Compared to this lot, Focus T25 sounds straight-forward, and fairly tame - focusing isn't particularly strenous, and the T25 refers to the fact each workout takes 25 minutes. This is the main selling point of T25 - maximising how you spend your time to get an hours worth of exercise into 25 minutes. There's some "science" behind it apparently, in their own words:
"Major studies have shown that 30 minutes of exercise can be just as effective at burning fat and even more efficient than 60 minutes of exercise. With FOCUS T25, you need to work out just 25 minutes a day to get in the best shape of your life"There are 11 of these 25 minute workouts, split between two difficulty settings - for the first 5 weeks you use a rotation of the 5 Alpha workouts, and then move onto the Beta ones until the end of the 10 week program. According to the promotional images, at the end of the tenth week you'll have achieved the kind of results you'd expect from Kim K's airbrush team.
Results like these are probably contingent on you following the included Nutrition Guide, which I won't be - strictly in the interest of sustainability; definitely not because I'm using a hooky copy of the DVDs which didn't come with the nutrition guide. I can bring myself to work out for 25 minutes a day (most days), but if I have to follow a strict eating plan then I'd expect to last until approximately 11am on Day One.
If you have the time, money, resources and inclination to eat clean then you'll undoubtedly see better results in less time, but I don't, and I don't want to deny myself simple pleasures. That really isn't what Regular Guy Fitness Club is about - there are already plenty of Men's Fitness/GQ articles which cater to people with that level of dedication. As a compromise though I'll be eating a fairly sensible and balanced diet - more of an attempted lifestyle adjustment rather than a ten week health-binge - and sharing some of the recipes that I'll be using.
Visual results from exercise are entirely subjective and a pretty gross overshare, so I'll be judging T25's effectiveness on how it helps improve fitness level and strength by keeping a weekly record of some arbitrary statistics such as how many press-ups I can do (Currently one, on a good day, when the Earth's gravitational pull is particularly weak), how frequently I vomit during workouts, and perhaps how much I weigh and things like that.
I'm going to be explaining this from a complete beginners perspective, so apologies if some of my explanations seem patronising.
Day One - Cardio
Each of the workouts in T25 serves a different purpose, and Cardio's business is burning fat through whole-body exercises that raise your heart-rate and get blood pumping through your body.
The exercises are pretty familiar territory, you start off slow, with the a progression of knee-lifts incorporating your warm-up session into the main workout, helping keep everything to a tight 25 minutes.
After ten minutes of jogging, jumping, twisting and lunging - you hit the BURNOUT, when you spend a few minutes revisiting the manoeuvres you've just built up to, pushing yourself a bit harder than before. After the first Burnout the exercises change to a squat-heavy section for another ten minutes or so, and then you do another Burnout, and then bookend the session with some controlled knee-lifts.
Shaun T - the creator and choreographer of each workout - is joined by a group of impossibly energetic, limber companions during all of the workouts, demonstrating perfect form, grinning away, and whooping when Shaun pushes them even harder. As pleasant as they seem, their presence seems mostly pointless - there's no variation in their body type or ability, none of them ever stop to catch their breath, wobble when asked to stand on one leg, or even break a sweat; Derek, who looks like a 23 year old Hollister model is later revealed to be in his forties.
The only genuinely useful person is Tanya, who - despite demonstrating the fitness of an Olympic gymnast - performs the modifier workout; deviating from the standard manoeuvres to achieve similar results with less impact. This is good for limiting how much stress you subject your joints to, and for when you're too out of breath to keep up with the other bionic men and women in Shaun's group.
Even with Tanya's modifier, there were a few instances where I had to stop for breath or try and get rid of a stitch by touching my toes - lunge progressions being particularly taxing on the thighs, as well as highlighting just how bad my balance and recovery is when performing 180 degree jumps - though at the moment I do most of my rotating on and office chair, so that's to be expected.
25 minutes didn't feel like the boot-camp torture I was anticipating, but it wasn't easy.
Day Two - Speed 1.0
The mission statement of Speed 1.0 seems pretty straightforward - it's a similar workout to the Cardio one, but faster to allow you to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. Expect jogging on the spot, jacks, a few burpees and lots o' squats. Seriously, lots.
Doing all of this faster is also supposed to improve your agility by training your muscles to performing quicker adjustments and balances - this is supported by the stretches and holds which pepper the workout, and provide an occasional, welcome 30 second breather from the exercises.
The first sign of struggle came in during the cross-jack squats, when the arches of my feet starting absolutely howling - probably because I was jumping around in some clapped-out New Balance I've reserved for working out - so I had to look to my girl Tanya on the modifier to get a bit of relief.
Same for the alternating kick-burpees - the painful arches of my feet and my weak flabby arms meant I wasn't able to perform the manoeuvre as quickly as I'd have liked, so I went for an alternating kick-lunge instead.
The only Burnout in Speed 1.0 comes right towards the end of the session, and instantly transformed me from being short of breath but pretty pumped, to Jackson-Pollocking the floor with my sweat. The last two minutes are reserved for a cool-down stretch/plank session, but I was grateful to use it as an excuse to stand still for a bit.
Day Three - Total Body Circuit
Full disclosure: I didn't actually get chance to do this on the Wednesday when I was supposed to. Life gets in the way. I did this on the Thursday though, so just pretend.
Total Body Circuit is more cardio, but as the name suggests it works out your upper body as well as legs, so in addition to squats (seriously, more squats?) there's more varieties of lunge, as well as planks and press-ups.
Some of the moves look straight-up karma sutra, I can't wait until I can plank, bring my knee up behind my ear and then do multiple press ups while holding the position. Fingers crossed it'll only take four weeks.
Day Four - Ab Intervals
Dante managed to stick it out for 9 circles of Hell and that's pretty cute, but Ab Intervals comes in somewhere around 13th (The 10th Circle is ITV2; 11 and 12 are too obscene to publish).
Even if I wasn't doing this right off the back of catching up on yesterday's Total Body Circuit, I still wouldn't have enjoyed this in the slightest. All of the moves are Isometric Postures, progressions which don't just work a muscle in the way a crunch would, but make that muscle hold the position which works it the hardest.
Tanya doesn't even have much to offer in the way of a modifier. What the hell Tanya? I trusted you, I thought we were in this together?
The biggest testament to Ab Intervals' difficulty is the sheer joy I felt whenever it was time to do Cardio as an interval. Stick it out though, anything this unpleasant has to be good for you.
Day Five - Lower Focus & Cardio
Yeah that's right, every Friday you have to do two workouts, back to back. Except I didn't because I was going away for the weekend and I had to get my hair cut and beat the rush hour traffic. Soz. Also it was only Lower Focus, which works out your legs. I maintain that every day is Leg Day when you weight 15 stone, and that's the justification I'm using for skipping it this week. For the sake of integrity though, I vow to do it next week.
Week One - Conclusion
As the first week serves as an introduction to everything that's going to be expected of you in the next five weeks, it's difficult to make any judgements on the program. As the old cliche goes, you get out what you put in - in the next couple of weeks I'm hoping to wean myself off following Tanya's modifier and keep up with the rest of the group as my agility and general fitness levels improve, but for now it's useful to have her there.
That's not to say it's a breeze though; even starting off at the bottom of the learning curve T25 puts you through your paces. At the moment that difficulty doesn't seem enough to put off new starters, instead serving as motivation to carry on and make Shaun T proud. Whether I'll be saying that after another five days of squatting remains to be seen though.