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How I Became a Control Freak, and Why You Would Want To

9 Week Control Freak has an intimidating name, to be sure—and not one you'd necessarily think would be conducive to a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image. But hear me out—as a fitness and nutrition coach who is very much about body love and acceptance, I found this program to be a great tool.

It's a nine-week workout program from trainer Autumn Calabrese, but a daily workout is just the first step. When you really commit to the program, you are committing to a lifestyle—including evening stretches, a meal plan, and committing to self-care and all it entails. That means identifying the places where you're not taking good care of yourself—whether it's lack of sleep, working too much, or not speaking up for what you want and need in your relationships—and then doing something about it.

I know, I know... that sounds intense. That's why you have a coach and a community to guide you through it. We provide encouragement and we help you keep the lightness—reminding you not to take it all so seriously and to take pride in the great work you are doing!

As your coach, I'll remind you to start with the foundation. In the beginning, that might just be your daily workout and that's it. Then as you master one habit, you layer other habits on top—perhaps adding the evening stretches, then the meal plan, then really taking a hard look at what's keeping you from sleeping enough and how you can make some changes there. It's not so overwhelming when we take it one step at a time!

For me personally, I did the program when recovering from abdominal surgery. I had just been cleared to return to working out and gradually build up my strength again. Because of this, I started with no weights at all, then moved up to three pounds and the very lightest resistance band. Nine weeks later, I had gone up two resistance band levels and was lifting up to 12 pounds in some exercises. I plan to come back and repeat the program for another round later on, once I've recovered more and can really push myself in terms of lifting heavier.

The program includes a low-impact and lower-intensity modification for every single exercise. I followed the modifier and kept the cardio entirely low-impact for the first three-week phase, then did mini-jumps in the second phase, and moved on to full (small) jumps in the third phase. The fact that at least two options are shown for each move makes the program very accessible for beginners, while also offering a path for you to ramp up the intensity as you get stronger.

I also substituted my physical therapy exercises for most of the ab work. As your coach (and a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer), I can help you find modifications that are appropriate for your specific situation if the options shown in the video aren't working for you.

I really appreciated how, rather than simply explaining the exercises, Autumn worked tidbits of the overall program philosophy into each workout and stretch session. Over the course of nine weeks, you really develop a deeper understanding of the "control freak" concept and come to understand that she is taking a negative concept and flipping it on its head.

When we use the term "control freak" in a negative sense, we're referring to someone who tries to control things that are actually outside of their control, and/or uses control in a way that is harmful or detrimental. By taking the positive aspects of the "control freak" concept, Autumn is talking about controlling the controllable—recognizing how much is actually within our control, and taking responsibility for that (i.e., empowerment).

When we become ruthless and unapologetic about editing our schedule and commitments to make time for what we value most—including self-care—we become control freaks in the best sense of the phrase. It's still a work in progress for me (and probably for everyone... Is the work ever really finished? Do we ever reach a state of perfect self-care?) but I'm finding it to be a very helpful concept to think about harnessing my "control freak" tendencies in a positive direction!

Program length: 9 weeks

Workout length: 30-35 minutes a day, 5 days per week (plus a 10-minute evening stretch session for each day you have a workout—so you get 45 unique workouts and 45 unique stretch sessions too!) What equipment is needed? Weights, aerobic step, control track and core ball (which come with your 9 Week Control Freak enrollment package). The program does include an "off the wall" version, which modifies every single workout of the program for completing it without the door track. You'll also get access to a week's worth of "remote control" workouts designed to be done when traveling without your weights, but in a location where you can attach the door track (which is light and easy to install and use with a resistance band). How is it structured? Three of your workouts each week will be in the DCT format, which stands for density-complex-tabata. First comes the density portion, which consists of five exercises done in sequence. You'll get a designated number of reps for each exercise. Autumn introduces all five, and then you move through the sequence, doing the specified number of reps, as many times as you can before the clock runs out. After 12 minutes of density, you move on to a "complex" move, which will work the same muscle group from multiple angles (for example, combining a chest press with a chest fly, lat pullover, and triceps dip). You repeat this combo x10 reps for two or three sets, then finish out the workout with four minutes of tabata cardio (often, but not always, using the step).

Each week you'll also have a Total Body Tone workout which is a simpler strength format, doing a higher number of moves for just one set each. Finally, each week you'll have a tabata workout to provide you with intense cardio for a longer duration. The program also includes two dozen 10-minute bonus workouts you can add on for an extra challenge!

What kinds of moves are involved? The core ball and control track make it possible to include multiple takes on classic strength exercises such as chest presses, bicep curls, and triceps dips. You will work your muscles from every imaginable angle, and this workout hardly ever repeats the same move twice! It's not a heavy lifting program for legs (but rather, focuses on sculpting the muscles from multiple angles, even more so than 80 Day Obsession). Although it definitely works legs, I would say the focus is more upper body and abs. In particular, Autumn is the queen of innovative ab moves. During the final phase I swear she somehow combines side plank, mountain climber, V sit, and jackknife into one combo. It's all a little fuzzy... my memory seems to have blocked it out. But if you get bored with crunches and V sits, this will definitely spice up your ab routine!

Low-impact? The program has a low-impact modifier and it wasn't difficult to follow her. I still felt like I was getting the full benefit and challenge of the program, which isn't always true when following the modifier.

Appropriate for beginners? This will work best for beginners if you follow the modifier. Autumn does start out with simpler moves in the first phase and build up complexity as you go along, so beginners won't be completely lost. However, if you prefer something that has more repetition and builds familiarity from week to week, this might not be the best program for you (and I'd be happy to talk with you about other options from our library that you might like better).

Interested in learning more? Watch my video review or check out the details to enroll. You can also email me at the address in the footer to discuss! Before you go, check out these transformations from the pilot test group!


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