ChaLEAN Extreme Preview

I’m going to be terribly ADHD this month and switch programs mid-month. I just got BeachBody’s ChaLEAN Extreme program (retail price $119.95) yesterday, and given how packed my gym has been this month and how little free time I have, the 30-minute workouts in the package are very appealing to me right now. Despite the admittedly goofy name, the program actually focuses on heavy strength training for 30 minutes three days per week in combination with more cardio-based workout sessions on off days to produce results. It also comes with a nutrition plan with 80+ moderate carb recipes divided into three phases to match with the three month-long workout phases of the program: Burn, Push, and Lean.

ChaLEAN Extreme

Workout preferences for me are kind of cyclical, and at this time I am just not feeling motivated to do 60-minute workouts of any kind. This is killing my motivation to commit to another round of RCR-style circuit workouts, even if they ARE with heavier weights, and it’s also making a full cycle of P90X (which also runs 60 minutes per workout on average) really unappealing. Frankly, I’m unenthusiastic about my workouts this month, committed to a LOT of non-exercise projects and work, and ready to stop thinking so much about things and just go on autopilot for a couple of months. ChaLEAN Extreme looks like it is a step down from P90X in difficulty and intensity, but higher than the Turbo Jam, Hip Hop Abs, and Slim in Six BeachBody products. The lifting tempo appears to be slower than what is used in P90X, and the rep range is 10-12 reps for most exercises. Looking at the calendar, the workout schedule includes 3 strength circuit days, 2 interval style cardio days (one also includes ab work), and 2 rest days per week.

I’m reinstating my lunch break walks at a minimum, with skating on days when I feel the urge and the weather is dry. I’ll start the ChaLEAN Extreme program with the fitness assessment and first Burn phase 1 workout tonight and schedule in the rest of the program in my workout journal. I have to finish reviewing the diet and workout schedule during my lunch break, but hey, I can do that while walking. 😉 If the diet seems reasonable, I will give it a go with some protein source substitutions to keep it more in line with my semi-vegetarian goals for this year.

So here we go with the contents of the ChaLEAN Extreme basic package:

  • 5 Workout DVDs and an instructional DVD to show you proper lifting form with free weights and resistance tubes (in a thin pak folder with an additional empty slot in case you purchase the add-on workout disc)
  • “Muscle Burns Fat™” Guidebook – This is a printed book, not a digital file, and contains an overview of the program, the reasoning behind its design, lots of convincing verbiage about the importance of lifting heavy weights to build muscle which will in turn burn fat, motivating before and after photos of the most dramatic transformations from the program’s test group, workout calendars showing exactly which workouts to perform for the three transformation phases of the program and the ongoing maintenance phase, pages for your progress photos and stats, and exercise descriptions and photos.
  • Fat Burning Food Guide – Another printed book that includes 80+ recipes, the ChaLEAN Extreme three-phase nutrition plan, and lots of pretty pictures of some tasty looking high-protein meals
  • Fat Calipers – These come with an instruction card printed with male and female charts for determining body fat from a single suprailiac skinfold.
  • Thigh Toner Band – Looks like a giant flat rubber band about 6″ wide. I’ve seen similar items sold in the pilates section of Target.
  • Chalene’s Personal Motivational Audio CD – More explanation about how Chalene Johnson came to design this program as she hit her mid-30s and discovered that her body was changing — heavy cardio-style workouts were not enough and building muscle became key to keeping her metabolism fired up. Also includes motivational “You can do it!” messages, a list of behaviors that fit people exhibit, and strategies and tips for getting past roadblocks.
  • “Healthy Eats” and Kitchen Makeover DVD (on the same DVD as the workout instruction videos) – Tips and techniques for cleaning up your eating and kitchen as well as low-key ways to eat on plan at any restaurant.

The DVD folio, Muscle Burns Fat guidebook, and Fat Burning Food Guide all fit into a handy cardboard slipcase to keep everything tidy and in one place.

Additional equipment needed for the workouts is pretty basic: Pairs of 5-30 pound dumbbells for women and 12-40 pound dumbbells for men, or the equivalent in resistance tubing (the kind with handles). I’ll be using my adjustable Powerblock dumbbells, and the folks in the videos appear to be using Bowflex SelectTech adjustable dumbbells. Since the instruction video didn’t show anyone doing pull-ups or chin-ups as they do in P90X, I’m assuming that this program does not integrate those exercises.

I’ll get my starting stats this weekend and post my impressions of the Burn phase of the program as I complete each workout this week.

Muscle & Fitness Hers 12-Week Makeover Program

For those who were interested, here is the Muscle & Fitness Hers 12-Week Makeover Program I am pulling my upper body workouts from for the rest of the year. As I’ve mentioned before, if your goal is really the Red Carpet Ready look, you probably don’t want to train this way because you WILL build stronger, larger, more visible muscles, especially if you follow the 1800-1900 calorie diet plan as well.

This plan is a lot more “American Gladiator” than “Alias”.

I’m using it for my upper body since I prefer a more obviously warrior princess look up there vs. Hollywood lean and slender since I have a lot of leg muscle to balance out.

M&F 12-Week Program (PDF)
(Download PDF)

Red Carpet Ready 6-Week Results and Review

Red Carpet Ready

The RCR Club Experience
I admit that I started celebrity trainer Val Waters‘s Red Carpet Ready program with a healthy dose of skepticism about what it could actually do for me since I’ve been training and eating clean pretty consistently for over 4 years now, but I can’t argue with the numbers below. I have lost 5.4 pounds in 6 weeks (This is very good for me based on past experience, especially given that it is PMS week for me; I am not one of those people who ever averages more than 1 pound a week unless I eat at starvation levels and do over an hour of cardio a day), dropped 2.17% body fat, and reduced my measurements by over 8.25″ (based on Val’s requested measurements) and 11.5″ based on my bonus measurements.

For someone as acclimatized to hard exercise and clean eating as I am–I am a poster child for homeostasis–these were very good results indeed.

Continue reading »

RCR W5D3: Free Action Hero Workouts

Celebrity trainer Valerie Waters whose Red Carpet Ready program I am currently following posted a pair of great workouts geared towards creating the Hollywood action babe look she gave to Jennifer Garner in Alias and Rachel Nichols who plays Scarlet in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie–lean and defined, but not quite as in-your-face powerful as a fitness competitor or Oxygen cover model.

These are available for free in her blog, and can be performed at home with minimal equipment: 5-10 lb dumbbells (mostly 10 lbs), a step or low chair, a stability ball, a pair of Valslides, and a fitness band. There is a “Valband” available for $4.99 at the same online store as the Valslides, or you can try to find one locally in the pilates section of your favorite sporting goods store. I also had good luck finding the Valslides themselves on clearance at my local Target for $12.48 including the covers and a workout card and DVD.

If you want to get a taste of what the RCR program is like, give these workouts a shot. Perform them three times a week in the following pattern:

Week 1
Mon: Workout 1
Wed: Workout 2
Fri: Workout 1

Week 2
Mon: Workout 2
Wed: Workout 1
Fri: Workout 2

For best results, throw in 20-30 minutes of interval cardio on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and take Sunday off.

1. Green smoothie (1 c. spinach, 1 c. Diet V8 Splash Tropical, 1 small apple, 3/4 scoop protein powder, 3 baby carrots)
2. 60g oats and raisins, 3 egg whites scrambled with 2/3 c. spinach, 1 peanut butter protein popsicle
3. 1.5 c. shrimp and chicken jambalaya with 1/2 c. brown rice
4. 15g walnuts, 20g raisins
5. 5 baby carrots, 1 T. ANPB, 1 small apple
6. 3 oz. Oriental sesame chicken strips, 1 c. peas and green beans, 3″ Subway Chicken Pizziola sub oh whole wheat with extra veggies (~220 cal)
7. 3″ Subway Chicken Pizziola sub on whole wheat with extra veggies (~220 cal; Worked late night at the office–will count as this week’s 2 cheat items)

* RCR Circuit B2 (60 min)
* Outdoor skate (30 min)

M&F W5D5: Leg Workout (Month 2)

I got on the scale out of habit this morning and was pleased to see 146.0 on the display. It looks like the consistency in food and exercise is starting to pay off. I was hanging at 148-149 for a while.

I am still debating the RCR contest. The M&F program seems to agree with my upper body. I am looking a lot less squishy in the arms and midsection after 4 weeks, and I have even built or at least restored some muscle. I still have at least 5 more pounds of subcutaneous padding to burn off before I really start to see definition, but I think that will happen within 4-6 weeks if I stick to my current workout program and keep the diet clean.

So…I don’t know. My main goal at the moment IS fat loss, so the temptation is definitely there to give a circuit-based program a shot. It’s just that I LOVE hardcore lifting so much, LOL.

LEGS Squat 5* 10-12 115 lbs x 12 +
Reverse Lunge 3 10-12 25 lbs x 12
Seated Hamstring Curl 3 10-12 105 lbs x 12
Step Up 3 10-12 15 lbs x 12 +

(*) Includes 2 warm up sets at 50% and 75% of final work set weight
(+) Denotes that I need to increase weight in the next workout

1. 60 g dried cranberries, raisins, and oatmeal; 3 egg whites
2. 3 oz. cracked pepper turkey breast, 1 slice pepper jack cheese, 1/2 WW pita, 1 c. mixed broccoli and green beans
3. Fiber One bar
4. 1 whole/2 whites boiled eggs, 1 plum
5. 1/4 c. 2% cottage cheese, 1/2 T. cocoa, 1 packet Splenda, 1/2 T. chocolate chips, 1 boiled egg
6. TBD – Most likely 4 oz. salmon or flounder, 1 c. Brussels sprouts, and 1/2 oz. walnuts

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D, 6 fish oil capsules

* M&F Legs (45 min)
* 3/4 mile walk (15 min)
* Yoga Conditioning for Athletes (30 min)

Red Carpet Ready Club 6-Week Contest (Free to enter!)

Now for some news…I’m loving my M&F 12-week program, but I’m toying with the idea of doing Valerie Waters’s Red Carpet Ready for the next 6 weeks as part of the contest going on at the RCR Club membership site. I signed up for the 2 week free trial last Tuesday, and I had planned on checking things out then cancelling before the trial was up, but they are running a 6 week challenge starting this Monday and have offered to extend the free trial for the duration of the contest if you decide to participate.

If you are interested, you can still get in on this. You will have access to the RCR Club forums and membership site which includes a downloadable copy of the RCR 1.0 ebook ($77 value) and the video 2.0 edition of the program when it is ready.

The major downside to the program is that it uses light weights.

Like, REALLY light weights–we are talking 5, 8, and 10 lbs here, or–gasp!–none at all.

This could be a bit psychologically challenging for those of us who have been conditioned to train as heavy as we can stand for the past few years. How am I supposed to intimidate the guys at the gym if I’m only squatting with 10 lb dumbbells?

Valerie trains female celebs like Jennifer Garner, Kate Beckinsale, Elizabeth Berkley, Poppy Montgomery, Cindy Crawford, and Jennifer Biel, so her program is geared toward that type of physique versus the more buffed out look of figure and fitness. The sticking point for me, however, is that those clients weren’t exactly in bad shape when they started working with her in the first place–she has successfully turned out a lot of “toned but not bulky” Hollywood physiques, but they were all sort of waifish ectomorphs to start with, you know? NONE of those women were particularly fluffy OR carrying much muscle, so I’m not sure what the effect of her program would be on those of us who are more mesomorphic or endomorphic than her famous clientele.

Needless to say, I am approaching this with a healthy dose of skepticism. I am willing to give almost any training model a try for a mere 6 weeks, but I’m not interested in losing any of the lean mass I already have–just dropping some subcutaneous fat. I’m all right with not putting on more muscle at the moment as long as I can increase definition and decrease my overall jiggle factor.

The RCR strength program is circuit-based with reps in the 10-20 range, with most of the exercises falling into the 10, 12, and 15 rep categories. The workouts are around 60 minutes long according to the book, and are performed three days a week. My initial impression of it is that it would act more as a calisthenics/cardio blend for me than a true strength workout, but hey, that is not necessarily a bad thing when your primary goal is to lean out.

The cardio is interval style, three times a week for 30 minutes.

I’ll leave it up to you gals as to whether this holds any interest, but just be aware that you need to sign up before Monday to get the full 6 weeks for free. The prizes have not yet been announced.

If you do want to give this a try, you can sign up for the Gold level membership at

Once you enter the 6 week challenge on the forums by posting an entry thread and submitting “Before” photos, Ryan, the friendly neighborhood admin, will extend your trial for the full duration of the contest. Participants are expected to post regularly in the 6-Week Challenge forum to keep everyone abreast of their progress. If you do decide that the membership is not for you before the 6-week trial/contest is over, just drop Ryan an email at to cancel.

M&F W4D3: Back/Bicep/Ab Workout (Month 1)

As promised (albeit a few days late), here is the Back/Bicep/Ab workout I am currently doing every four days. The weights shown are what I used as of today.

BACK Wide-Grip Pulldown 5* 8-10 100 lbs x 8
One-Arm DB Row 3 8-10 30 lbs x 10
BICEPS EZ Bar Curl 5* 8-10 40 lbs x 9
Assisted Chin Up 3 8-10 -40 lbs x 8
ABS Plank 3 45 sec. 45 sec. x 3
Straight-Leg Crunch 3 15 BW x 15
Reverse Crunch 3 15 BW x 15

1. 60g raisins, cranberries, and oats, 3 egg whites, 1/2 c. French cut green beans
2. 3 oz. chicken thigh, 1 c. green beans, 1 apple
3. 1/2 T. cocoa, 1/2 c. 2% cottage cheese, 1 packet Splenda, 1 T. chocolate chips
4. 1/2 WW pita, 1/2 slice pepper jack cheese, 1 large slice honey roasted turkey breast
5. 1 Fiber One bar
6. BFL Golden Pancakes (PWO), 1 c. broccoli

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D

* M&F Back/Bicep/Abs (45 min)
* HIIT Run (25 min)
* 1-mile walk (17 min)

M&F W3D5: Chest/Shoulder/Tricep Workout (Month 1)

For the next three days, I’ll be posting the exact workouts I am doing for the first 4 weeks of the Muscle and Fitness Hers 12-Week Makeover program I am using through November. The program is a three-day training split with a fourth day devoted to cardio only. As of this post, I am starting the fifth round of this four-day sequence and have my weights up to a decent level again.

Today’s workout consisted of the following:

CHEST Bench Press  5* 8-10 105 lbs x 8
Dbell Bench Press 3 8-10 35 lbs x 8
SHOULDERS Arnold Press 5* 8-10 25 lbs x 8
Dbell Lat Raise 3 8-10 15 lbs x 10
TRICEPS Lying French Press 5* 8-10 20 lbs x 8
Triceps Pressdown 3 8-10 80 lbs x 10

* Includes 2 warm up sets at 50% and 75% of final weight lifted plus 3 working sets.

1. 60g raisins and oats, 1/2 c. spinach, 3 eggs, 1 whole egg, 1 T. ketchup
2. 3 oz. chicken breast, 1 c. mixed veggies, 1 large nectarine
3. 1/2 T. cocoa, 1/2 c. 1% cottage cheese, 1 packet Splenda
4. 2 oz. chicken wing, 1/2 c. mixed veggies
5. 3 oz. chicken leg, 1 c. mixed veggies, 1 small apple
6. ~1 c. Thai chicken and beef with veggie stir fry, 1 c. rice, 1 summer roll

Water: 16 cups
Supplements: multivitamin, calcium 600+D

* Chest/Shoulders/Triceps (60 min)
* HHA Total Body Burn (40 min)