Beta Testing Julia Buckley’s Ignite

I’ve been trialling a new 4 week program from Julia Buckley called Ignite. She’s moved away from free weights and on to body weight exercises for this particular program and presents her material in video format on her online gym website.

Julia has been asking her beta testers to identify a four-week goal and then commit to 3 daily habits that will take us there.

Four weeks is not a long time so we had to be realistic. Mine was to feel more comfortable in a t-shirt I was given a for a Christmas past. I’d like to wear it this Christmas without feeling as trussed up as the proverbial turkey.

Here’s the before shot:

Birk Larsens – The Killing

One of the things I really like about the Ignite program are the effective and varied warmup and cool down sessions that Julia builds into the 30 minute sessions. This is always the element of workout that I skip when I train unguided, despite having seen clear evidence that my body performs so much better after I’ve practised the move for a few times or “greased the groove”.

Julia is a very effervescent or bubbly character and can maintain a constant chatter throughout the workout videos. This can be quite high risk with exercise videos and is thing that turned me off celebrity workouts of the 80’s. My memory of workout videos is that they tend to be ok on the first viewing but then the jokes and catch phrases very quickly become irritating.

With Julia’s Ignite program you are cycling 6 different routines so only repeat each on a weekly basis. That’s a lot of variety for one program and does mean they feel fairly fresh each week.

Julia’s relaxed style means you feel like you are exercising with a buddy rather than being instructed from the screen. She leaps up and down maintaining the chatter while I huff and puff beside her. Perfect really because there’s no way I could talk through it.

The exercises are variations in HIT body weight moves such as lunges, squats and burpees. They focus on power, strength and balance.

I’m only two weeks in but so far I’m really enjoying it. There’s a lot of variety and since I’ve dabbled with the Freeletics movement I’ve become quite familiar with body weight exercises and the dreaded burpee in particular. The best thing has got to be the duration. 30 mins is perfect and that includes the warm up and warm down.

I’m not pretending that I don’t still struggle to motivate myself to do it some days but it’s hard to convince yourself that you can’t squeeze in a 30 minute session. The other bonus in these particularly wintry days is that you feel warm for ages after completing the session.

Ignite turns me into a fiery furnace.

A Bone to Pick with Juneathon

I’ve been skirting around the idea of running since my new Juneathon alarm went off at 6:30 am. It’s now 11 pm. 

I postponed the morning run in favour of an evening run, before dinner, but that was pushed into touch by the far more favourable idea of doing it on a full stomach, after dinner. Of course after dinner it became a whole different ball game and I dropped the idea of running altogether. 

So hunting around for a suitable alternative I thought I’d give the Freeletics app a go. Freeletics is a new app that has been nagging me to exercise with it for the last two weeks but I’ve ignored it.

I fired it up and tried the recommended Workout of the Day (WoD) – Metis. No equipment required and just 3 exercises. How difficult can it be?

Well I’m sitting here on the floor quivering and that’s despite bailing after round 1.

I finished round 1 in quite a state after 10 burpees, 10 climbers and 10 high knee jumps. Lynn was watching on the sofa, supportively guffawing, while videoing my efforts. I moved between cursing her and cursing the phone but when the app flicked straight to round 2 with the same 3 exercises but now at 25 reps each, I’m afraid I blew a gasket and started cursing Juneathon too.

Having calmed down a bit I thought I’d give Freeletics the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was throwing a killer WoD at me because it had no idea quite how unfit I’ve allowed myself to become. So I’ve just signed up for the coaching option and taken my max rep test. I knocked out 85 full squats in 5 mins and may never walk again.

Having taken the test and filled in my body stats the app can no longer be in any doubt about the basket case standing before it. It ran through its algorithms and spat out my new program.

What do you know. The first workout it has in store for me is METIS.

I may weep.

StrongWoman Training

Geoff CapesSaturday had been set aside for Strongwoman training. An afternoon of channeling my inner Geoff Capes, alongside a group of similarly minded women.

I eased myself into the day with a relaxing bath but as I heaved myself out of said bath, I tweaked my shoulder and ended back beneath the bubbles. Not a particularly auspicious start to my strong day.

I was surprised just how strong ordinary looking women could be. My definition of ordinary in this sense just means that none of the women looked as though they’d recently ingested steroids.

Yet even in the absence of bulging musculature they were each able to heft more than 100 kg on to their shoulders and run with a wobbly yoke. In some cases it was considerably heavier than 100 kg.

I can’t remember how heavy the tyres were, but I’ve never seen such monstrous rings of rubber and everyone flipped them, not necessarily with ease but with a good sense of grit. I can confirm that there isn’t much, more satisfying, than a resounding tyre flip. The bigger the better of course.

My definition of strong is now “anyone who could hitch me onto their shoulders and run”. I reckon all the women at that session could manage it, although I’m embarrassed to admit I would struggle. Still it’s nice to have something to aim for, I’ll start with the kids first and move on.

StrongWoman Training Days run by Sally Moss of StrengthAmbassadors gives you the opportunity to play with yokes, logs, kegs, tyres, axles and try your hand at farmers walks. You don’t need to know what any of those things are to have a go at shifting them.

Loxley Suspension Trainer

I’m a big fan of suspension training and was delighted to be offered a Loxley Sports Suspension Trainer to try out. If you are not familiar with the concept of suspension training, it’s a highly adjustable form of bodyweight resistance training.

You attach extremely strong webbing to something sturdy and high, such as a tree, a goal post or even a door and then while you are holding onto it you perform functional movements which focus on strength, balance and coordination. By adjusting the length of the straps you can adjust the resistance so you feel more of your bodyweight.
Loxley Suspension Trainer vs TRX
The original suspension trainer was the TRX designed by a former Navy Seal for Total Resistance eXercise. I already have a TRX strapped to a pull up bar across the bedroom door. It cost me an absolute fortune (£190) but at the time I thought I was buying the original and therefore the best. Now that I have the Loxley Suspension Trainer and the TRX side by side I don’t think I was correct, they are almost indistinguishable and I certainly can’t discern any quality differences between the two brands.

I am extremely impressed by the quality of the Loxley Trainer, for £45 you have got an absolute bargain and an impressive tool for increasing your strength and power.

Loxley Suspension Trainer

The suspension trainer comes neatly folded into a small mesh bag which makes it convenient for travelling with or taking out to the park. As with the TRX, it comes with a cord attachment in case you need to wrap around something very large such as a tree trunk, and a door wedge that allows you to trap the cable at the top of a suitable door frame. This makes it the perfect bundle for taking away on holidays or work trips as you convert your hotel room into an accomplished gym.

Where the Loxley Suspension Trainer may be missing a trick is in the enclosed instruction booklet where it identifies only 5 of the myriad of possible exercise options.

I strongly recommend this bargain suspension trainer and I also suggest you pair it with this excellent iPhone app Virtual Trainer Suspension – Virtual Trainer that shows the exercises in HD video for only £1.49

Loxley Sports are a new sports brand and currently sell this suspension trainer, kinesiology tape and a set of barbell collars that I’m really tempted to buy. All 3 products seem to be offered at a really great price.

A Lunge for the Samaritans

I’ve just started another 12 week round of fitness and fat loss with Julia Buckley. Last time was The Fat Burn Revolution but now its stepped up a notch and become Extreme Inferno.

I kicked off the week with an Insanity styled grilling called SweatMax. After 25 minutes leaping around the front room I was left with a semi-permanent frown, sweat blindness and a mass of lumpen concrete where my calf used to be. Just my cup of tea.

Side plank dips

Today was time for MetaSculpt which meant I got to drag out the dumbbells again and partake in increasingly tricky, whole body moves. Here’s Julia illustrating the particularly nasty side plank dip. I managed 5 heavily modified side plank dips before deciding it was time to move on to the next set. Unfortunately that meant I had to start lunging on my dodgy calf. I’m not good at lunging at the best of times and as my Achilles appears to have calcified these were especially wobbly versions.

Side plank dips

I therefore surprised myself when on the morning walk into work, I managed to perform the smoothest and deepest lunge of my adult life.

I spotted, a few yards ahead of me, a discarded crumple of paper. The paper had a certain quality about it, the sort that makes you not want to draw too much attention. I looked ahead, ensuring that I wouldn’t give anything away with my line of sight. And then I walked on and in perfect flow, I dipped with a knee to floor action, scooped up the crumple and came back up again into a walk.

I continued on my way and didn’t examine my pickings until I’d cleared at least a mile. To my delight I found two £5 notes scrunched together and now sitting in my hands.

Not wanting to offend the pavement gods I have now deposited the offering in my Samaritans charity fund. So my Grand Union Canal Challenge fund is slowly rising but I still have a very dodgy calf and a very, very long walk to do this weekend.

A Deep Need for Heat

Deep Heat PatchDeep Heat sent me a selection of warming (and cooling) patches to trial and this weekend resulted in more than enough sore muscles to ease.

My motivation has a tendency to ebb more than it flows and so when I catch even the tiniest wave of sporting enthusiasm I’ve been doing my best to ride it. This weekend it meant cramming a weeks worth of exercise into 1 day.

Saturday started with BMF, so we were in the park by 9:30 shivering in a huddle as our Sergeant Major determined exactly how he was going to go about rubbing our faces in the mud. He opted for plank splits and monkey crawling up a sodden bank, interspersed with shuttle runs and partner shoving.

After a quick break for brunch I was off again for my final session of Olympic Weightlifting, wondering how the earlier military battering was going to interfere with my weighted squat performance.

I was noticeably wobbly from the start but after 90 mins of snatch and clean training I was ready to plonk myself on the floor and await a teleportation device. Unfortunately I still have a couple of 100k walks to train for so I had to forego any offers of space/time travel and actually walk home.

What a drag. Have I mentioned before that I find walking so incredibly tedious and mind numbingly dull? If it wasn’t for the invention of audiobooks I’d stand no chance. This week I’m listening to The Farm by Tom Rob Smith and it is sufficiently gripping to offer some pleasure with each passing mile.

Needless to say, when I woke up on Sunday there was no part of me that wouldn’t welcome the application of a Deep Heat patch. I’m hoping to keep a couple spare as light relief on the London2Brighton walk so wasn’t prepared to blow them all this weekend. I therefore wondered around for a couple of hours trying to decide which bit of me hurt the most.

I decided my deltoids were in greatest need and attempted to apply a medium patch. It didn’t want to curl very neatly around my shoulder so I whipped it off and slapped it on my ample quad. The off and on again application won’t have helped its adhesive powers but it seemed fairly secure despite a little peeling at the edges.

I then went about my day, hobbling and moaning every time I moved, making sure everyone was aware that I’d had a pretty tough weekend. Despite the melodrama I also managed a few hours on the allotment, performing light planting and sowing duties and the patch remained intact. In fact the patch stayed on for a good 10 hours, delivering a gentle warmth until I went out for a very unsuccessful jog/walk/crawl around the block. At the 2k mark I could feel the patch slipping as all the warm beads sunk downwards. At 2.5k the patch shot out from the bottom of my trousers and I had to retrieve it from the gutter.

I think thats a pretty successful test. The pack claims 8 hours of warmth and my patch remained in-situ for around 10 hours and was still giving off a faint afterglow even from the gutter. It was a bonus that I didn’t have to rip it and half a layer of epidermis from my thigh.

Product details:

Deep Heat Patch

Deep Heat Patch provides effective, warming relief from muscular aches and pains, joint stiffness and backaches for up to eight hours. Each patch contains iron and activated charcoal. When the pack is opened, the air activates a heat generating reaction that produces a warming effect when the patch is applied to the skin. This local, superficial heat improves the circulation to the muscles, so reducing pain and stiffness. Each Deep Heat Patch is active for up to eight hours after the pack is opened, providing long-lasting, deep-relieving warmth. With no smell and no associated grease, the self-adhesive patches are easy to apply and convenient for use during the day.

RRP for a single Deep Heat Heat Patch is £2.07; Boots.com
RRP for a pack of four patches is £6.25. Boots.com

Olympic Grade DOMs

I have a passable Snatch, a fairly confident Jerk but I am afraid my Clean is just an embarrassment.

Before my blog gets to sound too smutty I must tell you that I am in week 2 of a 4-week Olympic weightlifting course and the snatch, clean and jerk are of course, powerful weightlifting moves.

The finish point of the Snatch looks like this:

The Snatch

I think I look a lot like this, only my bar has next to no weights on it and my squat is decidedly more vertical. I’m only in week 2 though, I should be giving this chap a run for his money in April.

If he saw me after last weekends session I doubt he would be worried.

The sessions last for 1.5hours and involve alternating sets with a partner. Almost every Olympic weightlifting move incorporates a full squat so I estimate that I was doing deep, weighted, squats for at least 30 minutes last Saturday.

For someone who was scared to curtsy less than 3 months ago I think that is a huge progression.

My quads certainly thought it was a huge progression.

My thighs humoured me while I insisted on walking home – 12 miles across London, but for the next four days they laughed in my face.

I suffered with quad DOMs almost as severe as my first running attempts when I found myself a prisoner in my third floor flat. This time I could make it into work and up the stairs to my desk, but from then on in I was trapped, desk bound. My legs would not function for descents.

It wasn’t so bad, the desk binding DOMs coincided with a work week from hell, where I was tied to my computer for 14 hour days and my colleagues took enough pity on me to fetch my daily supplies of black coffee.

After day 4, when my legs started to consider bending again, I started practising the squat manoevre. I dragged out the kettlebell and commenced an urgent practice before the next Olympic session. This fantastic tutorial from Nerd Fitness tells you everything you need to know to perfect the squat.

As this week’s session started I was relieved to find I could squat down to my haunches again but I soon discovered a new flaw in my Olympic weightlifting armoury – elbows.

My elbows let me down for the Clean, which is an odd unbalanced move, requiring you to flick the bar up on to your collarbones, elbows up, before dropping into a front squat.

My elbows absolutely refuse to move up. My wrists double back on themselves but still my elbows won’t budge. This means when I attempt even the teeniest hint of squat, I pitch myself forwards and lose the move completely.

I now need to spend the rest of the week adding elbow stretches to my squat routine.

Battersea Power Station

The London2Brighton training still needs to be fitted into my weekend, so I’ve added a cross London commute into the mix. I trog across the classy suburbs of London: Maida Vale, Little Venice, Paddington, South Kensington, Chelsea, Battersea, Balham, peering into the gardens and front rooms of the well to-do.

Although I’m fascinated by the Lambourghini’s littering the streets in front of the Victoria and Albert, my favourite point of the walk is the river crossing.

Sunset

I get to choose between the two most impressive structures in the whole of London: the Battersea Power Station and Albert Bridge.

I couldn’t decide which was my favourite this weekend, so spent at least an hour circling between the two, enjoying the setting sun over Hammersmith and waiting for the majestic lights on Albert Bridge to impress the dusk.

Albert Bridge

Almost a Sick Note

Recently, whenever I start to prepare for exercise I feel as though I am about to have a heart attack. It’s not extreme pain but does feel as though I have an elephant sitting on me or more precisely a belt tied tightly around my chest.

Today the plan was to attend an early morning BMF session, our first since xmas, and so Lynn was inclined to assume my groans were some form of psychosomatic / exercise avoidance attack.

The discomfort lasted right up to our arrival at the park and I very nearly got out of the group exercise torture. When I got out of the car and stretched it had disappeared though and I’d also determined that the new pain coincides with the precise moment I fasten my sports bra. So it’s probably an indication that my girth has expanded rather than a shrinking of my cardiac arteries.

British Military Fitness was a bit of shock to the system this week. We may as well have been first timers again, weeping silently as we did wide legged pressups into a muddy puddle. The only thing that keeps me going is the image of me as GI Jane. Almost there I think.

Wide Legged GI Jane Preesups

British Military Lightweights

Janathon is the beast that continually needs feeding. So despite it being a miserable wet day we felt that a gruelling session of British Military Fitness was in order. We arrived at the designated meeting spot, eager to get down and dirty with the crew.

Despite being two minutes early, it appeared that the BMF team were not there. Either still polishing off the last of the Christmas chocolates or avoiding the deluge.

I was quite sanguine about the wasted trip and quite happy to head back for a night in front of the fire, perhaps with a pyjama plank to show willing but Lynn had other ideas and suggested we brave the weather and take a quick jog around the common.

The observant among you will have noticed the odd use of the word “appeared” in the 2nd paragraph. After all, they either were there or they weren’t.

As it happened, they were.

Tooting Bec JanathonWe were just coming up to our first complete lap of Tooting Bec Common when I spotted a group of tabard wearing folk sitting in a huddle, doing sit-ups in the rain.

Lynn had forgotten her glasses so was pretty much reliant on me for navigation. As I had long since gone off the idea of doing press ups in the mud and refocused my mind on the pork joint slowly roasting in the oven, I took evasive action. Quick as a flash, I conjured an enormous puddle and suggested to Lynn that we take an unusually sharp left turn to avoid it (and coincidentally the British Military Fitness group).

I started the run thinking that BMF were the lightweights but it turns out that it was me and by association, we, that were the softies. It all counts for Janathon though and I’ve notched up another 4k for the beast.

12 Weeks to a Sleek Body with The Fat Burn Revolution

Fat Burn RevolutionI’ve known Julia Buckley for a few years now, through the running and blogging ether. Earlier this year I decided to join in the second phase of her Fat Burn Revolution pilot scheme.

The original pilot was designed to test a program that she was planning to bring to a wider audience through the publication of a fitness manual – The Fat Burn Revolution. By coming in at the second stage I was working with a tried and tested routine and by the looks of it, it’s the version that made it into the book.

The weight loss / fat loss market is huge and it’s hard to imagine a space for yet another book on the subject. When Julia’s book dropped through the letter box I have to admit to be a little underwhelmed. I was expecting another me-too book with pretty pictures and a smattering of familiar advice.

I have to say I was wrong. The book is very pretty, really well organised and whoever was in charge of the page layout deserves a thumbs up, but the book is so much more than I expected.

Inside the Fat Burn Revolution

There is real content here. Inspiring, sensible advice from someone who comes across as a truly honest and insightful guide, a guide who encourages you to seize control of your own life by offering you the tools and the permission to be steadfast with your goals.

The tools aren’t just limited to the exercises, you will also find advice for dealing with saboteurs, the way to decline offers that intefere with your goals and how to plan to succeed.

The type of advice that resonates with me:

Always remember that it is totally up to you what you eat. You are an adult and no one can make you eat or drink anything you don’t want to.

and when dealing with potential diet and exercise sabateurs:

don’t invite unhelpful comments from others by intimating that you’d rather be doing anything else……turn it down politely, but not apologetically

As I’ve said, I have known Julia in a distant capacity for some time and having had near daily contact with her for 3 months while doing the fat burn program I can confirm that Julia is genuinely supportive and truly wants you to achieve your health goals.

The exercises and routines are very well described in the book and have full colour photos to accompany the descriptions. Just as with the program I took part in, the Fat Burn Revolution is split into 3 phases which build in intensity (not necessarily duration). There is a combination of high intensity sessions, plyometric routines and weight lifting. The weightlifting section is a refreshing addition to a mainstream fitness program but for anyone who wants to shift lard and/or develop a strong, sleek and fit body it is the secret key.

The Fat Burn Revolution is an ideal program for both beginners and more seasoned sporty types. It will lead you away from a focus on sustained endurance activities to short, sharp bursts and progressive weigh training. The ideas are likely to be new to most people.

I came to the program from years of long distance running which had initially helped me to shift about 6 stone in the early years but had allowed me to stabilise somewhere close to 5 stone above my ideal weight. After 12 weeks on the Fat Burn Revolution I had shifted another stone, much of which was fat, and most importantly I had dramatically improved my appearance and my sense of well being. If you want to see the results of someone who has completed a number of back to back sessions of the Fat Burn program you should check out Becca’s blog at From Snickers to Marathon.

I’m very grateful to Julia and her program for introducing me to the tools that my body responds to. All my programs post The Fat Burn Revolution have included more HIT and strength sessions than endurance ones and this has helped me to maintain my losses and my fitness.

If you are about to embark on this program I strongly advise you take the measurements and most importantly the horrendous before photos, these can be so inspiring to compare with at the end of each phase. Check out Julia’s transformation pages for illustrations of how the pilot groups did.