I've been pretty quiet on the blogging front lately, nor have I been very active on commenting on my daily beauty reads. This is not the usual me and I am not happy about that. But there is one thing which I am really really chuffed about: to have embarked on a body toning challenge routine and to have stuck with it implacably, which is for me, something of a miracle.
Which toning challenge is that? Well... :)
In the last week of November, I was approached by Slendertone to see if I would be happy to embark on a 'Christmas Countdown Toning Challenge' and share my experiences on the 'Slendertone System Abs' belt with my readers. My abdominal / tummy area is not too bad compared to the lower half of my body (bum, thighs and legs) but it has never been as toned as I wanted it to be. Why? Because addressing this area with exercise is hard work and painful.
Ask anybody on what they think would be a good form of exercise to tone and improve the muscles of your tummy and they will all reply in unison: 'crunches and sit ups'. I can't do crunches and sit ups. I try to do it for 2 days, and then I spend the whole week with stomach cramps, when laughing even becomes painful. Sit ups also give me pain in the neck area. In fact, while I try to do my sit up, I feel more pain in the neck than in the tummy area, which surely isn't right. So when I was given the opportunity to try this Slendertone System Abs, it was a no brainer, I had to say yes and I just couldn't wait to start my challenge.
So what does this belt designed to do?
The Slendertone System Abs is a belt designed to tone your abdominal muscles. It delivers a complete abdominal workout for the rectus, oblique and transversus abdominis muscles, giving you firm and flat stomach. Replicating abdominal exercises, wearing the belt for 20 minutes is equivalent to 120 sits ups targeting the abs muscles (rectus, oblique and transversus abdominis muscles)
Yes, you heard: 20 minutes is equivalent to 120 sits ups. I know!!
I was very impatient to try the belt but I was also very anxious. As I said earlier, I don't do pain. To give you an idea of my pain threshold, I'd have some anaesthetic cream before a blood test, would usually have my whole mouth numbed before dentist could approach me and categorically refuse to have my eyebrows threaded. I have my tache waxed every now and then but this usually comes with me swearing at the beautician and calling her a wicked witch. I knew I wanted to have a firmer tummy but I was really scared to have an electrically charged belt around my tummy. Did I need to expect a pain similar to electrolysis, or perhaps some mini electrical shocks?
I received my belt bang on 24 November, which fitted perfectly with the Christmas Countdown Toning Challenge and decided to start my slendertone adventures on the same day. The belt arrived in a nice posh box and ready to use in 2 simple steps: charge the belt for 3 hours, stick the 3 pads on and you're ready to go. What does it feel like? I felt so silly as I realised instantly that I had really nothing to worry about. Depending on what level the belt is on, wearing the belt feels like a tingle or a strong massage of your tummy and whole abs area.
The way the belt is programmed is brilliant and takes the guess work out of how long you should do the exercise. Their prime objective (the way I personally understand it) is to provide you with a safe and gradual/progressive work out. The belt has 7 programmes and the first time you switch it on, it activates the programme 1. The belt remembers how many times you followed programme 1 and then it declares you ready to move on programme 2. I don't remember the figures but it's something like once you've done the programme 1 five times, then the next time you switch on the belt they move you on the higher programme.
No need to choose how long to wear the belt as the programme you’re on has a predefined time. To top it all off, and to mimic the effect of a real work out session, each programme even comes with a warm up and cool up phase. All you do is to choose the level of 'contraction intensity' of your workout and you are encouraged to increase the level of contraction intensity as and when you feel ready.
There is a special section in the manual which gives you suggested intensity levels if you're doing a 4 week challenge. They recommend for example to start it at level 20 the first time you switch it on (I started it at level 30 on my first work out, you'll understand why below) with a view to progressively get to level 80 in your last week. A lot of emphasis is put on safety throughout the manual. While they encourage you to increase the level of intensity as you go through your 4 week challenge, they also discourage you to put up with a work out which causes too much discomfort/pain.
During a 7 day week you are also supposed to exercise 5 days and give you 2 days of rest, to give you and your muscles a chance to rest. I find it very sweet. When I wear my belt, I am usually sat on my fat arse, watching telly and they still ask me to make sure to allow 2 days of rest :) aww.
Which brings to my next point: How difficult is it to follow the programme day after day? To be honest with you, doing the slendertone challenge is as easy as watching 'I am a celebrity Get me Out here on telly' for 20/30 minutes (minus the eating challenges which make it very uneasy watching) I have been naughty on a few occasions, whereby sometimes I have not allowed my body to rest after 6 or 7 days in a row but other than that, I have followed my work out programme/challenge religiously for which I am extremely proud about. I can't recall the last time when I have followed an exercise routine so assiduously! Probably never.
I started the programme on 24 November, wear the belt pretty much every night, (funny enough i like to wear during watching masterchef or best dish) and I am now on programme 4 and level 70. Level 70 is not for the faint hearted, it feels there was a massive gap between level 50 and level 70 but I am really really happy. At the moment it feels like I am never going to be able to move on to 'contractions' further than level 70, but I have still have some time before Christmas Eve to get there. What pushed me to move higher and higher in my work out and keep stuck to it was this little diagramme I saw on the website. You see below why I wanted to be at intensity 30 from the very beginning. I don't want a tingle, I want muscle contraction baby :)
How efficient is it? Does it work?
Yes, yes, yes. I really feel my tummy is much much more firm, toned and I am loving it. I am also a bit shell shocked about 2 things: how I managed to stick to the programme to the letter and how the belt abs managed to tone while so little input was made from me, as the most active things I've been doing have been walking to work and watching tv. If I had to pin point one uncomfortable thing about the belt is this 2 second moment when you attach the belt on, as your tummy gets into contact to the cold fleshy-like pads. It’s a bit like the mindset you would have before taking a cold shower, the 1,2,3 count you take before going in, but at a much smaller scale as it is only 2 seconds. I really don’t like that 2 seconds bit though!
I am really hoping that the before and after pictures I am hoping to post when my challenge is over will show the improvement. The system belt is not cheap (£119) if you don't already own a controller. But very little active input is required from you, it's easy to stick it to so I really think it's a worthwhile investment. I don't know how you're all doing with your party season / christmas diet but if you've fallen off the wagon or planning some form of diet/exercise regime comes the new year, but if you have the funds, this seems to be like the perfect way to reward yourself, and have a little help while you're putting your 110% efforts cutting down in portions while your appetite is raging and you could eat a horse and everything else in sight.
See you soon for another update x
disclosure: the system abs belt was offered to me for review purposes and I still can’t believe how lucky to have been chosen for the experience/challenge