May 11, 2009

the p is for purgatory

Or pain. Or, less cynically, perseverence. Actually I'm not sure what the P in P90x stands for. The 90 is for 90 days. The X is for extreme. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, P90X is a work out routine. You may have seen the infomercial on TV. I would never have given it a second glance due to my natural aversion of all things informercial, but my friend David said it was actually the real deal. It is the real deal. This isn't "30 second" abs. This is "every other day do 339 situps" abs. This is a "workout for 1 to 1.5 hours every day for 90 days" workout.

The workout regimen seemed appealing for a number of reasons.
  1. It entails hard work. I don't think there are any shortcuts in getting fit and this one didn't pretend there were any. The warnings from friends about how you need to make sure you don't overdo it seemed to drive this point home.
  2. It's a robust, multi-faceted workout. Through the course of 90 days you will do weight training, stretching, yoga, kenpo, plyometrics (jump training), etc. There isn't a muscle in your body that won't get worked and stretched. My biking and weight lifting routines never made me feel 'healthy' because the results were too localized.
  3. It's an adaptable workout. Let's face it. At the beginning you are simply not going to be able to do all of the workouts. Parts of the yoga routine are just impossible. That's okay. You can just do your best. Doing close to 150 pullups during the back session is not going to happen for at least a month but they show you how you can cheat with a chair.
  4. There's no cheesy quality to the regimen. No hyped up pep talks. No metaphysical aspect to it. The DVD starts and you get right into it.
  5. There's a big focus on stretching. I'm as stiff as a board. It's genetic. My mom has never touched her toes. I've only been able to do it once when I was young and worked hard at stretching. This program has yoga and an entire stretching DVD plus all the workouts begin and end with stretching.
  6. There's a big focus on using your own body weight as resistence. Pullups and pushups are preferred over big heavy weights. I feel this tends to right-size your muscles and stop you from over bulking and overworking muscles.
  7. The program is big on measuring everything. Everything gets recorded.
  8. It doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment. You need some free weights and some way to do pullups (I have big doors and had to make my own).
Here's how it works. You work out every day for 90 days. A workout is 1 to 1.5 hours long. A good 10-20 minutes of that is warmup/warmdown so it is not as crazy as it sounds. You actually get an option on the 7th day; take it off or spend it stretching. I stretched. Each day you put in a DVD that walks you through the exercises. The instructor talks about options to make them easier if you're just starting out. One day is strength training, the next day is non-strength (yoga, stretching, cardio, etc.) then you go back to strength and keep repeating. Each DVD is repeated 7 days later. So for week #1 you go through 7 DVDs and at the start of week 2 you start the same 7 DVDs again. After a few weeks you transition to a different sequence of 7 DVDs. The program always tries to keep you working on different muscles in different ways (they call it muscle confusion). Each strength training day is immediately followed by an ab workout (Ab Ripper X) which is about 15-20 minutes long. There's a diet that goes with it that I didn't follow.

Week 1
The first week is something akin to hell. Normally after working out I am sore two days later. I was sore the night after working out on the first DVD. Painfully so. I woke up in pain. The rest of the week was no different. I had trouble getting a fork up to my mouth to eat my arms were so sore. I couldn't fully extend my right arm for two days. Sitting down and getting up was almost impossible and extremely painful. Actually I didn't sit down. I fell down onto chairs. Climbing up the subways stairs made me grunt and wince. Going down I almost fell. Sleeping was a chore. I could never find a comfortable position and my muscles would tighten up if I didn't change position every 20 minutes. Every single morning when I woke up it would take 5 minutes under the hot shower to relieve the pain. For 3 of the first 4 days I considered not going to work it was so bad. And every morning I thought there is no possible way I could do the workout that night. For reference I was in okay shape at the beginning. Not great but I'm not an overweight couch potato. The CIA should consider P90X now that waterboarding is out.

The other issue was the pain was universal. It wasn't just in my quads like when I bike or in the arms when I lift weights. It was everywhere. Including my entire torso which became incredibly sensitive. Right around the ribs being the most tender. My daughter would jump on me and I would scream bloody murder.

To make matters worse I just wasn't putting 100% into the workouts. Part of it because I was sore but part of it because I didn't want to get injured or more sore. I was actively trying to take it easy. So here I am thinking I was easing into this and it's absolute murder. I'm doing a half-assed workout and I'm still dying. What's week 2 going to be like when I'm supposed to put some solid effort in.

I start week 2 today. The pain has started to subside but I'm still stiff.

Week 1 Routines:
  1. Chest & Back - A 1 hour strength session. Basically you run through multiple pullup and pushup exercises. To exhaustion. Then you do it a second time.
  2. Plyometrics X - For me this was the most difficult. Sometimes it is called jump training. This is not really a good description. The focus is not really on jumping. A better description is squat training. Everything is done in a squat. Jumping jacks in a squat. Hops forward and backward in a squat. It's utterly horrible.
  3. Shoulders & Arms. A 1 hour strength session. This was tough because it has a focus on biceps and triceps which incidentally got thoroughly thrashed in #1 via pushups and pullups.
  4. Yoga X - The first 45 minutes of this are unbelievably friggin hard. Having a cheese grater repeatedly scraped across my ass would be more soothing. In many ways it's the best workout, but it is just brutal. Checking personal P90X reviews a lot of people (men mainly) give up right here. I think men are less limber than women and not being limber makes this very hard. You have to exert a tremendous amount of strength to stretch your body into position.
  5. Legs & Back - More strength training. This was okay except for the effect on my calves. My legs had recovered a little from Plyometrics but my calves were in virgin territory. I had a huge amount of trouble walking the next day. Stairs were the equivalent of a torture device. I had to walk on my heels.
  6. Kenpo X - Basically shadow kick boxing. Doable for me. I didn't struggle with this. You work up a good sweat but since there's no target it's hard to overdo it.
  7. Stretch X - 1 hour of stretching. It's a nice end to the week because you really begin to tighten up.

Part of the reason I'm posting is to make sure I finish this program. I have my doubts. 90 days is a long time and my performance in week 1 was discouraging. I figure if I've laid out a goal publically I'm more likely to do it. I'll probably update again at the 30 day mark.

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