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.

Week 3 of marathon training

Well week three of marathon training didn’t go to plan. Nothing happened to de-rail the plan, I just didn’t go out to run. I started off ok with a loop out on Tuesday for my 30 minute run. Painfully slow and not exactly fun but done on the right day and ticked off. On Thursday for run two my anxiety levels were through the roof and I decided not to go because it was the sort of anxiety that would just make a run miserable and counter-productive. There was always Friday.

Odin – just over 8 weeks old

Well Friday there was but I was dead on my feet. I felt absolutely knackered and could barely keep my eyes open. Ok, I thought, well I can go out Saturday and Sunday and still get the runs in. The gap and then back to back is a bit inconsistent and annoying but it’s ok. Well Saturday was such as non day. I struggled. It was one of those quite physical depression days. I barely moved off the sofa and everything I did just didn’t seem to turn our right. The lunch I made wasn’t very nice, the bread I made slightly overdone and then while playing with Odin he scratched me on across my eye. What I should have done on any of these days is get up and just get the running bit done. The longer I am awake, the less likely it is I will get out – but of course depression also means that getting out of bed early is just impossible. So let’s try and remember that going out for a run as soon as I am awake enough to do so is a good plan and see if that helps a little for week 4!

I managed to go out this morning. I managed to haul my arse round 4 miles. It was painfully slow and looking at the stats afterwards just makes me miserable and grumpy (so let’s not look). But it’s done. I’m down one run this week and I will try and catch it up in week 4. It’ll make me feel better. So for this coming week I would like to run my 30minute ish runs on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and then my long run of 5.5 miles on Saturday or Sunday. That should be do-able. I’d quite like the rain to stay actually because there was hardly anyone out and about today and I’d sort of forgotten that I actually quite like running in the rain.

As for cross-training, I am really conscious that I have hardly done anything and that I should. However, I am also conscious that having a plan of stuff to do seems to stress me out. I need to find a better way of doing some strength work and stretching without it feeling like it is too much or freaking me out. So maybe for this coming week I’ll just say I’d like to do something, let’s say twice. Yes something twice sounds ok. I’ll go with that.

I’ve been doing the Sunday (now Monday) weigh-ins and the scales are not moving at all. I guess that means they’re not going up and of course I am not really surprised they’re not going down. I have not changed anything for any weight to actually come off. I do think making our own treats – like these yummy Mickey Ears scones Kath made – helps. There is something nice and more mindful about eating stuff we’ve made (and there is generally less crap in home made stuff). Cooking from scratch also helps, being bored, not moving much and not drinking enough water doesn’t help. It’ll come eventually, as I get back into running (well, presuming this iteration of my running journey mirrors the last) my relationship with food will also change again. I will crave fresh fruit and crunchy veg (broccoli mostly) where I now crave the comfort of mashed potato made with loads of butter and I will inevitably start drinking much more water. I’ll keep you posted.

Going for 1000 Miles Again…

….or the one where I need to talk about weight.

Well here we are again. 1st of January. New Year. New Decade. Bla Bla. Yep, I am my usual grumpy self about new year. I wrote about how I like New Year for the reflection it brings last year. I haven’t changed my mind on that but somehow I am always a little disappointed that nothing happens at that magical midnight moment when one year or in this case one decade ends and another starts. Surely something should be different?

Well it isn’t. The world is still turning, arseholes are still arseholes and lovely people are still lovely. I am still me. Actually the last two of those are not disappointing. They are just as they should be but could we start a thing where every year at midnight on the 31st December an arsehole we each know turns into a lovely person. That should sort the world out pretty sharpish. Anyway, two things are on my mind. One is the the fact that Kath and I once again signed up for the #Run1000Mile Challenge – which you already know but which is now official. I have no idea if I’ll make it, we’ll see. As of today I am ahead of schedule! I went for a very slow and painful 3.66 mile run/walk. I tried 30/30 second intervals to see if I can nurse my calf muscles and feet a bit but it didn’t seem to help that much. Any slight up or uneven ground and everything tightens up and starts screaming. At least today it was manageable on the flat – yesterday I could only run downhill.

The second thing is weight and the new year new you bollocks that is going around as it always does at this time of the year. Honestly, I haven’t actually noticed it as much as I have done in previous years- but it’s early yet – still plenty of time to guilt-trip us into some sort of diet or gym membership. Anyway, the obvious thing is that I am still the old me and I am perfectly happy with the old me. There need not be a new me or indeed a new you just because there is a new year/decade. You do not need to upgraded, renewed, replaced or upcycled. Also the whole start and end of decade thing that is going on with pictures of 2009 and 2019 – if looking at old photos etc is bringing you joy then yay for that. If it’s not and you’re finding the entire experience uncomfortable then just don’t do it. I seem to be totally indifferent to it. Which is odd because I often get caught up in things like that. I am also lazy though and for 2009 pictures of me I would have to actually turn on the old Desktop computer… yeah, forget it. In 2009 I was also just me. A decade on – still just me.

So weight. I’ve been thinking about it as I grumpily flick past the ‘running to lose weight’, ‘yoga for weight loss’ and ‘get your dream body now’ adverts not to mention the weight watchers, slimming world and diet product marketing… Over the last few years I have genuinely shifted the focus from what I look like to what I can do. I am no longer concerned about the number on the scales or the number on the label in my clothes (though not being in-between sizes would be really really welcome). I’ve read stuff and learned stuff (and written stuff) about weight discrimination, about fat shaming, about body positivity about being fat and healthy and all of that. And I am uncomfortable with all of it. There is something about body positivity that just freaks me out. Maybe it’s that the focus for me is not on what you can do… anyway I am digressing – not the point of this post though I may come back to it…

The point I was trying to get to – in a roundabout, long sentences, thinking as I am typing kind of a way – is MY weight. I’m too heavy. Ok, now before you start with the positivity or with the telling me off for thinking and writing about weight and weight loss, calm the fuck down. Don’t tell me I’m not fat – I am. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter, I look just fine as I am bla bla bla – nobody cares. I know how much I weight today, after a bath, butt naked with wet hair. It’s not a number I’m keen on but I have spent a lot of time trying to move away from caring about numbers and that has worked – so it wasn’t the number that made me think I was too heavy. It wasn’t even the tightness of my jeans – I can buy bigger pants – it was a general feeling of bleurgh. A feeling of being unfit, sluggish, weak and a bit sack of spuds-ish. Things niggle or take more effort than they should and running is so much harder.

So – am I doing anything about it – Am I going to be lighting up the search engines looking for the next trendy diet, how to burn fat in 6 easy moves? Don’t be daft. I’m not going to do anything about the weight. The weight isn’t the problem. I’m going to do something about feeling less strong, less competent, less fit and generally less wonder woman than I want. No, I’m not changing anything major or joining a fancy gym. I hate the gym. I am simply going back to what I was doing and what brought me joy as well as fitness. I am looking forward to starting to feel the benefits of daily yoga again and the sense of fitness that comes with consistent running and the feeling of power that comes with strength – gained through yoga and through the strength and conditioning exercises. The number on the scales will change in a downward directions – almost certainly – but probably not by as much as you might think.

And just to be clear, this isn’t a January new years resolution thing. I kicked this off last year when deciding to look to RunRight for help to make sure I can run injury free in 2020. While the sessions with them were getting too much for me mentally at the end of last year (well no, everything else was so I had nothing left for them), I am now looking forward to going back later on this month. December was a month of slowly coming back to things I’d neglected and the trick in future is going to be to make time for at least some of those when things get crazy busy and I get tired.

Anyway. Happy 2020.

January Stuff and a bit of Running

So, that silly month which starts out with you not quite knowing what planet you’re on, what day it is or whether it is still acceptable to have mince pies and prosecco for breakfast and ends in you running out of money and in a perpetually frazzled state wondering how it is possible that that you really only just had ‘a break’ is finally over. One of my friends replied to a text asking how she was saying that she was a bit ‘januaried’. Yes, that’s it isn’t it. We’re all recovering slowly from having been januaried – sick of people and enforced frivolity and craving solitude and quiet.

January sees resolutions, new fitness regimes, healthy eating crazes… all the things that don’t work and can be hugely damaging. I hate running in January. I hate going to the gym in January. I hate buying a salad in January. January is the month we seem to get all judgy – or even more judgy – of each other. Obviously I am only running, going to the gym and eating a salad because it’s January and my resolution is to lose weight. Obviously. That must be it. Why else would a fat woman run, go to the gym or eat a salad?

Well that’s not been my January. I didn’t make any resolutions. I’m working on the basis that I was fabulous last year and will be fabulous again this year. Clearly I don’t actually believe that. I’m a woman and an academic and I’m fat and unfit, I have my issues and imposter syndrome is my normal. However, I’ll let you into a secret – I like salad! I don’t eat any differently in January to any other time. I eat healthily overall except when I don’t. I eat out too much and I have a sweet tooth. I could do better, I could also do a lot worse. Second secret (it’s not really) – I have been to the gym once so far this year. I don’t give a toss. I enjoyed that session, I’ll enjoy the next when it eventually comes.

Now, this one really is a secret, I may have enjoyed my running in January. My friend Liza said she wanted to print t-shirts with ‘I’m not a beginner, I’m just fat’ on them and I would wear that. I think it’s what us fat, slow runners need in January. No people, I’m not out here plodding along for the first time because it’s January and I want to lose weight. I don’t need your unsolicited ‘Good for You’ comments. I’ve run two marathons and several halves, trust me, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing and it has very little to do with losing weight! I am actually just trying to keep my black puppy at bay but you go ahead and judge, it’s fine, you’re januaried too. And yes of course you are just being supportive and encouraging, I know this and when it’s not January I love you for it!

I have undoubtedly had the best January ever in running terms. I have run just short of 62 miles for the month. Yep. 62 miles. I am thrilled with how my #Run1000Miles Challenge is going. Yes, I am a little behind schedule but I am ahead of where I ever thought I could be. I haven’t pushed for miles. In fact I had a week where I just ran 4 miles. I have cut a few runs short because my feet and calf muscles have been sore and had one disastrous run where I just felt shocking. I have run at home, at Bolton Abbey and in London this month. My shortest run was just 1.45 miles and my longest 5.8 (although most miles in a day were 8.66). I’m not sure I enjoyed the runs, some I did, some I didn’t but looking back over the month I enjoyed the running. In spite of having gone back to basics with run/walk and being slow I feel like I’ve made progress and I have enjoyed being outside, I have made fewer excuses, I have been more consistent and I have pushed through ice and mud. I’ll make a decent trail runner yet!

So here’s to February, to the quality of light changing, the greyness giving way to something a little more hopeful, to days slowly getting longer and running continuing to be something I actually want to do. It started well with a stunning moonlight run which was partly terrifying because it was slippery in places and I didn’t cope well with that. But it was undoubtedly utterly beautiful.

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Aaaaargh Body Image

Aaaaaargh, body image. I am struggling with that. Of course I have my moments and my insecurities but generally I don’t actually pay much attention to body image. Particularly since Dopey training it’s been about what my body can do not about what it looks like. Before that I didn’t even think about that – my brain was always more important and powerful. But at the minute…. wow.

It’s that time of year maybe – lots of ‘party wear’ in the shops and advertised, the fashion, diet and fitness industries are ramping up their campaigns and even the models used to advertise more realistically sized underwear look remarkably skinny as far as I can see. So there’s that and then there’s some other stuff I won’t bore you with including my sense of just not being able to run at all. So if I can’t run and I’m struggling with some of the yoga sequences I could easily do not so long ago then focusing on what my body can do is actually not very helpful because the answer is: not much. I can’t measure myself by number of miles I run because I’ve hardly run any through November and into December so the dominant measure, the number that suddenly becomes important is the one on the scales. I know it’s not important, I know, I know, I know. But….

I have actually lost weight and I actually fit into some jeans I haven’t worn for ages (and I don’t even have to lie down to fasten them) so it should be all good. But there I go again equating lighter and slimmer with better. Urgh. Actually I want to be fitter and stronger; lighter and slimmer may (or not) be a side effect of that. So why the niggle, why the doubts, why the insecurities? Why can’t I get slim = good and therefore I am not good enough out of my head at the minute?

Enough of that. Let’s try and focus on what I can do. Today was the second run on the half marathon plan. 3 miles ish with some speed work – 4 sets of 30 second strides in this case (basically accelerating to flat out sprint over the duration). I didn’t exactly feel energetic and bouncy when we set out. I also felt ridiculously self conscious in running gear – running gear I have worn hundreds of times without giving it a second thought. We had a warm up jog down the road and then did the first 30 seconds as we turned slightly uphill on our usual route. 30 seconds is a fucking long time when you’re trying to accelerate to full sprint – uphill. It was ok though and after a short recovery walk we continued on at a slow pace. It was really windy and I was struggling to breathe a little but the second 30 second acceleration was also fine. I tried to keep up with Kath as she pulled ahead but no chance. Next came the slopes which I really struggled on today and then my head went. Why am I so bloody crap at this?!? And given that I am so crap at this why the hell am I still trying? I nearly fell over several times on my way down the former golf course to the canal because I couldn’t really see for tears.

Once on the canal I got my act together and did another 2 lots of 30 seconds acceleration with short recovery walks after each one and then I walked up the hill and slowly ran/walked the last bit home. I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t really get a buzz from the running or even from having done it but it did help clear my head a little. The afternoon was undoubtedly more productive than it would have been without the run.

Next up is a 6 miler at the weekend. I vaguely remember 6 miles being really quite scary. Now 6 miles is just 6 miles. Progress of sorts.