Redefining the Limits (Maria's Review of Athlete 20XX)
By VAHVA Fitness on February 6, 2019
Here is Maria's thorough review and experience with our Athlete 20XX and Movement 20XX programs! Maria has made amazing progress and continues to redefine the limits.
Without further ado, here is Maria in her own words:
"It was midsummer 2018."
I was a bit annoyed by lack of progress in certain areas of my training. I wanted to start training with rings, but I felt my upper body wasn’t really prepared.
I could do quite a lot of push-ups and some pretty good pull-ups, I did my bench presses and my lateral raised and all that, and yet each time I did some dips and other exercises on the rings, I would get some weird sensations around my clavicle and in some other areas of my upper body.
I also couldn’t really understand why, despite all my efforts, I still wasn’t getting the core strength I was after. Some more advanced exercises were simply inaccessible no matter what I did.
I loved my training routines but the lack of progress towards my goals was a bit frustrating. - Maria
At one point I had this thought: “Hey, you’re a woman in your thirties, you have 4 kids, maybe you just cannot expect certain things to happen to your body anymore. The pregnancies have weakened your core beyond repair or you simply suck at it and you should accept it as it is”.
(Note: in the picture above the stomach is due to pregnancy - just in case!)
OK, that’s not what I was really thinking ;) My real thought was: there must be something out there that could help me, I just wasn’t looking for it the right way.
This is when I decided to stop looking for the so-called ab workouts. One afternoon, not really sure what I was doing, I opened YouTube and typed “primal core strength” or “real core strength”, or something similar. Among other results, I found Eero’s video with his shoulder and core workout on gymnastic rings.
It really grabbed my attention: the moves were hard and, which is even more important, the guy performing them, despite all his muscles and excellent form (or maybe rather because of them, ha), was visibly really working out hard. He wasn’t breezing through the moves like it was nothing.
There was simply something different about that video, so I looked for some info about the authors. There was a link to a site run by a company called VAHVA. At that point I had never heard of them even though I was an avid watcher of many YouTube fitness channels.
I followed the link and discovered their blog and soon after I found out VAHVA offered 2 main training programs. I watched some spots about them and as I watched them, my eyes just got bigger and bigger with amazement.
I checked out the full description of both programs, Movement 20XX and Athlete 20XX, and felt really intrigued and interested.
I hesitated a bit when I checked the prices, though, as they were not the cheapest programs I had seen. Are these programs really worth it? Is it a trustworthy company? Will I really get the help I am looking for? What if it’s not what I need?
So there I had a bone I could chew on for the next couple of days, wondering whether I should go for it or not, and which program to choose. I just couldn’t make my mind.
I decided the programs seemed to be worth the value based on some more blog articles I read in the meantime. Unable to make the final decision, I simply wrote an email to Eero. I wasn’t even sure he would answer.
He did. He answered all my questions and explained really well the differences between both programs (which didn’t make things any easier as they both seemed awesome!). He sent me some more links to his older blog posts which shed some more light on things that I wasn’t sure about.
After reading the articles linked by Eero, an unexpected thing happened: I decided to subscribe to BOTH programs. Crazy, I know. But let me tell you I never regretted it.
Here I just wanted to comment briefly on something funny I noticed. The articles from the blog can help understand how the programs work and what to expect, but it’s also the other way around, once you try the workouts, you start to better understand the articles and their true meaning.
So, here’s how it went. As you probably know, Athlete 20XX is divided into 3 phases, with each subsequent phase being more advanced than the previous ones.
I am sure you know this temptation when you get something really cool and yet you are advised to WAIT and climb your way patiently toward the next phase, repeating the previous one as many times as necessary before moving on and thus making sure you are truly prepared for what’s waiting for you around the corner.
During the first week or two I must admit I was a bit impatient. I was scrolling through the next phases content and sighing: gah, I wish I could get there already, it must be really interesting!
It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying Phase 1. I was. In fact, I quickly became really surprised by the impact those slow paced exercises had on my body. As I reached Week 2 of Phase 1, I forgot about how bad I wanted to try the exercises listed for Phase 2 and 3.
I became more and more engaged with the current stuff going on in my training. I stopped lurking at the content waiting ahead. I did my best to perform all the exercises really well and with the right tempo. I was a bit shocked to discover how lower weights, when used right, can still produce amazing results.
As soon as in the middle of Phase 1 I started noticing some improvements in my clavicle area and, more importantly, around my shoulder blades. I got more and more intrigued by how this exercise selection was really targeting some weak areas I had and fixing all those weak links, strengthening small and forgotten muscles.
The workouts had it all: strength, mobility*, and, even though the exercises in Phase 1 were not very dynamic, you could really feel the burn if you did them right, and even get some good sweat.
* the exercises themselves, even if they are mostly strength oriented, will definitely improve your mobility, especially around hips and shoulder blades, because they focus so much on all those tiny details that are often overlooked in typical training routines.
The video tutorials provided in Athlete 20XX are very thorough and I didn’t have any doubt about how I should perform each move, it was great to have all this knowledge and peace of mind that I knew exactly what I was doing, which muscles I was targeting and what should be felt in each move, not to mention the list of common mistakes to avoid. - Maria
At the same time, Eero’s coaching in these video tutorials was not overly complicated. Yes, the explanations are very in-depth, but at the same time easy to follow. In my opinion it is a very strong point of this program (along with the exact structure and exercise selection).
At first I thought that doing such a technical and precision training could probably be boring, but I was absolutely mistaken.
I had never committed to at least 12 weeks of rigorous training where everything was so planned ahead (I like to improvise at least a little to have this nice sense of freedom), so I was afraid I would feel trapped inside of a structure I wouldn’t enjoy or that the exercises would be too difficult and frustrating.
I quickly got over all these doubts and fears. I stopped anticipating the following weeks or wondering whether I would master each phase in 4 weeks or whether I would need more time before moving on (which at first scared me because I thought it would be boring to get stuck in some of the phases).
But none of this happened. I just got immersed in the program and enjoyed every little bit of it, even if some exercises were not easy (yet doable).
I supplemented the technical Athlete 20XX with more playful Movement 20XX and I had so much fun with the flow routines! I felt like a kid in a big toy store, watching the videos with explanations on how to perform the flows and master them.
(And by the way, my kids felt the same way and they loved to watch those videos with me, and then practice some of the moves. One of my daughters learned the cartwheel for the first time thanks to Eero’s tutorial provided with Movement 20XX program. And we all loved the music Eero and Samuli chose as background for their tutorials).
After a couple of weeks I started noticing my body is entering another level. At that point, I had never been able to do a cartwheel or crow pose, not even as a child or teenager (I wasn’t really fit in my teens). - Maria
And yet I finally unlocked these moves, it was a very empowering discovery. Sure, my form was still not perfect, but I could at least do the beginner/intermediate versions which I had struggled with before.
My core also started to get stronger. I am not talking about this so-desired-by-many six pack. That’s not what I was after. I wanted my body to be more functional, I wanted to be able to do skin the cat and other fun moves with my kids and before finding VAHVA's content I just couldn’t do it, my shoulders were not stable and strong enough, my core couldn’t initiate the movement.
And now, I suddenly could do it.
Each week I would unlock something new, even if these were not always big things.
I was able to combine Athlete 20XX and Movement 20XX throughout Phase 1 and 2 (doing Athlete in a very precise manner, following the instructions very thoroughly, and improvising with Movement, picking only those elements that would fit my schedule, mostly flow routines).
However, once I reached Phase 3, I was unable to continue this mixed schedule. I did some additional ring work for fun, but I decided to leave Movement 20XX for later as I was unable to keep up with this volume of work anymore.
If you’re reading this and you’re just starting out with Athlete, my recommendation would be to really follow Eero’s advice to make sure you master the previous phases. In the beginning I didn’t really understand why he insists so much with this. Now I do.
If you’re not prepared, Phase 3 may turn out to be simply brutal. Don’t get me wrong. It’s amazing. I loved it. I gave my all with each rep. And I was completely knocked out after each session. I think I never had such a sore core as when I did my best during plyometrics workouts.
I thought I was used to plyometrics, it’s not that I was just starting out with explosive leg work. But I never did it this way, with less reps than with a typical workout but aiming for perfection with every single repetition... You’ll feel like a ninja and it will be awesome, but you have to be prepared, otherwise it can be too much stress for the body.
Now I have just completed the whole program and I am very happy to have found it. It really changed my fitness game. Giving it a try was totally worth it.
Along the way, I sent Eero several emails with some questions, asking for additional advice. He always replied with some helpful tips, patiently and with some sense of humour when needed. It was really nice to be able to write to him whenever I felt I needed some help or advice.
If you have never worked with a coach, consider this option as it can take you to a completely new level.
Find a coach you can trust and learn from him. I know it saved me from a lot of trial and error methods that I used to try before.
I am now going to get back to Movement 20XX combined with some ring training that I am finally able to follow, yay! This must be the crossover that Eero and Samuli like to talk about, you’re eventually able to perform things that were impossible before.
But I am already planning my second round with Athlete 20XX. I already miss it, and it hasn’t been even one week since I finished it. What I really like about it, is that it gives you a very good structure that will still leave you some room for other activities, sports or workouts (well, maybe except Phase 3 ;) ).
With 4 sessions per week, you can squeeze in 1-2 additional shorter workouts, go for a run, etc. and still get a full rest day each week. I really, really liked that as I have this need to always add something completely new or different to my training plans.
My greatest surprise with this program though is that, even though I didn’t believe I would be able to do it, it turned out I was more than prepared for it. I got to Phase 3 and looked at the plan for the upper body push strength day and hesitated.
Clapping push-ups? I mean, come on, really? How am I supposed to do that for several sets in a row? I had tried those in the past and always failed miserably.
Oh, well, I said to myself, I will just do clapping knee push-ups and call it a day. But once I was on the floor, I decided to at least give it a try.
And, to my own amazement, I was simply doing regular clapping push ups. Just like that. My body was ready.
And then the same thing happened with explosive chin-ups and many other exercises... My body was simply prepared for those tasks without me even knowing this.
And here’s the proof, in case you need it :)
What was your experience with Athlete 20XX? Please leave a comment below, it would be great to read how other people perceive it!
Train hard, stay safe!
PS. It’s been another week since I wrote the first draft of this review... And to my own surprise, I am back to Phase 1. Yes, some things feel easier an I can do certain moves better, but it’s never a breeze. The burn can be incredible if you do the things right.
This program does not disappoint even if you’ve done it before. I am starting to understand what Eero means when he talks about adding new layers of fitness each time you repeat the whole program.
And the best part is, it is not boring. You may think I am not objective because apparently I just love this program... Well, try and see for yourself!