Thursday, October 10, 2013

With all the Physique 57 love that has been flowing through my fingertips, I do feel the need to come clean about one thing: at the moment, I'm not actually doing P57 regularly. I did do it pretty much exclusively for a year, which is a very long time for me to stick to any one type of exercise.

I'm a bit of a variety junkie. I usually can't commit to any one thing. I get bored. I like to try new things, which to some extent is good. The body adapts to exercise. It becomes really efficient at doing something if you do it over and over and over. After a while, it becomes less challenging, and you stop seeing results. This is called a plateau in fitness-speak.

However, you do have to stick with something long enough to see any results at all. This is called adaptation. Obviously, one hard-core session at the barre isn't going to get you thighs off of which you could bounce a quarter, and don't we all know what a worthy goal that is?

Physique 57 says you can't plateau with their uber-challenging program, and I believe that if you can regularly attend classes at the studios. I only had the six DVDs at my disposal, and while they are awesome, I was probably more psychologically burned out than anything else.

So back in July I decided to take a little sabbatical from Tanya and friends, and I tried Leah Sarago. This is Leah:

I know, she's very inspirational. Leah's workouts are sort of barre with a twist. They are quite remarkably hard, and her upper body work in particular is very challenging and innovative. It mostly uses body weight (which is a lot even for a small person) and, like most barre workouts, very light hand weights.

This is something that doesn't really sit well with me--the light weight thing. It's one of the things that I like about Physique 57--they have you lifting some heavier weights. Now don't get me wrong, Leah and all the other barre people will seriously hurt you with those light weights. In fact, the first time I did Leah's weighted arms I used 3lbs. and had to drop down to 2lbs. But I really think God intended us to lift heavier things.... like my children. Lifting light weights a zillion times is fine for muscle endurance, but for building muscle mass, heavy is good.

So I stuck with Leah for a few weeks, and while I have nothing but good things to say about Leah as an instructor (she cues very well and provides excellent form pointers), her workouts are a little dry. And long. And not really different enough from Physique 57 to scratch where it itched, so I moved on.

I decided to do something completely different. Enter Rachel Cosgrove, stage left:
Rachel is pretty buff. You can't really tell that in this picture, because Rachel tries to seem less buff to sell her workouts, which involve lifting quite heavy weights. Buffness freaks a lot of women out, and Rachel knows this. Her most recent book is called Drop Two Sizes.
They put this cute little model on the cover so women wouldn't get all wiggy about the heavy weight thing, which I kind of get, but also find somewhat distasteful. What's wrong with a woman having some muscle? Anyway, we can talk about that later. And I will.
Drop Two Sizes (henceforth 'D2S') involves a lot of compound exercises, meaning you're not just lifting a weight up and down, but doing two exercises at once. Rachel is really into offset loading--holding a weight in one hand while doing squats or planks or something else that's really hard and forces you to keep your balance. It really works your core muscles along with the rest of your body and spikes your heart rate.
Rachel doesn't want you weighing yourself, the reason being you build muscle with serious strength training and muscle weighs something. D2Sers often find they lose little or no weight, but their body composition changes. Instead of a few pounds of fat, they now have a few pounds of muscle. All that muscles fires up metabolism and you're now burning calories like Thomas the Tank Engine burns coal.
The program is twelve weeks long--three phases of four weeks. Each week involves three strength workouts and one metabolic cardio workout. You heard me right: only one cardio workout per week. And they're short. Like, ten to fifteen minutes kind of short. Rachel's not big on cardio, and she's got some science to back it up. We can talk more about that later. And I will.
The point is that it's very different from barre. I'm on week eight of the twelve week plan. I still work Physique 57 into my rotation because I can't live without it, but mostly I'm hanging with Rachel and her henchwomen. The jury is still out on this one, but it is nice to do something different.
I'll provide a more thorough review once I'm finished with it in four weeks. I'm looking forward to finishing. I miss Tanya and friends. We still talk, like I said, but not everyday and I kind of miss that.
Anyone else have any thoughts to share on heavy and light weights? Feel free. I love opinions. I have a lot of them. Can't you tell?


  1. You wrote this for me, didn't you? So I'd stop asking about D2S? ;) I'm curious to hear how it goes. I'm with you on needing to build strength. I can do tons of reps with 3 and 5 lb. dumbbells right now but can't pick up my 30-ish pound kids easily, so hopefully I can hit the heavy weights again soon.

  2. I am a proponent of crossfit. heavy weights, lots of variety and loads of healthy competitiion (ie fun). what else could you ask for? of course, you need to join a good cf gym with good programming and coaching. :o) miss seeing you @apc!!

  3. Hey Chrissy! There is a CF gym near us... but oh, it looks so massively unfun to me. Maybe I'll try it one of these days, but I need to get all the small people into school first.

    Pratima, maybe once the dust settles you can get into D2S. I think you'd like it! There's no dread for me, which is nice.

  4. You know we are crossfitters. Light weights-high reps have their place, but nothing beats lifting heavy weights well for building strength and for helping with functional stuff like lifting kids, shopping bags, etc. Notice I say lifting heavy weights well. Not much use lifting weights if you don't know how to do it without protecting your back!