Battling the Bulge: Adventures in workouts (part 1)

Exercise gear

This is my box of “exercise stuff” — hand weights, stretchy bands, gloves and other odd things I don’t use much.

By Leah St. James

Earlier this week I wrote about my reasons for wanting to maintain a healthy-for-me weight. I wrote about my re-commitment to a healthier lifestyle and that I’ll be sharing my experiences with you. To start things off, I want to share my latest exercise find..

Wait….come back! Trust me, I’m not one of those peppy “I love to run” people! In fact, the word “run” is a four-letter word in my head! I HATE running, and I don’t care how many endorphins you tell me will flood my bloodstream if I just pick up my feet and “Jog, for crying out loud…for five lousy seconds, jog!”

I love dancing, though. And I (surprisingly!) like strength training. I’m also cheap, short on time and easily bored.

Turns out my boredom factor might be my body’s way of telling me to mix it up. According to personal trainer Diane Chiaramonte, who practices near Athens, Ga.: By changing up your exercise routine, your body is forced to pay attention to detail and concentrate on the intended action you are asking it to perform. Consistent exercise is imperative for fat loss, muscle growth and endurance; however, there comes a point in which the body is no longer being challenged and therefore will no longer change for the intended purpose. Add interval training to cardio by intermittent jogging or running, increase repetitions and weights during resistance exercise and always mix up the order to keep your body guessing! Let your muscle and mind connect with each movement.”

For years I’ve been doing walking workouts that incorporate whole-body movements, including strength training, but lately I’ve been feeling under-challenged. (Unfortunately, a daily trip to Diane’s from my home in southeastern Virginia would require Donald Trump-like resources. :-)). So went exploring online for something I can do at home, is fun and gives me the most “punch” for time spent.

I first discovered Jessica Smith on YouTube where Smith has posted a whole bunch of free workouts. Yes, she’s young, she’s peppy and she’s beautiful, but I can’t hate her. She seems genuinely … genuine, down to earth, not smug. Plus she brings along her dog, Peanut, and her mom, Debbie. (One of my favorite exchanges: “Don’t worry, Mom, no jogging in this workout. I promise.” How can I not love her!)

Turns out Smith is no slouch in the credentials department either. She’s a certified trainer (read about her here) and leads viewers through the steps of the routines with clear and easy-to-understand instructions.

It was on her YouTube page where I found the ad for a new four-part workout: “Walk On: 21-day Weight Loss Plan.” It retails for $29 on Amazon, but I figured four workouts for about $30? That’s not bad. I decided to give it a try.

I’ve just completed the 21 days. I’m not sure I’ve lost any weight (my eating during this period has been a bit self-destructive), but I can honestly say I’ve worked hard (really hard), gained strength and energy. I’m going to stick with it and hope my to gain some control over my food-to-mouth urges.

(Disclaimer:  The following notes are my opinions only. I am not a doctor or fitness professional. Please do your own research, consult your health professional, etc., before trying yourself!)

Here’s a breakdown of my experience:

The workout consists of four 30-minute routines, each designed to target a different area or purpose. In each, Smith leads you through about five segments of two or three movements, each repeated two or three times. That sounds complex, but it’s not. You don’t have to think, just follow, as Smith moves quickly and smoothly from one segment to the next, offering encouragement and empathy as needed.

Plus she has her mom (Debbie) and a friend (Beth) with her—each demonstrating a different level. Debbie takes the lower or beginner level movements, Jessica takes the medium/intermediate level, and Beth is the high-energy guru throughout.

Jessica_Cardio_1Day 1: Cardio Core Walk

Smith starts off by explaining how to engage your core – shoulders down, abs in, from two separate areas – and I can really feel it. She then leads you through a series of standing ab/core work, while you’re walking/marching /moving in place at a moderately sweat-inducing pace. Favorite quote:  “Sweat is your fat cryyyying.” 😀



Day 2: Low Impact HIIT TrainingJessica_HIIT

HIIT = high-intensity interval training. The workout consists of five five-minute routines: three minutes of moderate activity (5 on a scale of 10), followed by two minutes of super intense activity. There’s a lot of big arm movements to pick up intensity without increasing impact, and Smith and her helpers demonstrate the three levels of impact. I don’t stick to one—I bounce (figuratively) from one to the other, depending on how I’m feeling. By the end, I’m usually drenched in sweat, tired but pleased with myself for keeping up with these younger folk. Favorite quote:  “Grace is a masculine energy.”

Jessica_1Day 3: Tred and Shred

This is the strength-training day, done with weights, if you’re up to it (recommended 2 to 8 pounds). I started with 2.5-pound weights and added 1-pound wrist weights after the first two weeks. I might try 5 pounds next. Some of the “choreography” was new to me, but I like it. And you get a great all-over workout for your muscles – legs, arms, sides…if a there’s a muscle, it’s worked. I think this is my favorite because I enjoy strength training. I like the way my muscles feel when I’m done. I like that I can measure progress tangibly (increasing weights). Favorite quote (while doing a bicep curl combo): “No Frankenstein curls!”

Day 4: Stride, Stretch and Relax

Jessica_3Just as the title implies, it’s a combination of moderate-paced walking (about 15 minutes), followed by stretching (about 10 minutes), then a focused relaxation section. (I nearly fell asleep at the end of the “relax” portion last week.)

On the 5th day, you take a break.

I’m really enjoying this workout.Smith does offer the option of adding 15-minute workouts to speed up results, but so far I haven’t done that. So I plan to stick with it for at least another 21 days…at which point I’ll have to find something else! (Hey, do you suppose “The Donald” would give me a lift to Georgia?) 🙂

Now if I could get my eating under control….that’s next month!

Here’s the promo video to see them in action:


LeahLeah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. Please visit her at


11 thoughts on “Battling the Bulge: Adventures in workouts (part 1)

  1. This sounds interesting. If I ever convince myself to get out of this chair I may have to try it! Kudos to you – please let us know when you find a way to get the eating under control.

    • Thanks, Patty, for stopping by! Believe me, if I think about it too much, I can easily talk myself out of it! (It’s like rolling out of bed when the alarm goes off. I’m conditioned.) 🙂

  2. For those folks in the Gloucester area, Valerie Morgan at Riverside Wellness has wonderful fitness classes scheduled for the Center at the Court House. Although we have a 30-minute drive to get there, I do the Shockwave or Tabata, Zumba, and a new strength-building class each week. Fitness is so important! Am glad you are writing about it, Leah!

    • Wow, Monti..Zumba? I tried a class in Newport News and I got so frustrated because I couldn’t see the instructor. But what a workout. I’m not familiar with Shockwave, but I use a Tabata timer for a 15-minute HIIT session that’s more like calisthenics. It’s fun…and fast. I’ll check into Shockwave.

  3. Here’s what I admire about you – your ability to use those videos! I found out many years ago if I had a class (not just a gym membership) where an actual person might expect me to show up, and that I pay some sort of money for, I will mostly go to it. Any other circumstances will not require me to attend.
    I hope you take a minute to appreciate your determination, independence, and follow through because it is truly worth recognition.

    • I’ve joined gyms and classes a couple times, Elvy, thinking the money factor would keep me motivated, but for me (working outside the home full time…plus raising kids at the time), it didn’t work. I want to be able to get all sweaty and gross in the privacy of my home and not have to worry about showering at a club and dragging all my work clothes (hair dryer, makeup) with me. I give you a lot of credit for taking the extra time to drive somewhere! We’re lucky we have so many options!

      • You are amazing! I need the motivation of a class with structure. It would be more convenient to workout at home, especially since there’s so much time involved to and from. I know what you mean about trouble following in Zumba, especially if you can’t see the teacher. I went to several Zumba classes and couldn’t follow the instructor, then I discovered Indie Winters at Riverside in Gloucester. She is such a talented and dedicated teacher! That makes all the difference.

  4. Thanks for keeping us in the loop, Leah. I know you’re helping lots of people. My favorite quote: Sweat is your fat crying!!! LOL I will remember and use that always. And I am one of those people who run! 😉

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