PiYo: My Full Review

If you are on the fence about purchasing, attempting or committing to PiYo, the new workout from Beachbody and Chalene Johnson, I invite you to read this.  I have completed the full PiYo program.  As many of you know, I have documented my journey each week in both blog and photo form.  This entry is my wrap up.  It is my final “before and after.”  It is my PiYo review, and it is here to address the seven most common questions I was asked during and after my PiYo journey.

Before we jump into the questions, let’s get this out of the way.  I’m sure many of you are just scrolling and looking for before and after photos/measurements as it is!  So let’s just get to it, shall we?  I began PiYo weighing in at around 137 lbs.  I didn’t have much “weight” to lose, but I wanted to change the shape and strength of my body.  I also had been putting it through a lot of HARD, intense workouts, and I felt like I needed a break from that.  So I gave PiYo a shot for many reasons.  You can read more about that in the week 1 blog.  After eight weeks, I saw and felt a dramatic transformation in my body.  The number on the scale may have only dropped a few pounds (final weight of 134), but more importantly, how I looked, felt and the energy that my body regained was exactly what I was hoping for!  PiYo, while great for weight loss, is about so much more than that!  I mean, check out my before and after shots, and you tell me you don’t see a difference!  So if you’re doing PiYo, and you’re not seeing the scale move, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!  You can read more about the scale and why you shouldn’t trust it here, but let’s move on to the questions.

Before & After
On Twitter and Facebook, I asked you for your PiYo questions.  These were the seven that I received most frequently.

  1. What did you eat during PiYo/How much did you eat?  During PiYo, you’d be surprised how little your “diet” varies from your normal habits if you already have healthy habits.  I didn’t eat anything strange, didn’t feel restricted and didn’t have to eliminate things from my daily nutrition.  With PiYo, you were eating normal food; you ate what a normal healthy diet should look like.  My days generally featured the same things: Shakeology, fruits, vegetables, chicken or turkey, lean ground beef, egg whites, and some rice or quinoa.  Some days I threw in some yogurt or cottage cheese.  Some days I had bread and sweet potatoes.  And yes, there were days where we went out to eat and indulged in “the naughty stuff.”  The PiYo plan is a lot like the 21 Day Fix plan, meaning it’s all based on portions.  So as long as you are planning ahead and minding your portions, you can really manage to eat whatever it is you’re craving…within reason of course.  If I told you “yeah you can eat pizza!” That doesn’t mean “yeah, eat an entire pizza loaded with cheese and greasy meat toppings.”  It means you can manage to work pizza into your plan if you do the portioning and planning beforehand! (Tip: making your own pizza at home is a great way to not only be SURE that you’re using the portions you say you’re using, but it usually saves you calories, and it’s a fun family activity.)
  2. What was the shortest/longest workout?  The shortest workout was one you saw in the first few weeks of PiYo.  You don’t do it more than a handful of times, and it’s really meant to just get you used to some of the moves you’ll be doing.  It was “Define: Upper Body.”  If you do that one as a standalone workout, it’s about 20 minutes, maybe less.  If you really enjoy it though, you can add it on to any other workout or do it in partnership with “Define: Lower Body.”  As far as the longest workout, I believe that honor goes to “Drench.”  That one is about 50 minutes long.  It doesn’t feel that long though, because you are constantly moving.  Some days you’ll stack workouts (optional) and your total time comes in at just over an hour, but for the bulk of the program, most of your workouts are in the 30-40 minute range.  Of course, when you’re moving and seeing results, the workouts never feel that long!
  3. Did it feel like there was anything “missing” in the schedule?  Yes, for me at least. Now maybe that’s because I’m used to a more intense training schedule, maybe it’s because it wasn’t the goal of this program, but I was missing a lot more cardio and upper body work. Yes, you get the cardio effect in many of the workouts (my heart rate definitely got above 150 for portions of “Drench” and “Sweat!”) and there are workouts like “Strength Intervals” that make it their goal to get your heart rate up, but I felt like there was no real cardio WORKOUT. As a cardio junkie, I missed it. But as someone who understands that cardio is not EVERYTHING, I understood why it wasn’t in there. I also felt like there could have been more work for the upper body. Yes, you do a lot of push-ups and things of that nature, but I felt like this was harder work for my legs than anything else. Even my core, which worked in every workout, felt like it wasn’t getting nearly the kick-in-the-pants that my legs were getting. To me, the lack of upper body work stood out. I would have loved a longer, upper body focused workout. But again, that’s just my preference. Don’t think that there isn’t upper body work, because there totally is!
  4. Was it really “no impact?”  Yes and no.  Is it completely possible to do every single day without jumping even once?  Absolutely!  Are you still getting a great workout?  YES!  But are there still workouts and parts of workouts where you are asked to jump?  Yes.  For example, there are portions of “Drench” and “Sweat” that have you doing burpees.  If you do the full burpee, you are jumping.  Also, “Strength Intervals” is primarily high-impact unless you are following the modifications the whole time.  Of course, by following Michelle the modifier, you are totally working your body from head to toe without the jumping/impact, but if you are gung-ho about following Chalene and the intense members of the cast, you’re going to have to leave the ground a few times.  Did you really think “high energy Chalene” would be able to keep it calm 100% of the time?!  Come on now.
  5. Where did I see the biggest results on my body?  I noticed my biggest results…ready…in my core!  My abs!  From day 1 through the end of the program, I worked my core every day.  Some days it was directly, some days it was indirectly for stabilization.  But that’s what’s cool about PiYo.  Your core is the foundation of every movement.  And if you are engaging your core in PiYo, as you should be, you are working it!  I also noticed a difference in my thighs, a “lift” in my booty and big increases in my flexibility.  That flexibility increase was really great for me, especially after the injury that never really healed.  I’m finally feeling like myself again!  Plus, I felt recharged.  My joints, body, muscles and even my focus got to take it down a notch for a little while and now I feel renewed.
  6. Can this program be attempted by beginners? Absolutely!  If you are brand new to working out or even just new to yoga poses in general, you totally can do this!  PiYo is meant for everyone, whether beginner or advanced.  If you are a beginner,  I definitely recommend going through the Align DVD at least once to master the moves before you dive into the schedule.  And during your first few workouts, follow the modifier.  As you build strength and get more comfortable with the moves, you’ll notice that you’ll want to push and do more!  There is no shame in taking the modifications, especially if you are a beginner (and even if you are advanced)!  This isn’t a RACE, people, fitness…PiYo included…are about changing habits and treating your body with respect!  You can do this as a beginner, but please take it slow and do what you can.  Be persistent and consistent, and you’ll be advanced, doing Beast-Kick-Through and even a PiYo Flip before you know it!
  7. What was your favorite/least favorite move?  The move that I loved most (sometimes loved-to-hate!) was definitely the Beast pose with the kick through.  I love love love it, but man is it exhausting!  I could feel every muscle working from shoulders to abs to back to quads…and with the added kick through, I could feel my heart rate go up!  It was a total body move, for sure!  It’s really FUN too!  Once you master it, you’re like “oh heck yes, this is awesome!”  Of course, just like the rest of PiYo, start slow!  Learn the move first, then work up to mastering it.  It’s not an easy one at all, but once you get your body to move the right way, it’s a lot of fun!  Now as far as “least favorite,” it’s kind of a tie.  The hardest move will always be tricep push-ups.  That should be no surprise.  I have weird shoulders and sometimes doing them just hurts or they don’t move the way they should.  I do my best, but tricep push-ups are just hard for me.  It’s the way my body is put together, and it’s something I’ve learned to deal with.  But the other move that is STILL really difficult for me comes during the down dog sequences.  You’re up in the down dog splits, and first she has you lower your leg and “connect your ankles in plank,” then push back up into down dog splits.  OK, that’s tough enough.  Well then it’s “bring the leg down, bring your knee to your elbow, extend your leg, bring it back in, and then push back up into down dog splits.  Sound complicated?  Yeah, it is!  It’s hard!  It works your core like crazy and it’s hard on your shoulders (hard in a good way, not in a painful way).  I cursed and dreaded this move in every workout where it showed up.  I won’t even pretend that I liked it.  Did I power through?  Sure, 90% of the time.  The other 10% of the time I definitely shouted “NO! F*CK IT I’M MODIFYING!”  I didn’t like that move at all.  It’s hard.  It’s still hard.  And I will probably still curse it forever.

Those are my seven most commonly asked questions.  I absolutely invite you to comment on this post with your own, and I’d be happy to answer them!  Now as far as the “pros and cons” of PiYo, don’t worry, I threw those together too!

PiYo Pros:  

  • PiYo was a great “break” from my normal, intense, high-jumping workouts.  It gave my body a chance to recover and rest without having to take time off.  It was safe on my joints, and definitely gave my knees, back, neck and shoulders a good sense of relief.
  • As with all of her workouts, Chalene’s energy and positive motivation are just infectious.  Even on those days you don’t want to work out, you start, and she keeps you going.  The music, the flow, the attitude, the energy…it’s all perfectly balanced.
  • There’s a ton of variety in the workouts themselves, especially if you purchase the Deluxe Package with the Strength Slides.  The workouts are not your typical yoga workouts or even Pilates workouts.  They are a great blend of both mixed with Chalene’s signature “funk.”  And with tons of different workouts, you never feel bored.
  • I purchased the Deluxe kit, and those Strength Slides are NO JOKE!  If you have ever worried about form, those babies are A+.  When I saw them, at first I didn’t think they would make a difference, but they sure did!
  • The meal plan and nutritional approach were flexible and easy to follow.  You didn’t really “count calories,” you watched your portions.  And with almost every food you can think of having a breakdown into her categories, it was easy to factor in anything you wanted to eat.  The PiYo plan taught you how to eat the foods you love in proper quantities, and how to best fuel yourself for a workout.
  • Every single move had a modification, and there was a modifier in every workout.  From the Align DVD all the way through to the end, Michelle is on your screen, walking you through every single move if you are unable to do or just feeling too weak/sore to do any move at any time.  The modifications make it possible for this program to be great for any age, gender, fitness level or flexibility level.
  • The program starts you out with the Align DVD, which breaks down every single move and pose you will see in PiYo.  You’re not flying blind.  If you’ve never done yoga before, some of these moves could injure you if you don’t learn to do them properly.  Thankfully, the Align DVD has you go through the entire library of moves before your first real workout.  It’s the “How to” for PiYo.
  • There is plenty of ab and core work in every single workout.  In addition to working your core passively while moving through your poses and stabilizing your body, there are core-focused workouts that really rip up those abs!
  • PiYo is big on results and short on time.   You get a great workout for your entire body in under an hour each day.  PiYo delivers results, and you don’t have to sacrifice your entire day or go on some extreme diet to see them!  Maximum results, minimum time, healthy effort.

PiYo Cons: (my personal cons, some of these things may not bother you at all!)

  • Because PiYo is a lower “immediate” calorie burn, I was eating less food than I’ve become used to.  I have gone from programs that had me eating nearly 1750 cal every day…to one that has me eating around 1300.  So even though I was eating enough to fuel my workouts and keep my body functioning while still losing weight and inches, I definitely had days where I was HANGRY.  (You know, hungry and angry…)
  • As I mentioned above, PiYo is not completely impact free unless you are following the modifier 100% of the time.  You still get a great workout, but if you’re like me, you want to progress within the program, and that means eventually you do have to jump.
  • While I understand that this program was meant to increase flexibility, stamina and core strength, I feel like I lost a lot of my power strength in these 8 weeks.  I noticed a significant decline in the amount of weight I can lift, and now that I’m beginning Body Beast, I notice that I burn out a lot faster.  This is normal and expected, but I didn’t expect it to be as drastic of a change as it was.
  • PiYo lacked my desired amount of upper body work.  I would have incorporated more than push-ups and planks to work my upper body, but again, that was just my preference.
  • While short workouts are nice, especially when you’re low on time or energy, I felt that some of the workouts were too short.  During some (Sculpt, Define: Upper Body, Strength Intervals) I felt like as soon as my body was finally warmed up, ready to go and operating at full steam, the workout was just about over.

So in closing, who is PiYo for, and who is it NOT for?

  • PiYo is definitely for: anyone who is looking to reshape their body.  Whether you are a beginner, advanced, yoga connoisseur or can’t even touch your toes, PiYo will do wonders for your body.  It is for anyone who is looking for a great, low-to-no impact program.  If you have a lingering injury (like me), if you lack flexibility, if your joints regularly give you problems, if you need a break from your normal hardcore routine, or you just enjoy programs that fuse yoga and Pilates, PiYo is a great choice!  PiYo is also for those who are looking for a simple approach to eating and portion control, whether for weight loss or maintenance.  PiYo is also a great choice for those who love Chalene Johnson and want to see what else she can bring with that “Turbo Energy.”  If you like, want, need or crave long, flowing moves that work your body from head to toe without pounding your body and putting unnecessary stress on your joints, PiYo is a great choice.
  • PiYo may NOT be for you if: you are looking to gain strength, lose a HUGE amount of weight, are looking for a high-paced cardio workout or even looking to maintain your strength after completing a program like Body Beast, P90X, etc.  PiYo is not going to deliver those kinds of results.  It’s not meant to.  PiYo is meant to deliver that long, lean look and increase flexibility.  PiYo is also not going to have you dropping massive pounds as easily as, say, TurboFire or Insanity, simply because the calorie burn and how your body operates during those workouts is different than these.  Can you lose a lot of weight with PiYo?  Yes.  Will you need to do multiple rounds to see dramatic weight loss?  Probably.  It can be done, yes, but if that is your primary goal, and you do not have joint issues or if PiYo doesn’t even appeal to you, then I would recommend something else.  PiYo IS “for everyone,” but it will not meet the needs of everyone and their individual goals.  You should always choose a program based on your current fitness level, your time commitment and your ultimate goal.  If your ultimate goal is to put on muscle, increase strength and you have an hour a day to do so, skip PiYo, and try out Body Beast or P90X.

Overall, I had an amazing experience with PiYo!  If you followed along for the past 8 weeks, you know that there were good days, bad days, good weeks and bad weeks.  I struggled with body image, bloating, strength, energy and food many times.  But just like any other program in the Beachbody library or any other training program you attempt, if you stay the course…get back up after you fall down…you will see your results.  PiYo is a great program for anyone with the goal of getting that long, lean, toned body without spending hours in the gym or adding extra impact and equipment to their program.  PiYo will make your body feel good, look great and be healthy.  I would grade this program a solid A-, and highly recommend it to anyone who feels that this program will fit their interests, wants, needs and goals.  Try PiYo today!  You WON’T regret it!