About 10 weeks ago, as a person who “doesn’t believe in diets,” I started the Beachbody 21-Day Fix weight loss program. In my last post,, I talked mostly about the eating plan and why this program feels doable and sustainable for my life. I’m learning how to eat properly (meaning, in reasonable portions) for the first time, and I really was “eating healthy” by most standards. You can read that post here.
They say nutrition is 80% of getting to and staying at a healthy weight. Today, I’ll focus on the other 20%—the workouts.
The 21-Day Fix package I bought includes 7 half-hour workouts on DVD, intended to be done in order, 7 days a week. It’s typical exercise class format, with an instructor and a half dozen or so class participants behind her, one of whom does an easier version of each exercise. For some of them, you need those little hand dumbbell weights or resistance bands. Five of the workouts are cardio plus weight bearing—three full-body and one each upper and lower body. The other two are “active recovery days”—pilates and yoga. (It also comes with another bonus half-hour full-body workout, and a 10-minute ab session.)
In addition to the DVD’s, you can do a 30-day free trial of the Beachbody on Demand online workout site. There, you can access the 21-Day Fix workouts IF you bought them on DVD, plus a large variety of other workouts that are available automatically during the free trial, or after if you subscribe. There are additional workouts you have to buy separately to access.
I love these workouts overall, and I have one concern for media-conscious parents to keep in mind. First, the good stuff:
I like the trainer, and the workouts are fun.
I have a low threshold for annoyance by exercise instructors. Most of my experience is with yoga classes. I find that many yoga teachers talk way too much, seemingly compelled to fill up every second of space. I used to use my reaction to that as an opportunity to practice unconditional acceptance. Apparently I’m not that yogic anymore, because my time is too precious to me, and I’ve quietly slipped out of a yoga class rather than listen to continuous yammering with words that don’t add anything. Mostly, I stick to my tried and true teachers.
I like Autumn Calabrese, the woman who leads these workouts. I like her short, sweet and sporadic little motivational phrases, like “Don’t wish for it. Work for it.” and “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up!” Most of what she says is helpful for getting through the challenging workouts. She doesn’t talk nonstop, and she’s not annoying. That’s really important, because I see and listen to her almost every morning.
There are days I don’t feel like it and have to force myself to “push play.” Most days, I look forward to it because I know I’m going to feel great afterward, and the workouts are fun as workouts go. Having seven of them prevents boredom. (Also, you can turn off the repetitive electronic “music,” which I do sometimes.)
IT TAKES HALF AN HOUR PER DAY!!!!
Yes, I used all caps and four exclamation points. I did intend to yell that—it’s that exciting for me. This means even with my stellar, highly developed rationalization and excuse-making skills, I’m hard pressed to get out of it. If I can’t find a half hour a day, how sad is that? In the two months I’ve been doing this, I may have missed one or two workouts due to lack of time.
This is absolutely key to the long-term sustainability of this program for my life. If the videos were even 45 minutes long, that would make a big difference in how doable it would be to fit it in (almost) every single day.
Doing it at home means more freedom and no excuses.
This goes back to time. No adding fifteen minutes on either side for getting to and from a gym. My workout takes the half hour it takes, period. I can do it at my convenience, whether or not I have child care, no matter the weather, at any time of day.
It’s an ass-kicking workout and I’m seeing results.
Packed into the half hour, there’s cardio plus weight bearing, and multiple muscle groups get worked at the same time. It’s much more vigorous than anything I would do on my own— no way would I burn this many calories or work all the muscle groups to this extent by running at my slow pace and lifting weights on my own (plus, that would take double the time!).
These workouts are seriously challenging for anyone who is not in excellent shape. One class participant on the videos (“Follow Kat on my right.”) models easier modifications for each exercise. After the first workout I did, I could barely walk for two days, despite doing the modifications for mostly everything. Within a few weeks, I was able to do almost all the exercises without modifications.
I can do the full minute of burpees now, the real way, instead of struggling through the modified version. I can hold low plank for the full minute without putting my knees down. When I started? Not even close. It’s amazing how fast the body changes. This rapid increase in strength and stamina is extremely motivating, and it would prompt me to continue these workouts even without weight loss.
What about substituting the workouts for other exercise?
I try to follow the schedule as much as possible because I know that’s the way to keep working all muscle groups and getting stronger. I do substitute once or twice a week with other exercise and adjust the 21-Day Fix workout schedule accordingly. But I only “count” other exercise if it’s a serious workout, like a Zumba class, or an advanced Vinyasa yoga long class, or a run plus maybe the 10-minute ab session. If I take a walk, or do some gentle yoga, or go on a bike ride or a hike with the kids, that’s great, but I’m not sweating and getting my heart rate up enough, so I don’t count it as my workout for the day. It’s bonus.
Some considerations for parents
Some readers might think what I’m about to say is nitpicking, but anyone who has ever read my blog knows I view things through certain lenses. Some of those include social responsibility, conscious parenting, and women’s health, which includes body image messages absorbed by girls.
There is some racial and gender diversity among the class participants in the workouts. There are also multiple references to the ideal body type we’re supposedly all going for, as well as some joking that implies females are weak and males who are less physically strong are wimps.
These comments are not frequent throughout the workouts, but there’s one or two in most of the video segments. If I had daughters who were always around during my workouts, I might be concerned about them hearing near-daily comments about how everybody wants “that sexy V shape,” “that tiny little waist,” or “those sexy tank top arms.” I can imagine a scenario wherein a little girl hearing this on an ongoing basis starts to examine her waist and arms in the mirror when she’d never been conscious of that before.
Not that we want our boys absorbing a steady diet of messages about our culture’s impossible (for most) ideal female body type, either.
Speaking of boys, my 6-year-old son picked right up on some comments in one of the workouts. The trainer teases one of the male class participants, saying “What are those, little girl weights?” and then, when he increases the weight he’s lifting, she says, “That’s right, be a man!” Immediately, my son reacted to this, said “Yeah, be a man!” and picked up one of the heavy weights. We had to have a little conversation about how that’s a common type of joke, but it’s not true that “girl” = weak, or that “being a man” = brute force.
If they’d consulted me, which needless to say they did not ;), I would have suggested leaving all that stuff out. But I get that they are working within an industry standard, and I’m not saying I feel strongly that those comments shouldn’t be in the videos, necessarily. The program is designed for adults, after all, and adults buying these DVD’s as part of a weight loss program will either resonate with those remarks, or can put them in their proper perspective (at least those of us without eating disorders or body dysmporphic disorder).
I am saying that parents who are careful about media exposure and concerned about body image and gender messaging may want to consider whether and how often to play the videos in earshot of their kids, and whether it’s an opportunity for a conversation with kids old enough to evaluate media messages.
All that said, I’m happy to be modeling good self-care habits for my kids. And my 6-year-old is a great little motivator. In the beginning, when I still needed to modify those torturous burpees, he was watching and said,
“You’re not jumping, Mom.”
“I know. I’m doing it an easier way until I get more practice and get stronger.”
“Well, I bet you can do one with the jumping.”
And I did! A future personal trainer, perhaps?
In a nutshell…
That’s all I have to report about my Beachbody adventure so far. I’m 7 pounds down, 25-ish to go. I’ll post again at some future time about my long-term success and maintenance, because that’s the real name of the game. For now, I can do the eating plan (mostly) while staying sane, I love the workouts, I feel great, and I’m excited to be creating new, healthy habits around portion control and consistency with exercise. The number on the scale aside, those are already great results in my book.
© copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2016. All rights reserved.