Charleston, SC

How I Got BBG To (Finally) Work For Me

Week 1 versus Week 3 (second round, so Week 20) using BBG (including the 4 weeks of BBG Beginner).

This has been one of my most requested posts to date! I’ve been very open about sharing my fitness journey with you all on Instagram story, but I figured it was time I went into a bit more detail and answered more of your questions.

First, a little about my fitness backstory:

I have always had a “long and lean” figure and tried to maintain it by working out and staying healthy. But in 2017, that changed. My jewelry company, Everly Rings, exploded and I poured every single ounce of time and energy I had into the business. I put everything else to the side, including this blog, my family and my health. When 2018 rolled around, my New Year’s resolution wasn’t the cliched “get fit,” but rather restoring balance in my life. I’m happy to report that 3 months into 2018, I have successfully found that balance, even while launching a second ring company (more on that later)!

For most of my life, I never had fat in my midsection or ever really gained weight, for that matter. Sure, I’ve lost muscle tone before, but never gained inches — until last year.

Last year I turned 24, which is when a lot of people say your metabolism dips, and I couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t eating clean, I felt terrible and completely out of energy all the time. I didn’t recognize my body anymore. But the worst was in November at the Miami Airport, I had a seizure. I’ve never had a medical issue more severe than the flu, so this was a huge shock to me. My body was telling me I needed a change.

Honestly, it took about a month for me to be back to normal after that. I was ready to make the changes my body needed, but I knew that immediately after my seizure was not the time to throw myself into an intense regimen.

STARTING BBG

I had actually started (and quit) BBG three separate times  throughout 2017 and never got past Week 5. Looking back, I know exactly where I went wrong. There is a strategy to the program, 100%. It wasn’t until this year that I went into BBG with a careful plan, instead of just hoping for the best, a change I found to be pretty major in my newfound success.

THE DETAILS OF BBG

Each week consists of the following:

– 3 Resistance workouts (arms and abs, legs and full body). These are four 7-minute circuits with 30-second breaks in between. It repeats, so you redo circuits 1 and 2 all over again as your 3rd and 4th circuits.

– 3 “LISS” workouts. These are 35 minutes of “low intensity, steady state” cardio. Examples are walking, running, biking, hiking and swimming, but this category is pretty diverse.

– 1 Challenge. Unlike the rest of the workouts, these are not timed. There is a set number of reps and moves to do, and you are only finished once you’ve completed them all. I have never skipped a challenge, and I recommend you don’t either!

ABOUT BBG

BBG (Better Bikini Guide) was created by Kayla Itsines. I use her SWEAT app ($19.99/month) to do my workouts, and have found that it’s perfect for our nomadic lifestyle. Here is a breakdown of her program:

BBG Beginner (Weeks 1-4): This is considered “pre-training.” One of the biggest mistakes I made was thinking this stage was optional. Let me be clear: THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL. You have to do the pre-training if you want to succeed in the rest of the program. Even if you’re in good shape to begin with, the program’s workouts use a lot of plyometric moves, which are a whole different kind of work than you might be used to.

BBG 1.0 (Weeks 1-12): Starting this stage made me so sad. After a month of blood, sweat and tears, I was back at Week 1. There is something so mentally defeating about that.

Week 1 versus Week 8 using BBG (including the 4 weeks of BBG Beginner)

THE STRATEGY TO BBG SUCCESS

Settle in, this is going to be a long post (fair warning!). But I truly found that each and every one of the points below were what actually made BBG stick for me and be doable long-term. Let me clarify that I didn’t implement any of these tips for the first three times I tried and quit the program, but using them now has made all of the difference for me.

1. Plan your workouts based on your own schedule and soreness (do not use the app planner). For example, during my first few attempts at the program I was doing one workout every day or doubling up on resistance workouts like the app recommended. DON’T DO IT. The strategy that works best for me now is to do a full-body workout on Monday or Tuesday, abs/arms on Wednesday or Thursday, legs on Friday, and a challenge on the weekend. I sprinkle my three LISS workouts throughout the week whenever I’m feeling like being active. The challenge varies for me from week to week, but if it has to do with legs, I space it out even more. You never want to do full-body and leg resistance in back-to-back days (ouch). Yes, some parts of the program can be brutal, but try to look forward to your workouts! They are (almost) never as bad as you make them out to be in your mind.

2. Going off my first tip, it’s absolutely crucial to preset your workouts for the week. I do this on Monday mornings and set up my game plan for the week to come. If you know there’s one day coming up with a particularly packed schedule, schedule that as your recovery day. Proper planning is really an essential part to being successful with the program. I went to Iceland where it was not possible to stick with it, so I ate healthy, did my ab workouts three times and did a lot of walking. When I got back, I simply started where I left off and I did not see any set backs at all.

3. Cool-downs are NOT optional. This was a major mistake I made the first few times I tried the program — after my workouts, I was always crazy sore because I skipped the beginner stage and neglected to stretch. By treating yourself to a nice cool-down, I guarantee you will be less sore and get more flexible as well (which will help to avoid injury).

4. I already mentioned this, but it’s crucial: BBG Beginner is NOT optional either!

5. Brace yourself for the soreness. These workouts are hard, but absolutely doable. For the first week, I literally couldn’t go up or down stairs without wincing in pain. Treat your body with care, and always make sure to stretch and space out your workouts. I found that walking as my LISS after a leg or full-body day helped reduce soreness.

6. This was the biggest game-changer for me: LISS doesn’t have to be running. The first few times I did this program, I wasn’t stretching, skipped the beginner stage and was all of a sudden running 3+ miles three times a week, in addition to three intense resistance workouts and a challenge. No wonder I didn’t stick with it! For the first 5 weeks, I walked my dogs for 35 minutes for all three LISS sessions. It was at Week 6 (technically Week 2 when you get past Beginner) that I started running once a week. At Week 9, I do two runs and one walk with my dogs, and have found this to be way more manageable. Now that I’m in my second round of BBG 1.0, I’m going on one run a week and doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) by using a weighted jump rope once a week. For my other LISS workouts, I now do a 15 minute ab workout that’s outside of the BBG program.

7. Loop in another person (or a community) to keep you accountable. Zach and I are going on a couples trip to Iceland soon with some of our best friends, and that was our motivation to stick to the program (I know, seems a bit odd for a cold climate). Mariah and I go back and forth talking about our struggles and our progress, laughing along the way. It really helps! I also found that posting my progress photos each week on my Insta story gave me extra motivation.

NO MORE EXCUSEs

Banish all the typical excuses (and actually do something about it). Now, this may seem like a “duh” point, but it’s easier said than done. On my failed attempts, I would find any tiny excuse to not work out. This time, I eliminated every single “obstacle” so I literally had nothing to complain about, and no reason not to work out. From my headphones to my hair, here are some of the things that got in the way of my progress before and how I improved it for my 4th attempt at BBG:

Headphones. I hated every pair of headphones I had. They always fell out, hurt my ears or had an unreasonably short battery life. Do yourself a favor and get a pair of long-lasting Bluetooth headphones (no cord, which is 100% necessary because BBG takes a lot of jumping around). A design that hooks over your ears is a plus, since they won’t hurt and won’t fall out. I swear by these ones, which are $29 on Amazon Prime.

– No gym. As many of you know, we travel full-time in an RV, so I don’t have access to a gym. We are in RV parks most of the time, so I always have a “bench” (picnic table), which BBG is made for. But I still didn’t have the equipment I needed for BBG (like a 20lb medicine ball), or the equipment I did have (like 10lb free weights) were hard to get to. I know it sounds like a little thing, but Zach and I went to T.J. Maxx and got everything I needed, including a thick yoga mat (I was complaining about my spine hurting), and Zach cleared an outer cubby specifically for my workout gear. Now I have everything I need, right next to where I work out. Problem solved!

– The weather. You have to come up with a plan for days when you just don’t feel like it. If it’s really hot/cold outside, I will do only the jumping exercises outside and do the rest inside (you don’t want to jump around inside an RV). If it’s raining, I pull the awning on our RV over the picnic table so I can still work out. If I don’t want to run/walk in the rain, Zach will do boxing with me under the awning.

– That time of month. I know this may be a touch weird to talk about, but if you get owned by your period like I used to, this will greatly impact your workouts. I track my period and make sure to do the intense workouts (like leg and full body resistance) before or after my cycle. I also take Advil and do my best to work around the cramps (for me, certain parts of the day are worse than others).

– Being sick/tired. This is bound to happen. I have had a couple minor illnesses during my program, but never skipped a single workout. I took medicine, stayed hydrated and cussed my way through it. Compared to that, conquering tiredness is an easy fix. I found an all-natural energy drink, Zero Celsius, that perks me up and gets me ready to go. I order it online and keep stockpile for those days when I need a little extra help to get going.

– Coffee. I have a love/hate relationship with coffee and it was getting in the way of my workouts. Before, I had this terrible habit of drinking 5+ cups of coffee (oops), eating nothing, and then doing a workout. This resulted in me being super shaky and wanting to puke. I now limit myself to one or two cups in the morning, and I make sure to take in a solid breakfast (and a bottle of water) before working out.

– Hair. Again, this was just a tiny little thing. I have really thick and long hair, and during workouts it would stick to me and get in my face, even in a pony. I now wear my hair in a high braided pony instead. It stays put and doesn’t get tangled or stick to me.

Tennis shoes. My old shoes were old and gave me shin splints. I did a few Google searches and found two pairs that are good for BBG workouts and running — they’re super comfortable and don’t get in the way of my workouts. ASICS are essential in my opinion for BBG because of all the jumping (mine are on Amazon Prime). I also now wear a knee brace on leg and full body days for my troubled knee and this has really helped me personally.

– Socks. Now we are getting a little nitpicky, but it’s these itty bitty things that you will use as an excuse to skip a workout — I know I did. I never had enough clean socks, and the thought of working out in a pair of sweaty unwashed socks was not especially motivating. Finally I just went on Amazon and stocked up, so now I have more than enough socks to ever let this be an excuse again.

– Workout time. I like to work out at 10 am — typically I’ve already been up and working for 5 hours and at that point, I’m ready to take a break from my desk. I also like to exercise right before sunset, when it’s cooling down a bit after the midday heat. This depends on what I have going on for the day, but those are the two times that work best for me, and I’ve found that setting aside a distinct time for workouts has completely abolished the “I don’t know when I’ll get around to it” mindset.

– Music. Nothing takes you out of a workout like having to stop and skip boring songs or scrolling aimlessly through Spotify. Make sure you have 10 or so different playlists with music that gets you amped up. I make each playlist 40 minutes (a little longer than the workouts).

DIET PLAN

Again, this is one of the reasons I failed in the past. I went from eating poorly and not exercising to changing everything all at once. This simply isn’t realistic. You don’t want to think of this as going on a “diet,” but rather making sustainable eating and lifestyle changes.

I tend to eat very clean because I get nauseous easily (always have, especially with processed sugars, dairy or deep-fried foods). Now I eat based on what will make me feel the best vs. what I’m craving. Amazingly enough, that simple switch in mentality led to a huge difference in how I eat.

Personally, I don’t use the established BBG meal plan. This if for a few reasons: First, she’s from Australia and a lot of the foods she recommends are foreign to me (I’m also a horribly picky eater). Second, I don’t eat meat or dairy, but I do eat small amounts of tuna, shrimp, crab and lobster, which limits my options pretty significantly. Finally, I don’t cook. I know that’s horrible a cooking is a valuable skill, but I know myself and I will not meal prep.

So for the first four weeks, I hardly changed anything about the way I was eating. I would start to make better swaps (like snacking on fruits instead of chips). It was only on Week 5 that I actively started to take a deeper look into my diet. I don’t track calories as it isn’t healthy for me mentally, so instead I do the following:

– Drink a smoothie every morning. In addition, I eat fruit, granola and dairy-free yogurt or peanut butter and honey Ezekiel (sprouted) bread.

– I don’t eat chips anymore. I know myself: If I eat one, I will eat the whole bag. So now, I simply don’t buy them. I keep almonds and a bunch of fresh fruit (apples, peaches, pears, berries) around to snack on in between meals.

– I eat out almost every day. I know this is horrible, but we don’t have time to cook and it’s nice for Zach and I to get out of the RV after working for hours on end. So at restaurants, I make better choices. For example, I’ll order seared ahi tuna with cucumbers (hold any sauce) instead of fried shrimp. I still eat burgers and tacos and anything else I want, but in moderation. I always get veggies instead of fries.

– Drinks. So many people drink their calories. I’ve never liked pop, but I was addicted to sweet tea since moving to the South. I now allow myself to drink red wine or lemon water, but no more sweet tea or sugary drinks.

– Meals I make at home. I know if it’s not easy, quick and tasty, I won’t do it, so I’m realistic in my approach. I eat a lot of Amy’s Organic meals (I love the gluten- and dairy-free verde black bean burritos, as well as the soups). I also frequently microwave a sweet potato and load it up with black beans and avocado.

HOW I’VE MODIFIED THE PROGRAM 

It was at Week 7 (near the end of my plateau) when I came to the realization that the program just doesn’t have enough ab-centric workouts for my liking. I started adding one of my favorite college workouts, the Brazilian Butt Lift “Tummy Tuck” workout (which you can find on Beach Body). It’s only 20 minutes and works SO well! (And no shade, but it was undoubtedly filmed circa 2003, which makes it an oldie but a goodie). Now I’m up to doing this twice a week in addition to the full BBG program. Feel free to make any modifications you want to the program; you just have to listen to your body. With all the jumps and other high-impact work, I found I wasn’t able to run as well in the beginning. Now I’m back at it for 50% of my LISS workouts (and 50% walks). I still have trouble doing tuck jumps and jump lunges (it’s hard on my knees), so I do the modified version. For the life of me, I can’t do a push up, so I do the knee-down version, but I’m getting there. It’s all about tailoring the program to best suit you as an individual.

MY PROGRESS 

I saw great results within the first three weeks. But Weeks 4-7 I hit a HUGE plateau. It was so discouraging, but when reading about other people’s experiences, I found that this is very common. I’ve heard many people say Week 8 is when you really see changes (I don’t know if they were including the pre-training or not), and I would have to agree. That is when I saw a huge change and it really encouraged me to keep going. I also saw great results when I started BGG 1.0 for a second time. It does not get easier, but rather, you find yourself able to do more reps. Am I at my ideal yet? Not quite. But am I getting there, absolutely! I am finally confident and feeling healthy again. I will say, I have been 100% dedicated this time around, and that absolutely shows in my results. I’m excited to see how these changes will continue to work for me going forward.

Have any of you done BBG? What was your experience. I’d love to hear and answer any questions anyone has!

xo,Brenna