It’s official! September 2008 was experiment number 12, concluding an entire year of treating myself like a lab rat! It’s been quite the ride. I’ve been in more compromising positions than a Hooter’s waitress, tweaked my diet so much I got a new-fangled eating disorder, and typed so many blog posts (300 exactly!) that I earned a spot in the carpal tunnel hall of fame. And I’ve got the hemorrhoids (thank you one-rep max on the squat!), shin splints, bruises, carpet burns, stubbed toes, calloused hands, pummeled wrists, and wounded pride to show for it! But I’ve also learned a lot – a lot about health and fitness but even more so, a lot about myself.
My Favorite Part of This Year
I have to tell you, the number one best thing about doing this Great Experiment is: You! Not to get all Oprah on you but all of you are what makes doing this worthwhile. From all my Gym Buddies who put up with my crazy antics in real life to all of you who open up your lives and hearts to me in the comments and via e-mail and your own blogs, you people make this fun. Not to mention educational. You are some smart folk, you are, and I am amazed and grateful at how often you take the time to share your insight with me. It means a lot to me.
Some of you have joked about me writing a book from this whole experience. You should know better than to joke with a writer like that – it only encourages me;) But I have written a book (in addition to the 2 fictional and one non-fiction book already languishing on my hard drive) and am working on getting it published. So if any of you know anyone… Nope, I’m not too proud to beg!
Here’s a little summary to catch you up if you are a new reader, or to make you roll your eyes and giggle (seriously – do you remember my first profile pic??) if you have been with me since the beginning:
October 2007: 12/8 Interval Sprints. I started this experiment because I blew out my shin running to much and this pretty bit of research spawned the whole Great Fitness Experiment concept. This was my first introduction to Tabata intervals and butt-bruises from the Spin bikes. A huge success, to this day I love Tabata intervals. And my butt.
November 2007: Skinny Bitch. Read the book, pretended I wasn’t copying Posh Spice again (the first time being in High School in a late-night ill-advised “music video” that I can only discuss because it was done in the pre-YouTube era), and went Vegan for three months. Strangers thought I was a poseur, my friends thought I was nuts, and my family thought I had relapsed into my eating disorder. And they were all kind of right.
December 2007: Just in time for Christmas, I decided to embark on a 30-day no-sugar Experiment in addition to changing up my weight routine both in technique and type. The results were mixed. I discovered that removing sugar from my diet makes me a happier, healthier, stabler, and less-acne prone woman. And that the only way I’ll stay sugar-free forever is if there is blight on sugar cane and sugar beets because I can’t leave the stuff alone. Jelly beans are my crack. As for the weights, I found that lifting slower does help but changing the order (cardio first vs. second) didn’t matter so much.
January 2008: The Monkey Bar Gym! This was my first attempt at Experimenting on a pre-fab workout. And I loved it. This workout has consistently remained one of my favorite Experiments ever. It is easy enough that beginners can start it and yet you can make it hard enough for the most seasoned athletes. It incorporates high intensity interval cardio with a good mix of functional weight training. It also has the added bonus of requiring very little equipment. And they post a new workout every day!
Feb 2008: The Cardio Diet. This was my first attempt at curbing my cardio queen impulses. Mark’s Daily Apple convinced me with their talk of low body fat and less exercise. The results were mixed. On one hand, it didn’t really work for me. On the other hand, I love my cardio too much to truly follow the plan. But on the other other hand, I have a repeating problem in my life with doing too much cardio. In July I will attempt the entirety of Mark’s Primal Blueprint (cue ominous music) concluding in the biggest failure of Experiment history.
March 2008: The almighty CrossFit! This is possibly one of the most controversial workouts out there today. Their philosophy was radical when it started, although it has since become accepted as more mainstream: lots of short sessions of weight lifting, short very intense bursts of cardio and the occasional very long cardio. It’s uber competitive with followers posting their times and weight loads every day, even spawing its own CrossFit olympics. My opinion? The hype is pretty accurate. It’s a kick-butt take-no-prisoners seriously hardcore workout. I’ve since incorporated CrossFit into several of my subsequent Experiments. My only complaint was that it made me a little too muscle-y.
April 2008: The Ballerina Workout. This was the complete opposite of CrossFit: long sessions of very low weight/high volume weight training. It ended up being a solid two hours per day of plies, arabesques and 100-rep sets of 3-lb weights. I learned that no matter what the press says, this is not the way Madonna got her body. My results were mixed. On one hand – World’s Most Boring Workout Ever. But on the other hand – This month was the month I was the happiest with my body shape, size and muscle definition. However, that could have been due to finally getting down to my goal weight (thank you confluence of stressful life events which temporarily made me lose my will to eat!). Which my friends and family then informed me was too thin. Thus opening up a whole ‘nother can of crazy. These days I’ll throw it in maybe once or twice a month to vary my workouts but I can’t say I look forward to it.
May 2008: The Action Hero Workout. Despite its supercool name, this pre-fab workout from Valerie Waters (personal trainer to the stars) was minorly disappointing. It wasn’t bad – mostly a mix of strength and mild cardio moves. But it wasn’t great either. It required her special Val-Slide and Val-Band equipment (which the Gym Buddies and I fudged because we’re cheap) and while it had a few new moves, it was nothing extraordinary. Definitely good to throw in to mix things up every once in awhile but not good if you are looking for a transformation.
June 2008: Jillian Michaels’ Making the Cut. I took this workout and diet plan from The Biggest Loser’s star personal trainer’s book. It was pretty good except that I found I couldn’t follow her plan to the letter. For one thing, her diet was ridiculously low in calories and the other problem was the science behind her exercise philosophy was… old. A fact later explained by careful examination of the copyright date. That said though, it was a decent burn and she did have some tasty recipes.
July 2008: The Primal Blueprint. I’d been toying around with different parts of the Primal Blueprint courtesy of Mark’s Daily Apple (see March) but had never tried his whole program together. I decided to give it a go. What happened? The most spectacular failure in Great Fitness Experiment history. I still can’t bear to talk about it. Feel free to read up if you want all the dirty details. (Note: I still love Mark Sisson and his site remains one of my fave resources of exercise and nutrition research.)
August 2008: Old-Skool Cardio. Because I am all about the extremes, this month was dedicated to all cardio, all the time. I kept two days of weight lifting in there to maintain muscle mass but I won’t lie – my heart wasn’t in it. Instead, my heart was happily chugging along in the moderate-intensity range for a whopping 25 (ish) hours per week. What did I learn? Cardio is not the great fat burner people make it out to be. But the runner’s high is totally real!
September 2008: Kettlebells. Long requested by my loyal band of readers, I finally got a hold of enough KB cuties to actually use them in an experiment. It was fun! It was cardio and strength together, making for a very efficient workout. The results were less stellar than I had hoped but I think with better training I’d try them again.
Several of you (Hi Professor Platek!!) have suggested workouts for future Experiments. I LOVE this. Do know that I write down every suggestion I get (that doesn’t involve taking a crap load of pills) and hope to be able to get to them all soon. But some of them – especially the ones involving equipment that my gym doesn’t have – are harder to get to then others. But I’m working on it. And I love love love you guys for sending me ideas. So keep it up!
So there you have it! Any of you have a favorite Experiment? Which one(s) did you hate?