Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Efficient Exercise Project Transformation: The Nuts & Bolts

Last week, I introduced my new Wednesday Paleo Movement post where I'll be talking about my participation in  Project Transformation at Efficient Exercise.  I talked a bit about how I ended up at Efficient Exercise and my results.  Today, I want to talk about the nuts and bolts of the actual training program and my nutrition during those eight weeks.  

The first workout started the week after PaleoFX.  Having gone to PaleoFX, I was still pumped up and motivated after having been around like minded people for 3 days.  It's amazing what being around people who believe in the same lifestyle for a few days will do for your mood.

This isn't a Globo gym- that's for sure.  

In the beginning.

The Project Transformation consisted of 2 group workouts a week for 8 weeks.  I actually missed my first class due to a mix up, but I don't think I missed anything crucial.  The classes are designed to enable anyone to start exercising regardless of fitness background or fitness level. The first four classes were really a basic introduction to each exercise we'd use throughout the program.  My trainer, Brett, would actually have each of us demonstrate the exercises individually in front of the group.  This was personally mortifying to me as one who has always avoided group exercise for fear of what others might think of me or what I look like.  This was a good thing for me to get over at this point.  I realized that everyone there had challenges of their own, outwardly visible or not, and they likely really didn't care what I looked like doing a dumb bell squat.

My trainer Brett
Some exercises used free weights and dumbbells (e.g., barbell/dumb bell squats, bent over dumbbell rows, kettlebell swings) but we also used the ARx machines.  The ARx equipment was developed by Mark Alexander, the CEO/Founder of Efficient Exercise.  I'll be talking more about these machines over time, but in short, they use motorized resistance to safely and quickly fatigue the muscles by matching the user's strength over the full range of motion for every repetition.   What does that mean?  Here is my layperson understanding.

Imagine going into the Globo-gym, loading up a barbell or machine with the maximum amount of weight you could lift (assuming you knew what that was) and doing a chest press.  You could probably lift that weight once and then you'd have to make adjustments to that weight to compensate for your fatigue   In fact, you might actually have to make adjustments to the weight during the lift to account for your muscle's natural differences in strength as at different points as you lift and lower the weight.  This doesn't sound like anything I would ever go attempt to do.

Here's the horizontal ARx machine.
The ARx allows you to experience that maximum resistance throughout the entire range of motion of whatever exercise you're performing without the need to stop to make changes to the weight you're lifting.  Because you're resisting at your personal maximum, over the entire range of motion, for each repetition, it only takes a few repetitions to fully fatigue.  This means a shorter more efficient workout.  It's also super safe as there are no weights involved but rather a powerful motor.  Genius.

Here's a video of Keith Norris using the horizontal ARx machine.  At the beginning he's using a piece of equipment they call the 360 that was also used during the Project Transformation.  Not only does it test your strength, but it brings your heart rate up very quickly.

It was during these first workouts that I'd become a little anxious about not swimming.  If I was only going to exercise 1 hour a week, that hour better feel like a work out.  I was leaving these first workouts feeling like I had a lot left in me.  Worrisome.   Looking back, given the nutritional battle I was fighting in the first week to two weeks, the fact the workout wasn't completely draining me was likely a good thing.  I trusted the program.

 I need to find a spot for this bag since I'm not living out it currently.

Turning it up to 11.

Around the fifth workout, after we'd gotten a handle on the exercises, Brett started dialing up the intensity.  One of the workouts would be a more focused workout only involving four exercises:  typically the ARx Overhead Press or Chest Press, ARx Leg Press, and two other exercises.   We were told to give the ARx machine exercises all we had over 4-5 repetitions.  The  second weekly workout was more of a circuit workout of 6 exercises.  We'd perform each exercise for 30 seconds doing two rounds of each exercise.  There was a short break between exercises.  

Quickly, we progressed to doing each exercise for 1 minute in the circuit.  At the end of the workouts, Brett would ask if we had anything left.  If so, he'd offer bonus exercises.  These were usually ab roll-outs or squat presses with dumbbells.  Once, he assisted us with chest presses on the X-Ccentric machine.  This machine will destroy you in minutes.  This is the only time during the program that I developed a soreness that seemed excessive.  Each workout lasted about a half an hour.  What I really liked about the program is that I always felt safe.  I never felt like I was going to injure myself and if I had questions there was someone knowledgeable there to ask.

It HIIRTs so good. 
Once we got into the groove of the workouts, the weeks passed by very quickly.  I only missed one other workout - during this 8 week period of time I had 2 more bouts of bronchitis.  The classes varied in size workout to workout sometimes having as many as 6 people to as few as 2 people. The pace  and intensity of the workout kept the group form being overly social during the workouts.  After the workout, class members seemed to bolt for the door in exhaustion. Regardless, everyone in my group was generally nice and worked well together in the workouts/circuit.  Efficient Exercise certainly lives up to its tag line:  Get In. Connect.  Get Fit.

Nutrition Matters:  A One-Two Punch

Keith Norris puts it best, I think, when he says you cannot out train a bad diet.  I had to find a version of a paleo template geared toward my goal of leaning out that I could live with forever, if necessary.  

This is what I arrived at:  I would eat a Robb Wolf Paleo template excluding nuts, seeds, starchy carbohydrates, added sweeteners, fruit, and alcohol.  Yes, those were the parameters of the approach that failed me in the past, but this time around I made a big change.  This time there would be no weighing or measuring of my food and no food log.  I'd eat when I was hungry and wouldn't just eat because it was a traditional meal time.

The first week or two were rough.  I didn't realize how off course and addicted my body was to bad food until I found myself having an actual debate in my mind about going home to eat the good paleo food I had ready to enjoy versus grabbing something decidedly un-paleo out.  I had an actual physical urge to pull into a drive through.  After that first week or two those cravings went away.  My appetite declined and I started to realize the difference between when I'm physically hungry and when the desire to eat really had nothing to do with food but a more emotional root:  stress, loneliness, sadness, [insert human emotion here].  Removing food from the equation will force you to work things out in your mind.

Being a part of the Project Transformation and having the Efficient Exercise trainers and Amy Kubal as a resource made it easier for me to face these challenges.  I had accountability and support.  I knew that the team at Efficient Exercise believed in their program.  If I could hold up my end of the bargain, I would succeed.  I chose success.  

Some of you may read about some of the paleo foods I've decided to exclude and think I must feel deprived.  Well, if you've taken a look at the tasty dishes I blog every week, that's what I eat.  I don't feel restricted at all.  Because I'm no longer weighing or measuring, I feel free.  I also feel pretty darn fantastic from a physical digestion stand point.  As corny as this sounds, I feel like my mind is one with my body and I don't feel my body waging war on itself anymore.  The great thing about a paleo template is there is lots of room for you to decide what's right for you -within reason of course. 

Results:  Physical and Mental

I talked a bit about my body composition results last week.  There were other positive results I experienced during the Project Transformation.  I gained strength.  Due to the nature of the group class, it was hard for me to keep track of the amount of weight I was lifting for each exercise, but I do know that the amount increased on each exercise throughout the program.  Most importantly,  I noticed the 45 pound boxes of kitty litter didn't seem as heavy to bring home from the store.  

I am not an outwardly overly positive person.  I wouldn't say that I'm a negative person either, but rather grounded in reality.  I am not one to engage in positive self-talk for the sake of doing it.  When I started the Project Transformation, I was at the point where I would spend as little time in the mirror as possible.  I did not want to see how I looked.  I was carrying a literal discomfort in my own skin the entire day.  As the program went on, though I was still rooted in the reality I had a lot of work ahead of me, I stopped thinking about it as a problem.  Strangely, I was no longer upset about it.  No one is more critical of me than me.  I can only describe this as a chemical change of sorts in my mind.  Along with my physical results, this shift in thinking/mental focus is likely my greatest surprise result from my involvement in the program.

The Paleo Review:  Double Thumbs Up!

I wholeheartedly recommend this program to anyone looking to improve their health.  It's perfect for the beginner but can be scaled to any one's fitness level or background.  Though it's a group class, it's still small enough to get personal attention/instruction.  It's helping me to grow stronger, heal my body, and to finally achieve my goals in a healthy way (in one hour a week).  What more could you want?

What's Next? 

I am going to continue to train at Efficient Exercise two times a week.  I've way too much progress to stop now.  One workout will be a one on one workout and the other a group workout.  I'll be blogging about my workouts, my nutrition with Amy Kubal's guidance, and Efficient Exercise's method.  I've already started taking better notes so I can give better data regarding my results/progress.  
I am excited to see what the next few months will hold for me at Efficient Exercise.  

Recommended Reading:  Keith Norris has a great post over at Breaking Muscle right now talking about the training philosophy at Efficient Exercise and how they both use and address the "Grok" paleo myth.  It's worth a read.