Hello! Welcome back.
I’ve previously spoken about how you don’t always need a gym to get fit, and I’d like to elaborate on this a bit and show you what workouts I do. My decision to terminate my gym membership was two fold; I realised the exercises I was regularly doing didn’t require equipment, and I wanted to save some money. I love working out but it was an expense I could do without.
I’ve never been much of a treadmill gal, running bores me. My workouts have sometimes been about lifting weights, but I never stuck at it long enough to record/see progress (I don’t believe this was a reflection on my interest in lifting weights, but rather I just wasn’t taking my training seriously at this point). Early 2016 I was searching online for different workout ideas and inspiration, and I came across Cassey Ho’s ‘Blogilates’ YouTube channel. I was a bit late to the game, considering Cassey was one of the first big youtube personalities and she currently has nearly 4 million subscribers! I had never done Pilates before, but her focus on flexibility appealed to me with my dance background. I bought myself a yoga mat and started doing the free videos from home, and eventually started following her monthly ‘exercise calendars’. I wasn’t following it religiously, but I was fitting in workouts where I could. It was all free so I didn’t need to commit myself financially which was a plus.
I’ll talk about Cassey’s PIIT 28 and the programme I’m currently using, and you’ll see that there is a running theme of Calisthenics (a fancy word for body weight exercises). Bodies are heavy, lifting them up and swinging them about requires strength. Calisthenics requires you to use the whole body cohesively, instead of attempting to isolate individual muscles (see ‘gym bros’ who only do biceps curls). It will strengthen your muscles while increasing your endurance, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. The HIIT workouts I do aren’t quite as intense as one-armed press ups, but it will definitely test your body!
Around the same time that I started following Cassey on social media, she launched her PIIT28 programme. The workouts are a combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Pilates. It promised to make you sweat and get you into shape, and after thinking for a while I decided to commit and buy myself the programme. I don’t think the pricing has changed since I purchased; on the website PIIT28 1.0 is $39 which is just over £30. Considering I still occasionally do these workouts, that £30 was a good investment.
Excluding warm up and cool down, the workout is only 28 minutes 40 seconds. There a 7 unique exercises/moves which you complete for 45 seconds, with a 15 second break between each. You do the circuit 4 times in total. Completing a workout from start to finish in about 45 minutes was ideal for me; time was important and I wanted to get my workouts done without causing too much disruption to my life. And trust me, 45 minutes is more than enough. You sweat a lot, it’s not pretty. My fitness levels were pretty poor when I first started so I found it very challenging. What I like about HIIT (or PIIT!) is the focus on time not reps. It gives you the opportunity to work at your own pace, so if you only complete 4 press ups in 45 seconds, so what? There is no point being told to do 20 press ups if you can barely do one, you are setting yourself up for failure and it makes the whole thing intimidating. During the first few weeks, I would spend most of my workout laying on the floor panting. And that was completely okay! The important thing was that I was pushing myself to my maximum, and the only person I was competing with was myself. The programme is on a fortnightly cycle, so each time I returned to a workout I could see a little bit of improvement. The only thing you are working against is the clock, so you have freedom to grow. And the best part is Cassey offers variations of moves in the videos. If you’re sitting there thinking, what’s the point in doing a workout with burpees when I can’t even do one? Cassey offers you about 3 variations of burpees. And don’t ever be afraid to make your own variations. If I’m struggling to get through jumping lunges, I’ll just drop to standard lunges. You’re still working the muscle, and it’s better to keep moving than to stop all together. PIIT 28 kicked my butt, but it got that butt into shape!
My decision to move away from PIIT 28 wasn’t because it was no longer effective, I was just getting a little bored (which is understandable as I’d been doing the same fortnightly routine for a year on and off). If you follow any fitness influencers on Instagram, you’ll know that most of them have some sort of book/ebook they are selling: Kayla Itsines, Jen Selter, Michelle Lewin, Anna Victoria, Alyssa Bossio, Hazel Wallace, Alice Liveing, Joe Wicks, etc. It can be hard to navigate which programme is best for you. They all feature the same core moves in reasonably similar routines, there is no magic programme which is better than the other. What they offer is structure and motivation (which is really important!).
Sarah’s Day ‘Sweat It to Shred It’
One of my favourite fitness vloggers is Sarah’s Day. She’s really funny, and has a great ethos towards healthy living and looking after your body. She follows a Paleo lifestyle so our diets are pretty different! But her green smoothies are fab, and I enjoy her approach to fitness. Sarah’s mantra is ‘listen to your body’, which means feeding your body the right fuel and resting when you need to recover. She released an 8 week ebook a couple of months ago and I decided to give it a go. I love it! There are 4 types of workouts in the ebook: sweaty shredder, toning power, activity, and challenge. I enjoy the variety in the ebook; sweaty shredders are essentially HIIT (30 seconds on, 10 seconds off) whereas the activities range from swimming to going for a long walk with a friend. There is a lot of flexibility in the programme, and it is more about having an active lifestyle instead of a quick fix bootcamp. Now that rugby season has started again, it is impossible for me to fit in every workout for the week. The ‘sweaty shredders’ are the hardest, so I prioritise those as I want to keep pushing myself. It has been a great addition to fit in around rugby training, and I’m getting leaner week by week.
How to Get Started
If your fitness level is low like mine was, be prepared for it to be difficult at first. Your muscles will tire easily and you will struggle to complete sets. This is not a bad thing. Like anything, you need to practice to get better and everyone has to start from somewhere. You will quickly see improvement if you really commit yourself. Don’t be discouraged because you are struggling, that’ll mean it’s working!
Use variations of moves. It is better to be moving than to do nothing at all. Do push ups on your knees, do standing squats instead of jumping squats, whatever you need to do to build strength. Once you have mastered the variation, you can move on to the next level of difficulty. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but YouTube is your friend. If you are unable to do a movement, whether it is because of strength or mobility, search online and someone will have provided an alternative version.
Don’t be afraid to stray from the programme. If you’re still moving your body, who cares! Rugby has now taken time away from my home workouts, but I won’t get hung up on it because I love rugby and ultimately my fitness goals revolve around getting stronger and enjoying myself. Also, if I’m feeling crappy I’ll do yoga instead of sweaty workouts (Cat Meffan has loads of yoga videos on YouTube, check her out!). Your mental state is just as important as your aesthetic goals, find joy in the process.
I’m going to copy Sarah here and say ‘listen to your body’. Cassey’s PIIT 28 has you working out 6 days a week. When I first started, her lower body workouts would have me in bits the next day, I could barely walk! Learn the distinction between muscle soreness and genuine pain, don’t hurt yourself in the name of commitment. Take a day off, do some stretching, and return the next day. You are only competing against yourself, work at your own pace. Push yourself as much as you can, remember that stretching is just as important as the workout, and relax on your rest days.
Like I said earlier, there are hundreds of programmes out there to choose from. Just pick one that aligns with your goals, your values and ultimately choose someone who genuinely motivates you. The programmes I have followed may not be suitable for your personal goals, but I have hopefully given you a rough idea if you are struggling to find somewhere to start. I would say Cassey’s PIIT 28 is more suitable for complete beginners, as she provides structure and videos which demonstrate exactly how to do every move. While Sarah’s ‘Sweat It to Shred It’ has slightly more advanced moves, it has more flexibility and will give you more variety in your workouts.
If you would like any more information about my experience with these programmes, please feel free to comment or drop me a message!