Monday, April 11, 2011

Review - TurboFire Basic Program (FINALLY)

"If I only get one thing out of TurboFire, it'll be agility!" - me, when I started.

Since January I have been following a program called TurboFire. It is the latest program by Chalene Johnson offered by BeachBody. When it came out last year I was in the middle of ChaLEAN Extreme, huffing and puffing my way through the Burn Intervals workout – I was intimidated! People were saying that TurboFire was a hard program, that the HIIT training intervals were crazy difficult. I was seeing people tweet out calorie burn rates I could not believe. The result was that I held out as long as I could before deciding to try TurboFire. And let me tell you – everything you’ve heard about it is true.

What is TurboFire?
In short, it is “Turbo Jam on speed”. My coach said this to me and it’s accurate. The main cardio programs are much like Turbo Jam, being based around the same shadowboxing/kickboxing style that Chalene Johnson used in Turbo Jam. But it is WAY faster. For those of you who were worried about keeping up with Turbo Jam, you will have problems with TurboFire. It took me a week into this program before I finally felt like I was used to the pace enough to keep up.

TurboFire is broken up into 3 months, each month being a different “phase”. It’s similar to ChaLEAN Extreme in this way. The first month is getting you used to TurboFire, the second is really the work (making you strong). The last month you get harder core combo of HIIT workouts and strength workouts with cardio, and is more intense than the first or second months. TurboFire does a good job at taking you through this “Lean phasing” seamlessly – you won’t really know you’re doing it.

What TurboFire Comes With
You get the basic DVD set, a 30 lb resistance band, a light thigh toning band, a guide book about TurboFire, measuring tape, and a recipe book. Don’t discount the recipe book – there are some good dishes in there! The baked sweet potato fries have become my go-to snack in the evening. There's also a quick start "Inferno Plan" that you can do for a week with both diet and exercise to jumpstart your weight loss, but I did not try this.

HIIT Training
Chalene Johnson claims that you can burn up to 9 times more fat than regular cardio if you do this type of workout correctly. Turbo Jam, if you remember, had a workout called Fat Burner. You would do several “Turbos” (intervals of high intensity aerobics) back to back and this is very similar. High Intensity Interval Training, the HIIT workout uses crazy-intense intervals of about a minute, followed by a minute of rest. Chalene makes use of plyometrics and other intense cardio techniques to get your heart rate up as high as it can go for a short period of time. There are three HIIT programs that come with TurboFire and I’ll describe each later on. You’re not supposed to do these workouts on back to back days or more than 4 times in one week.

Fire Drill
This is TurboFire’s equivalent of the “Turbos” in Turbo Jam. But the Fire Drill is intense like a HIIT workout. In essence, it is a HIIT interval in the middle of your cardio training. Each Fire Drill is followed by a minute of rest before you get back to your workout.

 The Classes
  • Fire 30 – a 30 minute cardio program. This program was as motivating for me as the 20 Minute program in Turbo Jam. What motivated me in this program was the music. It is LOADED with funk! I love funk! It was like my ipod was playing while I was working out. Too much fun. 
  • Fire 45 – This workout is killer, but awesome. One of the fire drills has “Proud Mary” in it and you do the “Tina” move which is super fun. There’s a segment at the end to “Boom! I Got Your Boyfriend” which I was never able to master. I think Chalene means it as a victory dance but I found it to be endlessly frustrating. Music Note – You also get the song “Wiggle It” in this one which is fun… but I was really young when that song came out and for me I always think of it as a “dirty song”.
  • Fire 45 EZ – 45 minutes, ZERO Fire Drills. You think that sounds easy? It’s not. After doing the other cardio programs you will come to realize that you rely on your short one minute break after Fire Drills. I loath this workout. But it does burn a lot of calories and is quite effective cardio.
  • Fire 55 EZ – This is actually a very fun program. There are two Fire Drills, and two finales. Chalene says her favorite finale is in here, and it’s easy to understand why when you’re doing it. What makes this program different from the other ones is that there is a large emphasis on ab work toward the end of the program. But it is worked into the movements, so you might not notice it unless you really look out for it. Music note – if I remember correctly this has “Push It” for you Salt ‘n Peppa fans out there. Love!
  • HIIT 15 – The shortest of the HIIT training classes. The first time I completed this I thought I was dying. But later on, after I got used to HIIT training, I grew to think it was too short.
  • HIIT 20 – There are seven Fire Drills in total in this one. In the end, I think this is my favorite of the HIIT workouts. It’s long enough to feel worth it, but not so long that you’re cursing at Chalene by the end of it. 
  • HIIT 25 – I can’t do this workout with weighted hand gloves. Well, I can but I really hate myself afterward. This is HARD and it is LONG. I always felt like I accomplished something great after this Fire Drill loaded beast.
  • Core 20 – Hands down, the most fun and effective ab workout I’ve ever done. Now Chalene emphasizes that core is not just abs, but you really feel this one in your obliques. You use a resistance band with this one. It’s often placed in combination with Stretch 40. The two together are my favorite workout set of the bunch.
  • Stretch 40 – You all know I hate yoga. Right? Right????? Well this is a yoga based workout I grew to love. It is tough, and you will build arm strength and abdominal strength in this workout in particular. There is a ton of work in plank position. My only complaint about it is the music. In the middle it gets too intense music-wise, when I really wanted it to remain serene.
  • Stretch 10 – 10 minutes of basic stretching. This workout is paired with nearly every other workout. You’ll find it on all of the DVDs. Putting it on all the DVDs was smart because I found myself more likely to do the Stretch 10 when I didn’t have to switch DVDs. It was disappointing to see “Stretch 10” on every disk and not get variation in workout. But don’t skip it – believe me it helps! When I skipped this workout, I regretted it the next day.
  • Sculpt 30 – Resistance band training. It reminded me of Chalene Extreme because you would do a set number of reps slowly, then do a few more after (similar to the break down concept).
  • Tone 30 – It’s almost exactly like Sculpt 30 except that the emphasis is slightly different. You do more reps, and then a shorter breakdown set. I prefer this one slightly to Sculpt. It uses the resistance band as well as the thigh toner.
  • New To Class Option - You’ll see this option with many of the workouts. At first I thought it wasn’t really any different, because the video looks nearly the same as the counter part. But what it does is before each segment, Chalene will explain what the segment contains and how to do each movement. If you’ve done Turbo Jam, you might not need to use these “New to Class” options. But anyone starting out with Turbo for the first time might find them beneficial.
Calorie Burn Estimation
I measured my calorie burn on a Polar Heart Rate monitor. In general, take the number of minutes, multiply by 100 and then have a margin of +50 to +100 calories. Weighted hand gloves did not make much of a difference in this equation for me - and in the case of HIIT 25, I burned more calories when I did not use the hand gloves.

Video Format
There's a stage in the front of the room and everyone else is there "taking a class". That's the set up. Chalene talks about using the class format as a way to encourage you to work out harder than others. But for all of that, the camera rarely shows the wider class so it's hard to pick anyone out as someone to emulate. In the end I think the video format failed in this respect. The format in Turbo Jam, where you can see everyone, made it a lot easier. Your classmates are superfulous. You will be your own motivator.

The Music
This will get the same complaint that Turbo Jam received. For some it will sound like “oldies” and “Super Mario”. There is a “pump it up” option for the music . When I tried it I hated it. The music I thought sounded awesome in Fire 30 sounded horrible “pumped up”. Overall, I don’t mind it so much, but occasionally I do wish there was the option to turn the music off!

The Cast
You will notice the large majority are women, and a good many of them you’ve seen in other Chalene Johnson videos. For those of you who thought the men in Turbo Jam were creepy, there's one in here that's even creepier. What's more scary - there are a couple of women who are just... scary. My favorite people to watch on stage with Chalene are her sister Janelle, and her best friend Monica. Neither of them over do it, and both are a good compliment to Chalene. But I must say this – I miss Turbo Jam’s Mindy compared to Alli.

What's Really Good About TurboFire
The entire workout program is AWESOME, but there are a few things it did well that stand out:
  • Stretch 10 being on every disk - this made it really easy to do it, and not to forget to do it.
  • The hidden Ab work - You will get a lot of core with this and you won't even know it.
  • Enegry Level - this is good and most of the time it doesn't seem faked.
  • You will learn to love things you hated - I hated yoga, but I love Stretch 40. I hated Sumo Burpees, now I look forward to them in my Fire Drills because they are almost a break. I hated lunges, but Chalene places them at times when they feel like a "break".
  • Intro Plyometrics - The way these workouts are laid out you will find they go from less jumping to more jumping if you follow the schedule. I was able to work my way up to jumping. My legs look AWESOME now.
Pet Peeves
Some of these I’ve already mentioned, but here is what gets on my nerves in this workout:
  • The camera doesn’t show enough of the rest of the people - The Low Impact person isn’t focused on enough.
  • Chalene uses terminology that will screw you up!- “High Low” means a couple of different moves depending on the context. “Bob and Weave” from Turbo Jam is now different and more of a skip without much bobbing and weaving.
  • Low Impact In General – It's hard to do any of this "low impact". And the camera doesn't show enough of Alli to allow you to follow the low impact options.
  • I wanted more Stretch 10 variations - This is on every disk, and it's all the same workout. It gets dull, believe me.]
  • "EZ" doesn't mean a darn thing - Seriously, there's nothing similar between 55 EZ and 45 EZ, so why have this extra designation? 
Who Should Try TurboFire?
If you liked Turbo Jam or Chalene Extreme, by all means get this workout. If you’re going right from Turbo Jam, you will find it tough. If you’re coming off of Chalene Extreme then expect Burn Interval-like intensity every day.
Do NOT try TurboFire if you have knee issues, back issues, any issues really. I tried to get my husband to do this with me (he has knee issues) and he couldn’t get through the first workout. Also make sure you’re in decent shape. It’s a challenge! It should be a challenge! If it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be worth it.

Side note: I hear both Insanity and P90X are more intense, but I do not have any practical way to compare them with TurboFire. BeachBody does list TurboFire as an intense total body workout, in the same category that it does Insanity and P90X.

Final Thoughts
I didn't lose as much weight as I wanted to on TurboFire. However, I know my arms are more toned than they were, and my legs certainly are. I'm going to do a check in on my measurements soon. However, I enjoyed TurboFire. I have the feeling that going back to Turbo Jam would be hard after this just because I would want more of an impact cardio-wise. Although BeachBody offers a hybrid ChaLEAN Extreme/TurboFire schedule, I’m currently putting the two together with my own mix of workouts. Basically, that means I think it’s worth keeping this program as part of my overall fitness routines.

TurboFire can be purchased for $119.70 through BeachBody (my coaching link to TurboFire).

I have two videos I created for you. Have a look. One is Fire 30, the other is HIIT15.