Those of you who have been reading for a little while know that I started Jamie Eason’s Livefit Trainer, a popular weightlifting program/app, way back in August. I’d been injured and out of commission for so long at that point, and I truly wanted to strengthen my body as well as I could before I jumped back into marathon training.
Jamie Eason is a trainer and champion bodybuilder known for her super cut abs and capped shoulders, as well as her cute lob haircut. I didn’t go into this wanting any of those things, but I’ve enjoyed lifting before and needed a kick in the behind to get back to the weight room. I now know that a 12-week long bodybuilding plan was probably pushing it a little. That said, I DID IT, GUYS, and I’m here to tell you how it all went down.
Firstly, I want to openly admit that I followed the meal plan during Phase1 only. I wasn’t trying to lose weight, after all; my sole purpose in signing up for the program was to build muscle after a long break from weight-bearing exercise. During Phase 1, I was still on summer vacation, so it was easy to eat every 2.5- 3 hours and mix myself multiple protein shakes each day. Once I went back to work, volunteering, tutoring and running…following that meal plan was damn near impossible. There was no way I could be eating chicken and green beans while managing a classroom. When I was following the meal plan for those first few weeks, I was so, so hungry. It drove me nuts. I was consuming so much lettuce and plain chicken and unflavored greek yogurt, and none of it ever filled me up for more than 30 minutes. I also felt like I couldn’t eat out at all, which sucked for my social life. So for phases 2 and 3, I ate my normal, mindful diet and didn’t feel guilty about it at all.
This 12-week fitness program is broken into three phases.
Phase One, weeks 1-4, is truly leisurely; there’s no required cardio, and you’re only lifting four days a week. The weight routines are simple and effective, and took between 30-45 minutes to complete. I bought the iPhone app, and found it super helpful and easy to use (at first.) I felt so sprightly during this phase that I started adding in cardio for funsies a few times a week. I’d swim or go to spin class or hike; I was still limiting my high-impact cardio activities at this point, though.
I saw and felt a difference in my body after about three weeks; my abs and waist got tighter, and my thighs got firmer. I was excited, and lifted a little heavier each time I visited the gym.
Phase Two, weeks 5-8, got a little tougher. I had to be at the gym for six days a week during this phase, but the workouts were still only 30-45 minutes and cardio was only required three days a week. Midway through this phase I started volunteering to chaperone afternoon runs with my school’s student marathon team, so I was running with them three days a week. While this did check off a box on my workout plan pretty painlessly, the combination of being at work until 5+ having to lift+ tutoring two evenings a week made me feel a bit unhinged.
This is also where some of the exercises got wildly complicated, and I was like “does Jamie Eason believe that I own my own complete weight room at home?!?” I’m sorry, but I am unable to pull the benches beneath the cable pull machine for a superset that also requires me to shuffle across the room on all fours at my crowded, urban YMCA. I mean, half the weight benches are bolted to the floor, Jamie. There must be an easier way for me to work this muscle. I ended up having to skip at least one of the exercises for every workout from here on out because my gym either didn’t have the machine or there was just no way I could make it happen.
It was also around this time that my old stress fracture site became irritated from the relentless workouts. I had to skip quite a few leg days, and I felt guilty about it.
That said… I was looking good. And feeling strong. And enjoying the vast majority of the workouts. The achiness that had plagued me all summer while I was unable to work out had vanaished, replaced with this firm, sure feeling. It was super cool.
Then Phase Three hit. Weeks 9-12 were some of the best/worst of my fitness life. LiveFit told me that I should be be running sprints after my weight training sessions nearly every day. I did not do that. Not even once. I mean, by this point I was having to regularly wake up at 4:55am to cram my weight training into my insane schedule. Sprints weren’t happening. I did plenty of cardio, though: I ran 4 days a week, swam once a week, and usually threw another day of elliptical in there for good measure. I followed the weight lifting plans to the best of my abilities, though, and the Phase 3 circuit workouts were some of my favorite workouts of the whole program. I love the efficiency of being able to cycle through all your exercises in a short span of time.
However, I found myself plateauing as far as how much weight I could lift, and that was frustrating. I think it was a combination of being sick (I had a cold for half this phase) stressed (pre-5am alarm, anyone?) and overworked (I have written 5 IEPs this month); either way I kept trying to add weight and failing. I was so ready for a break when I dragged my butt through my final chest & delts circuit this past Monday.
Positives: If you need a kick in the booty and you know your way around a weight room on at least a basic level, this program is for you. But make sure you’re all in, and make sure your schedule aligns with it.
I’d love to take a shot at this program again when I am not also marathon training and like, volunteering a million times a week and fundraising for the Boston Marathon and all that. It really was effective. I have a ton more definition in my upper body, and I feel stronger overall. My legs feel like solid objects now, and when I’m runnign i sometimes feel like a little machine. Like I’m made of power. Am I going too far? I’m probably going too far. I DO NOT CARE.
Negatives: That said, I think I could have gotten this from many (less ridiculous) strength training programs. And I’m planning on seeking out a more runner-focused, 2-3 day per week plan of action to move forward with. Because I believe in weight training. Lifting makes me look and feel my best, and I want to keep doing it. Just, not for 5+ hours every single week.
I’m also going to say that the app’s most recent update is unnervingly glitchy. I was logged out and locked out of the app in the middle of workouts repeatedly for the last 2 weeks of the program, and it almost made me abandon the whole thing all together. There was also no way to track how heavy you were lifting at each session, so I ended up constantly having to switch back and forth between the LiveFit app and my notes to figure it all out.
And, as I mentioned before…this program is designed to be used in a flexible and FULLY equipped weight room, which is not something I- or many people- have the privilege of using. Many gyms these days have only a small selection of weights for members. And many members didn’t have a weight lifting coach in college (thanks varsity cheerleading!) and thus don’t know how to properly use equipment.
I’m overall so, so glad I set out on this strength training journey, and I am glad I did it when I did. I am also so glad it’s over now and I can go back to doing one day of upper body strength, one day of lower body strength, and then just continue to cultivate my love of cardio on the other days of the week.