16 weeks ago my good friend Abbie asked me if I would be one of nine people to trial a fitness program she had put together, as she wanted to make sure it was PERFECT before releasing it into the world.
Fast forward 16 weeks – 1 week rest after completing the live fit Trainer (you can find that review here), 13 weeks of My Best Body and 2 weeks of faffing around, I am feeling strong, happy and motivated.
So what is My best Body? You can find the official program overview on Abbie’s blog here, but this is how I how I see the program: A program that focuses on YOU being the best version of YOU, not having a six pack, not having a thigh gap, just YOU being the strongest and happiest you can be.
As a trial member for My Best Body there were a few guidelines I and the rest of the team had to abide by:
- Commit to the program 100%
- Do not do any other form of exercise outside of the program.
- Follow the nutrition/ macro guide correctly.
- Take progress photos at every phase of the program and send to Abbie.
- Take body fat measurements every phase and send to Abbie.
How is it broken down?
The first thing you will notice is that it’s a 13 week program not 12 like most programs – at first I was a bit worried because every program I have done that is 12 weeks I am completely burnt out both emotionally and physically by the end, so the thought of adding an extra week was worrying. However, the program is so well balanced that this emotional and physical breakdown at the end did not happen.
- Week’s 1 – 3 stabilisation: The focus during this stage is to really be mindful. To really connect your mind with the way your body moves and to complete every rep correctly so that when you hit the next stage you and your muscles are prepared. There are also unilateral challenges during this phase to ensure that your body is being trained evenly on each side, and to challenge and improve balance. I LOVED this phase because Abbie got really creative with the exercises and exercise combinations, I felt like I was in a jungle gym!!
- Week’s 4 – 8 Muscle growth: This is pretty much what it says on the tin, this is where you use all that mindful lifting you worked on in the first 3 weeks, coupled with the surplus calories to really lift heavy and squeeze those muscles to build muscle.
- Week’s 9 – 13 – Power Training: This is the phase where you up the cardio intensity to High Intensity interval training coupled with weight lifting to reveal all the muscles you have grown over the last 9 weeks, prepare to get sweaty!
Before you start
Before you even embark on this program I recommend taking a week off to reset your body and to prepare it for the 13 weeks ahead, so that you can start strong. The program recommends that you take unflexed and flexed real photos before you start, along with body fat percentage and weight; you will do this at the end of each stage too. Why the unflexed real photos? Because Abbie wants you to see your real beauty and your true progress without relying on funky angles and lighting to make you feel good.
This nutrition guide is separate from the fitness program ebook, and the release date and timing is still to be determined, pending review and sign-off by nutrition specialists.
For the first half of the program, you eat in surplus AKA bulk. Do not let your mind take over at this point, it is hard to eat more than you are used to, especially when there is no cardio involved. Do not let your mind and thoughts get in the way of having a successful bulk, trust the science behind it.
For the second half of the program, you reconfigure your calories and macros in order to really lean you out so that you can see all the hard work you’ve put in over the last 9 weeks. The macros for the cut are not as aggressive as other programs which is great and allows you to experience a cut in a safe way. You don’t get the days where your cut is so aggressive that you have cravings through the roof, mood swings like never before and insane tiredness.
This program challenges so many angles of your life which I think it fantastic because you do not end up obsessing over one thing waiting for change.
Mindset – I was on the road for a total of 8 weeks during the 13 week program, I was convinced I would fail, I was convinced I was not capable of completing every workout to its full potential. The weekly mental challenges enabled me to tap into this and try to understand why I felt like this, and then to write down ways I was going to overcome it and to focus on the positive aspects.
Nutritional – I’ve always been pretty clued up with nutrition, but I’ve never dedicated so much time to ensuring I was hitting my macros every single day. This was down to A. not wanting to disappoint Abbie, and B. I wanted to ensure that I paid as much notice to my nutrition as I did my workouts for maximum results.
Physical strength – During the course of the program I was able to gain enough strength to complete unassisted chip ups – which is HUGE as I’ve always wanted to be able to do this, to me this shows true overall body strength. I increased my sprint speed for the HIIT aspects of the program; and finally I improved my time for the MBB athlete challenge by 3 whole minutes.
Visual transformation– Over the past 18 months have turned my focus from visual progress to strength progress when it comes to tracking my fitness, but I was very interested to track it this time, and properly. The program is set up not to be a quick fix, its set up to be something you can continue with for a lifetime, with these sorts of programs the amount of visual progress you can make in 13 weeks is limited, but the progress I made I was extremely happy – my stomach area leaned out, people were commenting on how strong my arms looked, and the definition on my legs was more noticeable.
This IS a challenge and it is not for the faint hearted, if you’re looking for a quick fix, this program unfortunately is not for you. BUT if you are ready to really commit to yourself, to learn to love yourself during every up and every down, to love yourself when you don’t have a visible defined core, to love having a healthy lifestyle not just the body that comes with it, then this is the program for you.
I finished this program feeling stronger both mentally and physically; I felt like I had pushed my limits, but also like I could push out another week of exercise if I needed rather than feeling exhausted. Which if you are familiar to online programs, you know this can be an issue.
The amount of workouts per week ranged from 4-6 (plus optional cardio in some weeks) depending on the phase, and the workouts typically took me 45-60 minutes to complete. This is perfect because for someone like me that has a very busy work life I do not have the time to spend longer than an hour in the gym at a time.
The group setting of our trial really made a huge difference, you feel like you are part of something, If Abbie coaches closed Facebook groups in 2017, this would be a good option if you need additional support and coaching and thrive in the team setting. You are all moving at the same pace which means you can all relate to each other. I also found the tips and contact that Abbie made in the group both really helpful and inclusive, like she genuinely gives a shit about your progress.
Unlike most fitness programs this program also gives you mental challenges each week, they are there to challenge the way you think about food, exercise and most importantly yourself; I love this aspect of the program because it really covers the full spectrum of living a healthy lifestyle.
Tips to have a successful 13 weeks
Myself and Sara (sneakers_sara) became really good friends of the course of the 13 week program, I even got the chance to meet Sara when I was on the road, (this is another aspect of the program that I love, you get to know the other people in the group); so we teamed together for this part of the post to give you the best tips possible to make it a successful 13 weeks.
My top tips
- Study the photo exercise library: Abbie will supply you will a helpful photo exercise library in the ebook to support all exercises in the program; do not look at them for the first time in the gym before you start your workout. Set time aside on a Sunday night to look at them properly, some of the exercises are complex, the photos and explanations will show you how to execute them correctly and safely. Abbie is also working on an online video exercise library for program users, and the release of that is still TBD.
- Practise: Some exercises will be new and a little complex, so before you start each workout do 2/3 reps of each new exercise so that you are familiar with how it is performed; this will avoid getting confused mid workout and losing momentum whilst you figure it out.
- Phase 3 – do this in the morning with as little food in you as possible because you will vomit – the intensity is high, PUSH YOURSELF.
Sara’s top tips
- Trust the process. For me, this meant taking the leap to do a clean bulk with no cardio during the first half of the program. Both ideas were completely against any thing I had ever done prior to MBB and I was VERY nervous about it. There were many moments during the bulk/no cardio phase when I was sure I must be gaining fat at lightning speed. When I took my first set of progress photos about four weeks into the program however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had not actually gained as much weight/fat as I had imagined. In hindsight, I see how the bulk was necessary to helping me gain much-needed muscle. The extra fat disappeared during the cut phase of the program but I was able to maintain the newly-gained muscle, which has helped me to look and feel better than ever!
- Prioritize nutrition and drink your water. I went into the program not understanding anything about macros – how to count them, how to calculate them – nothing! I finished the program feeling VERY macro-confident, and credit this to Abbie’s guidance in this area. I also credit the nutrition-focus as giving me optimal results at the end of the program. I ate “clean” the majority of the time and always made sure to hydrate well. Both factors made a huge difference! On the few days I didn’t eat as well, I definitely noticed that my poor choices in the kitchen negatively impacted my workouts (on top of making me feel bloated and crummy in general). Do your best to eat clean during each phase and drink your water!
- Lean on your MBB teammates. Having a team was critical to my success. Knowing that they were doing the same workouts and experiencing the same mental highs and lows helped me to stay both accountable and optimistic. They were there to celebrate my victories with me and to help me work through the tough moments.
- Strive for excellence, not perfection. It sounds so cliche, but it’s so true. Do your best, at the gym and in the kitchen, but know that there are some days when nothing goes according to plan and that is ok! Those moments won’t completely derail your progress, so just do your best to learn from them and move on. There were definitely several instances when I had a few “nutrition fails” (aka…sugar and peanut butter got the best of me…). At the time, I was very hard on myself about those instances, but I now see those moments being critical to my journey overall. I learned a lot from those “failures.” In the end, they motivated me have a strong MBB finish. They also helped me to form and maintain good habits that have continued well beyond the thirteen weeks of the program.
I spent a lot of time trying to decide what i wanted to focus on next, and well more definition for a certain body part just didn’t come to mind, instead this burning desire to start running again, so that is exactly what my long term goal is. However I didn’t want to just jump right into it as that would make me at risk for injury, I need to increase my hamstring strength, overall body strength and flexibility. I have decided to do My Best Body one more time, but this time lift heavier on the hamstrings and lighter on the quads, include 2-3 runs a week after the first phase and Start the Whole30 plan to reduce overall internal inflammation.