One year ago, I started P90X for the first time. I didn't have a specific goal in mind when I started. A friend of mine (David V. Libby) left P90X at my house one day and it sat there, unused, for the better part of a year before I picked it up. In retrospect, an odd combination of events led me to start, but these were the two biggest:BrunoPuppy

  1. I got a puppy. I had been biking (on a trainer) for over a year when I got my puppy, Bruno. He was very well behaved, but I couldn't really use the bike trainer without worrying about him trying to play with the spokes while I rode. I wanted to keep working out, so I needed to find something else I could do in my house.
  2. I decided to write more. Coincident with getting Bruno, I decided it was finally time to dedicate a portion of my working hours to writing. Prior to last year, I only wrote on nights and weekends. That left very little time for editing, publishing, and promoting. With the first draft completed of six novels, I wanted more time to see if I could turn them into anything, so I reduced my job to twenty-four hours a week and dedicated the rest of the week to making books.

Suddenly I had more time and required a different workout. P90X seemed like a logical place to turn. I brought a modest amount of enthusiasm and zero competence. The first day's workout (Chest & Back) struck me as impossible. I could do some push ups, but I didn't do a single pull up that day. In fact, it took me months before I could do any pull ups. I started to doubt that I ever would. I just really, really sucked at them. But I used a chair as a crutch and faked them the best that I could. When I started I had just two twenty-five pound weights and the pull up bar. I think that's all the equipment I needed for quite a while.

After that first workout, I never had any doubt that I could muddle my way through the program. I didn't really commit until the end of that workout, but once it ended I promised myself that I would finish the entire 91 days. I wanted to do it clean–no missed days, no substitute workouts. That requires a bit of luck (to not get sick or injured), but I guess I just got lucky.

In the first ninety days, I lost about ten pounds and a bunch of inches off my waist. I did every workout, but I really change my eating habits at all so I still weighed about 200 pounds. For round two, I decided to crank it up a notch.

I started my second round of P90X at the end of June, 2011. I reduced my intake to 1200 calories / day (I ate extra calories to make up for any I lost to my workouts), and I switch to the "doubles" version of P90X. "Doubles" adds an extra cardio workout on the strength days (starting with phase 2). July went really well. I lost twenty more pounds and really started to look and feel thin. I also began to execute honest, well-formed pull ups. Everything seemed perfect until I sprouted a new lump in my lower abdomen.

After many weeks off for surgery and recovery, I restarted my second round of P90X. I managed to finish by the end of the year and I lost another thirteen pounds. This year, my friend and I have been doing an extended round of P90X2. Once we finish that up I have every intention of going back to the original P90X for a third session. It's really that good. I thoroughly enjoy the discipline that P90X brings to my exercise schedule. I don't see any reason why I should stop doing it.

If you're not doing P90X already, you should really consider it. It doesn't require much equipment, takes an hour a day, and produces great results.

 

P90X2PhasesWe finished the second phase of P90X2 the other day. Phase one was all about strengthening your core, and getting you ready for the rest of the program. I see the point – there was a lot of isolation in the original P90X, so perhaps you didn't get to workout all those supportive muscles, especially the core ones.

And, as advertised, the first phase did bring a lot of core engagement. The second phase was supposed to be all strength though:

  • Chest + Back + Balance – push ups and pull ups
  • Shoulders + Arms – biceps, lats, triceps
  • Base + Back + Mobility – plyo and pull ups

Once again, Tony takes all the exercises you're used to and then adds a twist. Your curls are done on one leg, or at an angle. Your overhead triceps pull is on top of a stability ball. All of these modifications are supposed to help you bring all sorts of different muscles into the exercise, but they also mean that you're not going to lift as much or really feel like you're targeting one muscle to exhaustion. I suppose that's the strategy – overall fitness instead of body building – but it seems like a step backwards in the progress I made in the original P90X. 

I really miss the good old Legs & Back from P90X. We did Legs & Back one day between the second and third phase (we had a couple of days to kill around a trip I had to make), and it still kicks ass. Nothing gets you sweating harder than full-on legs with weights interspersed with pull ups. That said, Base + Back + Mobility is awesome. In that workout, you alternate between really hard plyometric exercises and pull ups. That's a blast if you like max heartrate. 

I'm not sure why the second phase didn't satisfy me. Maybe it's because I lacked the overall strength to really work as hard as I should. If you can't stay balanced on one leg well, you downgrade the weight and then don't get as good an arm workout? Could be. The only way to know would be to start from the top and try to improve. I might do that, but I suspect right after P90X2 I'll be right back to the first P90X. 

coreThe second week of P90X2 is the same as the first. That means Core, Plyo, Recovery, Total Body, Yoga, and Balance & Power. It's a good week that features more core and balance than weightlifting to build strength. The philosophy is that you're building up your base and you'll be adding the showy muscles later. Before I started, I figured that I already had all the core muscles I needed. After all, shouldn't I have built up my base last year when I did the classic P90X? 

Despite increasing my reps and weights this week, I burned way less calories. On average, the week two workouts clocked in at about 80% of the calorie burn from week one. That's not surprising – less confusion and frustration made everything seem a little easier. 

You're supposed to continue on Phase One for three to six weeks. Then you do a week of recovery before moving on to Phase Two. I'm torn. On one hand, I'd like to keep going with core until I've mastered all of these moves. On the other hand, I'm anxious to get back to some serious strength training. The results of weightlifting are more tangible because you're recording weights and reps for everything, not just a few things. I guess I'm leaning towards moving on. I can always come back and do Phase One again when I'm all done.

 

 

cat_burpeeI've learned to hate the word "Burpee." As far as I can figure, it has something to do with dropping to your hands and kicking back your legs so you can do some pushups before jumping back to your feet. There's no amount of cardio fitness that makes these any easier. In the classic P90X, your Burpee exposure is limited to "Prison Cell Pushups." In this new version you'll find many flavors, including the "Dumbbell Super Burpee" in this routine.

You'll find a lot of hard moves in this video, but not a lot of weights. Sticking with the theme of strengthening the core, these moves challenege you to defy gravity without breaking your wrists and ankles. 

In the original P90X, you start out the ninety-one days faking it – just flailing your way through the videos doing your best. After a while, you graduate to working hard but cheating here and there to make it through to the end. Hopefully, before you get to the end of the plan, you've developed enough proficiency to really maximize your efforts. That's when it really feels like you're making progress. Some of the moves in this video seem so complex and difficult that I'm not sure I'll reach proficiency by the end of the first phase. On the other hand, it's a really tough workout and all that work has to be doing my core some good.

PretzelI've heard that a lot of people complaind about P90X yoga. In fact, I heard that from Tony Horton. I never complained; I found it indispensible. If I've got a cranky knee or a sore shoulder, an hour's worth of yoga can usually fix me right up. Perhaps P90X people don't gravitate to yoga because they're looking for a more aerobic workout. With yoga, you're really responsible for showing up with the intensity. It's not like you can write down a weight and then try to beat that next time. You're only going to burn calories if you challenge yourself to deeper lunges and twistier twists.

The biggest difference between classic P90X yoga, and the yoga you'll find in P90X2 is the duration. The classic ran over ninety minutes; the new one only takes a little over an hour. It's not like they cut a bunch of stuff out, though. Sure, they replaced a couple of moves, but mostly they just sped everything up. Actually, it seems a little too fast. You get zero time for the transitions, and Tony keeps his mouth shut. I ended up looking at the screen an awful lot, just to figure out what I should be doing. A couple of the sequences are notably harder – think you spent a lot of time on one leg before? P90X2 significantly increases the amount of time you'll need to balance on one leg.

You still get a good chunk of abdominal exercises at the end. They're all new moves, which keeps things interesting. Overall I think they could have made this video harder. Another thirty minutes of sweating would have been welcome.

P90X2TotalBodyCurls are so boring, right? You grab the heaviest weights you can manage, you keep your elbow in one position, hold your body steady, power that weight to your shoulder, and then lower it deliberately. What a terrible workout. Fortunately, Tony Horton has figured out a clever remedy for those boring biceps workouts. You simply stand on one leg and lean forward until your torso and lifted leg are both parallel to the ground. Then do the curl. 

This is called "Warrior 3 Curl," and it's the sixth move on the P90X2 Total Body DVD. With this video you get to modify many of your favorite moves. Tired of doing Push-Up Side Arm Balance? Why not do those push-ups with your hands on top of medicine balls?

Warrior3Yes, you get some amount of a strength workout with this video, but it's more of a balance workout than anything else. At the end of the Triceps Kickback on Stability Ball, I felt more work in my abductors and obliques than in my arms. It's hard work though, and the name of the workout is quite accurate.

 

SnowRunToday I enjoyed my first barefoot run of 2012. I also enjoyed my last barefoot run of the 2011/12 winter. I didn't mind the big chunks of ice-melt salt on the trail. In fact, I didn't even feel it. As you might have guessed, I didn't feel much of anything in my feet after the first minute. 

Walking to the car, the temperature felt pleasant. Today got to about 38° -- warm enough to melt most of the snow on the hillside next to the trail. Unfortunately, all that runoff from the melting snow left the pavement extremely wet. Splashing through that runoff made the dry parts of the trail feel like paradise. Right after a quarter mile of puddles I got to my turn-around point and had to splash back through. Ugh.

I had fun though. It's good to get out. Depending on how much snow we get in the next few weeks, I might even consider getting shoes!

One note about the picture on the left -- I took that pic after my run. If you look closely, you'll see the toes on my left foot are curled under. It took about an hour before I could straighten them out. I can't wait for summer.

FoamRollerI can be a real ass about stretching. I'm self-aware enough to recognize that. I've worked really hard the last few years to get flexible, and I believe that I started with some natural advantage in this area. I've always been reasonably limber for a guy. But here's part of the reason I'm an ass – one time in yoga class I was really working a pigeon pose. I had everything cranking and it felt like my hip was in a vice. My face twisted and sneered. My breath hissed between my clenched teeth.

That's when the instructor (Brett Russman, I mentioned him earlier) knelt down next to me and said – "The stretch is in your hip. Relax your face and slow your breathing, D-Nozz." I added the D-Nozz, he never said that part. It's short for douche nozzle.

Anyway, what's my point? Oh yeah, my point is that I enjoy stretching, but I can be a real ass about it. I tend to roll my eyes when people hiss, and sneer, and bitch. That's P90X2 Day 3 in a nutshell – lots of stretching and growing. It's fun if you enjoy that kind of thing. Bonne Chance!

It turns out that passing out is easy; Plyocide is hard. Tom said it's just because Plyocide is new – we'll get used to it – but I'm not so sure. Sure, the original Plyometrics seemed really difficult when I started, and now it seems pretty straightforward, but this workout made me gasp and gulp for air.

P90X2PlyocideThe warmup is a big chunk of time. Like the Core on day 1, you begin with stretches and self-massage with the foam roller. He once again implores you to pause and do the stretches for real. They certainly don't give you much time with any one body part. So, even though you've spent ten minutes, it didn't feel like I'd really done justice to the foam roller technique.

When the workout starts, you know it right away. I struggled in the first set of moves. Everything is new – you won't see any of the exercises from the first version of Plyometrics. These moves make you react fast and stay on your toes. My peak heartrate topped out at 183 BPM, which is a little higher than I'd like. In fact, according to many popular estimations, it's higher than the theoretical maximum number of times my heart should beat in a given minute. You get plenty of water breaks (four, I think), but they're short, and there are many times where the back-to-back exercises left me light-headed. 

At the end, I'd burned over 800 calories. I just checked back through my diary, and that makes it the most number of calories I've burned in an hour in the past year. Hopefully, by the end of P90X2 I'll be as comfortable with Plyocide as I am with the original Plyometrics.

 

Today we began P90X2. It's the sequel to the popular P90X exercise regime. In the first version, Phase 1 starts with a strength day. In the sequel, Phase 1 is all about core strengthening, so the first day is just Core.

apple-coreWarmup – instead of just static and ballistic stretches, you do this whole thing with a stability ball and roller. You don't spend enough time to really do these stretches. A person could spend an entire hour on this section just to really work some issues out. It's self-inflicted Rolfing, and it's painful, but you're not going to get it done in 6 minutes.

The workout starts slow, but hard. You're always balancing, always stretching. These moves are not about isolation, they're about integration. In the first P90X, each move would target one or two muscles and you'd work it hard. In this program, you're always on one leg, or propped up on a stability ball, or gripping a medicine ball. It's an hour's worth of just trying to stay upright. Even when you think you've got the hang of a move, you look up at the screen and realize that you're only doing it half right.

By the end I'd burned 650 calories and I could hardly catch my breath. I don't feel like I really thoroughly worked any one muscle, but I suspect that I'll be sore in some interesting new places two days from now.

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