Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Firm Express -
30 Day Challenge Week 4 and Results

My four-week Firm: Express Challenge is now complete! This series has been such fun, and I'm very pleased with the improvements I've made in my fitness levels.  Thanks to these workouts, things are definitely headed in the right direction.  My short-term goal is to get to a healthy BMI of 24.9, which at my height (5'7") is 159.2 pounds.  My long-term goal is to achieve a mid-range BMI of 21.7, or 138.8 pounds.  

Health and fitness are not just about numbers on a scale or a BMI chart, so I'm not "wedded" to these figures.  They're just goals to aim for, and if I'm at least in a healthy range overall, that is the most important thing.  Other "Non-Scale Victories" for me would include:
  • Doing pushups on my toes every time, not just occasionally, and with good form
  • Not fearing THE BURPEE
  • Drinking more water (I struggle to get in 64 ounces a day)
  • Getting back into smaller-sized clothes lurking in my closet
With those goals in mind, here's the last week of reflections from my Firm: Express month-long challenge!

Week 4, Day 1 –Wednesday, August 22
 Workout – Firm: Target Toning: Zero in Ten – Track 3 – Bikini Body Blaze
Emily leads us through a tough, quick cardio routine with no equipment needed.  After only 10 minutes, I’m already sweaty.  There are plenty of leaps, hops , lunges and total-body moves.  I did pretty well keeping up, and I only had to modify a few times.  There was a full-body lunge move called “Hit the Floor” that was a near impossibility for me to get to the full range of motion, but I still pushed myself. My tuck-jumps are still weak, but I did my best.  This is a great add-on for one of those days when you might not get a lot of cardio in  other routines.

Workout – Firm Express: Pump It Up
I haven’t done this DVD since the 13th, nine days ago.  It’s still really challenging, but I’ve seen improvements.  I didn’t have to pause the video as many times, and my performance overall is improving.  The plank/jump move on the floor is still really difficult, and gets me winded every time.  I’m glad I’m mostly done with cardio today!

Equipment:  Medium weights (6 lbs)

Workout – Firm Express: Cycle 1 Ignite Sculpt

I haven’t touched this one in three weeks.  Wow—what a difference!  It’s still a challenging workout, but I really killed it!  My “mountain climbers” were so much stronger, I moved faster on the interval bursts, and overall I just did really well.  I am really spent and sweaty from all three of these videos today, put I feel really strong and healthy.  Very grateful!

(Forgot to note my equipment on this entry)

Week 4, Day 2 - Thursday, August 23
Rest Day – I took a day off today, but I did take a short walk in the woods near my house.  Nothing strenuous.

Week 4, Day 3 –Friday, August 24
Workout – Firm: Target Toning: Zero in Ten – Track 4 – ABS-solute Core
This one was slightly shorter at 9:40, but it was still tough.  I think the beginning was harder than the ending, which I found to be pretty easy.  Near the very start of the routine, we’re doing hops and burpees.  I wish I had warmed up some more before doing this.  My form wasn’t great.  Rebekah definitely works the core, with crunches, back raises, and stability moves.  Despite her beginning line of, “Get ready for your cardio workout,” this is definitely for toning.  And even though the photo in the DVD menu shows her doing a side plank, there wasn’t any of that.  This would be a good add-on if you haven’t done any core work for the day, and when you’re fully warmed up.

Equipment: Light weights (4 lbs – I could have gone heavier, though)

Workout – Firm Express: Cycle 3 TurboCharge Cardio
Just like two weeks ago on August 10th, I enjoyed this workout quite a bit.  It’s still a challenge, but just a lot of fun.  It’s not quite as high-impact as some of the other workouts, and I can really use that from time to time.  Again, the hardest move is a one-legged lateral jump, but I saw a big improvement from two weeks ago!  My right leg is still much stronger than my left, but I noticed greater strength, flexibility and an increase in movement today. I feel so good, I might even try doing this one again later today!

Equipment: One light weight (4 lbs)

Week 4, Day 4 –Saturday, August 25
Workout – Kelsie's 5-min warmup on Firm: Pump, Jump ' Jab
Did really well.  Right adductor is a bit tight.  Wish my pushups were stronger, but I’m getting there.

Workout – Firm: Target Toning – Zero in Ten – Track 5 - Bun Burn
This one was really challenging, but I liked it!  Emily does a great job incorporating new choreography with old standards.  I’d encourage you to watch it first, just to be ready for the new moves. This has a touch of cardio in it, and it does the bun burning job!

Workout – Firm Express: Cycle 2 Accelerate Cardio + Sculpt
Again, big improvement in performance since I last did this workout, back on August 7th. I’m still sweat-drenched and really breathing hard, but I feel so much stronger than last time. My form was better, and I was able to perform the V-jumps better as well. There’s a climbing/kneeling move that is a real intimidator for me, but I powered through and didn’t embarrass myself! I stuck with 6 pound weights again, but I probably could have gone to 7 pounds.  Maybe next time.  I feel like I really accomplished something with this today!

Week 4, Day 5 –Sunday, August 26
Rest Day – Did a whole lot of nothing!  It was nice to have a restful day!

Week 4, Day 6 –Monday, August 27
It's the first day of school for my boys, who are beginning 7th and 2nd grade.  It was nice to have the house to myself and to work out with no interruptions!  In the morning after I dropped them off from school, I walked home the long way, going around a lake that’s near my house. It’s about 1.2 miles—a great way to start the day.

Workout – Firm: Target Toning: Zero in Ten – Bonus Download
Rebekah leads us through a 10-minute total body routine.  She does a decent warmup, and then we hit all the major body parts.  There wasn’t any specific cardio, but the effort required to do the moves got my heart rate up.  There were all the basics:  squats, bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, pushups, planks, dips, etc.  Nothing revolutionary here, but it really covers the whole body.  A great add-on.

Equipment: Whatever medium/heavy weight you’d use for bicep curls or tricep kickbacks.  I used 8 lbs.

Workout: Firm Express: Cycle 2 Accelerate Sculpt
This one previously came up in the schedule on August 9th, eighteen days ago.  As has been common lately, I did see improvement today.  However, for some reason, my energy just wasn’t as high as I wish it could have been.  I just felt more weak somehow, like I needed a jolt of caffeine or something.  Still, I pushed as hard as I could, performed better than on August 9th, and I’m happy with my workout.  The number on the scale isn’t moving a whole lot, but I know I’m getting smaller.  People who haven’t seen me in a couple of months are noticing, and that’s great encouragement!

Equipment: Heavy weights (8 lb), medium weights (6 lb) and one light weight (4 lb)

Week 4, Day 7 –Tuesday, August 28
Workout: Firm Express: Cycle 4 Overdrive Cardio
I still felt a little  nervous about doing this 4th level (in the Firm: Express series) cardio workout, but after reviewing my notes from two weeks ago on August 14th, I knew I’d love it again.  I did about 10 minutes of warmup time on my own, just getting my body ready to move.  Thankfully, I had another great experience with this routine. It’s fun and challenging, with lots of kickboxing and movement that I can handle.  Again, the hinge-kick is still the most difficult thing for me, but I did see a bit of improvement this time.  And while I did have to pause the DVD a few times to catch my breath in between sections, I didn’t have to do it as much this time.  Honestly, the workout flew by, and I loved it!

Equipment: Light weights (4 lbs)

Workout: Firm: 5-Day Stretch, Day One
This is a really old video from the early days of the Firm.  They’ve compiled footage from a number of vintage workouts to pull together 5 days of stretching, with each day being 9 to 10 minutes long.  I felt a little tight this morning, so I wanted to end out with a nice long stretch.  The music and wardrobe in these videos is very dated, but if you can get past that late 80s feel, it’s still good material. I did Day One today, which is about 10 minutes of stretching, and I feel great!

End of Month Check In – Wednesday August 29 in the A.M.
I’ve now come to the end of my four-week Firm: Express challenge. On the morning of the 29th, I weighed in at 172.2, or another 1.2 pounds down for the week.  I also took readings with a tape measure, and while I didn’t have a massive change overall, I did see improvement.  So here’s how it all came down:



Upper Chest



Upper Arm


Upper Hip

Lower Hip

Upper Thigh

Mid Thigh


As you can see, these numbers aren’t overly dramatic, but every little positive change is one step closer to my goals.  Losing 1-2 pounds a week is generally considered to be a reasonable amount, and my loss was 1.35 pounds per week. And aside from this data, I have other victories of gained fitness—increased stamina and strength, which I can certainly build on as I continue to improve.  I truly enjoyed the workouts in the Firm: Express video collection, and they have been inspiring tools that have pushed my abilities and improved my quality of life over the last four weeks. These DVDs will certainly make repeat performances in my household, and I can’t recommend them highly enough for yours.  Take the Firm: Express challenge today!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Firm Express - 30 Day Challenge Week 3

I'm over halfway through my month-long challenge! With this last seven days, I've now performed all of the 14 workouts in the Firm: Express kit.  These are great routines, and I've been amazed at how well my body has been responding to the work. And while the scale didn't move as much as I would have liked this week, I am getting stronger and leaner overall.  It was a challenging seven days for me as a mom, and I literally thank God for helping me stay on track as much as I did.  There were plenty of reasons to let this program go by the wayside.  Having this structured 30-day goal in front of me really helped me focus and persevere. Now that Week 3 is complete, here is my daily journal for the seven days:

Week 3, Day 1 – Wednesday, August 15
Workout: Kelsie’s 5-Minute Bonus from Pump Jump ‘n Jab
When I woke up this morning I was kind of tight from yesterday’s workouts, and in addition to that, I was feeling kind of “blah” and unmotivated.  I pulled up Kelsie’s 5-minute routine on Hulu.com and that helped me a bit. I didn’t do as well on the pushups today, but it was still a good starter.
Equipment:  6 lb weights

Workout: Cycle 4 Turbocharge Cardio + Sculpt
Partly as a procrastination tool, I watched this ahead of time earlier today so I’d be able to anticipate the moves.  This was a great workout, but it was tough.  It includes my nemesis, “Burpees”, plyo squats power lunges as well.  There was plenty of action that I enjoyed, though. I’ve always done curtsey dips well, and there were lots of those.  I felt like the 8-second burst periods were very doable, with some of the regular cardio moments being much more difficult.  The only exception to this is the burst period with the knee-tuck-jumps.  Mine are just pitiful.  There’s a brief abs section at the end that was tough, but I managed through it pretty well.  I feel good after this workout, but I’m going to opt out of doing any more add-ons today.

Equipment: 6 lb weights

Week 3, Day 2 – Thursday, August 16
Rest Day – Took today off, because I knew I’d want to work out on Friday and Saturday before my greatly-desired 2nd rest day of the week on Sunday.  This worked out really well for me, as there was a bit of drama in my parenting life, and working out today would have nearly been an impossibility anyway. Despite the stress at home, I managed to stay on track with my eating and kept it healthy.  That is what I call a NSV – “Non-Scale Victory”!!

Week 3, Day 3 – Friday, August 17
Workout: Cycle 1 Ignite Cardio
Wow!  What a difference two weeks makes!  Since I last did this workout 14 days ago, my strength and endurance have really improved.  I am really impressed.  Ignite Cardio was still a tough workout, but I performed so much better today.  I had to pause the video much less often, my range of motion was better, and my endurance kept me going strong.  My weakest point was still the hinge-kicks, but they were better than on August 3rd.  I really punched this one out, and I’m so proud!

Workout: Shortcut to Flat Abs
I definitely felt ready to do more after Ignite Cardio, and I hadn’t gone this one in a while.  It’s not as sweat-inducing as the cardio workout, but I still get a challenge from it. Probably the most difficult things for me to do are the planks and side planks.  I’m doing better on getting up on both feet with no knees down, but my execution and form still need work.  Still, progress has been made!

Equipment: Medium/Heavy Weight (8 lbs.)

Week 3, Day 4 – Saturday, August 18
Workout: Cycle 4 Overdrive Sculpt
While this workout isn’t as consistently intense as some of the others, it was still a really good one.  Kelsie gets us warmed up with some movement and just a bit of cardio, a burst segment, and then on into weight training with dead lifts and bicep curls.  The workout goes on to cover every area of the body, from quads and hamstrings, back, triceps and core.  I was able to keep up pretty well, and in some heavy weight spots, I was able to move up from 8 pounds to 10.  As usual, the most difficult thing for me to do is the planks, but I’m gradually improving and pushing myself on a regular basis. If you haven’t had much cardio lately, I would recommend adding on a separate cardio session, but this really is a good routine.  My arms are shaking as I type! Oh, and long-term “Firm Believers” might smile at the inclusion of some music previously heard in Firm workouts from years gone by.

Equipment:  Light weights (4 lb), medium weights (6 lb), heavy weights (I used 8 and 10), mat for floor work (I needed the mat for a kneeling-climb move to pad my joints)

Week 3, Day 5 – Sunday, August 19
Rest Day
I’m glad I had a rest day, but I feel like a couple of factors are going to set me back on my weight loss efforts for the week.  I began retaining water due to my monthly cycle, so that should prove to be interesting come weigh-in day.  Also, at dinner time I made some poor choices with my eating. Nothing incredibly high-fat (like the cookies and pizza I resisted yesterday!), but just too many calories and too many carbs.  I hope this doesn’t ruin my results for the week on the scale, although I know I’ll have other victories accomplished.

Week 3, Day 6 – Monday, August 20
Workout: Kelsie’s 5-Minute Bonus from Pump Jump ‘n Jab
Did well.  Determined to really push myself after last night’s indiscretions. Pushups getting better.

Equipment:  Medium weights (6 lbs)

Workout – Firm: Target Toning Zero-in-Ten: Lean Legs
I won this DVD in a contest from The Firm last year and enjoyed going through the tracks last summer.  Each one is only 10 minutes long, which is perfect for customizing to your schedule or using as an add-on, which I did today.  The first routine is really tough, really working the legs with pliés, squats and plenty of leaps.  I think the most difficult move came with a plié/jump where Rebekah clicks her heels together.  I was able to click my heels on several of the jumps, but getting my feet back into plié  position was nearly impossible.  Definitely something to work on.  This is a great addition to my routine today.

Equipment:  Heavy weights (8 lbs)

Workout: Cycle 1 Ignite Cardio + Sculpt
Just like last time (August 4th), this was a tough workout! I managed to push through, and my performance was much better today.  My burpees are still pretty pitiful, but they’re improving. Near the end we did some side planks, and today I did both sides with perfect form, knees off the carpet, with a lovely triangle shape.  I was most proud of that.  This routine doesn’t have much of a “fun factor” for me, but it’s effective and I’m enjoying my progress.

Equipment: Medium weights (6 lb) and Heavy weights (8 lbs – could probably go to 10 pounds next time, except for some deltoid raises)

Week 3, Day 7 – Tuesday, August 21
Workout: Kelsie’s 5-Minute Bonus from Pump Jump ‘n Jab
Better than ever—did a couple of really straight-backed pushups.  Getting stronger.

Equipment: 6 lb weights

Workout – Firm: Target Toning Zero-in-Ten:  Track 2 – Fearless Arms
This was a good 10 minutes. Rebekah does a little bit of cardio to keep your blood pumping, but most of the emphasis is on the arms, of course.  She does some pushups, but as many as I expected.  There are some creative moves that keep it interesting.  And for some reason, Rebakah speaks almost in a whisper, as if there’s a baby in the next room sleeping?  There were a few times when we were just standing still doing bicep curls/overhead presses, and I walked around the room to add in some more movement.

Equipment:  Lt/Medium weights (6lb) and Med/Heavy Weights (8 lbs)

Workout: Cycle 2 Accelerate Cardio
Today was a tough day.  I had a lot of trouble at home, and the day almost got away from me before I could work out.  I managed to do the first 2 mini-workouts after dinner, then I put my kids to bed, and then I did this track.  It was a hard day for me as a mom, so staying on track with my eating and fitting in this workout was a big challenge.  The DVD itself is a pretty tough one—there are a decent number of high-impact moves, and I sometimes had trouble keeping up.  Although I think I enjoyed doing this workout more the first time on  August 8th, I did improve my performance overall.  I was pausing the DVD less often, maybe because I was anxious to get it over with. But I’m proud of my fitness gains and the fact that I got it done.

End of Week Weigh In – Wednesday August 22 in the A.M.
This week’s weight loss was much more modest, unfortunately.  On Wednesday morning, I weighed in at 173.4, only .6 of a pound less from last week.  I did overindulge a bit on Sunday night, but I think the greatest contributing factor is my monthly water retention going on right now.   If I stay on track this upcoming week, I should shed that water with no problem.  Since August 1st I’ve lost 4.2 pounds, or an average of 1.4 pounds a week, which is very reasonable.  I still have plenty of things I can count as NSV’s (non-scale victories) this week, however.  I’m definitely becoming stronger, with my plank positions getting better all the time.  I’ll keep forging ahead, with more victories to come next week!

Check out the other weeks in my 30-Day Challenge!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Firm Express - 30 Day Challenge Week 2

Week two of the Firm Express is complete!  I've had a good week, as I've gained strength and have seen my endurance increase.  My clothes are getting much looser, so I probably had significant fat loss. The recommendation to bump up my routine late last week was a good one-- I've felt challenged without overdoing it, enough so that on most days I've been able to insert 10-minute add-on workouts as well.  Here's my journal for the week:

Week 2, Day 1 - Wednesday, August 8th

Workout: Kelsie’s 5-minute bonus workout from her Pump, Jump 'N Jab DVD
I had a feeling that doing a cardio video in Cycle 2 would require a bit of a warmup for me today.  I woke up a bit stiff from yesterday’s workout, which is great, but I needed to get my body ready.  This routine is quick and effective, and was a perfect choice to get started.  I’ll probably use it again during this 30-day series.

Equipment: Medium/Heavy weights (I used 6 lbs)

If you'd like to try this total body bonus, it's on Hulu.com below:

Workout: Cycle 2 Accelerate Cardio
While there was a little more jumping than I would have preferred, I still enjoyed this workout.  Don’t make the same mistake I did—watch the video FIRST before trying to do it.  The moves aren’t horribly impossible, but some are quite new and they come on fast!  Between needing occasional water breaks/breathers and just needing to catch up to what was going on in the video, I had to pause and back up the video several times.  There were a few moments when Rebekah would say, “Ready? GO!” in such quick succession, I wouldn’t be ready at all.  But really, I enjoyed this one quite a bit and look forward to doing it again.  I didn’t have to modify a whole lot, but there was plenty of pause button action going on!

Week 2, Day 2 - Thursday, August 9th
Workout: Cycle 2 Accelerate Sculpt
This was a good, solid workout. It wasn’t as fast-paced as others, but it was definitely challenging. I worked up a nice sweat for sure! Probably the hardest move came near the beginning, with a plank/lunge move burst that was hard for me to keep up with. But I did my best and feel good about my effort. Cycle 2 is finished—I certainly haven’t mastered these routines, but I’m definitely on my way!

Equipment:  Light weights (4 lbs. for me), medium weights (6 lb.), and heavy weights (8 lb.)

Workout: Pump It Up
Accelerate-Sculpt was a great video, but I felt up to doing  10 more minutes of work. Pump It Up is still really tough.  As Jennifer says during one of the burst breaks, “I love my twelve seconds!!” There’s plenty of work for me to do in the power lunges (need to get my feet further apart) and the jumping plank move (I’m really slow and my range of motion could be better).  Plenty of sweat was lost this morning, I’m glad it’s over, and I feel great!

Week 2, Day 3 – Friday, August 10th
Kelsie’s 5-minute bonus workout from Pump, Jump ‘n Jab
My energy was a little low, so this was a perfect start. I did a better job on my plank position for the pushups--- getting stronger!

Equipment:  Medium/Heavy weights (6 lbs)

Workout: Cycle 3 Turbocharge Cardio
I really enjoyed this one.  I got nice and sweaty, but there was significantly less high-impact work, so I felt less “beat up” at the end.  Probably the trickiest thing was mastering the new choreography.  It’s not horribly fancy, but there are a few combinations with new elements. I’d recommend watching this one first before you end up pausing the DVD and backing it up frequently.  While this is a cardio routine, Allison uses a light hand weight, incorporating some complementary moves into the workout, like kettlebell swings and rows.  I think the hardest move in the whole 20 minutes came with a one-legged hop burst, jumping side-to-side, using the hand weight on the floor as a guide for lateral movement. Especially on my left leg, I had a hard time getting any movement at all.  I kept the hopping going, but the lateral is going to have to be a goal to work towards.  Overall though, I really liked this routine a lot! If you'd like to give it a try, you can view it on Hulu.com below:

For some reason, this video cues up about halfway through the workout.
After it loads, click to the beginning of the video to enjoy
all 20 minutes of the routine.

Equipment:  One light weight (4 lb for me), optional mat for a few minutes of floor work

Workout: Shortcut to Flat Abs
I felt energetic enough to do another 10 minutes, to StFA again it is! I’m still unsure on my body position on the side bends with vertical arm extension, but I’m just doing my best with it.  Probably my biggest improvement came in the side planks—I was able to do some of them with both legs extended! So little by little, getting stronger!

Equipment: Heavy weight (8 lbs) and floor mat

Week 2, Day 4 – Saturday, August 11th
Workout: Cycle 3 Turbocharge Cardio + Sculpt
This was a challenging one! Allison used heavy weights (8 lbs for me), and it made the routine really tough.  I think if I had to do it all over again, I would have gone with 7 pounds.  Also, I felt a bit uncoordinated a few times—once again, if you have time to watch these videos first before attempting them, you’ll probably perform a lot better.  But it was a great mix of cardio (tire runs!) and strength training (French press with 16 pounds total!).

Equipment: Heavy weight (8 lbs)

Workout: Cardio Dance Club: Dance Your Core Off Bonus Dance
I wanted to add a little something to my routine today, so I thought I’d try this 10-minute core routine. It’s a bonus track on Firm: Cardio Dance Club, but you can also access it on Hulu here. I know the theme of the whole DVD was a dance motif, but this core routine was laughable. The tempo is too slow, the moves seem ineffective and I just felt ridiculous. I’m not afraid to shake my booty while alone in my den, so it was not an inhibition issue.  At most I would maybe consider this as a cool-down period after a tough workout when your muscles are really tight. But other than that, I doubt I’ll be trying this one again.

Week 2, Day 5 – Sunday, August 12th
Rest day!  I enjoyed the last of the Olympics  and took it easy today.

Week 2, Day 6 – Monday,  August 13
Workout: Cycle 3 Turbocharge Sculpt
While this routine wasn’t horribly complex, they do jump right into it.  I would suggest warming up for 5-10 minutes ahead of time, and get ready to move.  This was a great balance of strength training and cardio bursts.  There were plenty of pushups and plank moves, and I felt good about the amount that I was able to do on my toes.  I also noticed a marked improvement in my strength with bicep curls.  There were also a number of “kettlebell” moments, and I always enjoy those.  Great routine!  Yesterday I had something really difficult happen to me personally, and this workout really helped me work through the pain of that situation.  Endorphins are a good thing!

Equipment: Medium weights (6lbs for me) and Heavy weights (8 lbs)

Workout:  Pump It Up
Slowly but surely, I’m getting better at this one!  I paused the video fewer times to catch my breath, and I’m starting to see improvement with my jumping plank moves.   I’m still dripping sweat when it’s over, and I doubt that will ever change.  Great 10 minute add-on!

Week 2, Day 7 – Tuesday, August 14
Kelsie’s 5-minute bonus workout from Pump, Jump ‘n Jab
To tell you the truth, I was nervous about today’s Cycle 4 Cardio workout.  I definitely wanted to be completely warmed up before beginning.  This 5-minute routine is perfect for that.  My pushups are slowly getting better in this mini-workout!

Equipment: Medium weights (6 lbs)

Workout: Cycle 4 Overdrive Cardio
As mentioned, I was nervous about this one, concerned it was really going to be fast paced and almost impossible.  I fully watched the workout ahead of time, so I’d know what to expect and would be ready for the moves as they came at me.  I’m glad I previewed the routine, and I did so much better than I thought I would!  As I write these journal notes I’m dripping with sweat, and I feel really great!  Kelsie incorporated a lot of kickboxing moves into her workout, which I was able to do with some degree of effort, but I was able to keep up just fine. The hardest move for me was the hinge-kick. You have never seen a more pitiful hinge-kick than mine!  But I did my best and moved on.  I really enjoyed this workout and count it among my favorites so far. It’s on the schedule for my Week 4, and I can’t wait to do it again!

Equipment: Light weights (4 lbs)

Workout: Shortcut to Flat Abs
Even though I was pretty sweaty, I felt energized enough to keep going. I took a short breather to write in this journal, catch my breath, grab a bit of water, and then do 10 more minutes.  I performed better on this one today—my form on the plank moves is improving, and I was able to stay off my knees for almost all of them. Now I just need to work on getting my tail downward more, closer to a parallel position from the floor!

End of Week Weigh In – Wednesday August 15 in the A.M.
Well, to my surprise, I lost another 1.8 pounds this week!  I went from 175.8 to 174! I’m usually happy with about 1.4 lost each week (an average of .2 lost a day), so this was great!  I’m seeing a marked difference in my muscle tone, and my clothes are getting more loose.  I don’t know if I’m going to lose 10 pounds in 30 days as the Firm Express plan hopes for me, but I’ll be completely happy with 7 or 8 pounds lost, plus the gain in my fitness abilities.  All that sweating in yesterday’s workout in particular really paid off!  On to Week 3—I’m halfway there!

Check out the other weeks in my 30-Day Challenge!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Firm Express - 30 Day Challenge Week 1

Time for another fitness challenge!  The past year has been a bit of a roller-coaster for me, and I'm working to get back on track.  Last summer my wellness regimen began to slip, and I used the following excuses (some less valid than others) to allow myself to get really soft and heavy. Maybe you can relate to some of these:

  • Moving from Florida to Georgia, all the packing and effort that requires-- workouts consisted of packing boxes (and on some days, this really was a workout, but not always).
  • Losing the support I had in my First Place 4 Health group at church in Florida
  • Engaging in a personal pity party as I've struggled to adjust to my new life in Georgia
  • 2011 Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years -- 'Nuff said.
  • Becoming pregnant in January (I was working out, but I decreased the intensity, and weight loss wasn't exactly a priority)
  • Miscarriage in March, followed by physical/emotional recovery
So as you can see, most of those excuses don't hold alot of water, except maybe the last one.  By mid-April my weight had climbed up to 194.4 pounds.  Yikes!  I've always gained weight weight easily, and I knew I could quickly cross back over into the 200+ pound range if I didn't snap out of my doldrums. So I said a prayer, asking the Lord to help me once again put first things first and take care of the body He's given me.

I began tracking my food on Sparkpeople.com, a great resource for health and fitness.  They even have an iPhone app, so you can track your intake wherever you go!  And as my body recovered from the miscarriage, I began to increase my workout routine, in hopes of getting my fitness up and my weight down so that I could attempt a 30-day Firm Express rotation.

When the Firm announced on their Facebook page that they were running a contest for 30-day participants to enter to win a trip to New York for their next infomercial, I decided to seize the moment.  I've lost some weight over the last few months, and I think I'm ready to give this a try.  I may not win the trip to New York, but I can certainly be awarded with a higher fitness level by the end of the month.  By the way, if you've already had success with the Firm Express, the deadline to enter this contest is at the end of the August!

So as I've done in the past, I'll post a weekly wrap-up of my progress, and some mini-reviews of each of the 14 videos available in the Firm Express.  I'm happy to say that Week 1 went very well, and I'm excited about the days to come.  Here's the first installment of the month, with my daily journal entries:

WEEK 1 - Firm Express Get Thin in 30

Day 1 – Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Weight – 177.6

Cycle 1 - Ignite: Sculpt – I’ve done this one exactly one other time, last year in a failed attempt to start this series after we moved.  Did much better this time around.  Still, it’s a very fast-paced workout, with the moves coming in really quick, with little prep.  I’d recommend watching this before viewing, just so you don’t get behind.  I was able to do every move, although I did stay on my knees for the pushups.   Got a great sweat going. Great start to the series! 

Equipment used:  Medium Weights (6 lbs) and Heavy Weights (8 lbs)

If you'd like to try this workout yourself, it's on Hulu.com below:

Workout: Pump It Up – I felt pretty good after that first workout, so I thought I’d add in this quick 10-minute routine.  It was my first time doing this one. Wow!  This one packs a punch! I was dripping sweat and pushed to the limit in no time.  The fact that I was already warmed up from Ignite: Sculpt probably had a lot to do with that, but still!  This is a quality workout in a small package.  I’ll probably still add it on to other workouts in the future, but only if I feel up to it!

Equipment used: Medium Weights (6 lbs)

Day 2 – Rest Day
Even though today was a rest day according to the calendar included in the Firm Express kit, I was behind a computer most of the day and wanted to get in just a little bit of body movement.  I did BSS1: Ab Sculpt, which is short and helps me feel great after sitting for hours.

Day 3 – 

Workout:  Ignite: Cardio
Great workout!  I did much better than when I tried this routine last year.  Still, it was challenging and sweat was dripping off my nose at one point!  I was able to keep up with Emily really well, although I had to modify the hinge-kicks.  Still feel really heavy.  But overall, this session was a lot of fun, and I feel great! My endurance is better than it has been in a while, and I’m getting stronger.

No Equipment Required

Workout: Shortcut to Flat Abs 
After a short breather/water break, I felt good enough to do 10 more minutes with Jennifer.  Since I’d had mostly cardio already, I went for the abs routine.  I enjoyed this one as well.  Jennifer hits all the spots—upper abs, lower abs, obliques, back.  Some raised-arm side bends were a little tricky for me to understand as far as body position, but I think I did them correctly.  The only move I had to modify was the side plank--- had to take that to one knee down.  This was a nice add-on routine for today. Feeling great!

Equipment:  Floor mat, Med/Heavy weight (I used 8 lb.)

Want to try this abdominal workout?  View the whole routine here!

Post-workout Snack – Half of the berry ricotta cheesecake recipe on page 23 of the Firm Express Fitness Guide. SO amazingly good!

Day 4 – Rest Day
 -- Sunday the 5th
Switched my rest day so I could get in a workout on Saturday and rest on Sunday

Day 5 –
Saturday, August 4

Workout: Ignite Cardio + Sculpt
Whoo!  That was a tough one.  Lots of high impact.  I probably would have done better if I’d had more time to warm up and get this 41 year-old body ready for all the plyos and jumping.  But I hung in there.  I had to modify the pushups and burpees a little, but overall I kept up with Emily.  Sweat came fast.  Switched the workout to today because the house was empty and I like Sundays to be my rest day if possible.

Equipment:  Heavy weights (8 lbs) and medium weights (6 lbs)

Workout: Pump It Up
Had to stop for a breather about halfway through b/c of power lunges.  The side-to-side moutainclimber-like jumps are super-killer, too.  Dripping with sweat when done, and glad I made the extra effort for those 10 minutes!

Equipment: Medium weights (6 lbs)

Day 6

Today was a rest day, so I did a lightweight Pilates routine, just to limber up after being fairly sedentary behind the computer all day.

Day 7 – Tuesday August 7th

After conferring with Firm representative Cathy Sovde, I feel that I’m needing a little “bump up” in my routine, so over the next few days I’m going to merge into the Beginner Level 2 rotation for Firm Express. So instead of taking a rest day today, I’m going to catch up on Week 1 of Level 2 and do Cycle 2: Cardio + Sculpt.

Workout: Cycle 2: Accelerate Cardio + Sculpt
I really enjoyed this workout with Rebekah! It’s a great mix of weight training and cardio.  I really had to push myself on some of the power V-step/Jumping  Jack moves, but overall I kept up pretty well.  As I’m writing this, sweat is dripping down my back, and I feel great!

Equipment:  Medium weights and Light-to-Medium Weights (I used 6 lb in both cases)

Workout: Shortcut to Flat Abs
Since I felt like I got a decent amount of cardio and I’ve already done Pump It Up a couple of times, I went with the Abs add-on today.  I think I did better this time, but I still have to take a knee on the side planks.  Feel really strong when we do the full situps from lying flat.

Equipment: Mat, 8 lb weight

End of Week Results
At the start of Week 2, Wednesday morning, I weighed in at 175.8, so almost 2 pounds lost!  Losing 1-2 pounds a week is a healthy amount, so I'm happy with this.  I've also had lots of "Non-Scale Victories" (NSV's), like making healthier food choices and forcing myself to drink lots of water each day.  So far I'm really happy with how things are going, and I look forward to further progress.  Thanks for following along with me!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Giveaway: Marrying Up by Wendy Holden

Attention all Royal Watchers! I've got a great offer from Sourcebooks for you. They're making available a copy of Wendy Holden's Marrying Up FREE to one of you! I haven't read this one myself, but it looks like alot of fun.  Check out the book and contest information from Sourcebooks, and enter to win!

*          *          *

Can’t get enough of that royal fever? Do you find yourself still Youtube-ing clips of Will & Kate’s big day? Don’t worry, Sourcebooks has you covered. Named a “Cinderella story for the beach bag”, Sourcebooks is extremely excited to be releasing Wendy Holden’s Marrying Up in August! Marrying Up has all of the crazy love, eye-opening snobbery, and naked ambition to create a juicy cocktail worthy of any royal. After all, what’s a relationship without a title and a tiara?

Praise for Marrying Up:

“Holden, a former writer for the Mail on Sunday, certainly knows her way around snarky royal gossip and delivers here a very guilty pleasure.”  ―Kirkus Reviews

“Anglophiles who stayed up all night to watch William and Kate walk down the aisle will have a lot of fun here, as will readers of Sophie Kinsella’s frothy Shopaholic series.”  ―Booklist

 “Readers will rush through this dishy chick lit tale to find the answer. A Cinderella story for the beach bag.”  ―Publishers Weekly

“Gold-digging tale while providing a brimming bucket of laughs along the way.”  ― Shelf Awareness for Readers

“Entertaining with a witty and dry sense of humor”  ―RT Book Reviews

As women around the world watched Will and Kate walk down the aisle, many of them were plotting how they could find their own prince charming.

Razor-sharp in its wit and as fresh as newlywed royals, Marrying Up by Wendy Holden reveals how sometimes a rags-to-riches story can rip a girl to shreds—and how sometimes the crown on your head can nearly crush you.

Only a title, a mansion, and a family tiara will do for a scheming social climber like Alexa, and she will go to great lengths to get it.  Starting by befriending clueless aristocrat Florrie, who fills her life with parties, texting, and, above all, champagne, means that the grandest doors swing open and the prince of her dreams is within reach. But has Florrie’s mother, the formidable Lady Annabel, figured out Alexa’s intentions already?

Meanwhile, beautiful but penniless archaeology student Polly has found herself in love after a chance meeting with a dark-eyed stranger named Max. However, Max is hiding a big secret, a secret that could ultimately ruin any chance of him and Polly living happily ever after.

About the Author

Wendy Holden (UK) was a journalist for the Sunday Times, Tatler, and The Mail on Sunday before becoming a full-time author. She has now published nine novels, all top 10 bestsellers in the UK. Her novels include Beautiful People, Farm Fatale, and Filthy Rich and feature sassy humor with a great cast of characters. For more information, please visit: www.officialwendyholden.com.

Marrying Up Giveaway!

Sound like fun?  One of you can win a copy! Be sure to read the guidelines below, enter via the Rafflecopter widget, and good luck!

  • The contest period ends at 12:01am EST on August 11th, 2012.
  • Contest is open to U.S. and Canadian entrants.
  • Make sure you leave your email address in the one required portion of the Rafflecopter form. Should you win, I will contact you on Saturday, August 11th.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • All entries must go through the Rafflecopter form. When you leave a blog post comment, in order for it to count toward your contest entry, be sure to indicate this through the "Leave a Blog Post Comment" button on the form.
  • Required Blog Post Comment Question: Who do you think is America’s "Royal" Couple? Is it old time favorite Brangelina? Or perhaps the new comers Kim Kardashian & Kanye West, aka Kimye? 
  • The winner's mailing information will be sent to Sourcebooks for prize shipment. 
  • Entries will be verified.  If a fraudulent entry is detected for the winning name, another winner will be drawn.  

If you can't see the Rafflecopter form below,
try clicking on the "Read more »" link
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want another chance to win?
Stop by the following blogs also participating in the Marrying Up Sourcebooks promotion!



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