Can I Improve my Insulin Response with a Month of Exercise?

January of course means Janathon, a month of daily exercise and good intentions so it’s a great month to test the impact of exercise and other healthy choices.

Glucose Tolerance Test and exerciseAlongside running, I intend to spend January testing my blood sugar. I’ll be checking in on a daily basis to see the impact of exercise on my insulin response.

I’ve just finished reading Fast Exercise, Dr Mosley’s introduction to High Intensity Training and while I wasn’t that impressed with the book (see the Fast Exercise book review) I was intrigued by the section on monitoring the impact of exercise through blood glucose testing.

I’ve never had an official glucose tolerance test so I don’t have a reported problem with my blood glucose levels but I do have polycystic ovaries which are thought to result from insulin resistance. I’m less bothered by the actual readings though and more by the trend. I’m fascinated to see if I can create a recordable and positive response in the space of 4 weeks following relatively simple lifestyle changes.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and strength training have both been reported to improve the insulin response in a variety of test subjects and that will be my plan for Jan. Daily HIT or weight training sessions with a 10 hour fast so I can have a controlled measure of blood sugar in the morning. Simples.

I’ve bought my blood glucose monitor, braved the first puncture wound and am now raring to go. I do of course need to wait until January because I have the glucose roller coaster, otherwise known as Christmas, to navigate.

Transformation – Phase 2

Squished by a Barbell

I’ve been in a six-week workout dither since I completed Julia Buckley’s 12 week Fat Burn Revolution program.

I had some good results on the program – take a look at the transformation photos on Julia’s site for evidence, but I’ll leave you to guess who’s who. By the end of the 3 month stint though, I was ready to take control and create my own routine.

Unfortunately the new routine has taken a little while to bed in.

I was convinced of the benefit of strength training and so the new program was going to involve lifting heavy weights as well as more running. As Lynn had bought me six sessions of British Military Fitness, it was also going to include a load of running around in the local park looking like a bullied fool.

I kicked right off with Starting Strength, a remarkably simple and progressive routine for rapidly increasing strength. It’s a barbell routine, mixing up deadlifts, chest press, shoulder press and squats. It’s easy enough to master and each session is relatively short as the exercises chosen work multiple muscle groups in one go. If you use the amazing JEFIT PRO App you can grab a pre-designed starting strength routine here.

Squished by a Barbell

The strength gains are quite rapid but that also became my downfall.

I started off in the garden squatting and bench pressing a fairly manageable dumbbell, by week 3 I had to call for assistance to be released from a bar that was now heavy enough to pin me to the grass. If I want to progress much further with this I’m either going to require a squat rack contraption in the garden or I’ll need to brave the testosterone area of the local gym.

Zombies, Run!The running element is going really well, I’m strengthening my feet with Cool Running slant board and I’ve re-kindled my love of the Zombies, Run! app. The Zombie chases work perfectly with my new focus on interval training and I’m enjoying the running buzz all over again.

So although there have been some positives over the last few weeks and I haven’t been entirely lethargic I can’t claim to have  been incredibly focussed either. This week I’m stepping it up again. I’ve had a six week dither and dabble but now its time to enter the next 3 month showdown. I’ve drawn up a mega program comprising a hybrid of the intense P90X and Body Beast programs from Beachbody, combined with 1-2 BMF sessions and 3 running sessions per week.

As if all that exercise were not enough, I’m restarting the highly effective Whole 30 paleo diet plan as well.


Here is this evenings set up for Day 1 of P90X. It may look as if I’m about to hang myself but its just the required gear for the Chest and Back session which is a mix of assisted pull ups and an assortment of push up variations.

So far so good, it’s early days and way too soon to judge the P90X program but it looks like its going to be just my cup of tea – way less intense than the nutty Insanity program with the added advantage that its focussed on weight training.

I’ll post a few updates along the way of my modified Body Beast and P90X 90 day challenge but if you want more regular updates please consider joining the newly set up warriorwomenblog facebook page which is looking very lonely or join me on twitter @warriorwoman.


Playing at Paleo Fitness

I was in the park last weekend, playing frisbee with Will, an 8 year old.

He ran me absolutely ragged.

Paleo Fitness Animal Walks

When I could run and leap no further I had to feign urgent business near the picnic blanket. My young friend followed me and while I flopped into a heap, he relaxed into a perfect example of the Primal Squat. I admired his squat and demonstrated my best Crab Walk. He wasn’t particularly impressed with my ungainly attempts and scuttled off across the park performing a high-speed Duck Walk.

It seemed quite a coincidence that only a week after I’d finished reading my copy of Paleo Fitness by Darryl Edwards, I’d be careering around the park impersonating an assortment of creatures with another aficionado of animal gaits. I wondered briefly whether Will had also read the book but I suppose it is more likely that Darryl had been inspired by children at play when he designed his functional fitness routines.

Darryl Edwards (Fitness Explorer) offers personal training and primal boot camp sessions in and around the parks of West London. With my recent focus on the Paleo Diet, I was quite tempted to explore the world of Paleo Fitness and was happy to give the book the once over.

Paleo Fitness focusses on whole body movements (as opposed to isolation movements such as bicep curls), encouraging mobility and strength in a way that prepares the body for everyday activities. It has a heavy emphasis on fun and if you embark on this course you’ll be fit enough to run your own 8-year old ragged.

The book covers the Paleo Diet in a satisfyingly succinct way and then moves on to describing the exercises and weekly routines.

I’ve been adding the animal walks to my current training plan as a warm up. I find that Bear Crawls and crab Walks loosen up my back like no other stretch and puts me in a great place to start the rest of my routine.

I don’t feel quite brave enough to join Darryl in the park for a session in Primal Fun but I’m sure if I did, it would enhance my mobility and strength no end. This is a program that would set you up for leaping park benches, climbing trees and hopping over walls. It would certainly prepare you for a session of frisbee in the park.

Darryl Edwards Paleo Fitness
Darryl Edwards Paleo Fitness

New Schemes

DumbbellsMy latest fitness and weightloss scheme is the Julia Buckley Fat Burn Revolution. A 12-week program that rotates sessions in the style of many of my previous fads. It has a definite likeness to the Body For Life program with its emphasis on protein rich meals, weight training and high intensity, short lived cardio sessions but it also mirrors the plyometric Insanity workouts with a hint of Convict Conditioning body weight training.

I’m a week in. Only 11 weeks to go to a new me.

Last week I took the before photos and spent a good 10 minutes sobbing at the results. It shouldn’t have been a shock, I weigh myself daily, I know how horrific that number is. Somehow though, the numbers managed to hide the visual impact.

The years have taken their toll and the photo emphasised the impact of gravity, the pounds have shifted downwards and my thighs are now hovering in the place my knees used to occupy.

I have high hopes for the program. Julia has achieved impressive results with previous recruits and obviously I am hoping for my own transformation. I am 10 days away from the biggest challenge of my life and 12 weeks away from my summer holiday and potential beachside humiliation.

I am completely open to transformation.

The Road to Tipperary

20130118-121940.jpgFinding myself unexpectedly in the City of Londinium, I very nearly allowed an impromptu tour of the local Porter houses to scupper my Janathon attempts.

It started with an extremely fine pint of Guinness in The Tipperary.

I always think of Guinness as a horribly bitter drink requiring at least one shot of blackcurrant to make it palatable. This glass was a delight of creamy smoothness and if hunger wasn’t spurring me on I’d have had another and another.

We moved off in search of a Chop House but instead fell into the Longroom at Smithfield Market where we sampled porters and salt beef.

I was attracted to the Espresso stout but it was truly disgusting – think of used coffee grinds steeped in cold water. It became, what I think is, the first unfinished pint of stout.

20130118-122418.jpgI followed it closely with a half of Black Isle Porter which proved to be a treat of creamy beeriness. It’s a potential winner in my month of stouts.

By the time I got home I was ready to fall into bed but the guilt of Janathon played on my mind. In the end I pressed play on Day 2 of Insanity and ended the evening on my hands an knees in a sweaty heap of pain.

The cat maintained his dignity throughout the 40 minute ordeal. He watched me through squinted eyes and maintained the illusion of sleep despite being bounced up and down by the heffalump attempting power squat jumps.

I made very good use of my Give Me Tap water bottle that I’d been sent to review. The concept is simple. Buy a bottle, fill it with tap water, repeat. An ever increasing number of shops and cafes are coming onboard and offering free refills so you should never be far from free water. There is a charitable element to the scheme with half the proceeds from the bottle sales going to fund water schemes in the third world. Apparently 2 bottle purchases can provide one person with water for life.


The Insanity Test

My knees have been suffering since the weekends run so I’ve decided to focus on some core training.

If I had any guts at all I’d be enrolling myself for a foundation course of crossfit but I’m sadly lacking in that department. Instead I have pulled out the Insanity DVDs so that I can sweat and groan behind closed doors.

20130115-234558.jpgFor those that haven’t heard of it, Insanity describes itself as a max-interval, extreme workout. Which means that your intensity is high for a large portion of the workout, interspersed with short recovery breaks. It’s high intensity circuit training for the home.

I’ve started back on Day 1 of the 60 day intense regime and that’s means the fitness test. 25 minutes, 8 exercises where you aim for as many repetitions as possible within 1 minute.

The exercises include a lot of jumps – vertical squat jumps, burpee jumps, globe jumps etc and a few nigh on impossible push up based exercises.

They are remarkably cruel but I quite like feeling sick after a workout.

As it was only 25 mins long I thought I might attempt a 3k on the treadmill as well. That was until I swooned in a pre-faint as I approached the machine. I think one insane session a day is good enough for Janathon.

I struggled with today’s Stout after the workout. So it’s just as well that it wasn’t worth finishing. Meantime London Stout from Greenwich has an iron filing scent, a weak flavour, possibly of bonfires and a lingering sourness. Flat and uninspiring. So that will be avoided in the future.