My exercise history pre Centr
I started going to a gym 20 years ago (yikes) aged 15. I think I had developed curves and was worried if I didn’t start exercising I would lose control of my body. Oh the naivety of youth. I used to swim a mile after school once a week and go to the gym 3-4 times a week. I quickly realised I loved exercising. Even aside from the physical benefits, I feel so much better mentally when I do it. I’m one of those people who gets easily het up about stuff so physical exercise helps me burn my stress off and I’m a much nicer, less snappy person to be around when I’m in a good routine.
That said, life can often get in the way and never so much as when you have children. As a parent with very attached babies/toddlers who breastfed on demand and no family/friends close enough to babysit on a day to day basis I felt I couldn’t find the time to exercise much after my first child. I felt he consumed my physically. I went dairy free as he has Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy and he was an atrocious sleeper and I paced with him so much I have never been thinner as an adult as I was after having him. I weighed about a stone less than I do now. Emotionally and physically I just felt I gave myself over to motherhood and my child so much I felt I had nothing left afterwards.
Then I got pregnant with my daughter. Both of my pregnancies I did weekly aqua-natal classes (once the vomiting stopped) and yoga but nothing too strenuous. About a year postpartum after my second child I started going back to the gym but found it too difficult to sustain with childcare difficulties and working two jobs.
Just over a year ago though I stopped having to express breastmilk on my lunch breaks at work though I started going to my work gym twice a week. Just for 30 mins or so and nothing that made me get too sweaty. I was focussed more on repairing my diastasis recti than anything too full on.
Time for a change
Then two things happened around the same time – serendipity! I night weaned my daughter and started to get some more sleep (after 8 years of sleep deprivation, hurrah) and Chris Hemsworth brought out Centr. Night weaning my daughter and her turning 4 has just helped me to feel a bit more like myself, a bit stronger and more resilient. More able to give myself more time and push myself more. She’s also now at the age where she is less dependent on me so I can do a workout around her without her needed so much of my attention. Also, at 35 I’ve started getting all sorts of aches and pains and feel my body ageing. I want to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible and felt a real need to start getting my body strong again.
What is Centr?
I follow Chris Hemsworth and his wife Elsa Pataky on Instagram and have long admired their commitment to fitness. When they started advertising Centr I was intrigued. They have brought together their trainers, their chefs and all the experts they have access to and put them together in one lifestyle site/app. Every day you have access to semi-tailored workouts, lifestyle articles, meditations and a meal plan. Basically everything I need that I can access anywhere. Fitness for millennials. I’m in. You can use Centr both on the website and an app. Both have great functionality and are simple to use.
Centr had a fantastic marketing technique to get you hooked – if you signed up before it went live or in the first 72 hours you could become a Founding Member. Founding members get 20% off for life (as long as your membership remains active). Whenever you sign up with Centr you get a 7 day free trial. I thought sod it. I’ll sign up as a founding member on a 1 month membership and if it sucks then I’ll just cancel on day 6 and I haven’t lost anything but if I like it I’ll try it for a full month and I’ll keep my 20% discount. Now I’ve done it for a full month I’m going to sign up for a full year. That’s how they get ya, clever cats!
If you aren’t a founding member the costs are £15.49 a month, £36.99 for 3 months or £93.99 for a year. All plans include a 7 day free trial so if you don’t like it you can cancel free of charge. There are no refunds once you are past this point though. On the 12 month plan it works out at £7.83 a month which is a lot cheaper than most gyms.
Personalisation of Centr
There are a few different settings you can choose on Centr – weight loss, fit and toned or build muscle. For each of these there are 3 levels you can choose from – beginner, intermediate and advanced. Depending what you choose on these you will get different workouts and meals daily.
I chose beginner and weight loss. I chose weight loss initially purely because I wasn’t following the meal plan full time yet. It would be quite a lifestyle switch for me to follow the meal plan 100% so I wanted to ease into it. The meals are higher in carbs and fat to what I’m used to eating though. I think if you were eating normal snacks/takeaways/meals out too then you could gain weight easily.
Centr has loads of complete snacks on there that are nutritionally balanced mini meals so I’ll probably change my setting if/when I start following the plan more fully. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself though and didn’t want it to be like a diet. I want changes that are sustainable otherwise what’s the point.
I told you a little bit about my pre-Centr fitness above. I had exercised on and off for years and had been back to the gym twice a week for a year and a bit. I also walk about 2 hours a day doing the school run 3 days a week. My old Fitbit told me my cardio fitness score was very good to excellent for women of my age. My resting heart rate is 50bpm.
That said, I have started off Centr on the beginner level and I’ve found the workouts strenuous and I get pretty sweaty. I think Centr’s definition of a beginner and mine are very different! You aren’t going to get eased in gently. There are technique sessions on there so you can learn some basic moves but it the workouts themselves they get complicated fast.
For example, Tahl Rinksy’s yoga flows can be into the next movement before you’ve figured out how to get into the last one. You only learn from doing though so if you are starting from scratch maybe spend a week practising the technique sections first and then get started. Some of the moves I think you need a fair amount of strength to do – I couldn’t manage sit thrus or planks properly when I started but now I’m getting stronger I can do them for longer so just do what you can and build on it.
Centr workout lengths
The workouts are all short and intense. That’s what I love about Centr. I don’t have the time to spend hours on workouts. They are mostly 20-30 minutes long (as you move up the levels they get longer) and most people, if they are honest with themselves and reprioritise can find 20-30 minutes a day. I know I usually spend 2 hours a day on Instagram so 30 minutes for fitness is definitely achievable! Especially when you can do it from home. I just love that I don’t have to go anywhere, my kids can be in the same room and I can get a good workout in.
Equipment required for Centr workouts
I often get asked about what equipment you need to by for Centr and the answer is as much or as little as you want really.
You can do the workouts without equipment. Some of the workouts do require equipment but they have a guide that suggests alternatives you might have in the home like bottles of water, cans or mimicking skipping instead of skipping if you can’t swing a rope around.
I have made some purchases and you can see exactly what I’ve bought and use in the health and fitness section of my Amazon Store (affiliate links).
I have purchased some dumbells and a weighted skipping rope so far. I do use the gym at work for 2 days a week so I switch out the exercises that use equipment to those days so that I can make the most of the equipment.
Other equipment I’ve used so far includes kettlebells, bar bells and resistance bands. If you were to get one thing for the workouts I would suggest a good floor mat as that’s what I use the most. If you don’t want to get any equipment you would still get a lot out of the app/site but making substitutions or swapping out the workouts for ones without equipment. I think you would probably need equipment if you were on the build muscle setting as there is a lot of weight lifting on that.
The app also has Apple Watch (affiliate link) integration and will auto track your workouts with your heart rates which I love. It’s not essential to have an Apple Watch to use Centr but it’s additional functionality if you do.
What does my weekly Centr schedule look like
I currently have mixed martial arts HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) with Tiffany Hall on Mondays – these are my favourite of all the workouts. Tiff is a new mam but super fit and her workouts are so fun and fast paced. You never get bored in her workouts but work up a real sweat.
Tuesdays I have a boxing workout with Michael Olajide Jr – lots of skipping and punching in this one. It took me until week 4 before I could do one whole set without tripping or whipping myself with my skipping rope!
Wednesdays I have dynamic yoga with Tahl Rinsky – if you think yoga is the easy option though think again, Tahl doesn’t mess about.
Thursdays I have HIIT HIRT (High Intensity Resistance Training) with Chris Hemsworth’s personal trainer Luke Zocchi which uses lots of weights. His warm ups are BRUTAL though – don’t get me started on frog squats.
Friday is pilates with Sylvia Roberts and is another tough one (#freealice – if you know, you know) – both yoga and pilates are just one level so beginners and advanced are doing the same workouts and everyone is finding it hard going.
Then Saturdays are the toughest – two words, DA RULK. Da Rulk has his own patented workout method called Raw Functional Movement aimed at improving your functional strength (which incidentally is my main aim of doing all this in the first place). His workouts look fine when you watch Da Rulk do them in the videos and then you try them and they are BRUTAL. Everyone I’ve spoken to finds his workouts the hardest but we all find them really rewarding. I dread them and look forward to them in equal measure.
Sundays is not classed as a workout but it kind of is too – Dr Eric Goodman presents his weekly foundation training session. Foundation Training is meant to aid recovery and help prevent injuries. It’s all about stretching and deep breathing and it’s a great way to end the week and get you ready to start the next one.
As you can see, there is so much diversity in the exercise program that it’s impossible to get bored. 4 weeks in and my strength is really improving. I’m starting to see some definition in my arms, especially my shoulders. Just when you feel like you need a bit of a break you get lower impact stretching session like yoga, pilates or the Foundation Training. They all just complement each other really well. I’ve not missed a session yet and am still really enjoying it.
What is Centr food like?
I haven’t been following the meal plans 100% yet as I described above but am slowly following it more and more. I would say that I’ve not been disappointed in any of the meals yet. They have all been really tasty so far. Even Papa Ginge has been enjoying the food and he is about as far removed from a health food fan as you can get.
You can choose from regular, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan in terms of meal plans and then from lose weight, fit and toned or build muscle. Based on these preferences, and your weight, height and gender (you can only choose male or female) it will create a meal plan to suit you. Then it’s up to you to follow it as much or as little as you would like. Obviously the more you follow it the better results you will get.
There are some family-friendly recipes on there but I have found the majority my kids won’t eat so I’ve found I’m often doing ours separately. Hopefully, I’ll be able to win them over soon. I would like to see Centr add on some more ‘mam friendly’ recipes like one-pot/crockpot recipes and some that kids would be really into. I think if you followed the plan 100% it could get expensive as there isn’t a huge amount of using leftovers which is something I like to do to save on time/costs.
Expect a time commitment in terms of all the cooking and washing up! Centr never has just cereal or toast for brekky. All the meals and snacks are perfectly nutritionally proportioned. The snacks are like mini meals.
I love that every Monday on Centr is meat-free and on the regular/pescatarian plans Friday dinners are fish based. I like having those theme days. They also introduce meals/snacks for special days. For example, recently new snacks popped up for celebrating St Patrick’s Day – lots of green matcha recipes. I really love that. Can’t wait to see what is added at Christmas time!
I love that it takes the leg work out of meal planning for me. I’ve a kid who is allergic to dairy and then a family of 4 all with different tastes. Trawling the internet and cook books to find recipes we might all like was time consuming. Now, on a Thursday the next week’s program comes out so I show Papa Ginge and the kids the photos of the foods and ask which they want/which they don’t. Then the app has cool functionality where you can change the servings to how many you want to cook for (I often double up for leftovers) and then you can use the ‘add to shopping list’ function and it creates a shopping list of all the ingredients you will need. It’s a really handy function.
I have my food shop delivered on a Sunday and then spend a bit of time on Sundays meal prepping what I can and make sure I have a plan of what we are all going to eat when during the week otherwise we descend into chaos and takeaways.
I have to admit, the place I’m not doing so great on the app with yet is the meditations. Every day there is a meditation these are generally short, under ten minutes but I rarely do them. I really need to start prioritising this too. The ones I’ve done so far are great. Quite a lot of meditations to help you sleep well at night but I like to read before I go to sleep so I keep skipping them. With two young kids who still wake at night I have zero issues falling asleep!
Facebook group – Centr Community
An integral part of Centr for me is the associated Facebook group for members. There are over 12000 of us at the moment and it’s a supportive, positive community for those of us following the program. The trainers are active within the group. There are a lot of in jokes and characters. It’s a great place to ask for advice. Members have a range of experience from complete newbies to personal trainers. Centr wouldn’t be what it is for me without the group.
How do I find the time for it? Working out around kids
If you are reading this and you have a 1 and 2 year old or something and you are thinking yeah right, I want you to know I’m just at this point now and my kids have just turned 4 and 7. I couldn’t have done this a couple of years ago. My kids would have been climbing all over me. They do interrupt me a little but we are working on them giving me that time. I set them up with an activity (colouring in, toys, stickers etc), snack or Ipad or I encourage them to join in.
On the days I’m in the office and I fit my workout in at the work gym on my lunch break. Then the days I’m home with the kids I tend to walk my son to school (1 hour of walking) and then I try to do my workout when we get home as I’m warmed up and my 4 year old has ran off some steam already on the school run so is generally happy to have a snack and half an hour on her Ipad. I also find if I do it early then it’s more likely to get done. If I leave it until later things happen to get in the way. On a weekend I ask Papa Ginge to occupy them while I do it and mostly they stand and watch me do Da Rulk and criticise my form.
The workouts being under 30 minutes or less (on my level, I think it goes up to 40 on advanced) and being able to do them at home is the big game changer for me though. It’s just so much more sustainable than having to head to a gym – both time wise and expense!
Reward for first month!
I’m really proud that I’ve worked out every day for the first month so I decided to reward myself with a couple of new gym outfits. Fitness wear is addictive isn’t it? I got the outfit pictured (gifted) in most of these images from JD Williams. The Reebok Lux Colour Block leggings (affiliate link) £36 and Hero Racer padded bra top £35 are great quality and breathable (true to size). The top is Adidas Winners Tee £20 and whilst I love it, I wish I had sized down as it fits big.
I’m a big fan of Marks and Spencer’s sportswear. I recently bought these quick dry cropped leggings £22.50 (affiliate link) which are so flattering and comfortable and crucially have a side pocket which we all know are sorely lacking in women’s clothes.
Downsides to Centr
One of the main downsides to Centr is that it’s hard to check your form. If you had a trainer to keep you right I’m sure your form would be better. It would be easy to be doing some moves wrong and not realise. There are tutorial videos to help you get it right and you could use mirrors/record yourself to try improve. Also, the trainers and Centr are really approachable. Da Rulk told me to send him a video of me doing crawls so he could help me with some issues.
The only other downside is I really struggle to get my kids to eat a lot of the meals which means I have started cooking for us separately to the kids a lot of the time. If I’m honest though, were we just all eating more unhealthily before, probably.
What next – my goals
Well I’m definitely signing up to Centr for a year, no doubt about it. I love it. Signing up to be a founding member has been the best thing I’ve done for myself in 2019 so far.
In terms of my goals, you aren’t going to catch me talking about weight loss etc. For me this is about getting stronger, fitter and healthier. I want my body to stop aching. I want to be able to have perfect squat form, I want to have perfect form for Da Rulk’s moves. In a year’s time I want to be able to do sit thrus with great form, perfect planks, press ups and pull ups. I want to progress up the Centr levels!
Now I’m mid-30s my body needs this work to stay functionally mobile. I refuse to allow my body to get old faster because I’m not giving it what it needs in terms of daily exercise and nutrition. We only get one body and one shot at this life and I want to make the absolute most of it and Centr is helping me do that.
Edited to add: I’ve stuck with Centr for 9 months now, you can read my 8 month review here.
Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by JD Williams who kindly provided my fitness clothes pictured. This blog post is in no way affiliated with Centr. I pay for my subscription with them in full.
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