Do you want to be able to do a full press-up? One writer – who has struggled to get into strength training fitness in the past – took on the Strong Women Training Club’s eight-week beginners plan, and the results were surprising.
Before the pandemic, I had a very rocky relationship with fitness. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever been ‘fit’; there have been periods in my life where I’ve played a team sport or done a few at-home workouts in a row, but in between those times, my fitness routine has always been sporadic at best.
Despite this, I never actually realised how little I was moving my body – until lockdown hit. While I was living in London, I’d always made myself too “busy” to pay attention to when I’d missed a workout or hadn’t done some dedicated exercise in a while.
But without the business of my daily commute and lunchtime trips to Pret to occupy me, the amount of time I spent sitting down – and the impact that was having on my body – became a lot clearer.
Moving home for lockdown and spending time with my sister and dad, both of whom happen to be major gym-goers, hammered home how unfit and weak I was. Joining them for a workout one day, I naively assumed I’d be able to keep up – but after struggling my way through one press-up on the knees and finding myself thoroughly out of breath, I realised this just wasn’t the case.
All of this really worried me. Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the fact that I was moving less than ever, I realised how little I’d been taking care of my body and decided to make a change.
In all honesty, I didn’t think I’d make it very far. As you’ve probably already guessed, I’m a bit rubbish at sticking to things, and as much as I knew that I wanted to make a commitment, I also knew that life sometimes gets in the way.
However, a full nine weeks later, I can confirm that I stuck to it – and after years of relative unfitness, I can now do a full press-up off the knees.
Before I get into the results, let me tell you what the plan entails. Each week of the plan consists of three workouts – there are no specified days or times for you to do them, so it’s up to you what times of the day/week suit you best. For me, that was after work on Mondays and Wednesdays, with the final workout completed sometime on my day off on Friday.
Each workout in the plan takes a maximum of 45 minutes to complete. There are five ‘rounds’ in each workout: a warm up, which usually consists of some stretches and light movement; perfect form, which gives you one move to work on and perfect; the strength circuit, which combines five exercises to complete three times; the strong finisher, which is as tiring as the name suggests; and finally, a cool down.
Each exercise comes with a video demonstration by one of the Strong Women Training Club trainers, and there’s a specified number of reps to complete.
You do need some kind of weight to complete the workouts, but if you can’t get your hands on some dumbbells (I used a pair of 2.5kg ones), you can use everyday objects like a can of beans or a milk carton to start with.
What made the plan work for me was how flexible it was. There wasn’t a workout every day of the week, so I had time to skip a day if I wasn’t feeling it, and the fact that it’s not video-led (you click through the moves like an Instagram story) meant I was able to go as fast or as slow as I like, which was valuable to me as a beginner.
I also felt pretty safe doing the workouts because I knew the moves and amount of reps were designed for beginners, so I wasn’t afraid to push myself when things got tough.
The types of moves and reps in each workout change and increase as you go through, too, so even as I was getting stronger, I still felt like I was being challenged and was learning new things every time I worked out (a concept I now know is called progressive overloading).
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In terms of the final results, I couldn’t be happier. Not only can I now do a press-up off of the knees – something I actually never imagined I’d be able to do when I started – I feel stronger, healthier, and more confident in what I’m doing going forward.
I don’t know whether it was the workout plan in particular, the fact that I’ve been stuck at home during lockdown, my fear of how unhealthy I was or a combination of the three, but I can confidently say that I really enjoyed the last nine weeks – and I can’t wait to see where my strength training journey takes me next.
Images: Lauren Geall
As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.
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