is right for your body. Nourish it how you want to, move it how you want to and never ever feel guilty about it.

Now, where’s that peanut butter.

Ice, Ice Go Away

Running is sort of on semi-hold while the weather decides what it wants to do. I’m trying not to be grumpy about it. I get stupidly scared in snow and ice. While part of me really wanted to go and play in the snow, face some of those fears and rediscover some of the winter childhood joy, now is not the time to risk injury or to add to stress levels. So running is paused until the last of the ice has melted and the paths are safe again.

For once I am not too concerned about the pause. I have been doing my Body Coach App workouts so I am at least doing something. I am also confident that I can run/walk the distance on my plan so am happy to just tick those weeks off for now and pick up the plan wherever it falls when I can get outside again. This weekend I am to do a 2.5 mile run and maybe, just maybe I can do that tomorrow.

I seem to be managing 1 run a week in-between cold snaps. Last Tuesday I had a therapy appointment at Bolton Abbey and took the opportunity to have a little trot out while there. I was only going to run/walk from the Abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion, grab a coffee and walk back to the car park with it. However when I came out of my session the path towards the bridge across the river and beyond towards the Cavendish Pavilion looked really busy with dog walkers and families with small children. I really didn’t fancy trying to navigate my way through that lot. I briefly considered not running and just heading home but the sun was shining and my brain was whirring from therapy. Running would be good.

So I set off in the opposite direction for a little trot out along the river and soon moved off the path onto grass. It had that delightful consistency that you only get from slightly frozen wet fields – squishy and crunchy at the same time and a little bit spongy. I trotted along in my 30seconds / 30 seconds run/walk intervals and wondered why it felt like such hard work. Then I remembered that for the last year or so I have hardly really run properly off road. The bit of running I have done has been road and canal towpath – and the towpath locally here is proper path not mud. I have not run on grass and mud for absolutely ages. And it showed.

The section I ran is only about half a mile each way so I ran a little loop round the field which also tested out my feet and ankles more on the slightly longer grass and avoided the muddy bits where lots of people had walked. Then I ran back up to the Abbey and round it back towards the car park to make up my 30 minutes. It wasn’t a great run in terms of pace or even how I felt doing it – a bit sluggish and can’t be bothered but it was 30 minutes of moving my moomin butt in the sun, it helped my brain stop whirring and it felt good.

The run really got my quads and I was sore for a couple of days after but not sore enough to not do the Body Coach stuff. I have a week to go on Cycle 1 so I’ll do a review then. I’m quite enjoying it all. I’ve switched rest days around a bit this week as I was just dead yesterday but overall I think it’s going pretty well. Now, if the weather goddess would be so kind and remove the ice, I can get going properly on that 10km plan!

I ran

I wasn’t really expecting to tell you this again this year! I had moments where I hoped and the odd glimmer of total madness where I dared to plan. But I didn’t really believe I would manage another actual run this year. When I last wrote I was testing the fitness water with some HIIT sessions at home – well parts of HIIT sessions. Well they felt sort of awful and I felt not quite right and weird. And then one day, about 10 days ago I managed all 3 sets, and it didn’t feel weird. It just felt hard. It felt like being unfit and not being used to any of the exercises and like maybe having started on the mince pies just a little too early this year. It felt familiar. My body does unfit really well. It understands what it feels like and what is asked of it. It grumbles in all the usual places and ways when asked to do something about it. It wobbles and creaks a little and grumbles but it also secretly knows which bits will be slightly less wobbly first, which bits need nursing along and which bits just need to get over themselves. It knows my thighs lie when they say ‘can’t’ but that my shoulders know their limitations and ignoring a ‘can’t’ from them is likely to result in a dropped weight or face plant. It also knows that my hips are quite bendy, my hamstrings are not. Being unfit and starting to get fitter is familiar territory, I was beginning to come home.

So if the HIIT sessions just felt hard but not being-poorly-weird then there was no real reason I couldn’t have a go at a run. Running feels scarier simply because I have to leave the house. If I don’t feel well I still have to get home; there might be other people (rude!) and there are other things to think about like traffic, curbs, potholes, dogs, cars, wheelie bins with minds of their own… so I made a very very gentle plan:

  • Week 0: Complete 4 HIIT sessions
  • Week 1 (now): 2 runs of 30 minutes running only 10 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run -same running interval
  • Week 2: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 15 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
  • Week 3: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 20 seconds of every minute; 1 longer run using same intervals
  • Week 4: 2 runs of 30 minutes running 30 seconds walking 30 seconds; 1 longer run 30/30 on Christmas morning

The I panicked about everything and did very little. Out of the 4 sessions I managed 2 and I struggled to get out to run. It’s now Thursday of Week 1 and after a day of pottering about in the kitchen baking I decided it was time. I found a pair of new New Balance long pants I bought a century or so ago (it’s 2020, time is meaningless) and got wrapped up warm. Then I went to set my watch and discovered that I couldn’t set a 10 second/50 second alert – it would have to be 15 /45 seconds or I’d have to set up a new workout to upload first. Hm. Ok well 15 seconds run it had to be then.

Kath came with me and we agreed just to do an out and back to the end of the road section of our sheep loop. It wouldn’t be quite half an hour but it would be a good start. So that’s what we did. 15 seconds of running – really concentrating on running form and going at a decent pace. It was pretty good. It wasn’t easy but my legs remember how to run and actually they weren’t too grumpy about having to move a bit faster and get the knees a bit higher and my lungs didn’t protest too much either. 1.5 miles all in and I am looking forward to the next one. I ran.