Disclaimer: This is a post exclusively on fitness. No recipe included.
For those who have been around my blog for a while, it’s obvious that I am addicted to Tony Horton’s exercise routines. I already wrote two reviews about his systems: for P90X click here, for P90X2 click here. However, I am always up for trying different videos, as four and a half years of Tony can get a bit repetitive. When picking a new routine, two things are important to me: they need to be challenging, but shorter than P90X. In fact, one tricky aspect of Tony Horton’s classics is that each video is at least 52 minutes long, with the YogaX demanding 90 minutes of my time.
Last month I got an email from Beachbody.com advertising a new product, the series called FOCUS T25. The instructor, Shaun T, is also the guy behind the famous Insanity workout. I immediately went online to read reviews and watch the infomercial about it. I have bought one of his series in the past, the Hip Hop Abs, but did not care for it. I am familiar with Insanity (did the first workout a couple of times), but it is too focused on aerobics and better suited for those interested in losing weight. However, even if those workouts did not appeal to me, I thought Shaun T’s enthusiasm and personality made him a great fitness instructor. And, let’s face it, his looks don’t hurt either. ;-) So, I gave FocusT25 a try.
Nine DVDs total, five routines for the so-called “Alpha-Phase” that should last for a month, and five for the “Beta-Phase”, that would take 4 more weeks. If you are in top shape you could potentially skip the “Alpha” and go for the kill. I didn’t do that, so this review will cover only the first phase. One important thing to add: all the Beachbody.com videos promise a full transformation in your body if you follow them to a T. When you open the box of FocusT25, one of the things you will find is a recommended diet to follow for 5 days as you go through your first week of the program. In the diet, you will consume from 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day (and that range applies for men too). Anyone will have a pretty dramatic change in the body following this gruesome method. I don’t pay attention to the diet component of any of these systems, all I want is a nice, effective workout. Do what works best for you, and keep in mind the most important thing is to listen to your body, set sensible goals and enjoy the ride to get there.
For the Alpha series you won’t need any special equipment, all exercises use exclusively your own body. A mat for abdominal work is all that’s required. If you intend to follow the system as laid out by Shaun T, you will be working out 5 days per week, with a double session (that is, 50 minutes) on the last day. Then you use the Stretch DVD on day 6, and rest on day 7. Each workout lasts for exactly 25 minutes, with a recommended cool-down of 2 to 3 minutes at the end. The investment of time is quite minimal, compared to most programs, but trust me, it will be enough. I did the first five series in consecutive days to get acquainted with the system (skipped the Stretch video), and now I am settling on a mix-and-match of 90X, 90X2, Focus25, and just a little bit of running. Variety is key for me.
DVD ONE: CARDIO WORKOUT. A fun routine, fast-paced and organized with what Shaun T defines as “progressions”. You start with one basic move, for instance, marching in place with the knees lifting above your waist. After a minute of doing that you will increase the level of difficulty by doing the same movement on the tip of your toes, with the option of hopping a little bit. Jumping jacks progress to double jumping jacks and then doubles with arms moving up and down above your head. Lunges start slowly and controlled and then move to a lunge with a hop. At any given time you can dial back and follow Tanya, the girl who demonstrates lower impact variations (that is true for every single DVD, by the way). A few “breaks” in intensity make this series a little easier. For instance, at half time he introduces controlled squats for 30 seconds or so, bringing your heart rate down a little. Of course those squats progress into hop squats so that you don’t get too comfy. Time passes fast in this video and if you follow the non-modified version, you’ll need a towel to dry the floor. ;-) Very nice video, two thumbs up.
DVD TWO: SPEED 1.0. Love, love, love this one! A slightly faster-paced aerobic routine that also includes some moves like the “burpee“. If you are familiar with Tony Horton’s Plyometrics, some of the moves are similar, like the Heisman jumps. Having done Plyometrics was a great help, because Shaun T built on some of those basic moves, making them faster and a little move complex. If a person is new to this type of exercise, it might take a few sessions to coordinate the movement of arms, legs, and waist. The music is great, and again Tanya shows low impact variations, even for the tough burpee. Another thing I loved about this DVD was the incorporation of a little stretch in between the exercises. It feels almost like a break, which doesn’t happen in any other of his routines. Two thumbs up for this video too.
DVD THREE: TOTAL BODY CIRCUIT. Holy tomatoes. This one works you really really hard. You will involve every single muscle of your body in this session, and there will be aerobics mixed with planks and push-ups. Of all these videos I’d say this one was the hardest for me, and I had to stick with Tanya for a few moves. In my review of P90X2 I mentioned that a mixture of aerobics and strength training is harder for me than one type of exercise all along, and this routine demands a constant switch from one type to the other. I suffered, I struggled, but I must admit it was one of the best compilations of fun and challenging exercises in 25 minutes of self-inflicted torture. Two sore thumbs up.
(from WA Today)
DVD FOUR: AB INTERVALS. I was very curious about this DVD, because as I said before, in my mind no other ab workout could match the quality of Tony Horton’s Ab RipperX. It is not easy to compare both, because in the P90X system, the AbRipper is performed at the end of other series, so once you get to it, you will be doing only abs. Shaun T Ab Intervals uses a different approach, mixing aerobics (jumps, and a lot of twist exercises that will engage the waist and core), with traditional abs and a lot of plank-type moves. Instead of Horton’s method of many repetitions of each move, Shaun T often goes for isometric contractions holding them for a while. Harder on the neck and lower back, if you have weaknesses in those regions, be careful and take breaks or modify the exercises. I had a blast with this video and was probably the easiest for me. However, I had to cut short the last move of the series, in which Shaun T brings first one, then two, then three… all the way to seven burpees in a row. That was too much for my neck and lower back. But, apart from that, no issues. Two thumbs up with a smile.
DVD FIVE: LOWER FOCUS. As the name indicates, this video centers on legs, but you will train your core and lower back too, since there are plenty of squats and lunges as well as exercises based on the “chair pose” of yoga. Very intense, but again all the exercises that could potentially hurt those with joint issues can be toned down by following Tanya. Quite a few of the exercises are similar to those in P90X and 90X2. For instance, in P90X plyometrics you have an exercise called “hot foot”, in which you jump in one foot for 30 seconds, forming a cross pattern on the floor. In Focus 25 you will wrap one foot around the ankle of the other leg and do ankle lifts then jumps. Tony and Shaun T target similar muscles in those exercises, and have approximately the same level of difficulty. Lower Focus might be easier than P90X Legs and Back, but it is far from a walk at the beach. Two thumbs up and a knee kick for the last routine of Alpha Phase…
I highly recommend this program for anyone healthy enough to exercise, without serious joint or hip problems. When I wrote my review on P90X, one thing I made clear is that one needs to be in reasonably good shape to face it. I believe Shaun T’s Focus25 will work for people who have not exercised in a while, but in that case he or she MUST follow Tanya’s modifications for a couple of weeks or so. By doing that, all high impact is removed, but you still get a very decent workout. Maybe some of the moves that require upper body strength (push ups, planks) will be hard to do at first, but not impossible. Both Shaun T and Tony Horton have a similar training style: they pump you up, trying to make you work your hardest, but always remind you it’s ok to take a step back if needed. On a side note, this is not the case for Jillian Michaels, but I will share my thoughts about her videos another time.
Focus 25 has the same high quality of other products from Beachbody: a nice timer at the bottom showing the progress of each series. A pop up message 5 seconds before each new exercise letting you know what comes next. This is particularly helpful on a routine that has no breaks at all. Would I quit P90X to use only Focus 25? No, at least not in the near future. I need my Yoga and KenpoX, I love my dumbbells and pull-up bar too much to say goodbye to them. But whenever I’m pressed for time and want to have a nice, fun workout, I’ll be inviting Shaun T to be my coach. Virtually, that is. Virtually.
And to close the post, a little smile for the day:
ONE YEAR AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry
TWO YEARS AGO: Post-workout Breakfast
THREE YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns
FOUR YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers