Fitness Programs

autumn_pr_images_hires_1Since diet will make or break the result of your workout regimen, it’s surprising that most fitness video programs don’t talk about it at all, or annoyingly go over it just enough to push affiliated supplement products.

Autumn Calabrese's 21 Day Fix program has taken on the ambitious task of teaching you everything you need to know to lose 15 pounds in 21 days. The base kit includes 2 DVDs with exercise routines, a food container system that makes it easier to prevent overeating, and an eating plan that includes basic recipes. For those yearning for more mind-blowing before and after photos or dazzling at an important event, a 3 Day Quick Fix has been included which is primarily intended to be done directly after the 21 day program.

Of course the question you’re here to answer is, is it any good? Let’s get to that. Each segment of Autumn Calabrese's system has been evaluated separately to keep this review tidy as there is a decent bit to cover: videos, eating plan, containers/cup, plus 3 Day Quick Fix.

7 workouts on 2 DVDs

The main attraction is of course Autumn Calabrese’s workout videos. For those unfamiliar with her day job, Calabrese is a celebrity trainer that has helped Rachel Zoe, Brooke Burke, and Tom Bergeron. Also, being a mother of one and fitness competition competitor has given her a unique approach to fitness.

To follow the schedule, you’ll do seven 30-minute workouts per week.

21-day-fixThe first disc contains a full body fix, upper and lower fix, pilates, and abs workout. The second has cardio, dirty 30, yoga and another 10-minute fix for abs.

Each exercise is done for a full minute, which is enough time to get your heart pumping. After there is 20 second cool-down in which Autumn talks about and demonstrates the next routine. The pace is pretty easy to keep up with, which is good for beginners, as you won’t dread another day of joint pain or feeling like you’re always a step behind the instructor.

The workouts include new and unusual workout routines that are spins on classic maneuvers, such as the one-arm row in plank position. So prepare for some new challenges along the way.

21 Day Fix Eating Plan

It’s estimated that 70% of your results will come from changes in diet.

The 21 Day Fix Eating Plan isn’t a fad diet that means eating nothing but fruits and vegetables, or drinking an excess of health shakes. It’s just a balance of healthy foods you’re likely already eating, just less of it.

It’s a disciplined diet. However, it’s not so strict that it takes all the fun out of eating. The containers might even encourage you to be creative and come up with healthy treats while keeping true to the rules.

If putting a little whipped cream on your fruit salad feels like the reward you need after a hard workout, go with it. Bending the rules within reason might mean the difference completely quitting and getting the results you’ve been yearning for.

Very basic meal ideas are included to keep you on track, ex. grilled chicken with steamed veggies and extra virgin coconut oil, or steamed fish with steamed veggies. You won’t be winning any culinary awards with these meals, but the approach works, and less time in the kitchen will make up for the added time in the exercise room.

Portion-control containers plus Shakeology shaker cup

The beauty of the container system is simplicity. You don’t have to count calories or weigh your foods. Instead, each color-coded container is intended for a different type of food, ex. green for veggies, red for proteins. This method may not be totally accurate, but it’s good enough to serve its purpose.

The major concern here is if you really need this level of handholding. You could easily measure your foods by volume in a measuring cup then put it into Tupperware you already own. Sure, getting custom containers saves you the measuring step and is idiot-proof, but for some people’s preferences or needs it just adds extra cost.

If you prepare your own lunches at home and take it to work, the gym, or elsewhere the idea is worthwhile. For homebodies that aren’t as busy, it’s simply a luxury.

3 Day Quick Fix

This is a jump-start for a leaner, sexier, new you. It’s an eating plan designed to maximize fat loss. Autumn Calabrese developed it based on her own experience so she had that extra edge before competitions or photo shoots. Now you can too!

The basic rules are you can eat: streamed veggies, lean white proteins, oatmeal, yams, limes, lemons and spices. You cannot eat/drink Shakeology, fruit, or salt.

When Wii came out in 2006 gamers were given the impression most games would involve considerable activity.

In time it became clear waggle-ware, requiring subtle wrist and arm movements, vastly outnumbered the more strenuous variety.

Although a slew of fitness games came out for the Wii during its peak and later for the Xbox 360 Kinect, most fell short of expectations. Although software that tracks your movements sounded good on paper, implementation often left something to be desired.

What this new approach did right is it gave working out entertainment value and interactivity. With so many forms of amusing distractions out there that lock you onto the couch, owning games that make you sweat provides a counterbalance.

Naturally those looking for an enhanced workout gravitate towards titles like EA Sport Active, Wii Fit Plus, Your Shape Fitness Evolved, and Zumba Fitness.

In the process dance titles that offer a solid cardio workout like the Just Dance and DDR are often overlooked. Although their primary focus is merely fun, sometimes that’s the best motivator there is.

Just Dance was first released for the Wii in 2009. Due to its astronomical popularity publisher UBI Soft has consistently been pumping out sequels and spinoffs. Each major release boasts 40 plus new tracks so it makes sense that it has continued to fly off the shelves.

Like with any Wii game you can cheat the system and play as lazily as possible while still achieving high scores. So you’ll need to be self-motivated to get a good workout from Just Dance. I imagine this isn’t the case with the Kinect version, since it tracks the position of your entire body, although I haven’t tested it myself.

Starting with Just Dance 2, “just sweat” mode was added. It allows players to measure the energy they expend as well as set fitness objectives to be met during their dance sessions.

While Just Dance doesn’t offer sophisticated fitness components you'd expect from an exergame, the fun factor, choreography, stunning visuals and great music more than make up for it.

There are reports online of people losing substantial weight purely with Just Dance so clearly features like weight tracking, calendar features, etc. aren’t as significant as motivators as we’ve been lead to believe. It’s way more important that the software is fun, intuitive and free of technical frustrations.

Just Dance 4 - Nintendo Wii Just Dance 4 - Nintendo Wii
List Price: $19.99
Sale Price: $8.00

The downside is you’ll eventually tire of the tracks requiring you to pick up new versions so it stays fresh. With a game like EA Sports Active for example the music is generic, however you can turn it off and play your own MP3s with another device. Granted this is an apples to oranges comparison but it’s an integral factor to consider when assessing replay value of the Just Dance series.

Another advantage Just Dance offers over fitness games is its fun to play with a group. While exercise carries connotation of work and strain with it, dancing does not. Your friends might even be the ones who will con you into getting off your rump and popping it in.

Overall you’d be crazy not to try it even if you’re not big on bubblegum pop. Think of it as a guilty pleasure or claim it’s “for the kids” if need be.

People are attracted to the image of workout systems like P90X and Insanity. It’s hardcore! It causes even the toned, anatomically perfect people on screen to break a serious sweat. Additionally, who doesn’t want fast results?

The reality is often what we perceive we need and what we actually need are two very different things.

Claims that anyone can do P90X and that one simply needs to tough it out are more likely to cause someone to quit than empower them. Naturally, any workout should challenge you but if you feel like you’re at the foot of Mt. Everest when you pop in the P90X DVD something is wrong.

If you’re out of shape, overweight, no longer a young pup, or a combination of all three, you need to start small.

Go on brisk walks more regularly, or dust off the mountain bike. Do simple exercises each day like squats, pushups, jumping jacks, and workout your upper body with resistance bands.

Once you start to feel the increased vitality regular exercise provides and confidence in your fitness level has improved, it’s time to move on to a beginner’s workout system.

Jillian Michaels’ workout videos like 30 Day Shred, Ripped in 30, and 6 Week Six-Pack are an inexpensive, noncommittal way to get started. If you prefer to learn from a man, Bob Harper and Billy Blanks are also a popular choice.

Beachbody offers alternatives that are overshadowed by the success of P90X. The first is POWER 90: a less demanding 90-day regimen. The second is 10 Minute Trainer: a system for the busiest people or those not willing to do a 30-minute session every day.

For more detail, read my previous post about alternatives to P90X.

Once you’ve graduated from the options mentioned above or something similar, this is the right time to pick up P90X.

The problem with fitness advice is we often go to people who are much more advanced than ourselves for guidance who are more likely doers than teachers. Unless you’re speaking to a professional trainer it’s sometimes hard for people in good shape to step into the shoes of someone who isn’t. This is why I think it’s so common for people to recommend advanced systems like P90X and Insanity even when it’s not appropriate.

Keep in mind that we all need to start at the bottom floor. There’s no magic bullet or shortcut to a body you’re proud to show off at the beach.

Don’t be ashamed of starting small and with feasible goals. Let your mantra be any activity is better than no activity. It may take you farther than you ever imagined.

Unless you have a big rack of dumbbells of differing weight right in front of you, it can be difficult manage your dumbbells while following real-time video in P90X. It’s especially challenging if you have limited space as various dumbbells can easily clutter up your workout space.

The best solution for most home gym aficionados is an adjustable dumbbell set. A good set replaces a huge rack of metal dumbbells, while taking up far less space. This makes it a no-brainer for apartment or condo dwellers. The other advantage is speed. Simply plop the dumbbells on the base, make your adjustments, and pull the set back up again.

There are two great options out there: the Bowflex SelectTech 552 set and the PowerBlock Classic set. Both are exceptional choices for P90X. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each so you can make the best choice according to your individual needs.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells Review

The Bowflex dumbbell set has a space-age design that is impressively intuitive. At the far end of each dumbbell is a large dial that allows you to increase or decrease the weight as you see fit.

The weight settings go up in increments of 2.5 pounds. This gives you a great deal of flexibility, making the shift to heavier weights more manageable. Each dumbbell can be adjusted anywhere from 5 to 52.5 pounds each (2.27 to 23.8 kg).

The fact you can go up and down in such small increments comes in very handy for P90X. With a traditional small set including a pair of 10s, 15s, and 25s it can be tough to reach the sweet spot while doing a given exercise. Due to the 10 pound difference between the 15s and 25s, most people end up feeling they’ve chosen a dumbbell that is either too heavy or too light.

The dumbbells measure 16” long which might make some P90X exercises awkward. Width on the other hand is perfectly manageable.

Although the design is appealing, come compromises were made to make the set so easy to adjust. The looseness between the plates is the biggest disadvantage to the 552s. The dial plus tiered system makes it possible for the metal portions to tap against each other. This might create a slight rattling sound when you are doing curls.

PowerBlock Classic Adjustable Dumbbell Set Review

This set from PowerBlock couldn’t look more different than the Bowflex SelectTech line. As the name implies each dumbbell resembles a rectangular block. The unique engineering plus color-coded buttons and components give it a future-retro vibe.

Each dumbbell can be adjusted between 5 and 45 pounds in 5-pound increments. In this area, the PowerBlock Classic set is trumped by the more flexible SelectTech 552 model. This limitation is exposed when certain P90X exercises either feel a bit too easy or too difficult. In a way less options are a good thing when you are making a split second decisions about which weight you should choose. With 5-pound increments the selections seem more obvious. Those that value simplicity may prefer this approach over the more exacting Bowflex scheme.

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The most impressive characteristic of the PowerBlock Classic set is the solid feel the dumbbells have. This is partially due to the superior construction quality and partially due to the fact that all the pieces are rigidly held in place thanks to the design. You never feel like any plates are too loose as you do with the Bowflex.

Some care must be taken when you are aligning the pins to select the weight you want. It ceases to be a problem when you put it up on a table top or stand. If you are a somewhat clumsy or careless person you may want to get the Bowflex which is very forgiving in this regard.

The Verdict

If you are the type of person that values ease of use and flexibility the Bowflex is for you. It allows you to increase weight in 2.5 pound increments which is very useful when doing P90X. The drawback to this set is the looseness of the plates.

If you like designs that put ruggedness first, get the PowerBlock Classic set. It may look a bit strange to some but the engineering and quality components give it a solid feel. The drawback in this case is decreased flexibility. Adjustments are made in 5 pound increments rather than 2.5 pounds like the Bowflex set.

P90X has a number of similarities with Insanity. Before we move on to differences let’s look at the areas in which the two systems are most comparable.

Schedule

First off, the schedule you’ll follow is the same with each method. No matter if you go with Insanity or P90X you’ll be putting in a solid workout six times a week. The first three weeks are dedicated to maximum intensity workouts while the fourth week is for recovery. After the fourth week is completed the cycle begins again, bring you back to the week one routine.

Number of Workouts and Variety

Both P90X and Insanity have an extensive collection of workouts to keep things interesting and make sure every portion of your body gets equal attention. P90X includes 12 DVDs (each including one workout) while Insanity includes 10 DVDs.

In terms of variety P90X offers more but this isn’t necessarily a good thing for everyone. For example, a good portion of people are put off by the Yoga X workout in P90X. Not only is it hard but it takes up 90 minutes. For the more casual crowd this is a stretch.

Insanity has a strong cardio focus. While it is more accessible than P90X in some ways it also isn’t for complete beginners. If you are inactive or extremely overweight the intensity of the workouts will be overwhelming at first. At times it can get repetitive as well so if your attention span is short P90X may be a better match for you.

Muscle Building vs Fat Burning

The most important factor to consider when choosing a workout system is your goals. P90X excels at muscle building while Insanity is focused on toning and weight loss. Of course you can get ripped and lose weight with either system but if you want maximum efficiency choose according to what benefit is most important to you.

P90X DVD Workout - Base Kit P90X DVD Workout - Base Kit
Sale Price: $139.80

Commitment

Neither one of these approaches is a walk in the park. You need to put in an intense workout each and every day during the week, excluding one, to
get the advertised results.

Despite the name Insanity is arguably the easier system to complete (if you can keep up the pace) because it requires less time. The average workout length is 45 minutes as opposed to 75 minutes in P90X. In addition you can get good results in 60 days instead of 90 days.

Equipment

Both P90X and Insanity rely on your body weight, not a bunch of expensive, heavy gym equipment.

To get started with P90X you’ll need a set of resistance bands or dumbbells, a pull-up bar and a yoga mat. This post outlines equipment recommendations for P90X so be sure to check it out.

Insanity requires no equipment to get started. While it retails for about the same as P90X this makes it even more attractive to those on a budget.

INSANITY Base Kit - DVD Workout INSANITY Base Kit - DVD Workout
Sale Price: $144.80

Final Thoughts

No matter if you choose P90X or Insanity you better be ready to bust your butt. Neither one of these options are for the faint of heart. If you feel a bit intimidated read this post about P90X alternatives.

Are you ready to press on? Your goals trump all other factors. People looking to lose weight quickly will want to look at Insanity. The crowd looking to get ripped (primarily men) need to grab up P90X.

Both require a good bit of dedication however you can complete Insanity in only two months instead of three. In addition the workouts are shorter. Be warned: that doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk.