I Tried to Get in Killer Shape in Just Two Weeks
I Tried to Get in Killer Shape in Just Two Weeks
With no crash diets and no cleanses, just clean living and working out.
Last summer, a handful of rainy Saturdays and another handful of wedding-filled weekends kept my California-raised self uncharacteristically away from the beach—and part of me was relieved. The few times I made it to the shore, I wore a full-piece bathing suit. While my black maillot with its plunging neckline was decidedly chic, I was really wearing it to cover up my stomach. I had fallen victim to the haze of Boyfriendland, out of shape from spending all my time on the couch with him eating "boy food," and as much as I wished I was above such pressure, I felt self-conscious about my newfound softness and guilty about not going to the gym.
Earlier, when my boyfriend and I hit a stressful patch last winter and I spent my time worrying, not eating enough, and going to the gym to combat my anxiety, I was at a confident weight—a weight that allowed me to wear a crop top to a Christmas party. We overcame our issue and later moved in together, but it resulted in me being uncomfortable in a two-piece bathing suit. What gives?
Of course, my weight is not solely based on my relationship status—many factors contribute—but it seemed a representation of the larger truth that I had a hard time being healthy and happy at the same time. I had developed bad habits: I went to the gym when I had time or anxiety to burn, but when I had more of a life, I couldn't seem to fit it in my schedule. I was not in control of the situation. I was letting my life dictate my body, and my body dictate my confidence.
I wanted to break the cycle, to be a person that was in shape whether I was single or in a relationship, happy or sad, busy or not. So with just about two weeks left of summer, I decided to do something about it. But I didn't want to do a cleanse or a crash diet; I wanted to get in shape in a healthy way and re-set my habits. But could it be effective in just two weeks?
I reached out to Equinox Fitness and they set me up with a personal trainer. I was skeptical if she would teach me skills that I could use on my own when our two weeks was up, but once I met Vicky Udebiuwa I was reassured. While my goal was to get in shape in two weeks, her goal was to guide me to a place where I could work out correctly and the most effectively on my own, even after the experiment ended.
It turns out Udebiuwa was skeptical of me, too. "My first thought was 'here we go again,' yet another person who expects to get 'in shape' while setting herself up for failure with unrealistic goals," she told me later. But you would have never guessed it by the way she handled our training.
On the first day she gave me a full Functional Movement Screening assessment, which tested my mobility in a range of different motions. I scored a 12 out of 21. Then we had an extensive conversation about my lifestyle. My diet? Mostly healthy with a little too much splurging and issues with portion control. Sleep? Not enough. Water? Not enough. Do I drink? Yes.
Then the scary part: a whole body composition analysis. I weighed 123 pounds, 30.2 pounds of which were fat. I was far from overweight, but my 24.5 percent body fat set me just above the healthy body fat percentage for my 5'4" height (16 to 24 percent). The results mirrored exactly how I felt: lazy.
We decided to meet five days a week before work. Three days has become the precedent for healthy workout habits, but if you really want to see a change, Udebiuwa suggests more. For my diet, I was to stick to "clean eating," fruits, veggies, lean meats, and two to three liters of water a day. "To lose weight in a short amount of time, cutting out the more dense carbs like rice, breads, pasta has the greatest effect. Then, hydration, hydration, hydration," she said. I was also not allowed to eat after 7:30 P.M. (hard for someone who works late), absolutely no alcohol (even harder for someone who cherishes a glass of wine with her late dinner), then to bed as early as possible.
After we set up the guidelines, Udebiuwa left me with this: "It's great to have an overall goal in mind, but you never want to keep that at the forefront of your journey. It can become overwhelming and act as a deterrent of what you are really trying to accomplish. So you want to make sure you take things one day at a time."
So I set my focus on day one. I got out of bed early, which seemed like a great feat on its own, but the hard part was yet to come. We started by placing a foam roller under my body and rolling different muscles over it. It's an excruciating warm-up that increases blood flow and breaks up the muscle tissue. Then I did the loaded-beast-to-plank-position for ten reps, followed by a 30-second plank hold, then push-up planks for 10 reps. I did this for three rounds at the beginning of every session and would be dripping in sweat before the real workout even started.
I was quite athletic growing up, but now my balance was off, my flexibility was laughable, and sometimes I just couldn't get the exercises right. But after each movement, Udebiuwa stopped and showed me how to do it correctly and with her instruction, they got easier. She told me where to focus my energy and exactly how to move. She guided me through planks, burpees, inchworms, squats, lunges, and different challenging renditions of each using medicine balls, weights, and training devices.
Throughout each of my first sessions, I constantly thought about how much I wanted it to end, but with Udebiuwa next to me, there was no quitting. Her words of encouragement motivated me even when I thought my muscles might give out. After my first three sessions, I was already feeling more toned. It was hard to get out of bed (I am not a morning person), but once my workout was complete, I felt more awake and ready for the workday than I would have if I got that extra hour of sleep.
But by day six (I decided to do six days the first week and four the next week so I could go away for Labor Day weekend), my body turned on me. It was more than soreness; I ached everywhere. I felt poisoned, but Udebiuwa informed me that this was normal. "Your body is just reacting to working out so hard. When was the last time you worked out six days in a row?" Uh. Never. "You just need a break."
I took the next three days off and felt better. Week number two was much easier than the first, and that laziness I was battling seemed to melt away. I fell into a rhythm where I used to stumble, and completed sets without quasi-suicidal thoughts filling my head. I felt stronger.
Breaking the Rules
I love food and I love wine, and since I spend a lot of my time going out to restaurants and enjoying both things, I was not excited about giving them up. The first weekend I went with friends to a bar, and as they all kicked back drinks, I sipped on a vodka soda, sans vodka. It was not as bad as I expected (the key was having something to drink in my hand at all times), and it was quite nice to wake up on a Sunday morning without a hangover. Restricting on the weekdays was easier, but going home after work, eating a salad, and just going to bed made my life a little emptier and a little boring.
I got into trouble on Labor Day at a party where there was an overabundance of booze, treats, and debauchery. I decided to allow myself to partake just a bit—it was the last weekend of summer! But oh how guilty I felt and how I dreaded telling Udebiuwa about my "cheat day." I was also dreading getting on the scale. I had lost three pounds in one week, and sure enough, after the weekend, I had gained one back. Udebiuwa shook her head and told me to not do it again. Was she mad at me? Were the wine and pie really worth it?
I buckled down again for the last week and on the final day, my heart was pounding when I got on the body analysis machine. I weighed 121 pounds (only two below my original weight), but my body fat had gone from 30 pounds (24.5 percent of my body weight) to 24 pounds (20 percent of my body weight). I had gone from a little over the healthy range to well in the middle.
Udebiuwa and I hugged, both beaming. "I was blown away," she said. "To do that in two weeks was beyond my wildest expectations." We did an assessment test again and instead of a 12, I got a 15 out of 21.
When I walked out of Equinox on my final day, I felt tighter and fit, but mostly I felt proud. Proud of the bigger accomplishments, not merely what I saw in the mirror. My physical changes were probably not too noticeable to anyone but Udebiuwa, myself, and my boyfriend (but look at my toned arms!), but it was one of those smiling-to-yourself moments like after being offered a new job or nailing a karaoke performance. I had to call my mom.
I am fully aware that you could be rolling your eyes while reading this. Who without a celebrity status or an overflowing bank account has the means to see a personal trainer five days a week (Udebiuwa costs $125 per session or $1380 per 12 sessions)? Could I really have lost that much body fat on my own? Udebiuwa shares the hesitation: "While I believe that everything is possible if you put your mind to it," she says, "I think it's extremely difficult to achieve the same results we did with such a short timeline and demanding training routine without the guidance of an experienced trainer." She suggests finding a good trainer just to get started. It's true, having someone to teach me how to exercise correctly was key, but having someone to hold me accountable if I decided to give-in to that snooze button was really what got me to the gym. After a trainer, a workout partner is the next best thing.
Yet, while I got in shape, did I totally re-set my habits? Two months later, my lifestyle hasn't changed too much. I still pepper my mostly healthy diet with nights of drinking wine, foodie dinners, and takeout on the couch. But I've realized that there is room for the gym, too. Both things make me happy and can coexist—and when balanced together, there is no guilt. I've realized I really have control over my own body and my own confidence. On my trip to California at the end of the summer and after my training, I did wear my one-piece bathing suit again…but I also wore a matching skirt and crop top, too. Everything in moderation, right?