I own a lot of workout dvds. I’ve given away even more. I’ve done the celebrity new year dvds, the hardcore workouts like 30 Day Shred, the inbetween ones like the Davina McCall ones. Without fail, I start off with all the good intentions in the world, do the workout a handful of times and then just get bored. Oh, great. More lunges…
For months, I’d been thinking I really needed to get back into some form of exercise. But I couldn’t bring myself to put one of those dvds into my player and go back to doing endless lunges and jumping around. Grapevines and crunches and blah, blah, blah.
I heard about PiYo completely by mistake, while watching a YouTube video by Chalene Johnson. When it finished, another began playing; a Beachbody Live chat from last year, when the PiYo dvds were first released. In it, Chalene shows Keith, her co-presenter, some basic PiYo moves. What I loved was that firstly, Chalene talked about it being a workout that helped her to get rid of aches and pains and nagging injuries – and I have a fair few of those! I also loved how she was showing Keith some of the moves, and explaining how to do them if you’re less flexible or “advanced.” I liked that when she was getting Keith to demonstrate the moves, she had him barely bending over, and told him not to go any further because she wanted to keep his back straight. How often do you watch these videos where they bend completely double, hands on the floor, and you’re looking at them thinking, er… I can reach my knees if I try..
Take a look here:
Forward to around 7 minutes in, to see Chalene demonstrating some of the moves.
After seeing that video a couple of times, I decided to give it a go, so I used an Amazon voucher I’d been given to pay for a PiYo Base Kit and waited excitedly for it to arrive.
When the kit arrived I was impressed to find that as well as a box set with 3 dvds, 8 workouts and one bonus workout, the set came with a workout schedule for the first 8 weeks. I stuck it onto my fridge, and set about doing the initial “Alignment” session. This session is 40 minutes long and shows you what you’re looking for in certain moves, where you should feel a stretch, what you’re working. It was really only an orientation, but I still felt sore after doing it!
The kit also comes with a Quick Start Guide which tells you what to expect from each workout, and how long they are, and an Eating Plan which helps you to plan meals and suchlike.
After the alignment session, you move on to the proper workouts: Define: Lower Body; Define: Upper Body; Sweat; Core; Strength Intervals; Buns; Drench. Each one has variations of the same sort of moves, and there are a lot of tricep push ups. I’ve been doing the workouts a month, and I’ve yet to get bored. In fact, I didn’t even do the Drench workout until this week.
When I’ve done workout dvds before, it’s been a case of “do Level 1 until you’re ok with it, then move on to Level 2” or “here are 5 different workouts, pick whichever one you want to do.” In both of those, I invariably end up doing the same one or two workouts over and over for a week or so, and then getting bored and eating chocolate instead. With PiYo, there’s a timetable that tells you which workout to do on which day, and they build up in intensity. I like having a timetable to tell me what to do on which day, but also because there are so many workouts and I can’t remember exactly which is which, I never get that feeling of “oh no, I have to do that one today” which I often get with other workout dvds. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I enjoy doing these workouts.
Each workout has a timer in the bottom left corner that shows you how much is left of this part of the workout, and how much is left of the workout over all. The first few times I did these, when the counter would get to 10 seconds left I would think “oh right, we’ll stop now” – but you really do keep working right up until the timer gets to zero. The time goes quickly though, and even on the longer, 45-minute workouts, you find that you’re more than half way through before you’ve had time to wonder how much longer is left.
What Do the Exercises Look Like?
Here’s a YouTube video of Chalene Johnson showing some PiYo moves.
The workouts are high energy and very sweaty – but low impact. There is only one workout where there’s even a hint of jumping, and that is entirely modifiable so that you’re not jumping but still getting out of breath.
The workouts are also all modifiable for those of us who are a little less flexible or able to balance, or have other issues. In every workout Michelle, one of Chalene’s friends, stands side-on to the camera and shows the modified version of the exercises. She does push ups on her knees, she doesn’t jump, she doesn’t do lunges with her hands on the floor, and there is often a chair next to her for some of the balance work.
Speaking of Michelle, it’s worth noting that the people alongside Chalene Johnson in the workouts are not fitness models; they’re Beachbody coaches, and her friends. Her sister is in one of them. Whenever Chalene says something like “this is easy” at least one of them pulls a face that says “yeah, right, I’m about to fall over.”
Chalene Johnson is incredibly positive and chirpy, and if you find that sort of thing irritating, you might not get on well with this workout. I love it though, and find it brilliant to hear her saying “you’re improving every day.” She encourages you to push yourself each time, to try just one push up on your toes, to do a full side plank, to keep pushing to achieve your goals. I find that really motivating, and I do find that I am pushing myself harder in my workouts.
The exercises aren’t like Pilates and Yoga, where I think you often stay still in a position for a length of time. In PiYo you’re almost always moving through a range of motion – but keeping that controlled, rather than bouncing. I’ve been to lots of yoga classes over the years but often found myself at the back trying to get into some contorted position I can’t even get close to, and having to sort of suspend myself in mid air for what felt like years before moving on to the next one. In PiYo you go to the position, but then you generally come up out of it, go back into it a few times. I find that works well for me, especially the parts where I don’t feel I’m necessarily as flexible as the people on the screen – I can modify it to something I can achieve, using either a chair or yoga blocks, and then work on getting to where I want to be.
How Effective Is It?
In all honesty, I began to feel the effects almost immediately. I feel skinnier. I can feel the muscles in my arms becoming more developed, but more importantly my posture has improved a lot. My neck feels longer; I feel taller.
I’ve had a nagging problem with my achilles tendons for months now, where if I walk too far they begin to ache – and when I get up in the morning I can’t really walk for the first few minutes. That is actually starting to improve, presumably because I’ve been stretching my legs out a lot doing these workouts.
I also had a lower back problem that saw me having physio for months. I have been unable to sleep on my back since S was born because if I do, I wake in the morning with an incredibly stiff lower back, feeling as if it might actually snap in two. The problem with sharing a bed with a toddler is that they don’t quite understand that, and often want to have a cuddle at 3am. Since starting PiYo I’ve ended up falling asleep on my back several times, but have actually not woken up with a sore back at all. I suppose because PiYo focuses on strengthening the core muscles, and you’re encouraged to stretch out after the exercises, it’s helped with that too – a major bonus for me!
I’m also finding that I’m able to do a lot more of the workouts, much more quickly than I was anticipating. I can see actual improvement in what I’m able to do, compared to the last time I did the same workout. That sort of thing is incredibly motivating. I think the motivation is key with this workout. It can be so easy to coast through a workout, even in a live class, because you always lift that weight or you never manage to do more than 5 push ups or something. I find that I’m progressing a lot with these workouts because I’m motivated to push myself and try harder.
This workout requires no equipment, except a yoga mat or similar for the floor work – to make sure you’re comfortable laying on the floor, and to keep you from slipping. You can also do the workouts either with trainers or without. You don’t even really need a sports bra, except for in the Strength Intervals workout, where there is a fair bit of bouncing.
Doing moves that seem complicated, and probably look really advanced, but actually aren’t. For example, in the video above Chalene Johnson shows you the Beast move and then how to do a kick through from that. It looks advanced, but is actually not that hard. But it makes you feel like you must be pretty advanced, to be able to do it.
For me the only down side of these workouts is the amount of ads on the dvds. Beachbody is an American company, and I suppose perhaps Americans are just more open to advertisements, or more used to them. Or perhaps the fact I haven’t watched live TV in over a year has made me more sensitive to such things. But there are ads at the beginning and end of each workout and that can get a bit tiresome after a while. There are no ad breaks during the workouts though, and the one at the beginning has a little counter in the corner so that you know when your workout will begin. I think it’s around 10 seconds.
When I told a friend I was doing PiYo she commented that it complicated for her. At first look, and with some of the ads for it, I suppose it does look a bit complicated – but actually, I find it a lot easier to follow than some of the aerobic workouts where you have to do the whole toe tap/grapevine/jump/turn thing. I was always the person at the back of the aerobics class, going left when everyone else went right, with a headache from concentrating so hard. Although parts of the PiYo dvds do have that element to them, most of it is really easy to follow and simple in concept.
Before having a breakdown, I would go to the gym every morning at 6am, sometimes returning at lunch time or after work. I enjoyed some of the classes I did, but mostly I just plodded through workouts I’d been given by my PT which I knew would get me great results but didn’t exactly light a fire in my belly.
Since getting sick, I’ve tried several times to get back into working out. I tried running, walking with a weighted back pack, workout dvds, and even the local leisure centre. I never found anything I was dying to get back to though. I think I may have found that with PiYo. I’m just really enjoying seeing how my body is changing. My limbs feel longer, and I feel taller. I get the normal post-workout aches, but I’m not suffering with the other aches and pains I was suffering with.
I would definitely recommend these workout dvds to anyone. Even if you’re already doing a hardcore, jumping, weight lifting, all sorts of gruelling, workout routine, PiYo can still be of benefit because it helps to lengthen your muscles, to straighten you out and work on your alignment. Quite often when you’re on a tight schedule you’ll leave out the stretching part of your workout because you have “better things to do” – what I love about this is that it’s essentially the stretching and the workout in one, so you don’t have to worry about fitting in some stretching later.