Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Leg levers: suggested exercise variations to drive improvements

As people go through the early phases Freeletics training, the same remarks (and complaints) are often heard:
  • Why are burpees so hard?
  • These High jumps completely leave me out of breath.
  • I can't do a single pull-up!
  • Where does the Freeletics inventor lives? Me, my friends and our baseball bats are going to pay him a visit. (There's no need to play innocent. I know you've been thinking something along these lines at some point!)

And the list goes on.

Unless you were already in top physical form upon starting your training, the vast majority of the time these comments will echo your own experience with the program. When someone mentions his/her most disliked workouts the same names tend to show-up (yes, Kentauros, I'm thinking about you). I can relate to pretty much every difficulties that people typically say that they have encountered. With one exception: leg levers.
I mean, I don't claim that I won't feel any sore muscles after 250 reps. But I don't mind them at all. I actually prefer leg levers to regulars abs.

Early in my training, I noticed in forums that a lot of people hated them. At first I didn't pay attention to it. Leg levers are part of the standard boxing training drill, so I just thought that having done them for years I simply had a head start versus people discovering this exercise just now. As time went by (and when the Feed was added to the app), I noticed that even some long time freeathletes grumbled about leg levers. Including some of the guys that I consider in much better shape than me. 
That really started me thinking about why I didn't feel the same way.

One possibility is that my body might be better suited for this exercise. May be. But I doubt that a natural ability (which remains to be proven!) would make much difference versus a well-trained person.
Another explanation could be that I have been doing more leg levers than the typical freeatheletes, and so, became better at it. I don't think that this argument holds either. First some people out there train much more than I do (longer & more frequent sessions). Second, push-ups are also part of the standard boxing training and I don't have stellar results in this exercise. So volume doesn't explain it.
The only explanation must be that I have been doing things slightly differently, and that it helped prepare my body to do the freeletics straight leg levers more efficiently.

In the past I have tried a few times to explain to other athletes, how we perform leg levers during our boxing training. It took a lot of words to describe, but thankfully after searching a while I found a video on Youtube that's fairly similar.

Look at the video from 02:00 to 02:45, to see how it works. 
The first thing, is that we work in tandem with a partner. Notice how the person working out stops his legs before the heels hit the ground (actually, I find that he stops his legs a bit too early, ideally heels should be only a few centimeters above the ground). The partner has an active role: he pushes the legs downward, hence adding velocity to the movement and making it harder to prevent the heels from touching the ground (compared to training alone).

Then you can jump directly to 03:43. 
See how he is doing side leg levers. That is also something that we systematically do.

If you don't have a training buddy, you may want to find something to hold-on to (a bench, a heavy chair, etc.) Given the unstable position when the legs are sideways, it's much better to have a solid hand-grip to perform this leg levers variation (it also helps keeping your back straight).

Note that when we do our leg levers routine, we don't do 30 seconds rounds like in the video. Our routine is 20 straight leg levers, 10 on one side, 10 on the other side and 20 straight leg levers again. All done at fairly high pace (less than 2 seconds per rep).

On top of doing Leg Levers differently, we also do a lot of Rowing Crunch (see the video below). You don't need a bench, just do it directly on the ground.
Keep in mind that the instructor is doing it slowly to explain the movement. When you practice it, it should be done at a much faster pace (same thing: less than 2 seconds per rep). And ideally your hands should not touch the ground (it takes a few attempts to find the right body position to keep your balance  but the abs get a better workout this way).

For Rowing Crunches, you can also alternate regular ones (as on the video) with side movement (knees on one side, while heels come touching your butt on the opposite side). You can use the same routine as for leg levers: 20 straights, 10 one side, 10 the other side and finish with 20 straights.
For variety and to spice things-up you can also:
  • change side each rep (1 right, 1 left, 1 right, etc.) - this is tougher than it sounds!
  • in between each round (e.g. after the 20 straights) keep your legs straight in front of you (hands not touching the ground) and hold the position for 30 seconds. Then you do the next round. This is a good core exercise.

I am not suggesting that you replace straight leg levers in the regular workouts by some of these variations. Instead I see these exercises as side training that could be useful for those of you having issues with leg levers.
Focus on these for a few weeks and let me know in the comment section if they helped you improve your performance with straight leg levers.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hell Days & Hell Weeks Schedule

During the cumulated 30 weeks of program that I trained using My Coach, I was assigned twice Hell Days & twice Hell Days:

Based on these 4 iterations, I couldn't see any standard periodicity. I started to wonder if the coach randomly assigned Hell Days/Weeks, or if there was a hidden logic behind this schedule. So I contacted the Freeletics support and asked them the question directly.

It turns out that there is a fixed schedule, so everyone will get to enjoy their weeks of pain & misery at the same points throughout the program. However there is no fixed periodicity. The first Hell day week is always week 7 and the Hell week is always on week 9, and afterward happen every 5-9 weeks.
The support representative actually listed in her email all the week numbers when these special weeks are assigned. I found that reading a list of numbers made it hard to visualize the frequency, so I have summarized this information in a chart:

While her comment about special weeks coming-up every 5-9 weeks is generally correct, if you look closely there are a few times when the distance between 2 special weeks is 10 or 12 weeks. It also appears that there are not always Hell Days in-between 2 Hell Weeks.

Please keep in mind that I'm sharing the information exactly as it was given to me. It's possible that the support representative forgot to list a couple Hell Days. But may be not.
I'll only know for sure by subscribing to the coach for another 100 weeks in a row. It's going to take two years.

So if you have a subscription running and wonder when the next special week is coming I'd say you can trust the chart above to give you the exact weeks. Just keep an eye open when you see a long stretch of normal training weeks. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if there were Hell Days hidden somewhere in-between week #41 & 52 or #92 & 105.

If you're like me and like to plan things in advance, this schedule isn't perfect but hopefully that will give you a bit more clarity as to what's ahead of you. Enjoy your training!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review of the new Coach - after completing the program (2014-2015 version of the Coach)

As promised, here is a post summarizing my impressions on these past 15 weeks. 

Since I have already been through the program once, there was not much surprise about the Freeletics method itself, or the workouts. Instead I realized that pretty much all my take-aways from this second program were related to the new version of the app that was released in late 2014. As a result my post turns out to be a nice counterpart to my previous Overview of the updated program.
The original post was written right after the Freeletics app "re-launched" and mostly focused on explaining the new features and the main differences versus the old version. The discussion below will mostly about how useful these features turned out in real life.

I already wrote that starting a program all over again turned out to be a really good experience. So don't be surprised if I'll be mostly saying positive things. But that doesn't mean that I found everything equally good. So before this post turns into a love fest, let's get out of my chest the things that could still be improved.

The things that I liked the least:
  • Too many short & partial workouts in the first 2 weeks. I know the Coach algorithm is supposed to adapt difficulty based on actual performance in workouts. And with the upgrade, most of the old workout PBs were not recognized by new app (e.g. "original" Venus PB didn't convert into a "Standard" Venus PB). Which is probably why in the first weeks difficulty was the same whether you were an "experienced" Freeathletes or not. Don't get me wrong, a gentle start is good for beginners as it means less chance to be scared off and quit. But for people looking for more challenge I would have preferred a steeper start. I will sound pompous and arrogant, but being asked to complete 1 round of Endurance Metis after 44 weeks of Freeletics: seriously what's the point? Difficulty improved later on, but I didn't like the underwhelming start of this journey.
  • The 15K run assignment without a real preparation. This run was a milestone for me. An eye opener that really changed my perspective on me & running. Since then I have started running much more frequently. I completed another 15K during my free training, and will most likely do a half-marathon or two before year-end. But, I am still convinced that assigning 15K to someone who had never recorded anything greater than 2K in the app is inappropriate. It could even lead to injuries. The coach should have started by assigning at least a couple 5K and a 10K, before moving-on to greater distances (unless the athletes already recorded long distance during its free training, but that wasn't my case anyway). I hope this will get fixed.
  • The in-app Running feature. I realize this is only a beta version. But since running has became such an integral part of the program, it's not too much to ask to have a decent running feature. The big GPS inaccuracies (mentioned in my overview) seemed to have been fixed after a few weeks. But the overall user experience (available stats, split times, elevation, music, etc.) remains largely inferior to dedicated running apps available for free. To this day for any running beyond 2K I still use Mapmyrun, and only manually log the final results in my Freeletics app.

The little things that were nice improvements:
  • Statistics on the week's total training time. The weekly totals don't include points/time from extra workouts on top of the program, but at least it's nice to get a quick summary of active training time assigned by the Coach.
  • The freedom to manually choose which training day/assignment is being completed. This one is kinda hard to explain to newcomers, but in the old days the coach always automatically matched the workout you just performed with the first workout of that kind in your training plan. That led to weird records when one swapped training days or added a few extra workouts. Anyway, no need to spend hours on this one, this issue has been fixed and it's a good thing.
  • Possibility to change training focus at the end of every week. Technically this had already been possible before, but one had to play with some obscure setup parameters. Now it's much easier for people who want to change training focus to do so. But let's face it, how often is this feature used? Switching focus every week, for example from Strength to Cardio, is useless (you might as well leave focus on Cardio-Strength). This is a nice to have, not a game changer.
  • Restrictions. I like the idea a lot, but I have never had to use it (fingers crossed that I never will). I remember that once one of my contacts said his training plan didn't really offer relief for the muscle group he restricted. With no first hand experience I can't confirm whether this feature is sucks, or is the best thing since sliced bread. Anyway it's a step in the right direction so I put it in the improvements list.
  • Running autocomplete. This feature is particularly useful for short distance runs. When sprinting over 100m, one needs to stay focused and not to worry about watching the phone to know when to stop. I hope this feature will someday be extended to workouts with 400m runs (Hera, etc.)

What I really, really, really, liked:
  • In-app training plan. (remember I started in the Stone age, when the program was only on the website!). This is really handy to always have the schedule at your fingertip. But be aware that it requires an internet connection, which can be a problem if you're abroad or in the middle of nowhere with no network coverage.
  • Flexible number of training days. This is a huge improvement. It's good for people with irregular schedules, who can then increase/decrease their training load based on real life commitments. But even for me who stuck to my 4 training days routine it was great not to have to worry anymore about getting a 5th session (during the first program it was always a pain to make it fit into my schedule).  Just keep in mind that Hell Days & Hell Weeks, will always be respectively 3 and 7 days long, regardless of the number of training days that you chose.
  • The introduction of Running, Endurance/Standard/Strength and Volume. At first this could look like a gimmick but it really added depth to the training. Playing with all these variables can transform a classic workout into something new (try triple strength Metis and you'll see what I mean!) With this additional variety, there is less chances that I'll become bored with the training method. Last but not least, with the extended choice in stand-alone exercises, from time to time you can choose to ignore the gods/goddesses and assemble you own customized session based on your needs.
  • The Coach became more progressive. Yes, just above I have been complaining that the program started too slowly. That was annoying but I have to recognize that in most cases gradual difficulty ramp-up worked pretty well. This was largely possible thanks to the new volume feature. For example starting with only 6 rounds of Gaia Strength before moving to 8 rounds and finally the entire 10 rounds is a good way to learn how to tame a challenging workout. It also allows the Coach give challenging workouts even for Freeletics veterans. Hades is probably the workout that I performed the most frequently, yet the day I completed a Double Hades really felt like an achievement. The ability to provide difficulty feedback also helps to make the whole thing more progressive (just be aware that saying training is "Far too easy" has consequences).
  • 500/1000 reps. When I first saw that one could choose to do 1'000 reps of whatever exercise, I thought this was aimed at a handful of sport-mutants and never considered it as an option for mere mortals. After finishing my second program, and based on a number of people in my network who attempted 500/1000 reps, my views have changed. Even top athletes don't do 1'000 reps as a standard workout, but more as a punctual challenge. Like for a marathon, the clock matters a bit but the foremost goal is to pass the finish line. For those of you looking to sets ambitious goals or prove their worth to themselves, large reps make a good challenge. 

Final thoughts

For this second iteration, the Coach ramped-up the intensity (as illustrated by the number of Kronos iterations I was assigned or by the Hell Week). I pushed my limits even further and I liked it. A lot. One of my take-aways was that during the months when I trained alone I had probably been a bit too soft with myself. So when I return to free training I will pay attention to not to make this same mistake. Partly due to scheduling constraints I had been doing only 3 sessions per week (+1 boxing evening). This time, I have decided to keep the 4 days routine used during the program, one of which will be a running session over lunch (hence freeing and evening and ensuring I still work on my stamina). But I will have to be careful not to only assign myself short/easy workouts.

If there was added difficulty for repeat athletes, in the contrary beginners may have it easier.
A number of readers of this blog have started training in the past few months and joined my in-app network. Looking at their schedule in the first weeks, I have noticed that many of them began their journey with partial workouts.
In my view, lowering the difficulty at the very beginning (before gradually increasing it) is a deliberate effort to make Freeletics more accessible to a wider audience. A number of real-life friends around me had tried the method before and just gave-up, scared-off by Aphrodite. The guys at Freeletics must also have noticed this and tried to come-up with a solution to retain these people.
There the ones who find that the method is not what they need, or who don't have the discipline/will to stick to the program. But actually it's not a bad thing, if it helps more unfit people gain self-confidence and gradually start enjoying sport.
The only downside I could see is if someone abuses the feedback mechanisms to keep intensity low (3 days per week only, feedback always "too hard"), then this person will likely be disappointed when their is no noticeable physical improvements after a few months.

Aside from the new features, the new program is clearly a paradigm change. Freeletics is recasting itself from a 15 weeks transformational method to a "digital personal trainer".
This new orientation first appeared when they launched "My Coach", but honestly when I went through my first program the make-over wasn't complete. The program was still 15 weeks long, one had to choose 1 training focus (strength, etc.), the program's content was very similar to the old PDF. 
Now Freeletics is trying to lock users in a long term relationship. The 15 weeks concept is becoming outdated, as illustrated by the new pricing schemes which offer sign-up for as long as 1 year. Which is also why Hell Days & Hell Weeks are not assigned in weeks 7 and 15 anymore. When everyone signed-up for 15 weeks it made sense to do them in the middle and at the end of the program. Now that the program length varies, they are assigned based on a different frequency.
This change is perfectly understandable on a number of levels. First of all, physical transformation goes 2 ways. One can lose weight and gain muscles by training hard, but will need to stay active to remain fit. Hence a coach going beyond 15 weeks makes sense. But there is also clearly a financial incentive: these people are running a business. It's better for them to have long-term subscribers rather than one-time customers. This doesn't shock me, but I can't help but wonder to which extend free training will remain possible in the future. The Pro App (i.e. 5 EUR one-time purchase to unlock all trainings but with no Coach) is no longer offered for sale. Existing Pro App customers (like myself), can still enjoy access to the entire workouts catalog even with no active subscription. But apparently, for newcomers as soon as the subscription ends the access to workouts catalog becomes restricted. I find this a bit harsh. I'm sure there are many people out there who, like me, prefer to only subscribe once in a while and the remaining time want to freely set-up their schedule. Hopefully, some kind of option similar to the Pro App will again become possible in the future.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Second Program: Week #15 (Last week)

Week 61: Second Program - week 15 out of 15

Week settings:
  • Area of focus: Cardio-Strength
  • Number of training days: 4
  • Limitations: none
  • Last week feedback: "Hard, but ok"

  • Monday: 100 OH Pushups (12:34* -First time) +Metis standard x3 (17:59* -PB)
  • Tuesday: Hades standard (17:55*) +[Bonus: 50 Leg Levers (01:31* -PB)] +[Bonus: 50 situps (01:25* -PB)]
  • Wednesday: Metis standard x3 (19:13*) +[Bonus: 100 situps (03:16* -First time)] +[Bonus: 25 pullups (02:03* -Strict)] +[Bonus: 25 pushups (00:36*)]
  • Thursday: boxing training
  • Friday: [Bonus: 100 jumping jacks (01:10*) +[Bonus: 50 climbers (00:31* -First time) +[Bonus: 25 pushups (00:36*)] +Kentauros strength 5/6 (25:05 -First time; no star see comments below)


  • 4'110 points
  • 92 minutes

Ever since Hell Week caught me by surprise in week 13, I have been wondering if I would receive a second Hell Week for my last week of Coach subscription. In the end, I was assigned a perfectly regular trainign schedule (note: since then I finally got an explanation on the way Hell Weeks are assigned, which I'll share in a separate post).

Regular readers know that while I couldn't care less about how many points I have scored since starting Freeletics, I did find a rough correlation between the number of points assigned to workouts and the number of calories burnt. Hence I tend to view total points per week as a proxy to roughly quantify the amount of efforts that a given week required.
When reviewing my weekly statistics, I immediately noticed a decent number of points (>4'000) combined with a fairly short active training time (~22.5 minutes per session). It confirmed my gut feeling that the week had been fairly intense (packed with short workouts but that often left me breathless).

Day 1 - Starting the week with One-hand pushups. This is a novelty. While I had unlocked this workout in the advanced skills sections from the beginning, the coach had never assigned to me stand alone OH pushups (and I believe only once as part of a Zeus early in the program). So it had been a while since I last performed this exercise. It's a good one. I should try to do it more often to improve my performance on regular pushups.
The real challenge of the day was the triple Metis (standard version thankfully!). It wiped me out, but not before I improved my PB by 01:36. Burpees were tough (probably due to prior OH PU), but that was offset by a good pace on jumps & climbers (thanks Iris!)

Day 2 - Good old Hades. I'm still ~01:45 above my elusive 8 months old PB, but I felt good and recorded my best performance of these past 2-3 months (~2 minutes below my usual time).
Training time under 20 minutes felt like cheating. So I threw in a couple of extra abs exercises, as this muscle group had not really been challenged today.

Day 3 - I could copy/paste my comments from day 1 & 2:
Triple standard Metis turned me into a puddle of sweat. I was so brain dead toward the end, that I completed 13 burpees in the last round instead of 10...
Anyway, I still felt bad about training less than 20 minutes so I added a few extra workouts (abs and shoulders, as Metis is pretty light on upper body).

Day 4 - I started with extra exercises to warm-up. It's something that I rarely do, as I don't want to get carried away and end-up burning myself before actually starting the bigger workouts. I don't know if that's because of this warm-up or it was just a bad day but the 5/6 Kentauros strength was difficult to go through. My brain was so eager to put an end to my misery that I ended-up miscounting and stopped the workout after 4 rounds instead of 5. I only realized my mistake several minutes after saving the results. To make-up for the lost round, I performed the last round as a stand-alone, in roughly 7 minutes.
I did complete it the entire workout in its most difficult form, but I didn't to want record a distorted performance (taking a break and stopping the timer, even involuntarily, is major deviation from the normal workout).  Hence I count this iteration as a no star (no-star workouts are always ranked as inferior to star workouts, no matter of total completion time, so it won't affect my PB stats).

That was my last workout of this second 15 weeks journey, and I finished the program with mixed feelings.
On one hand I was a bit disappointed by the last week. I much prefer when the program ends with a Hell Week (it's like in video games: you need an epic fight against the end of level boss to feel like you've accomplished something). Finishing on a regular week felt was anticlimactic. On top of this, I managed to make this stupid blunder when recording my very last workout, finishing on a negative note. I wasn't in a very good mood.

However, a couple days later, stepping back and considering the full 15 weeks, I found that going through the program again was a very positive experience. My fear was that starting all over again would give a "been there, done that" vibe to the entire affair. But that didn't happen. There were enough novelties to keep me interested and challenged. More importantly I kept learning, and some of the toughest workouts I went through helped me reevaluate how I should train on my own once the subscription ends.

My first intention was to conclude by talking a bit further about what I liked/disliked in the new program. But as I started putting down my thoughts, I realized that this was a topic in itself and  and deserved a proper review. So I'll keep this post short and stop here for today.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Second Program: Week #14

Week 60: Second Program - week 14 out of 15

Week settings:
  • Area of focus: Cardio-Strength
  • Number of training days: 3
  • Limitations: none
  • Last week feedback: "Hard, but ok"

  • Monday: rest day
  • Tuesday: Hades standard x2 (43:26* -First Time)
  • Wednesday: Venus (15:54* -PB)
  • Thursday: boxing training
  • Friday: 400m sprint (01:29) +400m sprint (01:26) +5K run (25:31 -PB) +Iris standard (30:34* -PB)


  • 2'759 points
  • 118 minutes

As explained in the last post, after 7 straight days of training, I took a full day of rest and asked the Coach to generate 3 training days only.

But the coach doesn't like when we try to take the easy road.
So despite a day less, it packed about as much sweat as usual (often ~3'000 points per week).

On day 1, I tried my first double Hades. The last burpees were difficult, but I was pleased with my pullups. My first thoughts after competition were to thank Kronos. All these iterations over the last few weeks paid-off.

The first half took me 20 minutes, the second approximately 23.5 minutes. As often with multiple workouts, it's hard to keep the same pace all along. In this case, I found that the drop in pace was reasonable (at least roughly what I expected)
My rule of thumb for estimating the length of a new double workout is to take the average completion time of the single version and add 25% on the second repetition. For example, on an average day I would complete Hades in 19 to 20 minutes.

So following my rule, I expected to complete Hades x2 somewhere in-between:

  • 19:00 + (19:00 +25% extra time) = 19 + (22:45) = 42:45
  • 20:00 + (20:00 +25% extra time) = 20 + (25:00) = 45:00

I'd add that this rule works best with regular workouts. For the most difficult ones (Kentauros, Kronos, etc.), I use a penalty closer to 50% on the latter repetitions.
For short ones (or workouts that includes rest periods), I assume no to 10% penalty only.

On day 2, I only had 1 Venus. After so many busy days, it felt great to have a training day with only a short session! There was no side effect from day 1 efforts. I had a good feeling on pushups and improved my PB by over a minute.

For the last day, the coach made me run in all kind of ways. It started with two 400m sprints. I was tempted to run just below my fastest pace to save some energy for the following workouts. But in the end I performed on-par with previous attempts (second run was a tie with my PB).
Then I was assigned 5K. Like for the sprints, I ran without thinking about what was coming next and even managed to improve my PB by 1 tiny second.
Then came Iris, with it's 2 x 1 km mixed with exercises. I was a bit more apprehensive about this one. Last attempt during Hell Week had left me breathless, and I now had to do it after having already run 5.8 km.
But it wasn't such a bad experience. Last week I think that I tried to do too many climbers in a row, too fast. Which forced me to take breathing breaks. This time, partly due to tired legs, I performed the climbers more slowly but with no/little breaks. To my surprise (and pleasure), this approach produced a PB. Again, only by 1 second, but a PB is a PB...
And it's the best way to finish a training week!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Second Program: Week #13 (Hell Week)

Week 59: Second Program - week 13 out of 15

Week settings:
  • Area of focus: Cardio-Strength
  • Number of training days: 4
  • Limitations: none
  • Last week feedback: "Hard, but ok"

  • Monday: Kronos standard (45:00*) +2/3 Metis strength (06:54* -First time)
  • Tuesday: 25 pushups (00:35*) +50 squats (00:57* -First time) +25 Jackknives (01:00* -First time) +Gaia strength (47:01*)
  • Wednesday: Artemis standard (25:50*) +Hades standard (22:11*)
  • Thursday: 25 burpess (01:20* -First time) +25 pullups (01:22* -PB) +50 pushups (01:51* -PB) +25 High Jumps (00:25* -First time) +Hera strength (23:16*) +boxing training
  • Friday: Kronos standard (42:26*) +Ares standard (07:43* -First time new version)
  • Saturday: 50 pushups (01:47* -PB) +50 pushups (02:07*) +50 squats (00:59*) +50 squats (00:55* -PB) +Iris standard (30:35* -First time new version)
  • Sunday: Aphrodite standard (21:28*) +Hades standard (21:55*)


  • 7'125 points
  • 307 minutes


Week 13 started in shock & awe when this popped-up on the screen of my phone:

Hell Week...
Didn't see this one coming...

Technically I didn't expect either Hell Days the previous time (week 7), but that was bad maths on my part. This time I had really no reason think I would get a Hell Week, as it is traditionally assigned for the last week of the program (as "good bye party"). Not sure if it's a bug or if the new Coach can assign Hell Weeks whenever it wants.

Day 1
Kronos is already pretty tough on its own, but by combining it with Metis strength the Coach was telling me that I should expect no mercy this week!
A session of over 50mn that sets tone for the rest of week...
On the positive side, my Kronos time improved by 28 seconds versus last attempt 2 weeks ago.

Day 2
When I get assigned  a Kronos, Gaia often follows in tow. It happened again.
No need to comment the short exercises, these were just the appetizers before the real thing: Gaia strength.
Up to now I only got either the standard version or a fraction of the strength version. This was my first encounter with the full 10 rounds of Gaia strength. I had a bit of apprehension on how the last 2 rounds would go...
I took me 47:01* to complete the full thing. Compared to the 28-30 minutes range it takes me for the standard version, this shows that Froggers & High Jumps are not just cosmetic changes: the difficulty ramp-up is real.
It was another tough session, but I felt good and was pleased with my performance. My last Gaia strength that was a partial one, with "only" 8 rounds out of the normal 10, completed in  ~41 minutes.
Today my split time after round 8 was at ~38 minutes. A 3 minutes improvement is pretty good. During training, I felt that I had a good pace on froggers. Also I forced myself to complete all the high jumps by sets of 10 in a row, to have a regular effort all along and avoid burning my stamina in the earlier rounds. This tactic paid-off.

Day 3
Artemis+Hades made-up another big session (over 45mn in active training time). Probably due to Monday's Kronos I found the pullups harder than usual, strangely pushups felt much smoother than usual and I completed them rapidly.
By the time I started to work on Hades burpees became harder as well. Especially in the second half, when my pace dropped.

Day 4: the scariest day this week.
The only time I could complete the pullups was in the morning. So I woke-up earlier than usual (I need a good 20-30mn of awake time before starting working out) and did the 4 short exercises indoor.
For Hera strength, I waited lunch time to go outdoor and run. Completing 200 high jumps after after the 300 I already did on Day 2 finished to kill my lower legs. As usual after so many repetitions, I could already feel my tendinitis creeping back. Good thing these were the last jumps of the week.
To make my day complete, in the evening I had an hour & half of boxing training. No need to say that I wasn't in peak condition. Stiff legs & sore arms/shoulders. I had feared that having several workouts spread throughout the day would drain all my energy, but at least cardio & stamina were correct.
I need some sleep!

Day 5
Long day at work, it was only 9pm before I could start training. Hungry & tired with sore muscles, I wasn't thrilled at all at the perspective of going through roughly an hour of gruesome strength training. 
But a Freeathlete got to do what a Freeathetles gotta do, so I started my workout. No effort planning, no tactic, I just took it one rep at a time.

It turned out to be a great session!

After the initial 100 pushups, my body responded very well. The big chunk of abs+squats+leg levers felt very natural and much smoother than usual. Pullups were slightly better than last few attempts. Overall this Kronos took me 42:26*, still far for my old ~38mn PB but much better than Monday's iteration (02:36 gain).
I still have to take breaks during pullups to let my arms/shoulders/back recover. The 100 reps take me ~10 minutes. Breaking my PB will require improving the number of consecutive pullups I can bear to do 100 under 6 minutes (for the records, my performance for 25 stand-alone pullups range between 01:00 and 01:30 so the under 6 minutes target is achievable... Some day...)

And just to make my day better, I finished my session by beating my Ares PB (unbroken for 11 months!) by 1 second. Scoring a new PB on a workout made-up mostly of pullups and situps after Kronos, was completely unexpected. I didn't even try. Yet it happened.

I probably mentioned this already in the past, but I love days like these. Motivation is super low and out of nowhere you pullout a great performance. It's just an amazing feeling. And if you score a PB in these conditions, this PB "tastes" even better than on a regular day.

Day 6
At this stage in my Hell Week, my confidence level was fairly high. The training plan was almost complete and all the "biggies" were behind me (i.e. the Kronos/Gaia/Artemis days).

To complete my assignment I opted for a session before breakfast. I completed the 4 short exercises indoor, before going to a park for Iris.
This workout was tougher than I expected. It started getting pretty cold outside and training at dawn on humid ground is never fun. But I think the main difficulty was that I had not fully recovered from the previous night's session. I felt sluggish, and the climbers killed me (I had to take many breaks to recover my breath).
The app indicated a PB but only because it was the first time that I completed Iris since the new program was launched, my overall performance was ~02:30 above my old PB.

Day 7
Another tough day. As I said, I thought the hardest part of the week was behind me. Technically, it's correct, the most challenging workouts were at the beginning. But in the last 2 days I started to feel the effect of aggregated tiredness from a week worth of training.

I started with good old Aphrodite. For my reunion with this tough lady, I really tried to give my best. I finished ~2:30 above PB.
Last but not least, Hades. Sames thing than for Aphrodite, I was in damage control mode: PB was never in sight but I was giving my max to avoid letting the timer run too far. These last burpees of the week were a nightmare! Results was ~4mn above best performance in the month and ~6mn above 10 months old PB.

Final thoughts on this Hell Week
This was my third Hell Week since starting this Freeletics journey (last 2 iterations were at the end of the free trial and the end of the first program). I have now started to get a good grasp on how to schedule this daily training load around my normal days. But all along the week, I couldn't help but think that the intensity and the overall training load was heavier than what I had done in the past. Now that I'm sitting to write this post, I'm comparing my training records to see if this feeling was justified.

It was.

Looking at the overall load, my first 2 Hell Week took roughly 200 minutes of active training time to complete. This last week represented over 300 minutes of training. That's a big increase.

But if we drill further than just overall length, there are other lessons to be found.
My first Hell Week was 200 minutes long because I was out of shape. These were the days of ~28 minutes Aphrodite and ~33 minutes Dione. So basically, just doing 1 single workout per day mathematically meant circa 200 minutes of training per week.

The second Hell Week started to become more intensive. My Aphrodite & Dione times had improved to respectively ~22 minutes & ~26 minutes. If the week also lasted 200 minutes despite my performance on these basic workouts having improved by nearly 20%, it's simply because the coach had given me more workouts (3 days out of 7, I had to complete a regular workout, with a second workout on top).

This third Hell Week, was made of multiple workouts every day. And not a comibination of short workouts, instead it was packed with long ones such as Kronos, Artemis and Gaia (strength!), with a short/medium workout on top.
Bigger workouts provide less opportunities to rest. 1 Kronos or 10 Poseidon may both take you 40mn of active training time to complete. But in the latter case, you can take a few minutes rest between each Poseidon or even spread them over the day. With the big ones you tend to keep breaks at their minimum to avoid training your completion time.
To put it differently, this time Hell Week didn't simply feel like I had to train every day. It felt like going through Hell Days for 7 days in a row.

If you are new to Freeletics and read this, before you run away screaming, please keep in mind that difficulty is progressive. I doubt that the Coach would have assigned me such a long training schedule if it took me an hour and a half to complete 1 Kronos.

I'm not complaining about the difficulty. This was a great challenge. A tiring week, but good for motivation and self-confidence. It showed me that I could withstand much more than what I thought (on my own I would never have tried combining Kronos with anything else!).
The only downside that I see from such a long week, is well that it takes time, a lot of time... Fitting 5 hours of training in your schedule might be really tough (especially for people travelling or with little flexibility). I was lucky that this popped-up in a normal week, and not one filled with personal/professional commitments.

At the end of the week, there was still 1 question on my mind: why did I get a Hell Week in Week #13? Does it mean that I will get another one in Week #15? 

In order to provide enough time to recover after my extended week and in case the last week of the program is another journey through Hell, I decided that week #14 will only be made of 3 training days.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Second Program: Week #12

Week 58: Second Program - week 12 out of 15

Week settings:
  • Area of focus: Cardio-Strength
  • Number of training days: 4
  • Limitations: none
  • Last week feedback: "Hard, but ok"

  • Monday: Metis standard x3 (19:35* -PB)
  • Tuesday: Artemis standard (24:56*)
  • Wednesday: Apollon standard (22:09*)
  • Thursday: boxing training
  • Friday: 100M sprint (00:19 -First Time) +200M sprint (00:41 -First Time) +200M sprint (00:37 -PB) +5K (27:03) +Venus standard (21:14*)


  • 3'771 points
  • 116 minutes
The stats of week #12 summarize well its content: lots of points but much less training time (compared previous month workouts). Most workouts were fairly short (i.e. no Kronos this week, so less time wasted staring at the pullup bar while my arms recover!), but packed a lot of intensity.

Day 1 set the tone with Metis standard x3. It was the third time that I completed this workout, so no real surprise there. I was glad to improve my PB by nearly 1:30 minute. It left me laying on the ground looking for my lost lungs, but it's a normal side-effect. And I can't complain when the coach is merciful enough to grant short sessions...

Day 2, I completed Artemis instead of Apollon (I was featherbrained enough to forget my gym bag, so my running session had to be postponed by a day).
I have to confess that I totally underestimated this workout. I mean, I know Artemis is tough on the arms, but I had been doing so many Kronos lately that doing 50 pullups instead of a 100 seemed (on paper) easier. Boy, was I wrong. Artemis' burpees and doing the pullups before the pushups are 2 factors to be reckoned with. As a result tmy arms were toasted and the 100 pushups were much slower than during a Kronos. No PB for me, that will teach me humility...

Day 3: burpees felt good but again no PB today (0:45 above my record). Running will need to be improved.

On Day 4 there was a novelty for me: sprints. I had done the 2x40m runs within workouts, but never tried stand alone short runs.
Last time I did a 100 m was in high school, I don't remember what my time was back then. It was probably really bad anyway. Nowadays, it took me nearly 20s (it helped me put in perspective Usain Bolt's insane 9:58 world record).
I used the auto-complete function, which I found extremely useful for such short distance (sprinting and watching your phone don't mix well).
 The 100m was followed by 2 sprints of 200m. It's a new kind of effort, with its own learning curve. On a shorter distance there is no/little holding back, but it still requires finding the proper breathing pace to maintain a constant pace. My second attempt was 4s better, mostly because I focused on breathing (a lot).
These discontinuous efforts were followed by a 5k. Unsurprisingly during the first kilometers it felt like my legs needed to adjust to the new pace. But I felt good. The only really annoying point was technical issues with the app (on iphone). I like running with music but couldn't do it in-app, so I launched the music in separate app but it conflicted with the sound from the Freeletics app. So I had no audio feedback (shuting down the music app didn't solve the problem). Furthermore my screen kept shutting down (screen saving mode), the only way to see my progress was to regularly fiddle with the phone to enter my code and look at the distance covered. Lesson of the day: for any run of more than 2K, I'll keep using a different app (for the moment Mapmyrun suits me the best) and log manually the results in the Freeletics app.
This long session ended with Venus. It's mostly a strength workout, so I didn't think my performance would suffer much from short runs. Wrong. My stamina had been more depleted from running than I had estimated. I was quickly out of juice on pushups, with an overall time 4 minutes above PB (this is a huge difference versus a ~17mn baseline).

To summarize nothing crazy this week, mostly short workouts and with a focus on legs.

Once again running was used as a complement to the usual gods/goddesses. The Coach is making full use of this new feature, I'm now expecting a run to be assigned almost every week.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Second Program: Week #11

Week 57: Second Program - week 11 out of 15

Week settings:
  • Area of focus: Cardio-Strength
  • Number of training days: 4
  • Limitations: none
  • Last week feedback: "Hard, but ok"

  • Monday: 1.5K Run (07:25 -First Time) +5K Run (26:19) +Hades standard (18:18*)
  • Tuesday: Kentauros standard (29:02*)
  • Wednesday: Gaia standard (28:10* -PB)
  • Thursday: boxing training
  • Friday: Kronos standard (45:28*)


  • 3'022 points
  • 154 minutes

No external constraints this week. I'm back to my regular routine (training Mo-Fri, with a full rest over the week-end).

The week started with some running. Since the 15K early in the program, I'm always worried that I'll be assigned some long distance. But in the past weeks, instead the coach had a tendency to assign combinations of multiple runs of various length. That's what happened this week as well. I completed the 1.5K and 5K back to back. The overall distance (6.5K) is reasonable, but it feels a bit strange to stop running only to restart again minutes later. Upon restart it takes a short while for the leg muscles shake the numbness away.
But clearly, I find it less difficult to do 2 medium distance in a row, than completing several sprints (400m and lower) before a longer run. Running similar distances allow to complete both at the same pace, which is more comfortable.
As usual, the runs where completed outside during my lunch break, and I waited the evening to do Hades at home with my pull-up bar..Still below PB, but nearly 2 minutes below my last few attempts. It feels good to see the timer going down again!

Kentauros was a pain but at least the weather was ok. Which makes a real difference in the winter. It's hard to express with words how miserable one feels when completing this workout soaking wet in the freezing wind. Anyway, I have noticed that lately I appreciated this workout less than in the past. Not that I "loved" Kentauros before, but I never disliked it as much as most people do. I guess our relationship with the workouts is a cyclical thing.

Third day was dedicated to Gaia. I started well, but my pace dropped in the second half (esp. on jumps)In the last round I thought that my chances at a PB were fading away, so I literally sprinted. This session left me completely out of breath. Ironically after recovering, I realized that had messed-up my maths. My pace was better than I thought, I could have scored a PB even with a normal finish. As a result, I improved my record by a full minute. The new PB is a real one, I gave everything that I had left to get it. It might take a while to beat it.

So far the week has been mostly focused on legs, with many jumps. My lower legs tendinitis being never far away, and it's no surprise that I could feel it crawling back again. Thankfully, getting Kronos on the last day gave my legs a much welcomed rest (squats are tough on tights, but at least there no impact from hitting the ground). 
Slowly but surely, I'm continuing to improve my performance: 45.28* versus 46:26* last week.

It's been a long week with several challenging workouts, but I have recorded a nice PB and noticed improvements in pull-up focused workouts. Definitely a positive week in my book.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Body Stats: after 56 weeks

As the most visible physical evolution took place during my first 20 weeks, I'm now posting my measurements and pictures less frequently. However since it's really been a while since last body stats post (week #33), let's have a look at where I stood in week #56:

Height: 178 cm (5.84ft) 

Weight: 75.6 kg (166.7 lbs) - week 33 measure:  75.0 kg (165.3 lbs)

Waist size: 83.5 cm (32.9 in) - week 33 measure: 83 cm (
32.7 in)


Both my weight and waist size have slightly increased. But such small increments are within natural fluctuations from one day to the next. My conclusion is the same as last time: my body has now stabilized in the 75kg-76kg range.

This time I didn't have to adjust contrast to bypass a lighting problem, so the tone of the photos is more natural. It gives them a warmer and healthier aspect. But if you put aside this aesthetic considerations and focus on the body, the pictures are not radically different versus last time. Unsurprisingly so, given the little variations measured in weight and waist size. May be I have kept adding a bit more muscle (thighs and back). But honestly there too, I'd say I have been pretty stable.

One thing worth mentioning is that in-between week 33 & 56 I lost about a month worth of proper training to vacations & injuries (boxing training, not stress injuries). I didn't notice any significant weight gains during this period but it took me a while for my workout performances to get back to pre-Summer level (especially for pure strength exercises such as pull-ups). That could have slowed a bit progress. But in all fairness, the most probable explanation is simply that I have now balanced my caloric intake and physical activity level. For significant short/medium-term changes I would need to alter either my diet or training routine (frequency or the strength vs cardio mix).