Tag Archives: exercise

End of round 2 of TFBR

Fran Benson working out in the garden
Me in the garden just before working out

The sun has risen into a cloudless blue sky, there’s a warmth to the day and it feels like it’s bulging with promise.

It’s also the London Marathon today and I’ve just completed my last workout in the 12 week schedule of TFBR. I feel much calmer this time contemplating the last three months.  Before I was exhilarated that I’d actually finished it and also anxious about whether I’d continue with all the good efforts.  So, yes I’m chuffed to have another one in the bag but it feels more like it’s a continuation of something bigger rather than an isolated incident.

I’ve lost another six pounds since the last round taking me to nine and a half stone which I’m pleased with.  I haven’t been this weight since before I had the children.  And as I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) which affects how my body loses weight ie. it finds it very hard, then that makes it even more of an achievement.

I was hoping to see a reduction in my fat percentage levels, and although they have nudged down a little bit I’ve found that my scales fluctuate between 27% and 29% on such a random basis that I don’t know what the real number might be. However I’ve lost three inches from my hips and pulled in my waist a little bit more so the results are there to see.

Again I feel stronger and healthier although I was tempting fate when I wrote my blog post a few weeks ago about my back getting stronger.  No sooner were the words typed than I put my back out and had to miss a week of exercise, followed by one light week and then this last week where I’ve had to skip the “Belly Shred” exercises.  Which is a shame as I wanted to give those abs a blast.  However my back is recovered now and so after a lighter week this week I’ll be back doing the TFBR exercises immediately after Easter along with the rest of my TFBR buddies.

To all those who have just completed TFBR for the first time – yay! Well done!  I’ve seen some amazing results on Julia Buckley’s facebook page (and her website);  it is so inspiring to see how others have got on with it.

I can’t recommend this approach to exercise enough.  Regardless of your size or your age, if you want to get fitter and lose body fat and you either haven’t tried exercise or you’re doing it and not seeing results then give this a go (here’s a link to the book on Amazon – and no I’m not on any commission I just really believe this is fantastic).  Adapt your eating to be healthier and cleaner too and there is no reason why you won’t see the results that others have done.

It really is yours there for the taking.

PS. If you’ve completed TFBR please drop me a comment below with how it’s worked for you – I’d love to hear from you 🙂

A strong core and a strong back

Image of Fran Benson

It goes without saying that I’ve been really pleased with the change in my body shape over the last few months of doing The Fat Burn Revolution #TFBR.

But one of the hidden benefits is how much stronger my back has become.

My back has been weak for as long as I can remember…way back in my teens I had time off school to lie still for a week for a particularly bad episode to get better.  (Fortunately the advice these days is to keep moving rather than lie still).

And it has been particularly bad since having children as my core and overall strength decreased.

My chiropractor told me several years ago that I needed to improve my core muscles to improve my back health.

I half heartedly added a few crunchies and the odd plank into my occasional exercise routine and not surprising didn’t see any difference.

When I first did TFBR I had to be really careful with burpees, deadlifts, bent over rows etc and I soon found that I couldn’t work out first thing in the morning without risking my back.

Interestingly a recent report by the British Chiropractic Association and Sealy beds confirmed my own findings.  Apparently disc injuries are more likely to occur with bending movements in the first hour after waking.

In the first round of TFBR it’s fair to say that initially my back wasn’t too happy about the change in my lifestyle.  However I moved my weight workouts to later in the day to give my back chance to “warm up”, took it easy when I had to and was happily doing heavier weights on dead lifts and bent over rows by the end of the programme.

This time around I’m pleased to say that I’ve been able to move all my workouts back to first thing in the morning.

I get up with enough time to make the children’s school lunches which allows my back to warm up a little and then within 20 minutes I’m into my weights.

I’m a little more careful at this time of day than I would be later and pleased to say that so far I’ve had no issues.

I’m also lifting heavier weights and able to pick up heavier boxes and things that I might have avoided previously.

It’s proof to me that my core and back really are stronger.

Halfway through TFBR

Fran Benson portrait-006
Image of Fran Benson

So I’m halfway through phase 2 of The Fat Burn Revolution which is also halfway through the whole programme.

I’m feeling fitter and stronger and pleased to see that my waist has dropped below the 28 inch marker which was my overall goal when starting to exercise again with the first phase.

It’s a different experience second time around.  First time there was a slightly obsessional feel about it.  I was determined to achieve all of my goals inside 12 weeks then dust  myself down and get on with life.

But somewhere along the way things changed which is why I’m here in my second round.

I can clearly remember though that phase 2 of TFBR last year was a testing time.  The enthusiasm of beginning something new had waned and I was looking forward to the end, which felt like a long time away.

Phase 2 was also when I started to make some tweaks to my diet.  Less starches (bread, potato and pasta) and more vegetables, pulses and fats (lentils, chickpeas, avocado and coconut oil).  I probably didn’t get the balance quite right to start with and felt flat and lacking in energy.

I persevered but it was hard sometimes to do my work outs when I hadn’t got my fuelling right.

But then it all started to come together: I was eating the right foods in the right quantities and feeling strong again.

This hasn’t happened to me this time.  Probably because with a pretty solid nutrition base behind me I haven’t had to make those changes – they were already in place.

But there have been different challenges.  Two weeks ago the builders moved in and ripped out our kitchen and I had no cooking or washing facilities.

Whereas normally I plan my week’s menu in advance I didn’t even know if I’d have electricity on any given day.  I was relying on a slow cooker, a steamer and a camping stove and if all else failed the pub or my mum.

I’ve made the best food choices I can under the circumstances but they haven’t always been the ones that I would have made had I had the full range of facilities available to me that I normally do.

But life is settling back into some sort of normality.  My kitchen isn’t quite my own yet – decorators like to cover everything up in sheets for the day – but I am back to planning my weekly menu.

My workouts haven’t slipped once.  I’m generally finished and dressed before the builders have turned up – although there have been a few close calls when I’ve nipped downstairs for a glass of water in my crop top and shorts only to hear the key in the lock just as I’m scurrying up the stairs again.

I think the biggest change this time round is that I no longer see it as something with an end to it.  Yes the programme is 12 weeks so there is an end in that sense but eating more healthily and exercising – really exercising and pushing myself harder – has become embedded into my lifestyle.

So although I’m looking forward to where I’m going to be in six weeks time in terms of results and fitness levels I’m also wondering what I’ll do next.

I’ll certainly do another round of TFBR after a brief gap but I think I’d like to get out and do a bit more running and try a couple of weights based fitness dvds that I’ve seen mixed up with a workout or two from TFBR as well.

It feels like there is a huge world of fitness possibility just waiting for me to explore and that I will get fitter and healthier as I carry on on this journey.



When life gets in the way…

Common land on a sunny morning
Chapel Common

I’m feeling slightly confessional here today.  It’s three weeks since I last blogged – and I promised myself I’d do it at least weekly.

But I’ve had a lot of work on and I was under the weather – the usual things that can skupper the best laid plans.  And when life gets a little bit out of control in one area it tends to have a knock on effect in all the other areas too.

Take my food.  Normally I sit down on a Tuesday night and plan out all the meals that we are going to eat for the next seven days.  Then I check what we’ve got in stock and make a list of what we need and order it from Sainsburys.

Well I did most of that but, because I was busy, instead of checking to see what was in the cupboard – I guessed.  Which meant that I didn’t have all the ingredients to cook the food that I planned.

Then I wasn’t feeling well and all I wanted to eat was toast and Weetabix anyway.  Which is fine very occasionally but if I eat too much wheat it makes me feel tired.

Add into that a six hour powercut one day and we were all off to the café for scones followed by dinner in the pub.

Let’s face it none of us live perfect lives and there’s always something to juggle or obstacles to navigate.

And that’s the important thing to remember.  We shouldn’t be beating ourselves up when things don’t go perfectly.  We should just aim to do the best we can given the circumstances.

So instead I want to think about what went right last week:

I got up early and exercised before the children were up on four mornings.

I got all my work done in time.

I made myself go back to bed for rest when I wasn’t feeling well (something I find hard to do as there is always something else that I should be doing).

I dragged myself out with the children for a lovely walk across the common when the sun was actually shining – that’s the picture above and I was so glad I’d made the effort.

I cooked five pretty healthy meals for us all and ate plenty of fruit and vegetables.

I did more press-ups than I’ve ever done before.

I’m feeling much better today.  Deadlines have passed and my headachey coldy thing has gone.  I’m tired but I’m quietly plodding away and feel like I’m slotting back into my routine of healthy clean food and drinking lots of water.

It’s also the final week in Phase 1 of The Fat Burn Revolution and I want to give it an extra push this week before I start Phase 2.

I don’t feel like I’ve achieved quite what I wanted to in this phase because I wasn’t able to push myself last week as much as I would have liked.

But I’m fine with that.

I’m taking the long term view.  As someone once said, maybe about life or happiness but for me today it’s about healthy living: it’s a journey, not a destination.  And I for one am enjoying the ride.


Round 2, Day 1 of The Fat Burn Revolution

The Fat Burn Revolution Book
The Fat Burn Revolution

It’s back to daily and intense exercise after the lull and recovery period that I have been enjoying.

The first round of The Fat Burn Revolution finished in early December and although I have been exercising over Christmas I have kept it easy and given my muscles chance to rest.  Perhaps a bit too much rest, but having said that although I don’t feel quite as toned as I did six weeks ago the difference is minute.

So here I am back at the beginning with the 12 week programme laid out before me.

What’s different this time?

Well there’s a sense of home coming.  A familiarity.  Like climbing a hill that you’ve climbed before.  You know it’s going to be hard work but the view from the top is worth it.

I know I can do this and I also know that it works.  I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for a very long time.  I know what I need to work on and I’ve set myself some goals.

At the end of this round I want to be measuring a body fat of 25% – which is another 5% down on where I am now.  I don’t care how much I weigh.  I think we are psychologically programmed to always feel good if the scales show a downward shift but if I drop my body fat I’m going to be leaner so what the scales have to say on the matter is irrelevant.

I also want to master press-ups.  I can manage them from my knees but not from my toes so three months on I want to be able to bang out six in a row.  I’m not feeling brave enough to commit to ten, but who knows I may even get there.

I was quite excited last night getting ready.  I’ve moved my workouts back to early morning.  My back protested at this first time round but I’m hoping the strength I’ve built up will help me out there.

I’m also getting up an extra half hour earlier to do a few chores and give my back a chance to warm up and loosen up.

Last night I laid out my clothes, took my weights out of the cupboard and put my notes and the TFBR book (opened to the right page) on the side.

If I’m not completely ready the night before I know that I haven’t fully committed to getting up the next day.  Once it’s all in place it’s very hard to stay under the duvet when the alarm goes off, no matter how tempting.

It’s like the pile of clothes and the weights and the book are a little reminder of how determined I was the night before.  So even if I’m wavering there’s a memory in my mind of how much I really do want to do this.

Why am I going on about all of this? Because it’s the key to success: planning.

Planning the workouts, planning the shopping and the food, planning for when it goes wrong – and it will.

I could be wrong, but I think it’s one of the most important things to do to get the results that you want – in most areas of life but particularly here.

So whether you’re doing the programme for the first time or you’re sitting there comfortably wondering whether to join in (do!) I’ll keep you posted on my progress over the next few months.

My New Year’s Honours List

Beckham might be feeling slighted for being skipped over in the New Year’s Honours list but in my own personal list it’s all about health and fitness.

So bypassing the normal rules for who gets a gong here’s my top five rundown of who deserves more than just a pat on the back for inspiring others to change their life for the better.

1. Kathleen Desmaisons.  Never heard of her? Well, she’s an American who sold her house to fund a Phd study of how certain foods, namely sugar, can be addictive and what effects this can cause certain people including depression and low self esteem to name just two.  Her book Potatoes not Prozac and her support groups have helped thousands of people all over the world turn their lives around from one of addiction to one of radiance.  It was reading her book in 2011 that finally got me off the sugar roller coaster which puts her at the top of my list.

2. James Duigan – an Australian. Founder of the Clean and Lean approach to eating ie eating everything in its most natural state and so avoiding processed foods.  He’s also a fitness trainer and founder of the Bodyism gym and so his books are a mixture of healthy recipes and simple exercises.  What I like about him is that it is all common sense and he embodies the lifestyle that he recommends.

Yorks Fitness-0173. Julia Buckley.  We’re back in the UK now and Julia is a Staffordshire lass like myself.  She’s also the author of the soon to be released Fat Burn Revolution programme.  A 12 week fitness plan with healthy eating guidelines which as many of you know I have just completed.  It’s an intense programme with daily workouts of between 20 and 60 minutes and it is brilliant.  I went from a size 12 to a 10 and feel stronger and more energised than I have in a long time.  More importantly I finally feel like I’ve got back to being the healthy person who enjoys exercise that I was before I had children.

4. Michael Mosley – he gets my vote for his documentaries into fasting and exercise which have gone on to be published as The Fast Diet and Fast Exercise.  I don’t follow the Fast Diet (also known as 5:2) but I know plenty of people who do who have had very good results with it.  I am fascinated by the science behind it and the health benefits that it seems to bring so I’m keeping my eye on it.  What interests me the most though is the more recent Fast Exercise book that he wrote with journalist Peta Bee.  It’s all about short bouts of high intensity exercise – a few minutes of hard work a week could make a big difference to a lot of people. I recommend this book to absolutely everyone.  If you want to make only one change to your life then this is the one.

5. Jamie Oliver. I know he’s not a typical health and fitness kind of person but he is all about food and cooking from scratch and if more people did that then there would be less health and weight problems in this country than there are now.  He’s done a lot to improve food in schools and his books, particularly an earlier book, Ministry of Food, have encouraged people who haven’t been confident to cook before to give it a try.  All he needs to do now is set up a national cookery programme to be added to the school curriculum so that the next generation are equipped to cook healthy food for themselves and I’ll be happy.  Go on Jamie, you can do it.

Whatever your health and fitness wishes are for the new year maybe one of the above will help or inspire you and I hope you have a healthy and happy 2014.

Squeezing in exercise over Xmas

Fran Benson and family
Getting ready to party

I’ve got presents to wrap, children to entertain, a house to clean, parties to go to and I haven’t even done my food shop for Christmas yet.

In spite of all that though I am determined to shoe-horn some exercise time into my schedule.

I know exercise and Christmas don’t normally sit comfortably in the same sentence but I want to arrive in 2014 in relatively the same condition as I finished the Fat Burn Revolution Programme two weeks ago.

I know that’s only the space of a month but experience has taught me that a lot can go wrong during the month of December.

I don’t think it’s unachievable but it does require some thought and planning.  Firstly I’ve lowered my expectations. I know that I can’t fit an hour of exercise into most of the days so I’m not even going to try.  But 15 – 30 minutes I probably can.

And for me the easiest time to do this with the children off from school is first thing in the morning before they’ve woken up enough to be demanding.

So I’ve selected my favourite routines and DVDs and I’m doing the shorter versions.  If the kids are quiet and happy then I can always extend it to one of the longer ones, but if not, I’m still happy that I’ve done something.

My favourite DVDs just now are 15 minute Fast Fitness with Jenny Pacey and Wayne Gordon (Body Transformation).  This uses lighter weights than I am used to but it really is a 15 minute routine, so it ticks the box for speed, and leaves me with aching muscles so I know I’ve done something.

Next up is Kathy Smith’s Timeless Step Workout.  It’s probably 20 years since I went to step classes regularly and this is step how I remember it.  It’s a good aerobic workout, doesn’t need much space and I don’t have to leave the house.  On top of that routines are broken down into 10-12 minute segments so I can keep it quick or lengthen it depending on circumstances.

The rest of what I’m doing is made up of some fat burning routines from the programme, yoga, and when the husband is around, a run just to get me out in the fresh air.

It takes a bit of planning and if I don’t get up in time I’ll rope the kids in too.  It is a bit distracting but there enthusiasm is contagious.

They love joining in with yoga although I’m not sure we’ll all fit on that step.


Woo hoo! I nailed The Fat Burn Revolution programme

So the moment that I have been waiting for has finally come. 12 weeks that stretched before me, seemingly endless, have come to an end.

12 weeks of lifting heavier and heavier weights, doing press-ups and racing madly in short burst high intensity sessions. Exercising five or six days a week; most of the time loving it but there have also been days when the hardest part of the workout was getting started, when not doing it seemed like a very justifiable option.

I’m pleased to say though that I never did take the easy option.  There were days when I juggled things around a little bit, or swapped one workout for another days – but one way or another I always did it.

Food wise I made some better choices and I’ve talked about those in a previous post and I will talk about them again at a later date.  But for now, where did this journey take me?

I started off with a body fat reading of 35.4% – which on my 10 and a half stone frame equated to 52lbs of fat (wince).  Blubber that has accumulated over the years and was mostly situated around my middle.  My goal was to get it below 30% and I ended at 29.8% (yippee) which on my lower weight of 9 stone 13 is 41lbs of fat.

So very roughly that means I lost 11lbs of fat and gained approximately 3lbs of muscle.

So what does this mean in the real world? Well I dropped a dress size.  I started off a 12 (although I think my waist would have qualified for a 14 if jeans actually went up that high) and at the end although I kept ordering 12s from Next not really believing that the 10s were going to fit – the 12s were just way too big.

What about my tummy – the reason I started this in the first place? I lost 13cms (about 5 inches) from my waist and although there is still some work to do there I’m beginning to see my abs lurking underneath.

I’m stronger, fitter and healthier that I’ve been in a long time and feeling pretty proud of myself.

So what next? In 2014 I want to see my body fat reduce to below 25%.  So it means I’m going to roll up my sleeves and do the whole programme from the beginning all over again.

I know that some of you are going to join me.  If you’re wondering whether you are going to be one of them I have just this one thing to say to you:


You won’t regret it.

Let me know how you get on.

PS. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon  The Fat Burn Revolution

PPS. I’ve waited till the end to make a decision about including some photos.  These really don’t do it justice as I can’t bring myself to publish the side on pics that really were horrendous before I started.  Maybe if I’m feeling brave I’ll do that after the next round.

Before and after pictures
Before and after Fat Burn Revolution





Music choices

Every week on the Fat Burn Revolution programme there has been an additional challenge.  Just a little something to give us an extra thing to think about.

Now, whilst I haven’t missed a workout, these challenges have sort of passed me by.  Not because I didn’t want to do them, but just because it was enough to fit the work outs in, tinker with my diet here and there and write it all down.

However back in the first week we were set the challenge of updating our playlist so that we had some good music to listen to while we exercised.

Now, I’ve always loved listening to music while working out.  It can motivate me; make me feel strong and push me to run further or try that little bit harder.

But if I tell you that I’ve run to Jingle Bells on a sunny June morning you’ll understand that the music on my ipod is disorganised to say the least.

So although it’s taken me several weeks I have finally created an exercise playlist.

Here’s my top ten list – in no particular order – of songs that fire me up for running, jumping, lifting weights and general aerobic activity.

1. Through The Barricades – Spandau Ballet. An old one, but a good one. This takes me back to my teens when life was very much ahead of me and full of possibility.  It makes me feel invincible.

2. Empire State of Mind – Alicia Keys. I love this song. Great piano intro and Alicia’s voice makes me want to be a better version of me so this one will always make me want to go that extra mile.

3. Stay Another Day – East 17. This song takes me back to December in the mid-nineties.  I was in Brussels for a meeting and had just arrived at my hotel.  As I walked into my hotel room I switched on MTV and this song was just beginning.  I looked out of the window at the decorations, the lights and the traffic and it’s one of those moments that is etched crystal clear in my mind.  I was excited and happy and as the music finished I grabbed my running gear and went running through the city.  Awesome moment.

4. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush.  For obvious reasons I love this track when I’m out running.  It also takes me back to a Thelma and Louise moment trekking across Morocco with some girlfriends.

5. Skyfall – Adele.  Adele’s voice and James Bond – it’s a heady combination.

6. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor. What can I say? If there’s an all time top ten of songs that appear on exercise play lists this would probably be on there.

7. Beautiful Monster – Ne-Yo.  I borrowed this one off my son’s playlist and can feel my energy levels ramping up when this comes on.

8. With or Without You – U2.  I have loved this song for many years.  It reaches down to my core and pulls me to another place.  To this I will run faster and do that extra sit up.

9. Maria – Blondie. A great feisty track.

10. Read All About It – Emile Sande. A powerful song and if it’s good enough for the Olympics then its definitely good enough for me.

There you have it. My top ten tracks of the moment.  Although now it’s December it’s time to get the Christmas music on.

A new sports bra

moving comfort-015For many years now I’ve been a loyal fan of Sportjock Sports Bras.  They’ve comfortably supported me through hundreds of running miles. And on top of that they come in a range of colours so I can coordinate them with my various running tops.  I know this is over-attention to detail as no-one can see my what I’m wearing under my running top, but it always makes me feel better.

However when I started Julia Buckley’s Fat Burn Programme her clothing partner Moving Comfort kindly sent me one of their bras to try out.

On first inspection I was very excited: it came in a vibrant pink with a blast of purple around the edges.  We were off to a good start.  But a sports bra is one occasion where comfort takes precedence over aesthetics.  Was it up to the job?

First of all it was very different to what I was used to.  Yes I know it’s just a bra but particularly with running, and any high impact sport, choosing the right bra is very important.

My old Sportsjocks are compression bras ie they squash your boobs against your chest.  They are crop-top style and lined with a soft cotton.

This moving comfort bra (Vero style) is like a conventional bra with a wide three hook fastening at the back.  It uses compression as well but it also has shaping and a little padding around the cups.

I’ve tried it out on several occasions now and I have to say that it’s very comfortable.

When I’m working out with weights ie low impact then either make of bra does the job well.  However the Moving Comfort bra definitely gives more support when I’m running.

Its straps can be criss-crossed over the back to stop them from slipping but I found they didn’t slip anyway so I’ve left them as they are.

It’s a man-made fabric and whilst I prefer the feel of cotton then this one probably wicks away sweat better.  I haven’t worn it on a long enough run to comment on this but sometimes the Sportsjock ones do get quite damp.

Pricewise it’s a similar price to my Sportsjocks (I’ve seen both on the internet for just under £25 although some colour options are reduced to under £20 on the Moving Comfort website when I looked just now) so I definitely think I’ll be adding another one to my collection.

The only negative I have for it (and it’s a small one) is that it’s smaller, more bra-like than a crop tmoving comfort-016op so those small bulgy bits of back flesh look a little more, well, bulgy in this.  But that’s a small niggle and as I don’t plan to go running around the county without a running top covering me up then the only person who knows about that is me.

And you of course.