Jillian Michaels – Beginner Shred

A review, because it’s ever too late to get into fitness.


Today is National Fitness Day, or so social media tells me. I’m late to the party. I rarely know about these things until I go on Twitter and see that ‘National XYZ Day’ is trending.

I was late to the party when it comes to exercise in general, too. I was the chubby kid who was very bad at sport and I dreaded PE lessons with every fibre of my being. I was in my 20s before I ever came to enjoy exercise.

It was Jillian Michaels who got me into fitness, and I fondly remember the pain of trying to walk upstairs the day after doing 30 Day Shred for the first time. Wow!
Not only did 30 Day Shred teach me that I’m stronger than I ever thought and that once you find the right exercise it can actually be fun, I also learned that it’s never too late to get into fitness.

Last year, in response to growing requests from fans, Jillian released Beginner Shred. At the time, I was just getting back into fitness after a long break, and had injured myself. Discovering Beginner Shred was great; it really helped get me back on track and working out regularly.
So, in the spirit of National Fitness Day, I’d like to share with you the review that I wrote for Lizitivity‘s blog.

Jillian Michaels – Beginner Shred

This review was first posted here, 06.06.2015

Beginner Shred
Jillian Michaels – Beginner Shred on Amazon

Following a knee injury last year (I’m apparently the clumsy kind of person who can hurt themselves just by getting out of bed), I found that my favourite Jillian Michaels workouts had too much impact and too many moves that aggravated it. I started looking for modifications that would allow me to keep going, and stumbled across Beginner Shred. It’s aimed not just at beginners, but people who may have taken time off exercising and are looking to get back into it gently, and people who may have had injuries and need a lower impact workout. Perfect!

Beginner Shred is, as Jillian says in the intro to the DVD, something that many people have requested. The structure is similar to the 30 Day Shred. It’s a series of three 20-minute workouts (25 minutes including the warmup and cooldown) that progress in difficulty. Each workout is broken down into three circuits, and you go through each circuit twice. You do each workout for 10 days, then move to the next level of difficulty. I had planned to have a rest day every 3 days, but I ended up taking more. To be honest, having more rest days isn’t a bad thing. Especially if you’re a beginner, it will allow your muscles to recover and grow stronger. I notice that after a 3-day break I’m stronger than after just one rest day.

For those of you who’ve done 30DS, you’ll recognise Natalie and Anita – they’re back to demonstrate the moves in Beginner Shred. If you’re looking to do the easier version, follow Natalie. If you want a harder modification, follow Anita. I wasn’t in the greatest shape, having only returned to working out a few weeks before my injury, but also not a beginner, so for most exercises I did the modified versions. Whichever you choose to do, this is still a tough workout. Because it’s only 20 minutes, Jillian works you hard. No rest, no giving up.

‘…everyone must start somewhere and there is no shame in doing the easier versions of the exercises, but the way we improve and get stronger is to try the harder modifications.’

Throughout the workouts, Jillian explains the moves, which muscles you’re working and what you’re going to achieve. She seems to know when things are getting tough and she encourages you to think about why you started, what you want from your workout, and why you matter. If you’re familiar with other Jillian Michaels DVDs, you may find that she’s shockingly gentle and nice when you start this. Don’t worry – by Workout 3 she’s promising to jump through the TV and kick your butt.

The other thing I love about Beginner Shred is that Jillian encourages you to try the harder modifications, even for one or two reps, or a few seconds at a time. She stresses that everyone must start somewhere and there is no shame in doing the easier versions of the exercises, but that the way we improve and get stronger is to try the harder modifications. ‘You are not fragile.’ It’s a great message and very motivational.

You don’t need a huge amount of space to work out in, and the moves themselves are not complicated. Amongst others you’ll do squats with shoulder presses, push-ups, donkey kicks, deadlifts with rows, mountain climbers… And yes, burpees make an appearance. You didn’t think you’d get away without doing some burpees, did you? Some of the moves require more balance than others. Anyone watching me try to do a backward lunge with a shoulder press would probably have wet themselves laughing. I’ve no balance. But after doing it for a few days I didn’t wobble as much and didn’t fall as often.

Workouts 1 and 2 are more strength-focused, with only a little cardio to keep your heart rate up. If you were looking for a modified jumping jack when you did 30DS, look no further. Jillian gives you step-out jacks in Workout 1. I preferred the moves in Workout 2 (with the exception of those backward lunges) and by the time the more cardio-intense Workout 3 arrived I felt considerably stronger. Not once did any of the moves aggravate my knee, and if I felt there was any chance of that happening I swapped to the easier version.

In all, I think this is an excellent DVD for just about anyone. Jillian is a great motivator; the moves are demonstrated and explained well. You can modify this to make it as easy or difficult as you need, and if you take your time, stick with it and push through the discomfort, it’ll have you feeling strong and energised in no time.

What did I do for National Fitness Day? Well, it was my day off so, as I usually do on days off, I took my borrowed dog for a walk. We ended up getting a little lost and finding a couple more hills than usual, and I cut the walk short because we were both getting hot and bothered. I took him home and we played football for a while.

Later in the day I jumped on the exercise bike, which has been my main form of exercise lately, since it doesn’t aggravate any of the pains and health problems I’ve been having. I’d hoped to do a little yoga session as well, but my body was having none of it.

Did you do anything special for National Fitness Day, or just stick with your usual routine?
Have you tried any Jillian Michaels workouts? What’s your favourite?

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 4



I'm out

For those of you who’ve been following my posts about the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge I’ve been doing with a group of UKRunChat Twitter users, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling. If you haven’t been following but want to read about  it, the saga starts here.

The final week was a wind-down week, but I’ve been suffering with back and pelvic pain on and off for a couple of months, and it was obvious that I just couldn’t manage the squats, let alone the lunges and high impact moves.

I’m annoyed with myself, and with my body. As I mentioned last week, I’ve never managed to complete any kind of training plan or challenge. However, there is a lot going on in my life right now, and I just don’t have the energy to beat myself up about not finishing this challenge. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. I gave it a shot, and maybe one day I’ll come back to it and make it through all four weeks.

At the moment I’ll have to continue with the limited exercise I can do, which is pretty much just walking, and hope that when I finally get to see a doctor (only 10 days to go now…) they can offer some insight and help to fix whatever is causing the pain.

I want to end on a positive note with a shout-out to the three people I did this challenge with – thank you Amy, Lucy, and Martin for your encouragement, and well done on making it to the end!

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 3

Falling behind, but not giving up

If you’ve been reading my blog recently, you’ll have seen my previous posts about the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge that a group of UKRunChat tweeters decided to take on a couple of weeks ago.
If you want to catch up, you can read about the first week here and the second week here.

UKRunChat Squat & Lunge ChallengeBut what about the third week? I’ll admit it hasn’t been good; my body has thrown all kinds of spanners in the works. Here’s the recap of days 15-21:

Monday – 35 squat jumps, 35 lunges. I really had to force myself to do these. I bribed myself with the promise that afterwards I could watch the first two episodes of Star Trek: TNG on Netflix. But I felt good afterwards.

Tuesday – Unplanned rest day. My calves were in knots.

Wednesday – Another rest day, because of the cramping in my calves.

Thursday – Yet another day skipped.

Friday – 40 squats, 60 seconds high knees. With the pain eased enough to get back to the challenge, I decided to miss out Tuesday’s catch-up since squat jumps and lunges would aggravate my calves. This was Thursday’s catch-up.

Saturday – 45 squats. I didn’t do the 75 seconds high knees on the plan because of back pain. If I were a horse, they’d shoot me…

Sunday – 45 squats (instead of squat jumps). Broken down into small sets with long rests between. No lunges, and high impact is definitely off the menu for a while, and I woke up with the start of a cold. Not a fun day.

I think it’s safe to say I haven’t enjoyed this week much. I don’t know where the calf cramps came from, but I could barely walk on Tuesday and Wednesday. I had my usual negative thoughts: ‘well, I haven’t stuck to it so I may as well give up‘, but I squashed them. I always give up. I’ve never completed a training plan of any kind. But I’m determined not to give up on this one, so I’m going to modify it and get to the end.

The last week kicks off with a rest day tomorrow, which is nice…

My goal for next week, as well as continuing to pay attention to form and range of movement, is to just modify it to suit me and stick with it. Secondary goal is to try to enjoy it – it’s the last week, after all!

You can find me on Bloglovin’ or follow me on Twitter (@MaxSlothBlog) and find out how the fourth and final week shapes up, as well as how I’m getting along with my newfound desire to try yoga.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 4

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 2


14 days ago, a small group of UKRunChatters decided we were going to do the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge to strengthen our legs and glutes, and hopefully help with our running.

As I said earlier this week, I’m not running at the moment. For the benefit of my health (physical and mental) I’ve taken things right back to basics. I’ve continued with the challenge because I know that the squats and lunges, even with the introduction of a little cardio from week 2, aren’t going to negatively impact my energy, and building a strong foundation will help immeasurably when I do start running again.

UKRunChat Squat & Lunge Challenge

So, days 8-14. Here’s how they went:

Monday – 20 squat jumps, 30 seconds high knees. I choose to believe the floorboards only rattle and groan when I do this because they’re old and tired.

Tuesday – Accidental rest day. I didn’t feel well most of the day, and in the evening opted for a ‘date night’ short walk in the sun and meal out.

Wednesday – 30 squats, 45 seconds high knees. This was what I should’ve done on Tuesday. Nice and easy, despite the heat, but I do wish my knees would stop crunching. Straight after, I brought myself up to date with 25 squat jumps, 30 lunges. Hello again, lunges. Jolly good to see you… Not.

Thursday – Rest day.

Friday – Another unscheduled rest day. Inner thighs were still aching and I just couldn’t face the high knees.

Saturday – 30 squats. The first part of Friday. 30 lunges. The second part of Saturday. I didn’t do the high knees from Friday or the squat jumps from Saturday, because I still couldn’t face it and didn’t want to put on a sports bra for the sake of a couple of minutes.

Sunday – 60 seconds high knees, the second part of Friday. Followed by 30 squat jumps that should’ve been done Saturday. Then 35 squats, 60 seconds high knees. Up to date again. I hate high knees. Probably even more than I hate lunges.

Not the best week. I didn’t stick to the plan and ended up doing two double days. Part of it is that I’ve not been feeling 100% and I’ve needed extra rest. Part of it is just not committing. I’ll work on it and try to stick to the plan for the next 7 days.

This week I’ve been concentrating hard on maintaining good form. Next week I’d like to increase my range of movement as well.

Week 1
Week 3
Week 4

UKRunChat Squat Challenge – Week 1

Working to get stronger

It’s been a year, maybe longer, since I discovered UKRunChat on Twitter. It’s a wonderful thing. A community of runners, from all walks of life and all ability levels, who share experiences, advice and motivate each other. No bitching, no drama, just people encouraging and raising each other up.

During last Sunday’s UKRunChat hour (8-9pm, come and join us tonight using #ukrunchat), the discussion turned to strength training to help with running. A small group of us decided to start the 30 Day Squat and Lunge Challenge.

UKRunChat Squat & Lunge Challenge

Alright, I’m not currently running very much because my health is all over the place, but it can’t hurt to do a few squats and lunges to tune up ready for when I can run regularly again.

I set a recurring alarm on my phone for the evenings so that I would remember to do it. I need reminders for everything.

It’s 7 days since the challenge began, and here’s how my week went:

Monday – 15 squats, 10 forward lunges (each leg). Easy peasy. I didn’t go too deep into the movements and focused more on form. Lunges were wobbly, because my balance is terrible.

Tuesday – 20 squats, 15 lunges. Easy again. This time I went deeper. Somehow managed to not fall over doing the lunges.

Wednesday – Enforced rest day due to migraine.

Thursday – Ditto.

Friday – 10 squat jumps, 20 lunges. Urgh. A day behind the plan, and still not on form thanks to two days being ill. But the squat jumps were surprisingly fun.

Saturday – 20 squats, 25 lunges. They were fine. The lunges were tedious – 25 on each leg takes a while. Later in the day I did my catch-up to bring me up to date with the schedule: 15 squat jumps, 25 lunges. Again, squat jumps fun but lunges not so much, even though I was a lot steadier.

Sunday – 25 squats, 30 lunges. I was feeling the effects of a double day, but loosened up beforehand and got the exercises done.

Thanks to the others doing the challenge for being so encouraging and motivating!

Bring on the next week!

Week 2
Week 3
Week 4