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Thursday, November 29, 2012

P90X - Catch-Up

It’s always nice to think about things for which you are thankful.

A high percentage of my Facebook friends have been doing so all month. Each day, you’re supposed to think about something for which you want to give thanks, and put it in your status. A nice thought, certainly, though I have found that most of them don’t have time every day to write something, so they need to have “catch-up” days to get everything in, listing off two, three, four things for which they’ve been thankful the preceding days.

Certainly, it’s a wonderful idea, and good for the friends that have kept it up all month, but I feel like it misses the point somewhat if you have catch-up days. The idea is to spend just a little time every day to think about the good things in life. Just like the idea of my blog was to take a little time every day to focus on how I was progressing toward my fitness goals. I have not been good at that.

So, yes, today is a catch-up day, because I really do want to focus on each day of this P90X journey to help me gauge my progress. I did a quick version of day 1, but I think I need a little more detail. Here we go:

Day 1 – Chest and Back

This seems like a rather intense way to start the program, but this is the big reason that I wanted to do the system at all. There’s a bit of a challenge in learning the motions without direct instruction, but I’m hoping that those will go away as I get more comfortable with the moves. In general, I was about what I expected in ability to complete push-ups, but surprised at how ungodly tired I was at the end of the hour. Anything that extends backward feels like I’m not going nearly far enough, but I know that extension will come with time.

For the back exercises, we did a whole lot of pull-ups and chin-ups, for which I used a chair in most cases. I figure that doing 15 reps with a chair to help will be far more productive than the 3 actual pull-ups I can do. The wife and I did the workout together, which poses the difficulty of having only one pull-up bar in the house. Fortunately, we have TRX bands that we can use until we have the money to invest in resistance bands. It’s not the same, certainly, but it is close enough to keep working.

By the time we got the Ab Ripper section, I was exhausted and a little bit nauseous. I did the first couple sets, but got nowhere near 25 reps on either, and then pretty much gave up on it, choosing to drink water and learn instead of pushing myself to the point of sickness. A weak way out, perhaps, but it was only day one.

Day 2 – Plyometrics

I’m going to love this workout. A lot. I feel that this will be the workout that makes me a better runner. It involves extended aerobic exercise, strengthening the core, and building explosive muscles in the legs. I broke into a sweat on this workout rather quickly, but I was able to keep going with a high degree of confidence and energy.

This was also my first early morning workout. In order to leave the house by 7:10, I need to start the workout by 5:15, so I rolled out of bed and into my workout clothes. It’s great that there is a warm-up built into the program, or I might be in trouble. I have never been good about doing warm-ups and cool-downs on my own, so I’m thankful that I am directed through both every morning, particularly that early.

I’m having trouble remember the specifics of the workout itself, but hopefully when I’m caught up on each day, I’ll be able to give a more thorough account of what’s working and what’s not.

Day 3 – Shoulders and Arms

I really expected this one to be much worse than it was. Of course, a large portion of that goes to the amount of weight that you choose to use in the exercises. I stayed pretty conservative on my first round of everything, and only increased the weight on one or two things the second time around if it was just too easy the first time. On one or two exercises, I dropped weight as well, particularly on exercises that involved raises, whether it was triceps or shoulders. The shoulder exercises in particularly had me burning.

I’ve definitely got some form questions, which is the downside of working with a trainer on a video instead of in a gym, but I think I’ll sort them out in the next couple weeks as I get more familiar with the workout. Then, of course, the whole process changes, but I guess that’s kind of the point.

Due to car trouble this week, I had to take the bus to work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (and maybe tomorrow as well). In order to get to work on time, I have to catch a 6:10 bus, so this workout had to happen after work, as my evening was free. Let me tell you: two hours on the bus, followed by nine hours in the office, followed by two hours on the bus, followed by P90X is not the easiest thing in the world, so throwing the Ab Ripper on the top of this exhaustion mountain was the last thing I wanted to do. But I did it. Well, I attempted it. I probably did at least 15 of every exercise except for the crunchy frog (because I couldn’t get my balance) and the scissors (because oh my God). I definitely started to drop out at the end, but it was at least better than day one.

Day 4 – Yoga X

Isn’t this supposed to be relaxing? My wife expressed to a P90X alum how excited she was about the yoga day. He laughed. I now understand why.

As I have mentioned before, I suck at yoga. Like whoa. Flexibility was the one area of the readiness test for P90X that I failed, so repeatedly bending down is one of my least favorite things in this world. I learned, however, that my inability to complete any yoga work has most likely been due to my lack of endurance with it. See, up front, you do the hard, ballistic stuff, like downward dog and warrior pose and any number of exhausting poses that all seem to end with me lying in a pool of sweat. But then, after you’re through that, it goes to balance and flexibility, the stuff I really want to work on. It was still hard, but it was better.

Some big notes on this one: first, it’s 90 minutes, so plan for that. I was fortunate in that I only had a half day at the office, so I wasn’t working late into the night on it. Second: if you don’t understand what he’s saying, get out of the pose and watch. I was trying to wrap myself into some absurd pretzel that involved my arms being behind my back but also under my legs and I pulled something in my shoulder joint that made the whole arm go numb for a moment. Turns out I was doing it way wrong. Lesson learned, arm still functioning.

Day 5 – Legs and Back

This is both the most important and most challenging workout in the bunch for me. At least, so far. If I need to increase strength anywhere, I need to do it in my knees. They’re often sore, and running puts a lot of stress on them, so it’s important to increase the muscles around the joint. Those weak muscles, however, make it difficult to do exercises like the one I had today, so many times, I had to remind myself that it will get easier. As he repeatedly says on the video, “Do your best. Forget the rest.” I tried.

The back stuff is still foreign to me. I have no concept as to how a person can do that many actual pull-ups. It baffles me. But I use my chair and do what I can. Again, I trust that it will get better.

The real killer for me today was the one leg wall squat. You know that old exercise where you put your back to the wall and act like you’re sitting in a chair. It’s that, but on one leg. And it hurts. My angle was too big for sure, but I recorded that as my “modification” for the exercise, and will hopefully drop it next time. Or maybe the time after that.

My biggest win for today, though, was actually doing the workout. I still don’t have the car back, but I also do not have a free evening. I will be out of my house for approximately 17 hours today, with no way to do a workout in there, which meant an early bed time last night and a 4:00am wake-up today. But I did it.

I’m hoping to journal this more accurately in more frequent but shorter posts than this.

For now, I sure would be thankful for a nap.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

P90X - Day 1

What have I gotten myself into?

In my seemingly never-ending quest to reignite my love of exercise, I've taken a drastic step. For my birthday this year, my parents got me the P90X system, and the wife and I started today. And now my arms don't work. Typing is really the most intensive thing I can do with them, so I figured it was a good time to update the blog.

The last few weeks have been slightly more productive for me in the running department, but still nowhere near the level of production I need if I'm going to qualify for the Boston Marathon in February. However, I have taken the following steps to get better:

1) My wonderful wife bought me a new pair of shoes. They're Mizuno, which is new for me, but they came highly recommended from the Hill Country Running Store employee who also races in my current favorite shoe, the Brooks PureConnect. While they're a bit looser than anything I currently use, I'm hoping they'll be a little easier on my feet as a result. Also, they're purple, which is fun.

2) The same store has Thursday night workouts for hills and speed work, which I will absolutely attend once I have Thursday nights open. Depending on my upcoming rehearsal schedule (as we've just started the process for my next show), I'm hoping this will start happening soon. 

3) P90X. I figure that I'm going to get stronger, and then when I run thereafter, my body will get used to working hard while tired, the very epitome of the last six miles. Seems like a solid plan. It'll help that I'll also look better.

4) Here's the big one. As an added incentive to get me up in the morning, I'm finally taking my fuel intake seriously. That means that I'm fazing out all pop from my diet, and taking alcohol off the list until I qualify. Gauntlet down. Do it.

So today, we started the P90X process, and while I was not able to make it through the ab section, I felt that the arms went pretty well. I'm excited to see what's next.

And to be able to lift things again.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cold Front

Well, fall arrived.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it was at some point between 10:00 last night and 5:45 this morning. When I got home, it was comfortable outside in my t-shirt. This morning, my hands were still frozen after a mile warm up.

It was great.

I love the cold weather, particularly as a runner. Well, let me rephrase that. I love reasonable cold weather. When we moved to Texas from Chicago, one of the reasons was to escape the unreasonable cold of the north. By unreasonable, I mean negative double-digit wind chills. Unacceptable. Now, it dips into the 40s, and I’m ready for a hat and gloves.

This morning, I didn’t wear either of those. I stepped outside expecting the cool-but-still-pretty-warm air that I had left just seven hours earlier. Once I was out there, I didn’t want to go back in, waking up my wife and dogs in the process, so I just decided to fight through the air. I stand by this decision.

See, this morning was a speed work morning, and though my commitment to running has been embarrassingly lackluster the last few months, I still love to go fast. In cold air, you simply move faster, so I knew I was in for a good time. And sure, I couldn’t really feel my hands at the end of the workout, and I may or may not have slightly pulled a muscle in my leg. Whatever. These things happen. It didn’t change the fact that I ended my workout refreshed, excited, and ready for Monday to begin.

I haven’t felt any of those things in recent weeks.

So bring on the cold. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. If I remember correctly, we’ve got about two weeks of fall, a month of winter, and then a slow-but-steady increase in temperature, culminating in a 90-degree March ahead.

For now, I’m going to break out my gloves.