Day Two – Plyometrics X

Plyometrics X – The Scary One

I read about this workout in advance. Every review said how horrible it was, the biggest challenge out there, the one everyone hated…

I thought there might be a certain amount of self-fulfilling prophecy in all this, so I decided to just give it a go, at my own pace, and see what I could do. So: heart monitor on, water at the ready. (I made sure to drink a fair amount of water an hour before, so I was hydrated at the start).

I loved it! Really loved it! Don’t get me wrong, I can feel I’ve done some work, and I’m going to be in a lot of pain tomorrow, but still – loved it.

So what’s it like? Well – yes, it IS tough. You’ll need to find the level that’s right for you, and not try to match the guys on the screen. It’s a great workout but not if you overdo it. Also, there are an awful lot of lunges and squats. If your thighs are your weak spot, you’re going to suffer on this one. Actually, my thighs are my weak spot, but I was lucky that the DVD that I was doing before this had a lot of squats, so I’ve improved a bit recently. Anyway, don’t be afraid to mod it to give your quads a bit of a break if they need it.

Three key things I’d recommend.

Heart Rate Monitor

I didn’t do everything they did. I did several of the exercises modded, and in some cases I modded even down from that, or paused for a few seconds. But I knew that I wasn’t wussing out, and I didn’t do it for too long. I could be quite exact about that because of my heart rate monitor. It let me work as hard as I could, and no harder.

I’d say it really is an essential piece of equipment for this workout. Otherwise you’ll push yourself too far, or when you take a break, you’ll rest for too long. You can’t (or at least I couldn’t) “just tell” how hard I was working, because it was working muscles and cardio, and I was way too busy to tell if I felt tired because my heart rate was up, or just my leg muscles needed a break. Maybe you can, but I couldn’t.

Not Too Much Water

At one point in the middle, I noticed I was really slowing down, because I’d been grabbing a few mouthfuls of water here and there – and it was just a bit too much. I went to gargling and spitting (sorry!) in the water breaks, and pepped right up again. It really didn’t take much water to be “too much” with all the jumping around in this workout.

Attitude

I was really focused on staying relaxed and just doing it for at least the first 20 minutes of this workout. A couple of times I nearly lost the mindset, and started thinking “this is getting too hard” – and it got harder. I had to drag my focus back to the moment, and not think ahead. It sounds corny, but it really does make a huge difference – don’t think yourself out the game before you get going.

So: next up, day three. Bring it on!

PS. It’s just possible I’m still on an endorphin high. I’ll blog tomorrow morning to let you know if I still feel positive about it when the aches set in.

Day One – Hallelujah

After waking up feeling really ill, and thinking I’d have to put off starting P90X, hallelujah! A small miracle happened. It turned out to be one of those bugs that just suddenly wears off. 8pm, still feeling crap. 10pm, felt all better. So I did Day One.

Overview

How did it go? Well … honestly, it was so- so. But I was sort of expecting it so I’m not too disappointed. I’ve never been someone who’s good at learning new physical stuff, I’m more the academic type. And Tony Horton doesn’t exactly over-explain this stuff. This is where it shows that the programme isn’t aimed at beginners. You’re mostly left to figure out how to do the exercise yourself, with just a few tips of what not to do. I spent most of both sessions watching, rewinding, pausing, and only then finally doing.

Having said that, as I said, I’m the slow learner type, and I know just to take this at my own pace to get it right. Better to do it gradually and get it right than rush in and do it wrong – that’s what causes injuries.

It did mean that there was really no cardio effect at all – I was going at a snails pace. But it’s a 13 week programme, and I can always extend a section a week if I think I need more practice – apparently that’s fine.

So here’s a quick breakout of the day one workouts.

Chest and Back

This is the “pushes and pulls” workout – as well as chest and back, it’s also working your arms. It’s almost entirely variations on pushups and pull ups. There’s enough variation to keep it interesting though, it doesn’t feel too repetitious. Some are easier and some harder. Tony doesn’t explain the mods that much, but you can do partial pushups (from the knees or waist) if you can’t do a full one. Obviously you should do as much as you can – but not more!

The main problem I had was not knowing what weight I should use. This first session felt mostly like an experimentation session rather than a workout. For the pull ups I was using the resistance bands option, and started with 18lb. I thought that would be quite tough, but eventually decided I should have gone higher. By contrast, for the fly backs I was struggling to pull 3lb. I’m not entirely sure if this was just a strength issue, or flexibility, or if I just had the position wrong. I did notice Tony had a lower weight for this exercise though, so maybe it’s a tough one.

Overall, it was challenging and I think it’ll do me good, but I’m looking forward to my second round where I know what I’m supposed to be going and can push harder.

Ab Ripper

This one I wasn’t so impressed by. Again, not too much explanation from Tony, so I was spending quite a lot of time with the rewind and pause buttons. The movements were tricky, but I didn’t get that muscle burn at the end. Maybe because I couldn’t do enough, maybe because I had to stop to figure it out too often.

Two differences between this and the chest one. With the first, I knew I didn’t have much strength and would struggle, whereas I’m already used to doing a tough abs workout so I expected to be able to do more. The second difference us that although the chest workout was tricky, at the end I felt I’d given those muscles a good workout. With the abs one, I didn’t feel that. At the end, I wanted to do more.

I’m hoping this was just unfamiliarity, and it’ll get better next time. Otherwise, I might go back to a different abs workout on the abs days.

The Beginning! Not

So today is the day I’ve planned to start P90X, and I’ve come down with a lousy cold, temperature, glands up, etc. Really gutted. I’ve been planning this for a couple of weeks, and I’m almost tempted to try anyway and see how far I get, but I know that would be nuts.

For today, I’m going back to bed and resting. Tomorrow I’ll have to see how I feel. If I’m all sorted to start tomorrow, maybe I’ll carry on and just miss the first day. If it takes longer to get better, I’m probably looking at a week deferral. Moving the whole workout calendar to mid-week just seems too complicated.

Fingers crossed I’m feeling better tomorrow!

Why Am I Doing This?

This is definitely an important post for me to write before I start, because I know I’ll be asking myself this question soon – as soon as it gets tough! So I’m getting my reasons down in writing to look back at.

Aging

The main reason is that I want to age well. I want to stay strong and healthy into middle and old age, and not end up with dementia sitting helpless in a bed all day like my grandmother is. She’s 95, and unlikely to die anytime soon, but is entirely unable to do anything for herself. It’s been about 20 years or more since she could even go to the shops without someone driving her there and carrying her shopping. Can you imagine living your last years like that? One option is to start saving for Dignitas now, the other is to do plenty of exercise. The latter seems more positive.

Feeling Better

Being fit and exercising regularly will mean I’m stronger, my day-to-day tasks like carrying shopping or my son, moving furniture, digging will all be easier and less painful. But much more importantly, regular exercise will mean I feel better in myself – I’ll have more energy, be less tired, feel more positive, get less aches and pains, and feel young instead of old. Damn what I’m like when I’m old – this’ll help right now, too.

Looking Better

I want to look great. I want to look in the mirror and feel good about myself. I don’t want to look pale, ill, unhealthy, saggy. I want to be slim, toned and glowing with life. I can see the difference even from a couple of weeks exercise – how good will I look after 90 days? When I was younger – teens and 20s – I was never actually strong, I was always bookish and washed-out. I have no idea how good I might look if I get healthy now. I’d love to find out.

Leisure

I want to be able to go and walk/run around all weekend and not ache afterwards. I want to be able to decide to go and play sport or take a hike without having to ensure I have a day to recover afterwards. I want to include all these things in my normal leisure time rather than skip them because I’m too tired.

Setting an Example

My son is never going to be fit and fast if I won’t run around with him. He’ll never make sport and exercise a regular part of his life unless I do too. If we just watch TV every time it’s cold or rainy, that’s all he’ll ever know to do. I want him to know all this stuff as he grows up, and keep it as part of his life, rather than have to figure it out himself in his 30s as I have.

Showing Off

I want to look great, be strong, and be able to show that off. I want to finish something and feel really proud of it. I want to know that I set myself a challenge, and met it even when it got tough.

Building a Habit

Doing a programme for 90 days might be long enough to get me in the habit of setting aside exercise time always, working my life around that, and let me carry on doing exercise daily when it’s over. Whether I do the same programme again, or something else altogether, I hope to carry on after the 90 days are up.

So Why P90X?

Well – a few reasons. These may or may not be true for you. Bear in mind these opinions are based on research before I start the actual program. Let’s see if I have the same answers at the end.


1) Focus on building strength

I want to lose weight, but I also know from past experience that losing weight without some strength training makes me feel like crap. At first I feel great. But then progress starts levelling off, I start feeling tired and clumsy… I still feel like a slightly smaller fat person. I don’t feel great. This is still true even if I’m doing cardio.

Whereas when I do strength training too, I feel great. I lose inches even without losing a pound. Then when I lose some weight as well, I look fantastic. I actually feel slim. Instead of just getting smaller, my shape changes to look like someone slim. Also – I sleep better. I have more energy. And I can eat more while staying slim.

So what’s not to like? Well for me – it’s doing the actual exercise. That bit kinda sucks. For me anyway, since I’m not the sporty type. Actually, gradually I’ve got into it a bit and I kind of enjoy it now. But still, I find it hard to get started a lot of the time. Which is why I want a program that tells me what to do – to make this all easier for me.

P90X is not so much focused on cardio (it does do some), but is especially focused on building strength. It won’t make you build huge muscle – especially if you’re a girl. Even if you’re a guy you’ll find that the folks who want to build size don’t choose P90X, or they customize it. But that’s fine for me – I want strength, not muscle size. So, great. P90X works for me.

2) Rigid plan to stick to

I saw you pull that face. Stop it. Listen…

I don’t like rigid plans, either. Not in my day-to-day life. I like having some choice, and picking what I enjoy. But unfortunately when I do that exercise never makes it to the top of my list. Exercising is very good for me, and it can be quite fun in a way. But I’d still rather read a book, play with my son, watch TV or just sleep. Especially sleep. What can I say? Exercise is – a bit boring.

So, since I know that I need to exercise, and I know that I don’t really want to, the best solution is someone who makes it all easy for me. Imagine if someone just told you what to do to be completely healthy, you didn’t have to think about it, you could just do what you were told and you’d be fit, healthy and slim in no time? Great, right?

Exactly. So, that’s why I like the fact it has a rigid plan. I don’t want to think about this stuff, I just want to do it. And then go do something fun.

3) Challenging

Again, I own up. I get bored easily. I need to keep changing things around, moving them up, setting myself new targets. And I gain strength pretty quickly so the workouts I have get easier very rapidly. (NB. I don’t think is because I am super-athletic, I think it’s because I started from such a low point).

Plus resistance training is not that varied, really. You can buy a book with 100 different exercises in, and it seems like lots. But then every DVD or routine you find will be made up of about 20 of those same 100. It gets dull. And repetitious! Everything in resistance training is about reps – which means doing the same thing over and over. Do the same move 8-10 times. Pause, then do them again. Pause, do them again. Take a day’s break, then do all 3 sets again. Dull…

So: mixing it up by buying a new program every now and again is a way to keep me interested. And picking something that seems like a challenge makes it a bit more scary, a bit more exciting, and promises better results too. So I feel motivated to do it, and I’m more likely to stick with the program.

Does it really make a difference which program I do, or how often I change? Not so much – except the difference between carrying on or giving up. Which is all the difference in the world.

4) Nutrition plan as well as an exercise plan

Actually, this is only half a reason, because the nutrition plan seems crazy complicated, which is making me have to think about it, which I didn’t want to have to do. But that’s partly (mostly?) because I have silly diet needs, being gluten- and dairy- intolerant. Picky, huh? If you’re less awkward than me, it might be easier to follow. So, let’s ignore that aspect …

Doing lots of strength work builds muscle. Your body needs the right ingredients to build muscle. But losing weight is about cutting the amount you’re eating, which limits the ingredients your body has. If you get this right, you build muscle, lose weight and look fabulous. If you get it wrong you gain no muscle, feel tired and crap, or worse still you get injured. So, as much as the nutrition plan (or any diet plan) annoy the hell out of me – I need this guidance right now. I wouldn’t get it right on my own.

<sulk>

5) I can use resistance bands instead of weights

Tony Horton is not an idiot. He knows that while he’s advertising this to super-fit people who want to take their exercise to the next level, that’s quite a small audience. And most of them can probably design a workout themselves. Most of the people actually buying this program are going to be people like me, who aren’t super-fit but would quite like to be. Who probably don’t have loads of equipment, and can’t do the really hard moves.

So, he’s designed the program with plenty of modifications. Easier versions. Harder versions. So for someone like me, I can still do the program and see benefits. And then second time around, maybe do the exercises in the non-beginner version, and feel like a pro. And then maybe later still, do the really hard versions (well, I can dream!). This is great, and it’s a good sign of a well-designed workout program.

However, as well as the strength adaptations, I also don’t have a full set of weights. I don’t take this stuff that seriously. I don’t have the storage space. And man, those things are big and ugly. Plus, I can’t cart them around everywhere, so I’d have to leave them right next to where I work out, which is my living room. Which means my 4-year-old son would try to pick them up and probably hurt himself. And… well anyway, I don’t have a full set of weights and I’m not likely to get them anytime soon.

Here comes the great news. You can do a resistance workout without weights. Who knew? You still need the resistance, but you can get it from stretchy rubber bands. In pretty girly colours. Hurray!

Okay, I’m just being sarcastic now. But actually, this is great news. Light-weight, small, easy to carry and store, but they’ll still give you a decent workout. I’ve got a set of 5 bodylastic resistance tubes, and they range from 3lb to 19lb. Plus you can double them up (or treble them, or more) to get even higher weights.

And the P90X shows you how to do all the exercises with the resistance bands, which is great. So do lots of other workouts, too, but not all. (You can see loads of resistance band workouts for free at http://www.liveexercise.com/, but then those ones aren’t nearly as well-designed as P90X, and don’t have the different levels to work at. And their banter is pretty annoying).

So – not a unique feature of P90X, but still a plus.


So those are my reasons. Notice that none of the reasons were “P90X is WAY better than any other plan out there”. If you’re doing 6-days-a-week solid resistance exercises for 90 days, and eating the right stuff, you’ll end up looking great on nearly any plan. There are some crap programs out there, but there are plenty of other good ones too. It’s really about what works for you – this time around.

Next time, when you’re bored, you might pick something different. I probably will.


PS. “Muscle confusion” – is it real? Well, so far as I can tell (and I’m not a biology expert): partly. A wide range of exercises is good, that use different muscle combinations in different ways. Changing up your levels is good. “Muscle confusion”, per se, seems to be marketing hype. But probably helps avoid you getting bored, and helps you stick with the program. It’s not a lie, but it’s not a unique breakthrough either. In my non-expert opinion.

Begin at the Beginning

.. or maybe not.

Nearly the beginning, then.

This is a blog I’ve set up to keep track of my experience trying to go from someone fairly unfit and un-sporty and make it through P90X. I’m planning to start on July 30, 2012, and the program will last for 90 days (13 weeks) until October 28, 2012.

Today it’s T-4, and I’m in the preparation phase. Reading the books, buying the gear, psyching myself up, doing some exercise to prepare.

I’m pretty nervous, frankly.

There will be plenty more posts to talk about why, and how I got here, and how it goes.. but for now, it’s really wait-and-see time. Ulp.