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.

March Planning

Black cat lying next to a calendar with a person looking at  the calendar planning
Kath and Einstein Planning

My February roundup is actually pretty much contained in my Body Coach App Cycle 2 Review. I did a bit of running and a bit of stuff from the app… and it was fine. I have now done a bit of planning for March and I have changed a couple of things. So the first thing to note is that I have gone back a week on the running plan. I could push on but I’m in no rush and I don’t feel settled into it so I am repeating a week before moving on. It feels sensible and right. I don’t need to reach a specific distance by a specific point and I’d rather feel comfortable doing what I am doing than constantly pushing for further. I will continue with the two 30 minute runs during the week. I think I will try and run as much of those as I can without walking – but depending on the route there will likely be some walking. West Yorkshire ain’t flat! My weekend runs this month will go up to 5.25 miles and I will try and do those run/walk with 45 second running/30 second walking. Let’s see how that goes. I might even repeat another week if the 4.25 miles I am to do this weekend feels really hard.

I am still aiming to do 5 Body Coach workouts each week but if I am struggling I am happy to drop one and just do the run. I so far quite like the cycle 3 workouts so maybe motivation won’t be as much of an issue as in Cycle 2 and I can get them done in the morning. I have gone back to work on a phased return today so I now need to fit work into life again so there’ll be some experimenting with how that works best. I like the idea of a workout first thing and then running after work to draw a line under the work day but that might not actually be feasible. We’ll see.

Cycles 1 and 2 suggested that having the rest days as I had them didn’t really work. I had Tuesday and Saturday as rest days. It seemed like a good idea in planning. It left one weekend day free from workouts and running to devote to other things and then split the week into 2 workout days, one rest day, 3 workout days, one rest day… Except that on the Saturday I often felt like I wanted to do something, the workout or run could be done any time without fitting around other commitments (and now work) and somehow felt less pressured. This was the case even where I had completed workouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday already. Somehow I never felt like I needed or wanted the rest on Saturday or on Sunday. Monday was also good, a workout somehow nicely sets up the week. On Tuesday I’d welcome the rest day and then not really get going again, sometimes going for a run or doing a workout on Wednesday but struggling or then taking an extra rest day on the Thursday. So for March I am trying something slightly different. I am going to workout/run on 5 days and then have 2 back to back rest days. So Tuesday and Wednesday become rest days. It might not work but it is worth seeing if it does.

And yes, of course this blog post is just an excuse to share the photos of Odin and Einstein helping us with our planning.

A ‘not quite’ sort of day

1st of March. Hmph. Time seems to be flying and yet not moving at all. Time is weird. I went for a run today. I didn’t want to. I did a workout too this morning, didn’t want to do that either. I didn’t sleep well. My knees hurt in my sleep and I couldn’t get comfy at all and wherever I turned there seemed to be a cat making it impossible for me the stretch out or move. I didn’t make 30 miles in February – I nearly did but not quite – because I did not want to dodge all the people that the glorious sunshine brought out yesterday. They were everywhere and in hordes, even on the roads. So no quick 30 minutes to just tip the mileage over 30 and no 4.5 miles to fulfil my obligation to the plan.

Yesterday’s sunset

Anyway, I woke up early. Not that it felt like I had been asleep much. An exercise session was on my mind but I thought if I just keep quiet maybe that feeling that I should just get it done would go away and I could stay in bed drinking coffee, cuddling cats, watching the sun come up. Well there was no sun to be seen in the fog anyway and then Kath uttered the words I didn’t really want to hear: ‘I was thinking about doing a workout’. Oh sod it then, let’s do it. Let’s start the month positively. It was actually fine and I did feel better afterwards. There was a lot of ‘not quite’ in the session though, the not quite managing the same number of push-ups as yesterday, not quite sprinting on the spot until the timer beeped and not quite managing the bear crawl for 30 seconds… not quite.

I left my sports bra on as I had planned a run today and having to change bras is a major factor in not actually making it out the door (no? Just me? Oh ok). Kath headed out after she finished work. I was still faffing with stuff but decided I wanted to get it done. I wanted the first day of the month at least to go to plan. Well, not quite. I got changed and headed out. I felt cold. I rarely feel cold running and even if I do it’s only for a few steps really. But throughout the whole run I could not get warm. I couldn’t quite get into a rhythm, not quite. I was always not quite settled. I told myself that if I got to the end of the road and still wasn’t feeling it I would turn round and come home. At the end of the road I was neither settled nor more unsettled and on autopilot I just kept going. Everything though felt not quite right. I dropped to run/walk. I’m not sure why. I was going downhill. I had been quite clear in my head about the planned loop but now I just couldn’t face it. I turned off early and significantly shortened the loop. I kept going on run/walk. Sometimes though I didn’t run the full 45 seconds – not quite. I met Kath coming in the opposite direction as I huffed and puffed up a gentle slope. She turned round to come with me. From there it was uneventful, a walk up the hill, a run/walk home. I was supposed to do 30 minutes. I did 28.22 minutes. Not quite. I only covered 1.86 miles, not even 2 miles. Not quite. I also didn’t really feel better after the run. I felt better when I put my sticker on the calendar for today showing that at least on Day 1 I stuck to the plan – even if not quite.

On not feeling worse

Cup of black coffee
Coffee!

Well so far this week has been a funny one. I tried to go for a run on Monday. For those of you who know me, you will know that I generally function well on caffeine and have a pretty high tolerance for the drinking coffee in the afternoon. Not so on Monday. I had an espresso a little while after lunch and soon after felt sick and dizzy, like you do when you have too much coffee. I thought it would pass quickly and got changed for a run but it didn’t pass quickly. As I curled up on the bed trying not to puke I felt pretty crappy about running and exercise. Eventually the nausea eased and I decided to get over myself and head out for 30 minutes. Initially it wasn’t too bad. I headed down the road and then turned right going slightly uphill before taking the road down towards the canal. I had a loop in mind so didn’t head straight for the canal but along the road that would take me parallel to it. It slopes up. As I plodded along I was very aware of the sick-y feeling coming back. I kept telling myself it would ease when I got onto the flat. When I got onto the flat I told myself it would ease as I got my breath back down the slope I was about to get to. It didn’t ease and by the time I got to the bottom of the slope I felt both sick and dizzy. My watch beeped for a mile, I took a few more steps and then stopped.

I walked home feeling sick and grumpy but it was the right call. Tuesday was my planned rest day and even though I hadn’t done loads it felt like I needed it. Wednesday was supposed to be Body Coach and run day but my head wasn’t playing ball. It was one of those sofa days. I wasn’t so much tired as stuck. I barely moved off the sofa. I did try a Body Coach workout but it started with slow motion burpees and they hurt my knee and honestly, I just could not be bothered so I went back to the sofa. After tea Kath did drag me out for a walk in the rain and I am glad she did because up until our little 3 ish mile loop I had taken a grand total of 279 steps! The movement and air did me good.

On Thursday I woke up and it was one of those mornings where you get to decide what mood you’re going to be in rather than just waking up with a predetermined one. I hovered between continuing the flatness of the day before and being more positive. While I wasn’t exactly bouncing with positivity another day on the sofa did not appeal either. So I got out of bed, walked to the end of the bed and bent down to touch my toes and settle into ragdoll pose. There’s something quite nice about just hanging upside down for a while. I remember thinking that out floor was dusty and my hair stupidly long. I went to say good morning to Kath and then to make french toast with pineapple and blueberries for breakfast. We did the food shop for us and for our mothers. Then I was back on the sofa. I didn’t think that was such a good place to be really, it wasn’t a healthy sort of rest. So I got changed and did a Body Coach workout. Then I made lunch, then I prepped our tea and then I got on with some other stuff and then we went for a run. 30 minutes nonstop running. It was fairly horrible. It was such a mental battle. Anxiety levels are high at the moment and I could really feel that in my breathing and from the minute we set off the brain gremlins were telling me how crap I am at running and how there was no way I was running for 30 minutes today. I hadn’t actually planned on running nonstop – the route I had suggested has a big hill in it which I always planned to walk but I really didn’t want the gremlins to win so I asked to change the route so I could try and keep running. I made it and that felt positive. Friday wasn’t a bad day and I did a Body Coach workout and decided not to run because I wanted to run at the weekend and don’t want to overdo it and then crash.

Jacob sheep with lamb
One of our favourite ewes with one of her lambs – 2016 maybe

This morning we went for a run together and I was quite looking forward to it as I got sorted and then suddenly felt really scared about it. I went anyway. We did a run/walk in 45/30 second intervals and it was just a continuation of the mental battle from Thursday. Mantras didn’t work and instead my brain flooded my consciousness with negative running memories. Our old first field offered a little respite with 2 gorgeous black lambs tucked in next to their mother but then it was just me against my thoughts again with Kath doing her best to reassure and nurse me round. My breathing was off and everything felt tense. Along the canal we saw more lambs and it wasn’t until then that I actually relaxed a bit. We had breakfast and pottered about a bit and then I did a Body Coach workout from the app before lunch. I think this week has been one of just getting through it. I sort of acknowledge having done the runs and workouts but I haven’t exactly enjoyed them. I suspect if I hadn’t done them I would feel much much worse and maybe ‘not feeling worse’ is the win I take from this week. And maybe it’s actually a big win.

Running Wins

I don’t feel like I am winning at much at the moment. Things I thought I knew and was sure about, things I sort of know I am good at, things I love doing… all have been put into question over the last year and particularly over the last 6 months or so. So I take my wins where they fall. And this week’s running wins are both so unremarkable and so bloody huge at the same time.

I have yet to hit 50 miles for the year. I haven’t been hugely focused on running. I haven’t forced myself out in bad weather, I have stayed in when it’s been icy and I have kept distance low and running intervals short. I have done more Body Coach App sessions than runs and I am ok with all of that. I am quite happy to not push too hard right now because my brain can only do so much at a time and doing routine things sometimes (but no longer most of the time!) uses up a very silly amount of brave. On Wednesday I did my Body Coach App session in the morning and it felt good to have got it done and out of the way. In the afternoon I was tempted to do naff all but put my big girl pants on to go out for my run. I fully intended to run/walk but as I set off my knee felt a bit funny. Not painful as such just a bit vague and unreliable. I decided I wouldn’t take the first walk break and just keep going to see if the knee settled. It must have done because I don’t recall thinking about it again at all. I had sort of settled into a nice little plod. As I made my way down the hill I thought I could always drop into the run/walk when I got down the hill. I didn’t. Soon I’d run the first mile and I felt comfortable so I kept going. I wondered if I could get to two miles – the route I had planned would have a killer hill at about 1.6 miles so I changed the route and went along the canal towpath. As I plodded along I started to think about running the entire 30 minutes. I never actually decided to do that. I just kept entertaining the idea and as I got closer to the 2 mile mark and ticked off little landmarks the notion of just keeping going until the 30 minutes was up didn’t seem ridiculous. It didn’t seem possible either but the idea wouldn’t let go and when I turned round with 5 minutes to go the psychological boost of ‘heading home’ helped get me there. I was very pleased with that indeed. It was 30 minutes nonstop and it was 12.35 minutes per mile pace. Happy.

Thursday was busy and I ended up not doing anything and then Friday I meant to go in the late afternoon again but my knees were sore from the Body Coach session earlier in the day. This morning though I went to try another 30 minutes. Kath came with me and we picked a different route. So setting out to run for 30 minutes without stopping is psychologically harder than sort of doing it by accident. The route was also different and not mostly downhill. It started down, then sloped up, then down a short sharp hill and then flat and slight down for a bit until it started slightly sloping upwards, though it is barely more than flat. This was about 20 minutes in and this was where it got really tough. Another 2 minutes along and we were in proper upward sloping territory and I had a way to go. I wasn’t sure I would make it up the slope so I had to decide between trying, dropping to run walk, turning off and doing a sharp downhill, flat, bastard uphill, slope down, sharp up and slope down instead. I went for the latter option thinking that if I could get my breath back on the down bit I could have a go at the first hill, recover on the slope, have a go at the second and then finish. The uphill in that particular loop is always further and steeper than I think and I nearly didn’t make it. Kath kept telling me that I was doing it. My legs didn’t think so but my brain seemed to lack energy and focus to question what it was being told so as I was doing it I did it. I did recover enough on the slope to power up the last little hill and then I only had 30 seconds left so I stretched my legs and finished strong. Happy.

I have one more 30 minute run to do this week and I will try running it all again. I might try the same route again and see if I feel strong enough to try the slope this time. I know in the scheme of running achievements running nonstop for 30 minutes is nothing, it’s unremarkable and lots of people do it every day. But somehow it felt like a massive milestone after the crappyness of my running year and craziness of the last 12 months generally. I could have cried after the first one and to back it up today was fab.

Happy Weekend.