{Experiment 3 – Nov 2012 {Experiment:Life – JessVanDen.com} from Jessica Van Den on Vimeo.}

So, I’m currently in training for my first every triathlon! Okay, okay, so it’s just a starter tri – 300m swim, 10k ride and 2.5k run. I can easily do any of those distances individually (well, the swimming’s still coming along, I can breaststroke for hours, but freestyle and me are not friends).

Still,  it’s going to be a challenge. I’m going just fine with my actual swimming, running and cycling… but the fact that I don’t have a regular strength training routine has been bugging me lately. I KNOW it will make a big difference – I’ve read all the research.

Fact of the matter is, I run, swim and cycle because I’m lazy. Yep, you heard right! I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, plan out a routine… I just put on my togs/shoes/helmet and go.

Strength training, however, takes planning. I have to actually work out routines (urgh). Not only that, but it’s hard! To make it worthwhile you really have to push yourself, whereas with my cardio I do have the habit of taking it a bit too easy.

So, I decided I needed to make a commitment to doing a concerted routine for just one month. That way, if I loathe it, I can stop – however, of course, I’m hoping I’ll end up instilling a habit.

The only rule for this month’s Experiment is that I have to do 30 minutes of strength training every second day throughout November. I’m also limiting this to bodyweight exercises, so I have NO excuse not to do it, no matter where I might be. This is also why I’m not joining a gym or doing personal training – I’m stubborn, and I like to think I can do this on my own… we shall see how right (or wrong) I am about that!

I’ll be keeping everything else pretty much the same. Sticking to my 95% paleo diet, which as worked amazingly for me. I will be upping the cardio though, which could conflate things a bit (aiming for 6x per week – 2 each of swimming, running and cycling).

I’m aiming to do a mix of self-planned routines and youtube workouts – I’ve found a few great channels over the last year (listed below) – including one yoga channel. {I love Sadie’s approach to yoga, and she’s got some awesome high-intensity workouts. Anyone who thinks yoga is easy needs to do a few of her workouts, whew!}

If you’ve gone through a similar journey, and have some advice to share, please leave a comment! I’d also love to hear if you can recommend some other youtube channels, or perhaps even a good Android app if you know of one?

Of course – I’d also love it if you’d like to join me in this Experiment – just link back to this post on your own blog so I can check out your journey throughout the month! Use the hashtag #ExperimentLife on twitter and youtube to share thoughts and pics. Oh, and use #Experiment3 to refer to this particular Experiment 🙂

{What’s this all about? Experiments Explained}

{Me at The Stampede about a month and a half ago. Still have plenty of work to do!}


To stick to a bodyweight strength training routine for 30 days – a workout every 2nd day – and analyse how it alters my body composition.


I believe that adding the strength training on top of my regular cardio will result in more fat loss and muscle definition by the end of the month. {Hoping a secondary benefit is that it also increases my stamina during cardio sessions.} Let’s go crazy and hypothesise that I’ll drop a whole pant size! {Oh, to fit into my fave pair of jeans from my uni days again…}



  1. Commit to doing 30 minutes of bodyweight strength training every second day throughout November.
  2. Bring together a core group of exercises to fall back on in combination if I cannot use a youtube video or other instructional aid.

These exercises are:

Full Body

1. Burpees
2. Mountain Climbers
3. Bear Crawl
4. Tuck Jump
5. Spinal Balance
6. Sun Salutation

Legs & Butt

1. Box jumps
2. Squats (including pistol, maybe!)
3. Walking lunge
4. Single leg deadlift
5. Side leg lifts (laying and standing)
6. Hip extensions
7. Bridge

Chest & Back

1. Pushups
2. Superman – lie face down with arms and legs extended, then raise your arms and legs to form a slight curve. Hold for as long as you can!

Arms & Shoulders

1. Tricep Dips
2. Chin Ups {only if there’s something to hang off}
3. Diamond Pushups (make a diamond with your thumb and forefingers, so your hands are close together – works triceps)


1. Crunch
2. Side Plank
3. Russian Twist
4. Plank

{Big thanks to my tweep Andrew of Entreprenerds.com.au for advice on this!}

Lab Notes

Day 1

Okay, let’s kick off with some measurements, shall we?

Starting Weight: 71.4kg, taken first thing in the morning, as were the measurements below.

Starting Measurements (in cm):

 Arm (L) – 30 Bust –  87  Waist – 74  Hip – 94  Butt – 102 Thigh (L) –  66

Did my first 30 minutes today – FAR OUT! Totally knackered by the end of it. I did this workout by Kyla Gagnon of Body Ripped, and it was a killer! I feel like I could melt on to the floor in a puddle of sweaty exhaustion. I also feel a bit ill, so that’s a good indication of how hard I pushed myself. Proud of how much I managed to do – the plank is a total nemisis for me.

This was a circuit-style workout – there were three different sets – two reps of each. A good mix of upper and lower body work, too. I’ll definitely do it again… maybe at the end of the 30 days so I can see how far I’ve come?

Starting off on the right foot though!

Day 2

Can anyone say OWWWW? Man, was I sore today! And it got worse as the day progressed. Arms, shoulders, back, obliques, thighs – definitely letting me know they’d been worked out good. I went for a 1/2 walk in the morning, and even that hurt ;D

Was planning to go for a run in the evening, but noticed during my walk that a niggling pain in my left calf that I’ve had since my barefoot beach run last week is still there, so decided to leave it for today – don’t want to aggravate it if it is an injury. Was also hungrier than usual today, obviously my body was looking for repair fuel.

Day 3

Today started off with a swim. I got up and went straight to the pool – even before my first cup of coffee! Managed 16 laps – 5 of which were freestyle (hurrah). It’s a refreshing way to start the day, and a great way to stretch out and move my whole body, which was definitely still sore. It felt better after the swim for the rest of the day. My calf seems okay today too, which is great.

I decided to do a yoga session tonight, so I completed this video by Sadie Nardini. It was challenging – I certainly built up quite a sweat and couldn’t hold/do all of the poses. However, I stuck with it as well as I could. I finished with a few minutes of Savasana {corpse pose} – which I both needed, and is ironic tonight.

See, my Gramps – who’s almost 94 – was admitted to hospital yesterday, and has slipped into a coma, caused by temperature and mild seizures. My mum and aunt are up there with him, and he’s not expected to pull through. It’s bittersweet, because he’s been in a home and suffering from dementia since last year – and since Granny passed away last year, he’s never really been the same. We all feel it’s his time to go, but it’s still hard to let go of someone who’s been such a part of your life for, well, forever.

So, laying in Savasana, breathing deeply and connecting with my body – with being ALIVE – was a profound moment tonight.

That feeling of really being present in your body – awake to the feelings within it and your connection to the world around you – is something that I love about exercise. I’m so often living in my head that it really brings about a different way of being. We’ve only one life – so many days, so many hours, so many minutes. I want to nurture and cultivate my body – I want to be a strong and vibrant old woman some day! And, of course, a strong and vibrant young woman, too.

Day 4

Woke up feeling a bit sore – definitely noticed it in my upper back and triceps particularly as the day went on. Went for a 4k run – felt a twinge in my left calf a few times so took it relatively easy. Though, when I got home I got the uncontrollable urge to do handstands and cartwheels in the back paddock. It has been so many years since I last did either I was kinda nervous as to whether I’d actually be able to! Happy to report I was 🙂 Weighed myself this morning and I was bang on 71kg – and that’s with a little over-indulgence in the form of chocolate and wine on the weekend!

Day 5

Did this workout by Zuzana Light today. I think I have to lay still for a while now.

Okay, okay, I didn’t lay down for long… I wandered around outside for a few minutes to cool down in the breeze, collapsed on the grass for a bit, then did another 10 or so minutes of yoga and stretching, as the video workout was only 20 minutes long. That’s definitely going to be a fave when I want to push myself!

I’m existing in that weird masochistic place that I hate the workouts while I’m doing them, but kinda also enjoy the pain in a strange way. I guess it’s because I know I’m actually working hard and pushing myself, and that it will result in a change… at least, I hope it will!

Day 6

Today was a ‘rest’ day – which just meant I pushed myself harder at my cardio 🙂 I went for a 12k ride, which should have been a 10k ride. I was trying to beat my best 10k time, but 3.9k in, Runkeeper stopped measuring my distance, and only kept measuring the time. That’s the second time this has happened when I’ve been riding – what, am I going too fast for you to keep up, Runkeeper? Why do you drop the GPS??

So, I just guesstimated, and worked out my distance using Google Maps when I got home! Was a good hard ride, my legs were pretty bushed.

Day 7

Woke up insanely early (4:30am) to the phonecall from my mum to let me know that Gramps passed away peacefully at around 3:30am. Understandably couldn’t get back to sleep, so I read for a while then got up to do some work. Was going to go for a swim this morning but frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. I also got Nick to bring me home some comfort food when he went out to his doc appt – a piece of mud cake and a few croissants, brie and ham. I shall indulge myself today, and get back to healthy eating tomorrow. I know the grain-based food is going to make me feel a bit ill (it already has, actually) but hey – sometimes it’s okay to feed your soul instead of feeding your body.

Went for a 1/2 hour walk this evening, followed by this upper body workout and the first 3 sets of this ab workout. Wimped out of finishing it. It’s my first time trying Fitness Blender workouts, and I liked them. They’re quite calm – sedate even – but they make a nice change from the more frantic style of video. I know I’m going to feel the upper body workout tomorrow, even though I probably should have used heavier weights (which I don’t have – I only have 2kg dumbbells).

Going to try to get to bed early tonight and catch up on last night’s missed sleep. Maybe.

Day 8

Felt sore and pretty wiped today, so I decided to take a full rest day.

Day 9

Today should have been a workout day, but since I’m doing the Warrior Dash tomorrow, I decided to swap today and tomorrow around, because that will certainly be a combo of strength and cardio, if it’s anything like the Stampede that I did a month back. I’ll get back to normal schedule as of Sunday.

Day 10

Warrior Dash! Yep, that was a challenge, for sure. Lots of very, very steep hills, climbing under things, climbing over things, and getting wet and muddy. Phew. ‘Twas fun, will definitely do it again next year – though, honestly, I enjoyed the obstacles at the Stampede more! Nick came with me this time, which was simultaneously awesome and depressing. The man never exercises, yet he didn’t get anywhere near as puffed as me going up the steep hills. I can only hope this is because he’s barely got a spare kg of fat on him, whereas I have a good 10kg I could spare ;D Dammit!

Oh yeah, we also got these fluffy horned hats, a super-comfy tee, and a medal. And a free beer. I actually drank my can of XXXX… because I was feeling tough and invincible. As you would have to in order to actually drink a can of XXXX.

Day 11

Yeah, so that workout didn’t happen. I was super-sore in strange places, and Nick told me to take it easy so I didn’t ‘break’ myself. I listened to him. Slacker.

Day 12

Did one of Zuzana’s ZWOW’s – just 12 minutes but it was a killer! Followed that with another 20 minutes doing my own thing – a little dumbbell work, a little yoga, a little dance, a little bit of core work. Followed it up with a 1/2 hour walk. Feel awesome!

{will update 13-16 shortly…}

Day 17

Holy Hellballs. I did HALF of this workout from Fitnessblender and I was SHATTERED. It’s called the Spartan 500 – 10 rounds of 5 exercises (10 reps of each). I had to literally lie down a few times during it because I felt like my heart was going to explode from my chest. I have obviously got a way to go before I can handle the full 500! It shall be a goal to reach.

Once I had come down a little from that, I did another 20-30 minutes of yoga, various other exercises (crunches, leg lifts etc) plus some dancing. Felt awesome at the end!

I think I *may* become addicted to this form of exercise. I can already see and feel the changes in my body after just 2 and a bit weeks.

Day 18

No proper exercise today, because we were off to the Harvest Music Festival!! Booyah! So, lots of walking and shuffling through crowds. I saw Ben Fold’s Five (yes, they sang Brick, sigh), Cake, The Dandy Warhols, and Beck. Awesome day… apart from the 20-minute hailstorm in the middle. C’est la vie!

Day 19

Today I did the Pilates Butt and Thigh Workout from Fitness Blender, and half of the 10 Minute Ab Workout before I was called to dinner. Lame, I know, so I’m going to do another workout day tomorrow to make up for it.

Day 20

Did this baby by Fitness Blender today – the 100 Rep Workout. More of a cardio workout, but it was nice and challenging at times – I couldn’t manage 25 reps of a few of the exercises in the second round. Only did the 1/2 hour version. Really liking Fitness Blender’s stuff – amazing variety and quality of videos! Thanks team!

Day 21

20 minute run (3k) this arvo in my NEW SHOES! And new sports bra/top… and I also got new goggles and a swim cap, and some 5k dumbbells! Sports equipment shopping spree… check it out…

Those Nikes are THE most comfy running shoes I’ve ever had. They’re super-light and thin, so there’s no weight drag when I’m running like with my older trainers. And the goggles!! I got the tri design – SO much more comfortable than those hideous tiny old-school type of goggles. Can’t wait to try them out tomorrow morning.

Oh, I also did some arm work with my new 5k dbs tonight – just to see how much I could handle. 10 reps of bicep curls, above-head lifts, ‘pull-ups’ – but side-fly was too hard. Also did 15 deadlifts with them. So excited to have some heavier weights to use!

Day 22

Kicked today off with a swim. Dragged myself out of bed around 7:15, bleary-eyed after staying up too late finishing a book (nothing unusual) and went straight to the pool. My saving grace is getting all my pool stuff sorted the night before so I don’t have to think about it in the morning. Broke in my new goggles and cap – LOVE!

Did a work-out this evening, too. I did this horrible kick off – a ladder workout of burpees (ick) and windmill sumo squats. Then did the 10 minute ab workout I started the other day and didn’t finish – really great workout! I finished off with some work with my 5k dumbbells, and a little yoga and stretching.

I am DEFINITELY seeing and feeling a difference in my body. I can see the muscles in my thighs taking on more definition, my butt is lifting and becoming rounder. My stomach and sides are slooooowly reducing, as is the chub on my triceps. I’ve seen more drastic change over the last 22 days than over the last 6 months.

I can also feel the difference. Everyday activities are getting easier. Squatting down to pick something out is pretty effortless, and lifting things is getting easier. Amazing.

Day 23 – 25

Okay, so did a few good things in these few days. Swum a bit, climbed a mountain (Mt Coolum) faffed around in the surf. And it was all going so well until…

Day 26 onwards…

Okay, so it all went to hell as of today because I threw my damn back out! Sneezing, would you believe. *shakes head* I think I might have wrenched it a bit during the aforementioned surf frolicking yesterday, and the sneeze was just the final straw.

So, that stopped me from finishing my whole 30 days, and I was in so much agony for the following week I didn’t take my measurements, either. Damn. Will have to re-do this experiment right to the end next year some time – probably in Feb or March.











Top Bodyweight Exercises on BodyRipped

Eckhart Yoga

Sadie Nardini

Fitness Blender 

Over to You…

Have you successfully added bodyweight training into your fitness routine? What difference did it make? What worked/didn’t work for you?