Shoutout: Chalene Johnson’s PiYo


It’s no secret that I am a fitness junkie. After being the pudgy kid for sixteen years, I took up running on the treadmill my sophomore year of high school and exercise has been a consistent part of my life ever since. Hell, my parents even first met at a gym, so you could say I was destined for it. Fitness is one of my core drivers in my journey down the Way of the Spiral. Because of my work schedule and the fact I lost free access to a gym after graduating college, at-home video workouts have become my routines of choice. It began with a suggestion to try Power 90 (precursor to P90X), and I’ve completed Les Mills Combat, P90X3, and Insanity Max 30 since then. Today, we’ll talk about my most recent undertaking: Chalene Johnson’s formidable fusion of fitness forms, PiYo.

Disclaimer: My experience with PiYo is incomplete. I did not have access to the nutrition guide (the DVDs were borrowed from a friend), and was unable to complete the last week of the program due to my home computer going belly up. That being said, I still feel I can deliver a thorough review of the experience. 

piyo fitness
Though this is probably the push I needed to finally get a gaming-worthy computer. Overwatch here I come.

Also, I am not an affiliate of BeachBody nor any other fitness company. You’d be surprised how many supposed reviews (both positive and negative) are paid off partners. As such, I will not link directly to product pages. A good rule of thumb for these programs is to compare Amazon customer reviews for genuine opinions.

What is PiYo?

No, it’s not some hippie fruit smoothie from WholeFoods or a new Pokémon from Sun and Moon Versions as the title may make you guess. PiYo is the latest (as of June 2016) creation of entrepreneur, author, fitness guru, and Houdini of aging Chalene Johnson. It’s two years old at this point, but a good workout system never loses its relevance. The core concept of the system is combining Pilates and Yoga, hence the name. No weights are needed, yoga mats are the only recommended equipment, and even that isn’t required to get the most out of a workout. The weight and resistance is your own body. The workouts, spread out six days per week for 60 days, alternate between building strength and flexibility and well as fat toasting cardio. Prepare to feel like you set your stomach and legs on fire, because those areas of the body receive the most attention.

piyo core strength fitness workout
What your core feels like during the first few weeks of PiYo.

Warning: The following paragraph may sound like corporate shilling but is just for the purpose of informing you of the various options.

The core DVD package ($72.80 on Amazon) contains nine workouts, a Quick Start Guide, the workout calendar, measuring tape, a nutrition guide, and access to 24/7 support for fitness advice. A deluxe package ($145.60 on Amazon) adds strength slides for increasing difficulty, a yoga mat, and two additional workouts. The Challenge package ($160) includes a 30-day supply of Shakeology. Additionally, PiYo workouts can be sampled through BeachBody’s streaming service, BeachBody on Demand (basically Netflix for fitness).

Eight Ways to Destroy Your Body

The core package of PiYo consists of these workouts:

  • Align: The Fundamentals: This workout is scheduled on the first day and is never mentioned on the calendar again. It teaches proper form for each exercise used in the following workouts. Don’t worry about the length of this video, the actual workouts are shorter.
  • Define Upper Body: Workouts that target the arms, most notably triceps and shoulders. Just a warning, this is not something you’re going to get much bulk out of.
  • Define Lower Body: As the title may suggest, this workout targets the legs. Your hamstrings and calves will burn.
  • Sweat: Flowing yoga-inspired poses are mixed with resistance exercises build strength and get that heart beating.
  • Core: This is the workout for the ab fiends in the audience. Remember what I said about Define Lower setting your legs on fire? This will do the same to your core.
  • Strength Intervals: The shortest workout in the package rapidly switches between cardio and strength for fat burning.
  • Drench: This is like the sweat workout, but much more extreme. Just about every muscle in the body gets targeted and you’re going to sweat like a melting snowman.
  • Sculpt: Strap in for exercises that focus on continuous muscle tension of time for definition. And pain.
piyo fitness frozen disney
Pictured: Me during the Drench workout

Burning Thoughts

But now, it’s time for the actual review. The core target for the audience seems to be women (most customer testimonials on Amazon are from ladies and women outnumber men onscreen), but men can certainly benefit from it as well. As stated before, this is not a program for bulking. It certainly builds strength, but PiYo falls on the toning side of the spectrum, not the beefing. For someone looking to tone up their core and legs however, PiYo well definitely help towards that journey. The first thirty days of the workout are very beginner friendly (which can feel too easy for people already in good shape), difficulty ramps up significantly at the month mark (which in turn, can end up being too much of a jump for a beginner). The Drench workout is right up there with some of P90X and Insanity’s most infamous routines, but it typically won’t be done more than once per week, except twice on the last week, because it’s the only Chalene makes sure you walk away sore and sopping with sweat on the final day.

Like any program though, it isn’t without its cons. An all-body weight program is inherently limited by the fact there aren’t a wide of range of available exercises. Because of this, some of the longer workouts can feel outright boring as you cycle through the same four poses for five to ten minutes straight. I can’t quite say this next thing is a con to the program itself, but expect to shake and occasionally fall often in the beginning, especially if you are not used to yoga poses. Additionally, while a few of the leg workouts incorporate fast movement, there isn’t a true cardio workout. For a workout touting its fat burning potential, this is a glaring omission.

With these video workouts, trainers always get polarized receptions. Like her BeachBody cohorts, Chalene talks constantly to keep you motivated through the workout, cheerleader style. While I didn’t mind this, other customers took issue with it. I was more annoyed with the constant shilling of Shakeology, but if you’re doing BeachBody workouts often, you may as well get used to that. The music wasn’t the most conducive accompaniment either, a lot of sappy, slightly upbeat love-and-loss songs, but I suppose not everyone can be Shaun T.

My Results

piyo fitness
Not much change, but got some more stomach definition, which is my ultimate goal. Oh, and changed my hair style twice.

As stated before, I wasn’t able to follow the nutrition guide nor finish my last week of PiYo. Due to circumstance I missed a few days here and there too, so my results won’t be as stellar as they could be. All in all I lost five pounds across my sixty days on the PiYo program, but I am already a fit person to begin with so I wouldn’t experience the melts-right-off weight loss that overweight people often experience when they get a strong start in a workout program. My final weight was 180 pounds, which is the lowest I have weighed since I graduated high school in 2009, and I’ve finally returned to a 32 pant size. As you can see from the photos above, I did tone muscle while losing fat, so that could explain why my weight didn’t change that much.

So, if I had to recommend PiYo to anyone, it would be primarily to women but also men who are looking to tone up their cores and legs but aren’t looking to focus on arms or bulk at the moment. I will also say it’s a pretty good choice to take up with summer upon us since it can produce noticeable results even within a month around the middle. I may very well take a second go at it in the future. At sixty days, it’s a nice side excursion between major fitness undertakings. It’s not the most intense workout program I’ve taken but not the easiest either. It’s a unique challenge, and I’ve met very few people who would say no to some extra stomach and leg tone.

piyo fitness
On a side note, does anyone else think the background trainers in workout videos are kind of hilarious? The main trainers always talk to and refer to them by name, but they only smile and silently follow along, like peppy gym rat mimes.

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