MY NEW FITNESS PROGRAM: JESSICA SMITH’S WALK STRONG

To all visitors coming from Jessica’s FB page: WELCOME!

It’s been a long time since I wrote a fitness-related post.  My last one was back in May 2014 when I wrapped up Tony Horton’s P90X3 system. Since that time, I’ve been mixing and matching routines of the original P90X with 90X3, plus jogging, walking, the eventual bad golfing. Tony Horton has been my virtual instructor for almost 8 years. It is hard for me to believe that I stuck with it for such a long time.  But what gives me a serious thrill is realizing that for 20 years I’ve maintained a very simple personal goal: each week I exercise more days than not. On a yearly basis that means going over the 50% mark of 183 exercise-days. The scientist in me obviously keeps track, as shown in the graph below. The black line across marks 183 days. Some years were a bit close, but I’ve fulfilled my goal since 1997. And that feels pretty awesome!

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What’s the skinny with P90X?  Lately (in the past year and a half, I would say) injuries started to hit me on a more regular basis, some serious enough to require physical therapy. I got into an inner struggle. Part of me felt that P90X was inflicting more pain than gain, but on the other hand the thought of quitting and “losing” all the fitness gained through it was hard to deal with. Then it hit me: I started P90X because a serious post-marathon knee injury prevented me from running regularly. I needed something to fill that void. Maybe having to take a step back from P90X could bring something else positive too?

The search for new options. I went into a google expedition for fitness DVDs geared towards women. One thing I knew for sure, Jillian Michaels was out of question, as I have tried her routines and simply cannot stand her personality. I kept finding hits and more hits for this instructor called Jessica Smith. She has 18 DVDs available (!!!)  and the reviews she gets from users are in one word: stellar. I was intrigued. Decided to buy one of her multi-DVD series, called WALK STRONG: 6 Week Total Transformation System.  What would I have to lose?  It turns out nothing. And to gain? A LOT. Read on.

6week

Overview of the program: In the package, you’ll get 4 DVDs with a total of 10 workouts, plus a short video with the explanation of the system. You’ll also get a nice printout schedule to take you day by day through the 6-week stretch. If you have a dalmatian around named Bogey Quit That who can reach countertops and enjoys munching on paper, you could get in trouble. But, no worries: a printable version is available online that you can use as a backup. Less glamorous, but equally effective. Here is a snapshot of the first 3 weeks. Every week you’ll exercise 6 out of 7 days. Sounds gruesome, but it is definitely doable. In fact, I finished the 6-week program without missing a single day. Jeez, I am in such a bragging mode today…

 😉

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THE ROUTINES
Each approximately 30 minutes long.

Cardio Party. A nice aerobic workout that can be pushed higher in intensity if you incorporate jumping and kicking for parts of the routine. Even if you are not the most coordinated person in the known universe, you will have no problem following Jessica and the crowd. This video is the only one in the whole series that features a group of women working out together. All songs are great, you end up with a nice and fun workout that you can take to the intensity you fell comfortable with.

Total Body Training. Love this one. You will target your whole body using weights for almost the whole duration of the series, then go to the floor to target abs, back and hips. No muscle left untouched! You can increase the level at any time by using heavier weights. This is the type of routine that could be your default in days you don’t want to focus on a particular muscle group.

Brain Fitness Fun. Think of a mild aerobic class, but with movements that require you to pay attention and think fast. You might be asked to move your hands and arms in orientations that would be counter-intuitive in relation to your legs. Or move quickly hands and arms in opposite directions. I honestly do not know how Jessica can do it all without making a single mistake while talking and explaining the moves. I found myself violently slapping my hand on the forehead more than once, but thankfully there are no hidden cameras in our living room. It could result in some serious blackmailing. No bueno, folks, no bueno. But nevertheless, I persisted (wink, wink).

Barefoot Fusion Sculpt. This whole routine is to be performed barefoot, although if you have feet or ankle issues, you can definitely wear shoes. I would also classify this as a mild routine, although you can increase intensity by increasing the weight of dumbbells if you like. My favorite part of this routine, which surprised me – the inclusion of Tai Chi moves. I love them!  They flow nicely and make you work on balance and strive to be as graceful as Jessica. By the way, on the back you can see Jessica’s Mom, Debbie, very dedicated!

taichi
360 Abs.
I was completely skeptical about this one because in my mind nothing could come close to matching the original P90X Ab Ripper routine, which is 15 minutes long, all exercises performed laying on your back or side. Jessica Smith’s 360 Abs is twice as long and for 22 minutes you will be standing up. The moves target the core in a different way from your regular situps. After that you will lay on the floor and do variations on sit ups for the remaining time, with a bit of cool down included. The routine is awesome. I am totally into it now and noticed that the speed and intensity of P90X Ab Ripper was probably one of the things contributing to my lower back injury.

Dynamic Stretch. Let me get this upfront: I hate stretching. I was very tempted to just skip this routine and substitute with some good old aerobic stuff or heavy weight training. But, to properly review a system I stick with it first time around, not changing anything. This will not be 30 minutes of holding postures and breathing. It is exactly what the title states, a dynamic approach to stretching, with small movements, contracting and releasing muscles in a gentle way.  This routine and the Prehab are included for a reason, give your body a break so that exercising 6 days a week will not be a huge challenge. They are perfectly timed in between more challenging routines. I cannot believe I am saying this, but do not skip them.

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Upper Body Strength. Awesome, simply awesome. Now, keep in mind that yours truly exercises with weights all the way to 20 pounds for P90X. In this series, I humbled down and my heaviest set is 5 pounds. At some point I intend to move to 8 pounds for a couple of exercises but that will take more time. Jessica works the muscle to a nice exhaustion through higher repetitions, lighter weights. Definitely less risk for injury. Don’t ask me how I know…

Lower Body Sculpt. Another great routine. My favorite part of this series is using dumbbells to target leg muscles. Imagine that you will hold a dumbbell on the back of your knee, then lift the leg, folded up and down and you support your upper body on the back of a high chair. Again the secret is repeating this “simple” movement over and over until you start to dislike Jessica. Nah, impossible, she is too nice to dislike.

Prehab Routine. As I mentioned, together with the Dynamic Stretch, this routine gives your body a nice break. However, in the final 8 minutes Jessica brings a nice series of exercises that are slightly more demanding and target two tricky areas for women: inner and outer thighs. Yeap. Those.

Interval Mix. My favorite. Absolute favorite.  This one had me taking steps back, because some of the bursts of 30 second high-intensity moves were hard on my lower back. As in every one of the videos, Jessica’s Mom does ALL the routines in the video.  She demonstrates slightly lower impact variations, and I followed her in some of the high intensity bits. Once my back is fully healed I will give it all my enthusiasm. Even modifying the intensity, this routine found me grasping for air.  Cannot give it enough praise. Absolute top.

I finished the 6 weeks without missing a day, and as soon as I did, I ordered a bunch of other DVDs from Jessica to try and incorporate to my rotations. I guess that shows you how much I loved it, right?

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THE MANY THINGS I LOVE ABOUT WALK STRONG

Jessica’s personality. Before I ordered the 6-Week Total Transformation Program, I read plenty of reviews on amazon. One reviewer said that working out with Jessica is like exercising with your best friend. That is EXACTLY it. She comes across as the kind of person you would love to have a coffee with, invite for a movie, chit-chat. I hate to bring Jillian Michaels again, but let’s say it is her total opposite. JM says things a bit like “you think this is hard? I had 300 pound folks doing it, so stop whining and do it too.”  Now compare that to Jessica’s motto, which she gently brings up in all her routines:

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Modify whenever necessary. That  brings me to one of her greatest qualities: respecting your body and never ever going over what is safe. It doesn’t mean not challenging yourself. It means listening to your body and doing what feels right at that particular stage. Maybe you have an injury, maybe you are too tired or had a stressful afternoon. On the other hand, maybe you are super energetic and ready to face a heavier dumbbell. Let it all flow.

Jessica does all the routines. No stopping to highlight details or correct someone else’s form. She does every single move, beginning to end. Even though she is actually doing each exercise and instructing, she never misses a beat. I have a huge pet peeve with fitness instructors who get lost in the number of repetitions, and might cut short the series in one side of the body versus the other. This never happens on Jessica’s videos. Plus, you are never lost in the flow of movements because she tells you what will happen next, will even tap quickly the leg that will start the next movement, so that from the first time you use a particular video, you can follow it.

No rest for the wicked.  Thirty minutes of exercise means non-stop action. Once you start, there will be NO break. Maybe for some this is a drawback, but I find it great. The heart rate keeps up, time is used very efficiently.  The closest thing to a break is having to switch from a lighter to a heavier set of dumbbells, or go from standing up to laying down.

Thirty minutes are easy to stick with. One of the toughest things of the original P90X or other programs is the time involved. You need to spare sometimes one hour or more, which can be pretty hard to do when you have a busy schedule. Thirty minutes are easy to devote to it. C’mon, most people will sit and surf the net for longer than that when they get home from work… Why not devote these precious minutes to taking care of your body? It’s a no-brainer!

Every routine works the core. Even if the video is geared towards lower body, or stretching, at some point you will be targeting your core. I suspect that is what makes it more efficient than P90X to tone the mid-section. More on that later.

Real people in the videos. Cannot praise that enough. Every single video I’ve tried has “real people” in it. Healthy women with healthy bodies, wearing regular exercise clothes. The setting is nice, elegant and simple, often inside Jessica’s parents home in Florida, sometimes in the backyard with the ocean visible behind. Dreamy!

Background music. Another detail I fell in love with from the first video. The types of songs played are very diversified, from upbeat songs to Middle Eastern tunes, Japanese music, never too loud, and perfectly matching the exercises they go with.

Attention to form. Cannot stress this enough. Jessica will remind you constantly of details to pay attention to, from placement of your chin to tightening the core, where is your knee during a squat, how to position your hand while holding a dumbbell. And, something I do have trouble with, how to coordinate breathing with the moves. I definitely need to pay more attention to that, as I tend to hold my breath way too often.

So, what’s next for me?

P90X or Jessica Smith? I wanted to complete the 6-week program, give it a fair trial before deciding what to do next. As I mentioned, I was afraid of losing the level of fitness I acquired through years with Tony Horton. So what I did was to use some of the active rest days from Jessica’s program to “test myself” on P90X routines. I detected no loss in terms of number of push ups I could do in routines such as The Challenge, or how well I could keep up with intensely aerobic routines such as KenpoX.  Plus, to my surprise, I noticed that Jessica’s program seems more efficient to tone the core region, as well as upper legs. It is, in my opinion, a perfect system for women. Bottom line is: I am switching!munch-cartoon-sunday-timesAre you shocked?
😉

Yeap, Jessica will be my virtual trainer from now on, and Tony Horton will take a secondary spot. I am quite fond of some of his routines, but probably 90% of my sessions will be under the guidance on my new fitness guru. She is a superb trainer, period. And on a personal note, she is also very accessible, if you have questions, suggestions, she will actually reply to you by email and through her forum. I wrote the company to inquire about getting a new printout once Bogey destroyed mine, and almost fell off my chair when within minutes Jessica herself replied to me! She is one of a kind, and I am so glad I gave her system a try. I know it will be the perfect option for me, for years to come.

Before I leave, I invite you to visit her site, read her About page, and meet her super cute dog, Peanut. And if you are searching for a solid workout program to do in the comfort of your home, look no further. Jessica is there for you.

Reminder: I never receive compensation for any reviews I write. I only review products, books, and systems when I fall in love, head over heels. 

😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: Overnight Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Zucchisagna: A Twist on a Classic

THREE YEARS AGO: Night and Day

FOUR YEARS AGO: Farro Salad with Roasted Leeks

FIVE YEARS AGO: Watercress Salad

SIX YEARS AGO: Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree’

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Croissants: Paris at home on a special day

62 thoughts on “MY NEW FITNESS PROGRAM: JESSICA SMITH’S WALK STRONG

    • I confess to ignoring injuries until they are too painful, which is a big mistake. But I respect back injuries more than any other type. Well, neck too. They affect the whole body, walking, sitting, standing.

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  1. This sounds like a great way to ease back into an exercise program after my accident last fall. (Shattered finger that left my hand/wrist in a traction device and a torn groin.) I’ve been struggling finding the strength/motivation to exercise again. I will have to check this one out, thank you!

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  2. Great article. I agree with you completely–Jessica rocks. It’s good to read that the Walk Strong workouts are just as relevant whether one is coming from a strong fitness background or is starting a fitness routine from scratch. The 30 min workouts are easy to incorporate into a busy lifestyle, which means staying consistent is achievable and sustainable.

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  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. Been working out with Jessica for a VERY long time. Her form is spot on and so are her instructions. She is like the girl next door. Not sure if you know this but her husband is a martial artist and has some workouts of his own, Also very good his name is Guillermo Gomez.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathleen, I am so sorry I missed your comment until now…. I did not know her husband had workout videos, how cool! Nice couple!

      I just did today for the first time her Balance and Agility DVD.. WOW!!!! Loved it!

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        • Yes, exactly – I think it is the final set in that video. Absolutely awesome, loved every minute, but the end series was superb: balancing moves performed in one leg, requiring strength, control. I am following one of her online schedules, tomorrow would be rest day, but I am tempted to do another one of the same DVD, maybe the one called Core? Sounds like something I could go for… 😉

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  4. Sally, this is an amazingly complete analysis. I can tell you are a scientist! And I am very impressed that you are so dedicated to working out on your own. For me I have found I need other people around and a schedule, I am a complete failure at working out on my own (except for walking). But it is sometimes inconvenient if I cannot find a class at the right time. I am going to pin your suggestions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said. Jessica is my work out buddy daily and has been for a long time. I recommend her to everyone. I have an entire collection of other DVD’s. She is always my first choice. I also have many Jillian DVD’s. I just don’t want people yelling at me at 5am.

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    • SO TRUE!!!! Who wants to be yelled at at 5am, or 7am or anytime! I just don’t see the point. That woman rubs me the wrong way, I know some of her routines are effective, but the price tag is too high…

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      • I love Jessica. I prefer to workout alone. I am glad to hear how you feel about JM, she makes me nuts, I thought I was the only one to feel that way… I used to do a spinning class on line from a club in San Diego, but stopped because of the yelling and some of the music was awful. So I found great mellow ridding music along with more upbeat and don’t have to listen to yelling. I just love Jessica and the 30 minute workouts, very doable. Thank you so much for the review. I started her 6 week program last week and do love all the same things you love about it.

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  6. Oh my Sally, you are amazing. Personally, I watched a Jillian video once and have seen her ads on television. She rubs me the wrong way too. Some of her expressions remind me of a snarling dog. I’m sure her workouts are effective, but I would need a calmer, and more personable personality to be able to stick with any routine.

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  7. Been saving this to read when I could sit down and dig in. I am shocked! Switching?! Now I’m certainly intrigued. You got me into Tony and it’s been fun and a great workout, so I’m definitely going to give Jessica a shot. I love that it’s only 30 minutes too – huge bonus!! I was so excited when I saw a new workout post come through. I definitely need some new motivation! Hope all is well. Hugs and thanks to you. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, keep in mind I am a lot older than you, and my body is starting to feel the toll of years passing by – the main problem is how long it takes me now to recover from injury. I am absolutely pumped up with this new system, have been exercising 6 days a week, sometimes go for stretches of 12 days straight, loving it! I still do P90X, yesterday I did Chest and Back, for instance. Good to have more options, that’s for sure

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  8. This is my favorite workout DVD program. I do one of these 30-minute workouts at 6 AM and then I do a 15-minute workout (Belly Blaster or Fast Fat Burn) at 9:30 AM and do another 15-minute workout (Dance Party or Power Pick Up) at 2 PM. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!

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    • You are super dedicated! Three workouts in a day! Awesome!

      on weekends sometimes I do two, but it’s rare – I sometimes combine jogging with a very tame routine, but usually I have so much stuff on my list of things to do in the weekend, it’s hard to devote time to more than one workout session

      I need to take a look at her 15 min routines… There, you tempted me!

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    • Oh, you asked me at the right time! Just yesterday I did the last one of the three included in the DVD – I loved that whole series so much I thought it would justify a full review just for it, but I prefer to give some time between two fitness posts. The three series are challenging without being unreasonable – they demand strength in legs and upper body, work quite a bit on balance, and particularly the Poise and Grace has some moves that were new to me. I absolutely LOVE this series. Today I wrapped up another 4 weeks of her suggested schedule Walk Strong, and now I need to think what to do next. I think I’ll build my own schedule alternating aerobics, upper, lower, abs, yoga – but I can tell you one thing, the three videos of Build Balance and Inner Strength will be a solid part of it. Let me know if you have more specific questions about it…

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  9. Pingback: FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: APRIL 2017 | Bewitching Kitchen

    • she does have MANY videos available on her youtube channel, so you can give some a try – a lot of very low impact, plus you can always modify

      I am so incredibly addicted that it’s hard to believe – I’ve been now doing it for 11 weeks straight… mixing and matching a bunch of routines. It is awesome, I feel so much better than with P90X.

      I do hope it will be good for you too! That would make me thrilled!

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      • Jessica is my favorite instructor and the only one who has got me exercising daily. I hate cardio and so far the two workouts that I use more often than others is Cardio Core (21 day weight loss) and Build Balance & Inner Strength. I’m not crazy about Walk On Metabolism Booster as others are. I just did Walk Strong Boost Metabolism + Muscle and was very disappointed. I really believe you get a much better workout for upper body and lower body in the three DVDs I mentioned above. From now on, I think for strength I may rely on her YouTube workout with weights.
        Sadly, I also did not like Walk Strong Burn Fat & Have Fun…..I found it rather boring. I did not invest in a step which I think would make the workout more effective and fun.
        I haven’t given up, I really do appreciate Jessica’s teaching style. I need cardio as much as I hate it and would love recommendations of her DVDs that make cardio fun and doable.

        Liked by 1 person

        • loved your input! I think it shows that there’s always something in her instruction for everyone, right? I did invest in the step and actually enjoyed it with the Burn Fat and Have Fun – I actually think it might be even better if I raise the step with one raiser instead of using it totally flat –

          I’ve been experimenting with many of her routines, I got one that is short routines 10 min each – the whole DVD would be 60 minutes long – first time I just wanted to try it, hit play all, and by the time I noticed, I had done 40 minutes! 😉

          anyway, after beating my body for 8 years with P90X, it is nice to have something that gives me fitness without leaving me absolutely broken sometimes

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          • Thank you so much for your response. One last question on the 6wk transformation: being that you have experience with strength training (P90X), would you say the strength workouts in this program is more effective than strength workouts on her newer workout DVDs or is there a JS DVD that you feel offers a superior strength workout (with exception to Walk Strong Boost Metabolism + Muscle which I didn’t like)?

            I recently watched a YouTube video from a man comparing P90X to DDP Yoga. He had used the P90X program but in comparison to the shorter and no weights required workouts of DDP Yoga, his opinion is that people will eventually leave a program that is intense and long and will stick over time with something that is shorter and effective. That is how I feel about Jessica Smith. I have shocked myself by working out every day to her workouts because they are 30min or less and she is very motivating.

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            • GOsh this is a tricky question – first of all, I think my vision of strength training might be a bit contaminated by many years of P90X. So, in a way, having been exposed to heavier weights with P90X my first reaction is to say Jessica’s videos would not be as effective. HOWEVER, I now believe that higher repetitions with lighter weights are equally if not more effective because not only I gel pleasantly sore next day, but I have fewer injuries. As to comparing her routines – I am still in a phase of exploration, and haven’t even inaugurated some of her videos. One thing to keep in mind is that I actually love the boost metabolism + muscle and found that series superior to Walk Strong in terms of upper body – in part because she does more repetitions and if I up the weight that all of a sudden places that workout in another level.

              Walk Strong has good series for upper body, and I feel that once I get more familiar with the flow of each DVD, I could write notes to remind me to grab a heavier dumb bell at one particular point, since there is essentially no break in the routines. Some of the exercises that she uses a 3 pound weight, I could be happier with a 5 pounder, at least in days I want to pump it up a little.

              I sometimes do a P90X and go for the kill – grab my 12 pound dumb bells, or the 25 pounds for lawnmower type moves, but for the most part Jessica has been my choice 90% of the time now.

              I haven’t checked any of her freebies on youtube -with so many choices right now I am honestly going crazy trying to decide which routine to do next… isn’t that a great “problem” to have?

              NOt sure I helped much, but it’s nice to “talk”! 😉

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  10. I just ordered walk strong and can’t wait to start it. Have been doing Richard giorlas ultimate advanced cardio Barre, but got a little bit bored with this, so, I think, interspersing her DVDs one with
    the cardio Barre will make a nice change.

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  11. I love me some Jessica Smith!!! Don’t forget to check out her youtube channel for hundreds of free, full length videos. I did that for 6 months, using her free plug and play playlist before I ever bought a dvd.

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  12. I never tend to comment on things, BUT I made an exception here because this has got to be one of the BEST product reviews I have EVER read. So thorough and detailed – thanks a bunch !

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  13. Love the Six Week program! I’m sticking with it after months of just walking. Feeling stronger every day! Thanks for your review and turning me on to Jessica. I’ll do some exploring with her other routines based on the comments on your site!

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  14. Love your review, Jessica is the best! I bought all of her dvds, and I can’t pick a favorite! And all of the rotation calendars on her site help you mix the older workouts with the newer ones, which is awesome!

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  15. Repeat commenter here: I have the both the original 6 week program and the new set of DVDs (digital downloads actually). Comparing the calendars that come with, whereas in the original 6 week program there is a day devoted to Dynamic Stretch or Prehab in addition to the active rest day over the course of 7 days, the newer calendar uses Dynamic Stretch/Prehab as the active rest day. That’s why the new set is more challenging, imho. Still love it. I’m an analyst, can you tell? 😉

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    • loved it! 😉

      I had to take a day off yesterday for a day trip, but today I intend to indulge in some serious Jessica Smith-ing… 😉 Haven’t decided quite the workout yet, but I am thinking something focused on abs.. maybe the Abs360, a great routine!

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  16. I love Jessica Smith and have been working out with her for a couple of years now. I think it is fabulous that she puts free workouts on her YouTube channel as well. As you said, her attitude and personality are the icing on the cake. She really cares about her audience and it comes across loud and clear in what she does.

    Like

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