Remember back in August, when I blogged about my experience doing Jillian Michaels’s 30 Day Shred? It was never my intention to revisit that post, but in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had so many hits regarding the 30 Day Shred I thought I’d answer some of the questions and offer a little more insight. It’s that time of year when everyone’s resolving to make fitness and losing weight part of their routine.
First: Yes! I am still doing this. I am not always the most consistent in my workouts, but I manage to get in 4 or 5 days of Shredding a week. Sometimes I take one day off and sometimes, I end up taking three days off in a row. I think there was a period of time I took a whole week off because I was tired/cranky/stressed/sick and working out was the last thing on my mind. The most effective workouts are the ones where your head is in the game. So if you’re not willing to put your head in it, it’s best to just skip it. Also, it is crucial to take days off while doing the program. Take at least one day, but two days are fine, too. Your body needs recovery time.
This is the longest I have ever stuck to a fitness routine. I usually peter out a few weeks in, but I’m going on six months now. The 30 Day Shred works for me because it’s short. I am still doing some modifications on stuff, but every time I work out, I get a little stronger and can push a little harder. Some of the advanced stuff I can now do. I love that it’s still a challenge.
I don’t do all of one level in a row. I mix it up. I might do Level 2 for a few days, then go to Level 3. I might do Level 1 then try Level 3. The set up of doing ten days per level is probably more about the marketing than the actual results. For beginners, it’s likely a good evolution through the program. For those who’ve been doing it, well, you do how you need to do the workouts. If it takes you ten days per level, fine. If it’s every day a new level, that’s fine, too.
I never, under any circumstances, do the Shred twice in one day. It’s an intense work out — you do not need to do it twice in a day for it to be effective. If you’re feeling the need to do more after the work out, go for a walk. Do something else. I would think doing it twice in a day would burn you out quickly. I have a friend who does Shred one day and runs the next. Sometimes she does them both the same day. Cross training! It’s never a bad thing. For me? Shredding is more than enough.
Over the course of my six months, I’ve had a ton of progress. First, the weights. I started with two pound hand weights. I did that for a long time, and then I moved up to three pounds. After doing that for a long time, I took the leap for five pounds. That was not easy. This was especially painful in Level 3, circuit 2 of cardio. That’s where you’re punching with the weights, then you’re doing butt kicks, then you’re doing jumping jacks with them. My arms killed. But you know what? After doing it for many weeks, it got easier. I would never say it got EASY, but it became easier.
So after the holidays, I bought six pound weights. I have just implemented them into my Shred and it is not easy. I cannot do Level 3, circuit 2 with them all the way through. I have to modify and go down on the weights. But it’s not a big deal — I keep lighter weights beside me in the event I need to do that. Eventually, I’ll work up to it, but my thought is doing the higher weights with some stuff is still being effective. It’s making the challenge harder.
I think I mentioned previously how important it was to wear shoes and socks with the workout. I still believe that, especially as I’ve run into some ankle issues. I’m so prone to cracking and popping joints (listening to my shoulders during the walk out push ups is incredible — my shoulders pop on the walk out and the walk back) but I get particularly nervous when I hear my ankle crack. And it’s happened a few times. Had I not been wearing good workout shoes? It wouldn’t have just been a crack or a pop. It’d have been a snap or worse. In other words, this is an intense workout, and you need to be prepared for it all the way.
Something I worried about — and yes, this will tread too much information territory, so go ahead and skip down a paragraph if you don’t want it — was a proper workout/sports bra. Here’s the thing: they don’t make real workout bras for ladies who are beyond a certain size. I’ve got an average band size but the cup size is another story all together. Anyone who has this particular challenge knows the options are to double up on cheap bras from a place like Target or to wear an underwire beneath a sports bra. What a pain. It wears out the bras and it isn’t actually supportive and doesn’t allow you to really get the workout you need. So I polled a lot of people about this issue and came back with a few options. I tried three bras: the Hallelujah bra by title nine, the Double Dry by Champion, and the Maia by Moving Comfort. The first one was terrible. It offered no support, had no wire under it, and while it kept everything separate, it was just uncomfortable. The second one, while supportive, squashed everything together and was uncomfortable. Again, no wire. The third one? I love it. I cannot possibly say enough good things about the Maia. It’s supportive. It’s got built-in underwires. It keeps everything separate and squashes everything down. There is nothing moving when working out, and it’s not uncomfortable. It’s held up spectacularly well. I don’t notice it when I’m working out and that is how a really good sports bra should be. Obviously, everyone’s mileage and needs vary, but that’s my experience. I’d buy the Moving Comfort again, and I might have to because the original purchase is now about two sizes too big.
I talked about my results before. As of now, I’ve lost ten pounds and a ton of inches. It’s noticeable in my hips (where I’ve lost almost 10 inches) and my waist (5 inches), in my chest and especially in my shoulder area. My arms are so much smaller than they were before (over three inches in each arm — I still don’t love how my arms look but the difference is super noticeable and that makes me happy). I can definitely see the difference in my face and chin, too. So what I haven’t necessarily seen on the scale in terms of results — though I’m thrilled about ten pounds — doesn’t reflect the actuality. My clothes fit well! I’ve had to buy new, smaller things. But beyond just the actual change in my body size, I’ve noticed a tremendous change in my skin. I’ve always had terrible skin, but since implementing this into my routine, my skin has become so much better. I find, too, when I do put in the workout — I almost always do it in the morning around 6 a.m. — I have so much more energy during the day. I sleep really well at night, too. Other benefits? Well. It’s great to feel healthy. It’s great to know how much you can push yourself and see the change. It’s great to feel confident about your ability to endure hell for 25 minutes and come out alive on the other side.
Of course, there are bad days. I’ve had entire workouts feel like failures because I’ve had to take so many breaks or modify everything. But that’s part of the challenge of working out. Somedays you’re on and other days, you’re not. I find for me a lot of it is the issue of not having my head in it all the way. It requires focus.
The workout is not easy. It’s not fun. There are days getting through one circuit — let alone a whole level — sucks. But as Jillian says, the more you push yourself, the better results you get. Sometimes the result is that you made it through the workout, and that is okay. I think it’s very easy to quit this workout. It’s hard, especially if you haven’t worked out in a long time. But that’s why you are doing it. The first few days, even the first few weeks, are awful. Quitting doesn’t make it easier, though. Level one is hard. Level two is hard. Level three is hard. They’re all hard. And they build on each other. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I don’t think Level two is harder than Level three, as I did before. They’re hard for different reasons because the focus is on different muscle groups. Level two is arms, shoulders, and chest. There are a lot of plank moves. Level three is abs, low back, quads, and glutes. There is a lot of jumping and squatting.
I don’t think you need to diet for the Shred to be effective, but I don’t know. I eat healthfully as it is, so I haven’t needed to adjust my diet. I’d assume dieting would make it more effective. But I’d also say that trying to change so many things at once will lead to burnout. Your body has to adjust its needs based on the workout to start. From there, I think implementing a diet routine would work. I can’t dish any diet secrets or tips other than saying vegetables are your friend, not your foe. I will say that one thing I learned as a morning workout person is the cravings for food I get in the morning I never did before. I’ve been eating Greek yogurt with oats and honey for a breakfast for a couple years and that’s all. Sometimes a banana, too. But with working out, I find myself starving by 9 or 9:30. So I eat something with peanut butter to supplement my diet with more protein. It helps significantly. Other people may have other food items that help them, but for me, it’s peanut butter.
You get the most out of 30 Day Shred by doing it and sticking to it. Push yourself. Try non-modified versions of moves as you can. You don’t have to do everything. I can’t, for example, do jumping lunges (Level 3, circuit 2 strength) all the way through. I can do three or four, then I am done. I just do the modification. It’s still progress. The 30 Day Shred can be done by beginners as much as it can be done by those who workout all the time. I send the same warning as before: if you have physical restrictions or injuries, modify as you need to. I have weak ankles. I can’t do so much jumping. It’s okay. That’s a minute or two of working out in Level 3 I cannot do. It doesn’t make the other 23 minutes ineffective.
The Shred hurts. When I take a few days off, returning the next day sucks. It’s hard, and I ache afterward. This is not an easy program, but it’s effective. The pain is worth it. Stretch. Cool down. Treat yourself kindly after, especially if you’re hurting so badly. Lying on the couch writhing in pain is sometimes par for the course. Complain if you have someone who will listen. I do not envy anybody on day one. IT STINKS. But you will get through it.
I’ve tried Jillian’s Ripped in 30. I made it through all four levels. While the concept is the same — three minutes of strength, two of cardio, and one of abs in each level — I found the use of three strength moves per circuit, rather than two, one move too many. It’s a minor criticism, but it felt like trying to cram too much into a workout. Rather than feel like I was really progressing in strength, things were mixed up too quickly. I also tried Jillian’s Killer Abs. It was fine, but it was almost entirely abs. Not enough strength stuff for me. My best area is in strength, so not having it for the workout meant I didn’t have enough “feeling awesome” in my workout. Yeah, those small moments of victory matter to me.
What else to say about this? It works for me. Yes, there are times I still whine and vent about how tough it is. Yes, there are days I skip and feel guilty. Yes, there are days I want to punch Jillian in the face. But then I remember how much progress I’ve made and it gets me through. Twenty-five minutes is easy to give.
I think it’s very easy to underestimate yourself if you haven’t had a workout routine in your life. I think this is especially true if you’re overweight and out of shape. It’s easy to continue to tell yourself or listen to other people tell you that because you’re fat (or too thin, it goes both ways) you can’t possibly do it. You CAN do it. No one promises it to be easy. That’d be ridiculous. But if you’re committed to it, it’s possible. Working out is one thing you do for nobody but yourself, so you have to determine how much it matters to you. No one can do that for you.
Do I sound like an infomercial at this point? I’m not going to blog about this anymore, but because of the influx of hits, I thought it was worthwhile to follow up my original review. I like this program. It works for me. But I put in the work to make it happen. It’s not just handed to me.
Want further inspiration? Go to this blog. It helped me through a lot of days. Her progress is much like mine. She lost in a lot of the same ways I have. This is the kind of stuff you look at for inspiration on those crummy days. She’s also done Ripped in 30 and talked about the results.
With that, I have offered every bit of wisdom I have on the Shred. If you’re looking for something to try for a workout, I recommend it highly.
Kelly Jensen is a former librarian turned editor for Book Riot. She's the author of IT HAPPENS: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader and the forthcoming Feminism For The Real World (Algonquin Young Readers, Spring 2017).