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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.

Friday, May 27, 2016

P90X Day 9 - Double Time

I thought it would get easier.

It hasn't. Not yet.

At the 10% point of this program, I can honestly say that I'm seeing significant results. And that I'm exhausted. Yesterday was the first repeated workout, the chest and back, which means push-ups and pull-ups. P90X stresses the importance of taking notes on your workout so that you can see what you've done, which gives you a place of reference for the next time. I checked out my numbers and set a goal to be slightly better this time around.

For starters, all of my pull-ups last week were done with the aid of a chair, so I decided to do as many as I could without the chair, and then change over. Then, I figured I'd add a few reps of each type of push-up.

This did not last long. I did real pull-ups for the first two workouts, and increased on one style of push-ups. After the first break, I couldn't pull myself up anymore, and I was already starting to drop on the number of push-ups I could do, as compared to last week. Within the first ten minutes, it was clear that, not only was I not going to improve on last week's numbers, I was going to have trouble maintaining them.

So, what does that mean? Does it mean that I'm failing? For a while, it felt like it. I got very frustrated the first few times that I missed my numbers.

And then I remembered that last week, I was doing this workout with fresh arms. This week, I've got a whole week of extreme workouts behind me, so I couldn't actually expect to make the same numbers that I did when I was fresh. In fact, even getting close meant that I was doing great. So, I fought my way through the rest and even got through the abs with numbers reminiscent of my second day instead of my first.

Which brought us to today's plyo workout. I went in with tempered expectations after yesterday's limits, and found that the first half of the workout was similarly difficult. However, the back half felt great, and I even had enough energy to jump into Tony's "double-time" moments. Knowing exactly what was coming made a huge difference in my desire and ability to push myself harder than I would have otherwise.

While my numbers may not have reflected it yesterday, I do feel (and look) stronger already. I need to keep remembering that progress can be slow. I certainly can't compare my numbers to those of the folks on the videos. I can only do the best I'm able on any given day.

And double-time when possible.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

P90X Day 7 - Good Pain

On the seventh day, he (mostly) rested.

The last day of each week in the P90X cycle is rest or X-Stretch. The latter is a one-hour stretching routine, designed to increase flexibility and speed recovery.

As I've mentioned many times, flexibility is not a strong area for me. To be honest, I've got pretty much nothing in that department. When I took the foot-in-the-box hamstring flexibility test in college, I couldn't even reach the box, let alone push back the little gauge on top. The person testing me thought I was joking. I may have mentioned this before, not that it bothers me or anything.

That said, I've never worried too much about being flexible. With the exception of musical theatre in college, I've had no specific need for flexibility in my life, and as long as my muscles can keep carrying me forward, I've seen no reason to pursue it.

Until, that is, earlier this year. My month of yoga really got me thinking about how I can change my body for the better, and I experienced a very important (obvious) fact: the more flexible I am, the less I will hurt after exercise. I realize everyone already knows this fact, but it's something I had to experience first-hand in order to truly comprehend it, because pain has never been a problem for me.

I take a certain amount of (misdirected) pride in the amount of pain that I can withstand. When I was in the hospital last year, my wife informed the nurses to take whatever pain measure I gave them and increase it by 20% to get an idea of what was really happening. Marathon pain is a badge of honor, and with all the twisted ankles, pulled muscles and strained ligaments I've had in my running life, a little bit of pain is to be expected on pretty much any given day.

I also made the decision a few years ago to avoid taking ibuprofen except when absolutely necessary. I used to pop them like candy after workouts, but I came to realize - besides the obvious risks of taking too many NSAIDs - that is was only masking the pain, causing me to continue doing damage. I didn't know if I was actually feeling better or if the drugs were just working. I didn't know when I was truly well.

So now, I use the pain as a starting point for gauging my readiness for the next thing, and today, I've got a bit of pain. Mostly in the shoulders and butt from all the kicking and punching yesterday, but some in other areas as well. So, usually, I would take the rest day that is allowed.

But, as my wife pointed out, this pain can also be saying something different. Instead of "do nothing," this pain may actually be saying, "Stretch, idiot." Rather than sit still and wait for the pain to go away, I can take active (non-pharmaceutical) steps to fix it. Perhaps I should just do what the program tells me to do. Go figure.

So, I brought the DVD to work with me in order to complete the workout on lunch. Naturally, it won't play in my computer, but I found a list of the workouts online and did all of them I recognized. I figure it's better than nothing and certainly a step in the right direction. And even though it did hurt, I could tell it was a good pain. A healing pain. The kind that tells your body it's getting stronger. And that, after all, is the whole point.

One week down, twelve to go.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

P90X Day 6 - Selective Memory

They say you need to forget your last marathon before you run another.

The last few miles of your first marathon, unless you're an incredibly elite runner (in which case, good for you), were likely pretty rough. I know that mine were. In fact, the last few miles of every single one of my marathons has been pretty rough for one reason or another. The pain, the slow wobble back to the car, the days/weeks of recovery... it's never been easy for me.

I'm not alone in this, and for this reason, there are those who say you need to forget all about it before you can do it again. Not that it happened, of course, you need to learn from any mistakes you made in training or execution, but you need to forget the intensity of the pain, or you'll never return to the start line.

Quite frankly, I feel like the pain is part of the experience. I remember quite well the pain from at least three of my marathons, and I still went out and ran the next one, but the point is taken. It helps, in marathoning, to have a bit of a selective memory.

I don't think that's true for P90X.

I remember Kenpo (a kick-and-punch workout) as my favorite of the P90X program. What I had forgotten was the very beginning of the hour, in which we do some squat stretch of which my body is simply not capable. I just don't bend that way. There are actually about 8 minutes of yoga at the start of this workout which came as a surprise to me this morning, having completely forgotten about that. Needless to say, after an intense leg-and-back workout last night, it wasn't a pleasant surprise.

Then I got into the heart of the program. PUNCH! KICK! The only thing missing was a punching bag, which is absolutely on my Amazon wish list right now. By the halfway point, I was into the groove, even completing the double-time and yelling sections (though quietly, because the wife is still asleep).

It was at this point that a small, sneaking suspicion crept into my brain. I forgot about the hard part at the beginning; what if I forgot about a hard part at the end?

The worry didn't slow my intensity, but it did nag at my brain all the way into the blocking section. Turns out, it was unfounded. The rest of the workout was just as joyful and exciting as I'd remembered. It was only that one little section that had escaped my memory.

Tomorrow's schedule is to do the stretching workout - which I do not remember at all - or to rest. My theory right now is to start that workout and see how it goes. If I'm in pain, then I take my rest.

And this is where it gets interesting. For those unfamiliar with the program, you do the same schedule for three weeks, and then get a "lighter" week. (Calling that week "light" is crap, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.) So, beginning Thursday, I get to go back and do the workouts that I've already done with a fresh memory, and I think (hope) it will be a great advantage. There's a lot of strength in knowing that you've completed something recently. I took great notes on all the workouts that required them, and have an excellent baseline from which to work. In theory, next week should be the start of my real growth.

Unless I've forgotten something.

Monday, May 23, 2016

P90X Day 5 - More Decisions

So, about this commitment thing.

In the last couple days, I've given some additional thought to the slogan of "Decide, Commit, Succeed." In particular, I gave it some very deep thought at around 4:45 am.

As tends to happen at that particular hour of the morning, I found myself standing over my alarm. I sway slightly from side to side and think about just how much I want to put myself through a tough workout. Whether running, P90X, or any other form of physical activity, it takes a fair amount of determination for me to get myself moving hard first thing in the morning.

Today, I was not so lucky. I knew I had no commitments after work, so I could complete the Legs and Back day when I got home. I hadn't gotten as much sleep as I would like, and I told myself that it would be smarter to rest now and work later. And rest I did.

Sure, I got the workout done when I got home, but it wasn't how I planned it, and that's its own issue. It's taught me that making the decision once is only the start, but commitment isn't about making one decision. It's about making very specific choices each and every day (or at least 6 out of 7). To truly commit, you need to decide every day.

With that in mind, I can hope that tomorrow will hold a more successful choice for me. It's the Kenpo day, which is one of my favorite workouts in the program, so it'll give me something worth waking up for.

Let's hope I think so tomorrow.

Friday, May 20, 2016

P90X Day 2 - Older

Well, I made it through day two.

Sure, I didn't get up on time and I had to do the workout when I got home, but I made it through the whole thing. Day 2 is the Plyometrics workout, which is basically legs and cardio. This has always been my specialty in P90X. Using legs and keeping up the energy. It's what a runner is born to do.

This time was harder than any other attempt. Sure, I'm not running as much in the last couple weeks, but that wasn't all there was to it. The simple fact is, I'm getting older.

And that's fine. It's absolutely fine to not be as quick to 100% as I've been in the past. I just need to remember that in that 60-80% done part of the workout when I don't think it's ever going to end. I need to remember that when we do the leg swings over the chair and my hips begin to scream at me. Or when we do the jump tucks and everything goes haywire.

I did remember it when good ol' Tony Horton decided to ask for double-time on the workouts. I didn't do any of that. Not yet. I kept to the basic pace and made it to the end with questionable form but unquestionable success. Hard to believe there's only 88 days left.

Dear God, what have I done?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

P90X Day 1 - Reboot

They say the first step is the hardest.

I respectfully disagree.

This will be the third or fourth time that I've started the P90X program. I've had the DVDs in my possession for more years than I'd like to admit, and I've never made it more than 1/3 of the way through. There are many reasons, of course, from legitimate injury to plain old laziness, but it always comes down to one thing more than any other.


The slogan for Beachbody (the company who makes P90X) is (or was) "Decide. Commit. Succeed." For me, the first step is the easiest one. I decide to start lots of things. Just ask the two novels sitting on my computer, or the three screenplays. Check how many books I have on my shelf with bookmarks halfway through. Heck, look no further than my mileage from this year. It's barely moved since February, but it looked really good until then. I'm often motivated to start, but maintenance has always been my problem.

Still, that time I made it 1/3 of the way through the program, I was pretty well built. Probably the best shape I've ever been in, from a purely physical perspective. For various reasons, some pictures of me during that time have been surfacing in odd corners of the internet, and it's reminded me just how spectacular that felt. Since I haven't been running all that much recently, I thought that perhaps a change in workout style might be the shake-up that I needed.

And then I missed day one. In my defense, there was pizza.

Today, I made it happen. Day one is chest and back, which is a lot of pushing and pulling. I paced myself the first time through the workouts, and nearly duplicated my numbers (though with substantially more effort) on the second round. While these numbers are not particularly impressive just yet, it meant that I was actually pacing myself appropriately, which is its own little victory.

The Ab Ripper X workout at the end of these days has always been a problem for me. I go as long as I can and usually break down halfway through. This time around, I simply aimed for lower targets. They were doing 25 of each move, and I did 10. On all but 1 move, I easily could have done more, but it gives me somewhere to go in the coming weeks without discouraging me every step of the way. Once again, I paced appropriately.

So all my problems are solved, right?

Not hardly. Because as I mentioned, the first step has always been my favorite. Let's see if I get around to step two tomorrow. I think, at least for now, there's a pretty good chance.

As long as there's not pizza.