Friday, September 28, 2007

P90X Weeks 4 and 5

Week 4 was supposed to be a "recovery" week. Let me say this for the record. Tony Horton's idea of recovery, and mine are not the same. This week, while lighter on the actual workout intensity in some regards is in no way a lessening of duration. In fact given the addition of an extra YogaX workout, this week actually in terms of time is longer than previous weeks. Add to the mix extra cardio and a workout called Core Synergistics and you have a formula for shear pain. Yes I said it. This week just like the weeks before it is quite challenging.

The reason for this, aside from the added Yoga focus, is the Core Synergistics workout. This workout takes all the moves and strength you have built up from them during the first few weeks and packs them into a single hour long sweat fest. Essentially what you are doing is movements involving your arms and legs through your core. These are the kinds of workouts people who are doing manual labor endure everyday. So for a sedentary population like ours, this workout can only be described as pure money. By the end of this week I knew I'd done something good for myself no matter how hard it was or how much a lie the promise of a "recovery" week might have been.

Week 5 we took pictures again. I was surprised to see that my stomach had indeed shrunk. But what was most striking was that my posture was 100% better. In the photos it seemed I was almost 2 inches taller than my original pictures. I was standing in the same shoes against the same wall as in week 1. Week 5 also begins the introduction of 2 new workout sequences, "Chest, Shoulders and Triceps" and "Back and Biceps". These 2 workouts and the new sequence in the "recovery" week are where the programs' promised "muscle confusion" system comes into play. Although I must say that after doing this program for the past 6 weeks, I've come to think the term is really just marketing mumbo jumbo. What is really happening is that your muscles actually become more intelligent and cooperative, not confused. These workouts really differ from work done in the gym in that almost no movement in the entire 12 disks is done in isolation from the rest of the muscles in the body. And if you ask me this is the true beauty of P90X. Even when doing pull ups, you are engaging your core for stability. The same is true for all the curls and push ups. Even when we use free weights in the gym this is not always the case. Our muscles have become isolated from each other by using benches and bars and pulleys. This is not how they are required to work in the real world. In this regard P90X retrains our bodies to work as they were designed. And like Tony says, "That's where the money is!"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

P90X Week 3

This week should really be called "MORE OF THE SAME."

Just more of the same from the previous 2 weeks. And more, and more, and lots more, of it. I did more pushups, more pullups, more 1 and 2 legged squats, jumped higher, landed softer than I had in the first 2 weeks. Add to that my functional swim, bike and run workouts and this all made for a very active week of working out indeed.

I must say at the end of it I was totally pooped. Normally I sleep about 7 hours a night with a 1 or 2 hour nap during the day. By week 3 I was up to about 9 hours a night with a solid 2 hour nap each day. And I was napping way more during my lunches and breaks at work.

I think I'm really starting to put this together and I'm seeing improvement everywhere. Not to take anything away from Tony Horton and P90X, but I'm really seeing what consistency and focus in fitness is all about. When I worked out before and I worked on my sports, there really wasn't a single unifying theme. Now I think P90X gives my training a focal point around which to plan my triathlon specific work. Gone from my daily and weekly routine are those "JUNK" miles. Gone are the workouts I was doing to accommodate friends so I wouldn't have to train alone. (Basically, I had already started this prior to P90X, but Tony and crew gave me an excuse to say "no" and used up any spare time that was left for it anyway.) Since I only have 4-6 hours of training left after P90X, I make my triathlon workouts count. With this new focus, I'm already contemplating how to incorporate this into my thinking about training throughout the year.

I do want to mention one other thing since I don't think I've covered it in earlier blogs about the program. The YogaX workout is just plain badass. Yep. No other way to put it. I've been doing yoga now for over 2 years and I've progressed fairly well during that time. But the poses Tony and crew do in this video are wicked challenging. This video is about an hour and a half long which makes it about 30 to 40 minutes longer than the other P90X workouts. It also has quite a bit of strength, balance and core work so while it may seem as though it is a recovery workout toward the end of the week, it is not. Honestly, the Yoga they do in this video is every bit as intense as most intermediate classes I've done. The only reason I wouldn't classify it as advanced is the poses are what you would typically find in beginner and intermediate classes. But what makes it borderline advanced is the length of the vinyasas at the beginning, the shear number of balance poses, and that some of these balance poses such royal dancer (also called Natarajasana) or wheel/upward bow (also called Urdvha Dhanurasana) seem to be held forever. While, as with all movements and exercises in P90X, you aren't require to do them (and Tony does advise caution while showing modifications and less challenging alternatives) the fact that these types of poses are in this workout simply bear out what I'm saying. I'm saying I could already do yoga and I found this video quite challenging. But it does what it is designed to do. And that is to make the strength you are developing within the program accessible and controlled by emphasizing muscle coordination.

Next week is a "Recovery" week. Whatever that means in Tonyspeak. But there are multiple YogaX workouts and something new called Core Synergistics. I can hardly wait.

Monday, September 3, 2007

P90X Week 2 Review

Well I made it through week 2. I'm pretty happy about this for a couple of reasons. One is because of the difficulty of the P90X routines, most of the blogs I read talked a lot about the soreness and fatigue that comes along with starting this program. Honestly, I only had one problem coming out of week 1 and that was that my calves were pretty strained after the first leg workout. They would have been OK if I hadn't decided to do a 6 mile walk the next day. That probably was a bit much considering the leg workout I'd done the day before. Going into week 2 I replaced the Plyometric workout with an hour technique swim and the StretchX workout instead to give my legs some more time to heal. This turned out to be a good move. I was able to run for 45 minutes as my prelude to the next day's Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps workout. Ultimately by the time the YogaX and the Legs/Back workouts rolled around again my calves had recovered.

The next reason I found to be happy was that I was able to reintegrate my triathlon training back into the P90X routine without any apparent additional fatigue or soreness. I will say again right here there are probably some reasons for my doing this and being successful that I will go into now. As I mentioned before, I normally workout anywhere from 9-14 hours a week depending on the time of year. The P90X workouts total somewhere between 7 and 8 hours if you do them daily. My body is accustomed to working out daily for around 2 to 3 hours given appropriate recovery time. The P90X workouts while targeting strength are still highly aerobic which is my largest training focus. I also had been doing body weight workouts for almost 6 months prior to starting my P90X odyssey. Just not as hard core. I looked at the BeachBody web site and saw what people where able to do in the way of pushups. When they started a lot of the guys were doing about 50 in the beginning. And that's a really good starting point. When I started I knew I could do at least that many because I was already doing them several times a week. With P90X I only have to do an intense session for a body part one time each week. The rest of the week is sort of active recovery while focusing the workload on other muscle groups. I did the P90X workouts exclusively for a week to gauge my fatigue levels and recovery speed before reinserting sessions of swimming, biking and running. This gave me an idea how much and what intensity levels I could handle.

An unexpected bonus from adding these workouts back into my training has been the ability to see what effect P90X has on my performance at this early stage. With swimming, I am now slower in the pool. But this is to be expected. Because swimming speed is gained more from technique than strength, I find that increase strength will initially slow me down in the water until I have time to integrate the power effectively. Running and cycling I saw almost immediate improvement as far as the speed I could handle comfortably. What was most noticeable on the bike was the ability to tolerate larger gears for longer periods of time without fatigue. In the weeks to come I anticipate I should see this added tolerance translate to a higher average power output on the bike.

All in all I will say I am satisfied with the progress I saw during week 2. And who knows, maybe by the time this is all over I might just be able to "stomach" Ab RipperX.