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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Modus Operandi

A routine and a pattern are two different things.

I crave a routine. I thrive when I can get myself into a rhythm and do the same thing over and over. When putting something together, I almost always drift into an assembly line system. A couple years ago, when at my best in running, I ran for the first 100 days of the year. Of course, I hurt myself and missed my BQ by two minutes, but that's another problem, and one I've been better about addressing. My bigger problem right now is actually getting out the door.

The sporadic nature of the blog posts has been no accident. It matches the sporadic nature of my runs. Even in the midst of P90X, I was having to find time at all hours of the day because I just wasn't waking up on time. For a while now, I haven't been excited about working out. Perhaps it's because I don't have any particular goal toward which I'm working. Or maybe I'm just getting older and crawling out of bed is necessarily harder. Either way, the work doesn't call me, and I stay tucked away in the safety and (ever-increasing) warmth of the bed.

That is my pattern, and I think that's the difference between the two. A pattern is there whether you want it to be or not. I get super excited and ambitious about working out and all the amazing physical feats I'm going to accomplish. Maybe I read an article about a challenge race or a new season of American Ninja Warrior just started. Something has happened that makes me believe this will finally be the time that I stick with it and legitimately change my life.

And so for a couple weeks (maybe even a couple months), I actually do it. I work hard. I see myself get better and stronger. I pay attention to what I'm eating and how I'm living in general, and for that time, I feel great.

Until I don't. Until something else comes along that takes my attention, like late-night rehearsals or a slew of birthday parties. Maybe I get injured or I plateau in my results and get discouraged. Maybe I'm just exhausted. Whatever it is, something turns off, and that passion turns to degradation. I tear myself apart knowing that I could never have accomplished all the things I said that I could. Certainly, how could I have ever thought I could do it?

It's a pattern. It's my MO.

I think the way to fight a pattern is with a routine. Yes, streaking helps me too. Not running around naked, though I suppose that's another way to go. Streaking, as in running for 100 days straight or counting the number of days in a row that I've woken up on time. (It's one, by the way.) This is also very motivational to me, but only when I get to a certain point, and only for so long. No, I simply have to develop new habits, which comes from developing the routine that I keep writing about.

The trouble is, I feel that to truly commit to the routine, other aspects of my life must be removed, so I'm trimming the fat. Over the next 6 months, I'm removing a lot of the distractions from my day-to-day that keep me from being healthy and smart, and I'm going to do all I can to stick to the new routine. Earlier to bed, earlier to rise. Workout, eat breakfast, write. Work, work, work. Set to-do lists. Read. Earlier to bed to do it all again. Health takes discipline, and discipline takes sacrifice. I think I'm ready. I'm finally ready to change my MO.

And day one is off to a great start.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reunited

And it feels so gooooooood.

After yesterday's decision to return to a run-based workout plan, the natural choice seemed to be for me to take a run this morning. I actually woke up excited to do a workout, which hasn't happened in a few months.

Originally, I'd planned to do 5 miles, but within the first few minutes, I decided to drop down to four. I probably could have done the longer run, but my hips were a little tight. Even though I've been working hard the last few weeks, it seems to have used my cardiovascular system in a slightly different way, because I was breathing a little harder than expected.

And I couldn't have cared less. The run felt fantastic.

After the monsoon season we've been experiencing the last few months, it was great to have a bright and sunny morning with a light cool wind to help me along. Sure, it was nearly 80% humidity, but mornings are always more humid here in Texas. Of course, if I'd been running this whole time, I could have gradually gotten used to the increase in temperature, but instead, I've jumped right into summer.

And again, don't care. It felt so incredibly good to run again.

It wasn't long. It wasn't fast. Really, there wasn't anything spectacular about the run, except that I was running. I couldn't wait to get out and do it, and I can't wait to do the next one. This is the only way to sustain a fitness plan: to love it.

It's good to be back.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Desire

What are my actual fitness goals?

It's a very good question, and one that I haven't asked enough when selecting the various workout programs I've done over the years. One that I've asked a couple times in the last week, and particularly yesterday when I began wondering if I could actually go through 90 days of the P90X program. 

Yesterday, I kept fighting through the workout because I didn't want to quit. I didn't want to give up and fail to reach 90 days again. But today, I had a more important realization.

I really don't like this program.

I certainly can't argue with the results, of course, but I don't think it's anything shocking. I mean, if you do any sort of intense physical activity for over an hour a day, of course you're going to see quick and impressive results. There's an advertisement that plays after every workout where they say something to the effect of, "Ready to cut your workout time in half and still see great results?" Well, who are they talking to? Who is working out for 2.5 hours every day? 

No one I know, but perhaps that's who this program is really created for. I don't think it's created for me. Which is not to say that I don't think it's a useful program. I think that I can use the P90X workouts as part of a more inclusive and varied workout program that brings running back into the mix.

I miss running, and I really want to run. That's the difference. When I don't run, I desire it. I do not have any desire to do the next P90X workout. I like doing a short ab workout, but I don't like the dread and agony of Ab Ripper. 

So, a new program might look something like this:

Sunday: Longish run and Yoga With Adrienne
Monday: Chest & Back, light ab workout
Tuesday: Fast run
Wednesday: Shoulders & Arms, light abs
Thursday: Mid-length Run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: WHATEVER I DESIRE

Despite the fact that this idea is born from failure, I'm actually starting to feel okay about it. Excited, even. And I'll give it the first try-out tomorrow. 

If I desire.

Friday, June 3, 2016

P90X Day 16 - Sustainability

I'm beginning to wonder how long I can keep this up.

Today, I actually managed to get up on time and get to working out. It's a Plyo day, so the workout is under an hour, which does make things a little easier. (Most of the other workouts are 1:10-1:15, when you include Ab Ripper.) Still, when considering time to cool down, eat breakfast and shower, we're looking at approximately two-hours each and every day (or at least 6 out of 7). In order to leave on time for work, this means my alarm went off at 4:30a.

It went off at that time yesterday, too, but I shut it down and headed back to bed. I could hear the rain outside, which made me want to curl up under the covers for a bit longer. Plus, I knew that I had nothing scheduled after work and that my wife had plans, so an evening workout wouldn't be a problem.

There's less room in my schedule today, so it was more important for me to force myself into my shoes and down the stairs.

As I gathered up what I needed for the workout, I began to wonder about whether I can reasonably expect to get up at this hour each day to complete this high-intensity workout. There are a number of concerns.

The first is obvious - sleep. I tend to stay up until at least 10p most nights, which leaves less than 7 hours until I would need to be crawling out of bed. Go to bed earlier, you say? Sure, okay. Except that I have other aspects of my life that often keep me out to that hour or later. If I'm seeing theatre, I'm not home before 11. If I'm DOING theatre, it may not be until after midnight. And, come late July, I'll be directing theatre, so who knows what time that'll be.

The sleep schedule is workable, though, if I commit myself to it. Most of the shows I see are Thursday through Saturday, which works well with the timing of the program. There will be a few rough days, sure, but if I make myself get up early, there's a better chance of falling asleep earlier, so I just need to get over the hump.

My bigger question right now is about my body holding up. In theory, it should be getting stronger, but I still notice all the aches and creaks, and today, there was some clicking.

In fact, I stopped the workout one move in to check in with myself. The first set of squats set off a clicking just below my left knee. With the DVD paused, I checked it out. There was no pain and no discomfort beyond normal workout fatigue, but the click was more pronounced than I'd heard before. I've had similar issues in my right shoulder during some of the weight-intensive things. In that case, I haven't had any slow-developing pain, and my performance hasn't suffered, so I try to move in a way that prevents clicking and keep myself in check.

There was no way for me to do these squats without a click, but again, there was no pain, so I hit play and forged on, telling myself that the second there was pain, the workout was over. The click went away about 10 minutes into the workout, or perhaps the moves I did after that point didn't move my leg the same way.

Whatever the reason, I completed the workout without further issue. Now I'm a little sleepy and my legs are pretty tired, but I don't have to work out tonight, which is its own source of relief. I'm performing tonight, but have nothing scheduled tomorrow morning, so perhaps I can sustain this thing for one more day. But for 74?

I guess we'll see.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

P90X Day 15 - No Nausea

It seems like a pretty low bar to set, really.

All I was hoping for in today's workout was to not feel sick to my stomach at the end. It hasn't happened yet with the chest and back days. It's odd, considering how little movement there is in the workout, but for some reason, this is the one that always seems to upset my body most. It was a big factor in taking a step back on Ab Ripper last week.

What it came down to was following Tony's first tip of the day: pace yourself. I made sure to set a pace that I at least had a chance of maintaining through the second round. There are still many limitations to what I can do. I'm certainly not ready to be in the next round of videos or anything, and I can't do any actual pull-ups after the first round. But I was able to do three of each kind in the first round, which is at least a minor improvement.

I set specific goals for the second half and made about half of them. The good news was that I really felt that I was doing as many reps as possible on each move. Especially the push-ups, I would try to get one more rep and fail, knowing that I'd gone as far as I could. 

With that knowledge, I fully expected to have the same reaction as the previous two weeks, but it turns out that my arms aren't the only parts of me getting stronger. For the first time, I finished C&B and headed into Ab Ripper without the sense of imminent vom. Again, it's not a high bar to set, but it's helpful for my general well-being.

This workout won't return to the schedule for six weeks, and in that time, theoretically, I'll have gotten significantly stronger. I hope, at that point, my numbers will be better than what I've seen so far.

But as long as I've got no nausea, I'll consider it a success.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

P90X Day 11 - Yoga X

I'm not sure that P90X understands the purpose of yoga.

For all the good that this program does for me, the one workout that I really don't like is the Yoga X workout. The first problem is the length; the workout is over 90 minutes long, and if I were to start the program on a Monday, I would have to find that time on a Thursday in order to keep with the program. Finding that amount of time on a weekday is never easy.

Fortunately, I've already anticipated that issue and, by starting on a Thursday, have managed to keep the majority of those workouts on Sunday. The exception, of course, will be the step-back weeks, but again, we'll talk about the issues with that week when we get there.

The first half of the workout is the vinyasa section, or the moving yoga. When I first did this program, this was the part of the workout that I disliked. It's much more difficult than the second half, and there are several poses (half moon, for example), that I'm just not able to do, at least, not yet.

After my month of yoga at the beginning of this year, however, I have a different point of view. Now that I have a much better understanding of the various poses, I can stay in control during the workout and not feel bad about being imperfect. Last week, my arms were so tired from the first week's workouts that I had a great deal of trouble, but today, I felt much stronger and was able to at least attempt each pose through the first half.

My real problem is the last 20 minutes or so. After the vinyasa section ends, there are some balance postures, which I also enjoy. Eventually, though, it gets into basic stretching.

Okay, yoga is about stretching, but this doesn't feel like yoga. It's not about being centered and focused and synchronizing the breath, it's just about stretching the muscles, no different than the Stretch X workout.

Then we go to what Tony calls Yoga Belly 7, which is nothing like any yoga I've done. It's an ab workout. He even acknowledges at one point that he's "yelling too much for yoga," which I completely agree with. He's trying to get the others in the room to work their abs, which doesn't seem to be about meditation and centering at all. Much like when Tony encourages us to do push-ups in between upward and downward dog, this seems almost like an apology. "Sorry we brought yoga into this, here's where you can buff yourself up."

Really the whole concept of "Extreme Yoga" seems like an oxymoron, but hey, maybe that's just me.

I really feel like we could have dropped this workout to an hour and left out some of the not-so-yoga aspects. That said, I felt infinitely better this week than last week, and while I don't feel too much need for Yoga Belly 7, I guess I have no problem with having a strong core.

Eventually, I look forward to having my own workout plan, including running and some variation of P90X workouts, and while I don't think that this particular disc will be a part of that future, I agree that yoga can and should be a part of my healthy plans going forward, though I'll probably stick with Yoga With Adrienne.

Or something else that is actually, you know, yoga.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

P90X Day 10 - Level Up

Struggling to get in and out of the car last night, I had a terrible thought:

I have to work my shoulders tomorrow.

The cumulative effect of P90X has been a double-edged sword. I am definitely showing additional muscle and definition, but I've also got a perpetual muscle ache somewhere in my body. For some reason, last night's ache settled in my upper back and shoulders, making for some rather comical (I imagine) faces as I tried to do pretty much anything that involved moving my arms last night.

This naturally made me a little nervous for today's workout, Shoulders and Arms. What I like about this workout is that it's only as hard as the weight that I choose. Some days, like Plyo, are based in body weight, so it's going to be just as hard regardless of my choices. Even Chest and Back uses push-ups. But, with the exception of chair dips, everything else in today's program is based in weight, and I knew that, if anything was too difficult, I could always drop the weight.

Of course, the downside to that is, if I don't pick a weight that's heavy enough, I won't feel like I've done enough toward my goals for that day. So, I laid out all the weights I might need, based on last week's numbers, with one exception. Instead of the 10 pound dumbbells, I brought out the 25, just in case.

Within the first few moves, I stopped worrying about last night's soreness. My range of motion was not affected, and I was already able to increase weight on a few moves. Still, given the surprises of Monday, I wanted to be cautious.

By the second block of moves, I decided to throw out caution, and I'm so glad I did. In all, there are 15 different moves in this workout, each done twice, and 13 of them involve weight. I based my starting weights off of the second round of each move last time, and in 9 of those, I was able to increase my weight off of last week, not to mention increasing my reps on the other two. Finally, I'm seeing marked results. I'm leveling up.

Which got me all amped up for Ab Ripper, and deservedly so. I was able to increase almost all the workouts (with the exception of scissors and hip raises) to 20 reps, nearly reaching the actual numbers for the workout. I feel like I'm actually making progress in strength, not just appearance.

I am under no delusions about the level of my progress. The is only day 10, meaning that what I have left is still 8x what I've done. I can hope, however, that my rapid progress thus far is a harbinger of great things to come.

I've still got many levels ahead.