I just completed another round of P90X. It’s a 90 day exercise program for getting “in the best shape of your life”. I’ve now done it twice. I’ve posted about my first 90 days and the resulting positives. I’ve made a lot of positive changes in my life since, and learned a lot, so thought I would share the pro’s and con’s as well as what I’ve learned.
Also, new before / after pictures.
Like my first post, keep in mind I’m still learning, and still don’t know what I don’t know. Also, I’m not a qualified instructor, nor doctor, so seek out professional advice before attempting any workout routine & diets.
While the changes haven’t been as drastic as Round 1, the lifestyle changes continue to have a profound impact on how I live, and change, my life. And what I focus my time on.
Time & Cooking
I spend an hour in the kitchen, just about every day. Sometimes 2. I used to make fun of the hippie friends I had in Cali who I heard did that… now I do it. Ask any professional programmer to take 1 hour out of their day so they can focus on exercise and another 1 so they can cook: they’ll most likely balk. 2 hours of coding is precious.
If you don’t know how programming works, you basically are learning, practicing, or just building things for fun all the time even when not working. This is part of the many reasons Google has a free day for employee’s on Friday to build stuff. While it’s certainly not required (most programmers I know are like ‘What recession?’) a lot of programmers do it for personal gain, satisfaction, or both. You constantly want to know the latest language, tools to build things, and places to build them such as mobile and TV to be valued high in the market.
For those who are independent contractors or run a business like I do and you already work 60 hour weeks, that’s a costly 6 hours to lose every week.
In my first 90 days, that 1 hour was easier to let go of than I thought. Challenging, yes, but once I started feeling better, seeing results, and realizing I was getting healthy it started to get easier. That, and it became the focal point of my day, unlike work.
Now, I lose an additional hour to food. Whether that’s preparing or storing, I was not prepared for that. However, I feel it was the more important hour to lose for a couple reasons.
First, I found out a few years ago that I somehow relax when I cook. I don’t have any formal training, nor influences, I just got bored with my regular food one day and started trying new things and ways to make them. Like blogging, books, or video games, cooking was a way for me to unwind. Now, I ensure I spend at least 5 to 6 hours a week, 1 hour every day, devoting that time to myself to ensure I can release the stress of my day. The more I’ve learned about stress, and how too much is horrible for you, this is just one positive impact on my life. I used to drive to work and assuming light traffic, that was my alone time to process my day alone, and reflect (similar to that mindfulness stuff you keep hearing about). Yes, some days I treat it like a chore.
Dietary Changes: Positives
Second, my diet has drastically changed in the past 6 months. I was originally hoping I could change it in 1 week after reading the P90X diet guide, but even without that, you need to know a lot about nutrition & food preparation before you can just change your diet to something totally different that’s good for you and maintain it without getting frustrated. Thus, as I learn, it’s gradual and continues to be so as I learn more. While it’s not perfect, nor exactly where I want to be, that 1 hour a day spent making food for myself and my family has been probably the single greatest change I’ve made to my life in the past 6 months.
Here’s some real world examples.
No More Stomach Pains
I used to get stomach aches after eating. No more. The ONLY thing that makes me feel sick to my stomach or achy is alcohol or dairy. That’s it. For someone who was a common statistic in northern Georgia to get their gall bladder removed for dietary reasons, and at such a young age (I was 28 at the time, step father was 58 or so and had his out the same week), this to me is pretty eye opening. I ate so much greasy, oil rich, hard to digest foods that I worked that organ to death. The scars on my stomach, wrought not from glorious battle with worthy foes, but with digesting frozen dinners, continually remind me of the dangers of prolonged bad food choices.
(Mostly) No Crashes
I used to get major metabolic crashes throughout the day. I’d feel nauseous before lunch, or get a “food coma” after lunch around 2 where I’d just feel really tired even though my food tasted good. I’d often have mild heartburn around 5 pm some days, or wake up feeling “gross”. I’d often compensate with Dr. Pepper, and when I quit soda’s and smoking at 21, Red Bull, or 5 Hour Energy drinks. Now, I don’t have any of those problems. I ensure have fruit in the morning since it’s easy to digest and full of good carbs/sugars for energy, and snack on healthy things throughout the day to have more “meals”. I’m still working on the “it’s a meal” vs. “it’s a snack” part, heh.
I Learned What “Being Regular” Means
I used to be “not regular”. In fact, I felt quite ashamed about it. My dad used to get confused when I was younger and lecture me about “I have a coffee and got Number 2 every morning, son. It’s awesome!” This never happened to me and into adult hood I just assumed this was how it was for me. I used to get so irritated at those old people commercials talking about Metamucil and such, further making me feel weird and different.
Turns out it was diet related. Antonio Holguin had a similar experience. Part of it was related to the copious amounts of dairy I’d consume which can make you constipated, and other part was just bad food choices that are hard for your body to digest. Some parts are related to stress as well, but that’s normal now vs. an additional problem.
I now have energy throughout the day. Part of this is cardio related, but also diet as well. I noticed when I attempted to cut down on my coffee intake a couple of years ago I had a more stable, consistent energy supply throughout the day. While I still hate mornings, I just find it’s easier to tackle the day because I now have energy throughout, including when I’m technically “done” at 5 pm or so and start resuming fatherly duties. For a workaholic, this is a major perk for me.
It does NOT solve writers block, nor magically make software bugs easier to solve. Sometimes you just need to step away, even if you feel great.
Dietary Specific Changes
This list changes all the time, but here are some of the line item changes I’ve made, and why.
Remember, my goals are to make dietary changes over time that I understand and agree with and help me feel better, have the energy I need for cardio, and the protein I need for strength training. I need to be able to actually make whatever it is I’m supposed to eat and I need to understand why I’m actually choosing that. Your goals & dietary requirements may differ. Specifically, I want to eat healthier, gain muscle mass, and help my cardio inflicted wear & tear to heal faster.
Red Meat (including pork)
What: I don’t eat red meat if possible. If I get BBQ, I’ll get chicken BBQ instead.
Why: It’s hard to eat red meat in a healthy way. You have to get lean cuts that aren’t high in fat, raised in healthy conditions, and you’re not supposed to eat more than a certain amount a week. Young women and child bearing women, or those with iron deficiencies need it. While I do strength training and need the amino acids and proteins more so than most people because I’m constantly rough on my muscles and joints, I can get it from either chicken, fish, or beans & rice.
Additionally, there are enough studies done that DO show you’re increased in risk for certain diseases such as heart disease. The studies I’ve read on cancer seem pretty bogus (por que ‘control group’?). Either way. Why take the risk when you don’t have to? And you do NOT have to give up meat. If someone fixed steak, I’d totally eat it. Just not every day or twice a week anymore, heh!
If I do eat meat on purpose, meaning, I cook it, I prefer grass fed, free range. I prefer turkey for chili or spaghetti. Same goes for chicken; free range, grass fed, and no growth hormones. The fact that many young girls and boys are going through puberty sooner because of growth horomones in their milk and meat is one reason I’m like, “Uh… yeah, don’t put that shiz in my, or my kids, food, yo!”. Fish is fair game as well, love it.
What: Anyone who knew me at a younger age knows I’m a huge cheese and milk fan. I’d put cheese on EVERYTHING, and buy new cheeses at the store to try every week. I’d also heavily dose my coffee with Whole/Vitamin D milk, none of that pansy 2% crap. Sometimes I’d use it with scrambled eggs in the morning as well. No more.
Why: There are 2 reasons I’m no longer doing dairy. The first reason, and only one that really matters to me, is allergies. Even moving up to Virginia from Georgia, I still get congestion. I’ve found not drinking milk with my coffee in the morning, and not eating cheese for lunch/dinner helps me breathe better. If you’ve done P90X or a lot of running, you know that breathing is key.
The second reason is scientists can’t agree if it’s good for you.
That said, I still love and to continue to take whey protein in shakes, I just ensure I keep the vats out of reach of my 2 little girls. For my coffee, if I’m not at Starbucks working, I use almond milk. I don’t like the taste of soy milk.
No White Bread / Enriched Flour
Why: Enriched flour is just a bunch of carbs/sugar/crap you shouldn’t eat a lot of. Worse, compared to non-processed flour, a lot of the nutrients are taken out during processing. They call it enriched because they put some back on. Ghetto fab. If you know anything about American’ food, it’s nothing but carbs. Try not eating white bread for 1 day in any American restaurant; nigh impossible.
Remember, I’m losing 2 hours of my day, 1 to exercise and 1 to food preparation, the last thing I want to do is waste my time eating something that isn’t high in nutrients. Also, my extra carb allotement goes to beer, and beer takes priority, so… no more bread, no more pasta that isn’t wheat, breaded chicken, etc. Additionally, if I’m about to buy something and I see “enriched flour” on the back, I don’t buy it. Same goes for white rice; no more. I try to avoid potatoes, but will eat it plain if someone serves it. I try to hit all of those things (rice, pasta, wheat bread, etc) in the evening.
What: I now eat brown rice and wheat bread. Some BBQ places will have a wheat bun option. At Subway, I’ll get the wheat bread only. At Chipotle I’ll get the brown rice. At noodle places, I’ll get the wheat noodles. If I’m cooking at home, I’ll use whole wheat penne. I’ve tried in vain to find wheat tortilla’s at various grocery stores for making soft tacos; they are brown and have wheat but are mixed with enriched flour to ensure longer shelf life. NICE TRY, SUCKA!
I should also note, this has probably been the most drastic, and challenging part of my diet desires. Everything has enriched flour. It’s insane. I didn’t know until I tried to find things without enriched flour… and then just any flour. I’m still not sure how the French get away with it. My favorite are the organic breaded chicken… w… t… f… I call those “transition” foods. If you can hit that vs. the processed stuff, you’re slowly on your way, and that’s great. Just don’t stay there.
Why: White sugar. Hard for your body to digest, gives you a sugar high, and for males goes right to your stomach. Sugar gets a bad rap. If you eat a little, you’re fine; it’s the mass quantities are that bad. Considering it’s in a ton of things, that’s where it’s hard NOT to have too much, hence the negative attitude towards it to ensure you don’t get too much if you can help it.
What: I use unprocessed brown (not that maple cooking stuff) for my coffee. My increased fruit intake also has sugar in it. My vanilla almond milk has sugar in it. My beer has sugar in it.
Someday, I may no longer drink coffee. But not today.
Beer vs. Wine
Why: This one has been tough. With the craft beer craze still in full swing in America, there are always many new beers to try. Alcohol is hard on your liver, and most beers are pure sugar that goes right to your belly if you’re a guy.
What: I try to keep wine around, though, since I can drink less of it than beer. Argentina Malbecs and Cabernets are my preference.
Why: Just to be thorough, I no longer eat crap / junk food. Not all foods are created equal; you can eat one meal the exact same size as another meal, and one can be insanely more nutritious for you. I don’t mean nutritious in the sense that “tons of protein”, I mean everything you need. Thus, eating junk food is bad for 2 reasons:
First, you have to eat more of it to get the same nutritional value. If you don’t, you feel like crap and have health issues. If you do, you get fat and have moar health issues. Lose lose situation. No more Doritos, no more sugary lemonade’s from Burger King, no more french fries, no more gummy bears/twizzlers, no more Sunny D.
Second, you eat more of it to feel full, and thus eat too much of non-nutritious food.
What: I’m still figuring this out. The truth is hard to find on the internet, and some books give conflicting information. For example, everyone agree’s Kale is the best thing in the universe. You can’t eat Kale every day unless you’re a Spartan with no taste buds. Additionally, if you just DON’T eat junk and you were formerly eating junk, you’ve still made a huge, positive impact on your life. Yet, most of those nutritionists I’ve seen who are not Doctors will give you shit for “living a delusion you’re not eating healthy”. So, it’s also hard to get a decent support network from people without agendas. If they mention Mansanto in a blog entry, I know I can usually stop reading if I don’t have the patience, or just have to wade through their agenda to find the good stuff.
Picking healthy food choices is wrought with misinformation, conflicting science, and tons of math. For example, let’s assume everyone is the same gender, has the same fitness goals, and is the same age. There are a certain amount of calories per day you need. Of those calories, a certain percentage of them should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You need a certain amount of specific types of vitamins per day. You need a certain amount of carbs per day, as well as the different types of fiber. Don’t forget Potassium. Now, take in the fact that different foods have different types of the above things, and combine them together, and you can see how it gets complex really quick.
Worse, some foods are 90% good, 10% bad… if taken alone, else the math gets hard again. It’s kind of like eating in Fallout 3. In the game you need to regain the health… but all the food had varying degree’s of radiation vs. how much health you regained. You were glad you ate it, you needed it, but eventually you had so much radiation debt you eventually had to pay off. Or you could just not eat radioactive food which was hard to find in a post apocalyptic world. I feel Fallout 3’s food system is a great metaphor the American food system. A pimp economy has been built around selling you RadAway.
It’s been easier than I thought, though to keep at it. For example, when I quit smoking 13 years ago, on week 6, I went to the dentist. I was still marveling at the changes quitting smoking gave me (regained my taste buds, could breathe a little better, etc) so was still pretty excited about it and kept telling people. I was still using gum at the time to help control my nervous energy, which is one of the reasons I smoked. My dentist didn’t congratulate me, nor thank for my teeth in 2nd person. Instead, I was berated for chewing gum. Like presidential elections, I get that voting for the the lesser of 2 evils doesn’t make you not evil.
However, I’m pretty sure that:
- 1 of 5 deaths a year in the USA caused by smoking suddenly stopping
- a single person gaining $4,000 back in their wallets from cigarette purchases per year as opposed to $104 for a yearly gum usage. That’s a $200,000 savings over 30 years. Curious how this would impact Social Security in the USA if people put this in their Roth and regular IRA’s?
- removing that 40% increase in health care costs for smokers in the USA might help the healthcare problem (not solve it, duh)
- increase in used car sales revenue since there is an average 9% lower return on smokers’ used cars
- the $10,000 or more of house cleaning / repainting for houses that smell like smoke that can’t easily be sold goes away
Blah blah blah. Every agrees that quitting smoking is good. Replacing it with a gum chewing habit that’s horrible for your teeth and jaw is the lesser of 2 evils. However, in terms of life impact, and economy impact, it’s HUGE! Negative dentist was negative.
Same for eating healthy. I don’t see it as a “doorway” to a new way of life, but more of a path that I’m continually walking and learning about. I see every positive change as positive. I don’t have to make 30 changes to feel better; I feel better already with just a few changes. My feeling good is all the proof I need. Obviously I want to continue to feel better, and stave off any long term health effects that I don’t “currently feel” since I’d love to see my great grand kids… assuming they aren’t part of the android army come to end the human race.
Dietary Changes: The Negatives
Lose of Valuable Time
Yes, there are some negatives. As a business owner and programmer who sells “expertise”, not just experience, I have to be at the top of my field. Writing good prose and speaking at conferences is great, but you have to actually deliver as well. You can only do that through experience and actually knowing how to execute. This requires constant research and practice, and relearning since things change all the time. I used to have 24 hours in a day to do that. Now I have 22.
My kids are older now and require time. All the positive male role models I had would work hard all day, and come home and “take the kids” from the wife to give her a break. It’s hard for me to do that because I’m making dinners for everyone. This doesn’t count making the kids lunches where, if I get suckered into it, I make an attempt to inject healthy items like my mom used to do for me when I was a kid.
Sometimes they want me to play wii games with them, or read a book, or they start fighting… it’s hard to focus on them when I’m cooking. It’s hard for me to divide myself between fixing healthy food for everyone to eat or other meals for myself, and giving the kids attention.
I’ve made eating healthy an important part of my life and eventually my family’s, but holy fish does it have a cost. I can see why most people don’t pay it.
The Price of Organic and Drawing My Own Conclusions
While the science is on going, and organic foods are by no means a silver bullet, there are certain things are seemingly obvious. Again, I try to constantly keep an open mind, and not “look for conclusions” while reading/researching. Examples include certain pesticides that cause cancer in farm hands. While you can wash your fruit off, why take the chance? I’ll just buy organic and hope the natural toxins/pesticides used are safer. I’m aware nature can kill, but there’s more research that says these chemicals are bad whereas the natural ones aren’t.
For example there is currently a spray bottle used for “washing fruits and vegetables before consumption”. A company is specifically profitting on fruits and vegatables having toxins on them that need to be washed off to have the perception they’re safer to eat. As a capitalist, that’s awesome. As someone who likes science, it seems I’ll just logically not buy fruits that have that problem. Meaning, those #’s they have on them, I buy the ones that start with “9” on them meaning they are organic, not the 4 (conventional) or 8 (GMO). Buying organic fruits & vegetables, almond milk, and grass fed/non-hormoned infused chicken is expensive, sometimes twice as much. 60 years ago, 18% of a family’s budget went to food. Now, it’s 9% (half the cost!), yet most American’s are unhealthy. Bad math is bad.
The same goes for growth hormones in the milk I feed to my daughters; that’s a negative Ghostrider.
My Family is Not Me
The price and time issues are exacerbated because family doesn’t eat like I do, yet. Take healthy diets out of it, if you know anything about kids, or people in general, its that they have different tastes. This is NOT just behavioral; it’s genetic. Some bodies have different needs for different types of foods. Just like the 13% of Scotts those with lighter skin evolved from being in more overcast climates for increased Vitamin D absorption, different bodies have different nutritional needs, even if they’re from the same parents. My oldest is carb girl w/a tad of fiber desire in small portions, whereas my 2nd eats a lot of anything… mostly.
Her majesty eats some of the things I make, and sometimes not. She’ll sometimes drink some of the things I get, and other times not. The kids will often not eat what I make. My youngest will try anything, and will eat some of the things I make… but not all the time.
Thus, I make 2 dinners every night. Sometimes 3 ish because the older eats differently than her younger sister. When we go out to eat, I only go to Subway or Chipotle, and sometimes Moe’s, so often I’ll make 2 trips; 1 to their food place of choice, and then 1 of mine. It’s rough and inconvenient. It’s slightly easier now since I know the way that food makes me feel, and I don’t like the taste of it anymore. Still, sucks.
I’m sssllllooowwwwwlllly changing their diet as their exposed to me eating certain things, and see the choices I make, and my disgust for what they eat.
What DO I eat?
My diet usually consists of the following.
- organic banana every morning
- coffee with almond milk, brown/raw sugar
- brown rice (usually), chicken or beans (usually pinto or black), with avocado and vegetables
- split pea soup or lentil soup
- I’ll wash and chop the vegetables for #4 and #5. These include:
- celery (I try to eat this everyday to help digestion)
- carrots (I’m a geek, protect t3h eyes)
- red or white onions
- green or red peppers
- Sometimes instead of #4 or #3, I’ll just saute things in a small bit of olive oil.
- organic peanut butter on wheat bread
- tuna fish on wheat bread (sometimes w/ onions, celery, or kale)
- Snacks: dried cranberries (f’ing crack), raisins, 1 apple a day with skin, oranges or glass of organic orange juice, almonds, walnuts, or cashews (while the cashews aren’t as healthy as almonds, I read they help in serotonin production). I’ve also fallen in love with shakes. I either make my own using banana’s + blueberries or strawberries + whey protein powder and either almond milk or whole milk (depends on what’s in the fridge at the time) after I work out. Those Naked smoothies are insanely dope too; the Green Machine looks gross, but tastes like fruit; it’s awesome. I have a feeling I should cut down on these things since they taste so good so try to only have 2 a week. I’ve tried the others too, like Odwalla, etc. I’m sure the ones I make are healthier, but omg I love some of these. Muscle Milk is gross.
- Heavy Snack: I’ll also make avocado dip a lot to get my daily good fat supplement, usually putting celery + avocado + a pinch of organic olive oil, or that + onions with organic (usually unsalted) blue chips. Lot’s of carbs and corn, and sodium/bad cholesterol if I get the salted ones… but so far I don’t feel bad afterwards. When I learn more I may supplement the chips out for something.
- When travelling to client sites, I’ll get salads with no dressing, and soups from small operations, and usually an apple or orange with the snacks I mentioned above that I bring with me.
That’s it. I’m pretty boring, I know; still learning what else I can make that doesn’t want to kill me. When eating out:
- Subway: Foot long Wheat + oven chicken + lettuce + spinach + onions + green pepers.
- Chipotle: Brown rice + chicken + tomatoes + black beans + medium sauce.
- Moe’s: (no brown rice yet) black beans + chicken + lettuce + gaucomole + tomatoes + hot sauce.
- Chik-fil-A: grilled nuggets (they’re not breaded), fruit cup, water. The girls love this place, and I used to, but now I just try to supplement with Subway if possible, or use the nuggets on my vegtable concoctions.
- Water (I constantly need to remind myself to drink more water)
- Organic Orange Juice
- Naked Green Machine
- Protein Shakes (usually whey, but working on mixing soy in in the future)
- Coffee (<– too much. Yes, not good, BUT caffeine is good for you, so… #justify)
- organic grape juice (cut way down… used to be 5 days a week, now like once every month)
Supplements. I’m not a big fan merely because the FDA ruled that supplement makers are responsible for the medical research which ensures I won’t believe 99% of what’s written. That said, some of the science they’re based on makes sense, and as long as those I trust recommend them without sounding like zealots, I’m willing to give it a try. The only ones I’ve tried beyond whey protein in my shakes is creatine. When working out, I’ll try to have a protein shake afterwards, and 5 grams of creatine a day.
I found this young kid named Michael Kory on YouTube, recommended by Jason Bustamante, who posts some recipes he has which has given me ideas so things aren’t so boring. His old channel is moving to his new one, so subscribe to both (new – old).
P90X Round 2 Exercise Benefits
That’s enough about diet, let’s talk about physical exercise results. First, my before and after pictures.
A few things to point out. My abdominal muscles (the six pack) feel amazing, yet you can’t really see them in the pictures. The reason is my body fat percentage is around 13 to 17% on my stomach. That’s the last place fat has to hide for guys and every time I drink beer, put coffee in my sugar, and go crazy with the dried cranberries it fortifies its position. If my knee gets better, and I increase my running, it’s so over at the end of round 3.
I was insanely impressed how much larger my upper body felt in Round 2. I’m not sure if the pictures do it justice, but my biceps (my arms), lats (mid back), deltoids (my shoulders), and upper traps just feel… bigger. I swear some didn’t even exist before; like, I never even knew they existed and suddenly these “growths” appear, and I’m like, “holy crap, muscles!”. Her majesty can see it too. While I certainly felt like I had a different body after Round 1, Round 2 I can totally feel different up top. My legs… not so much. A bit, but not a lot.
A slideshow of more before and after pictures. (Click here if you’re on mobile).
I lost an additional 5 lb / 2.3 kg during my rest week and the week after. For a week I just ate, sat all day, and lost weight. I’ve since stayed steady at 155 lb for about 4 months; I’ll fluctuate, but not widely. My Body Fat Percentage has fluctuated as well based on my diet, but has stayed in the fitness / athletic zones.
My jeans are loose; too loose. I go all the to the beginning of my belt loop whereas before I started, I was using the last one and it’d still be tight. Shopping for clothes continues to be weird. I’m still not used to being the shape I am now. My upper body gained a lot of size, especially my back and shoulders. Some clothes fit great, others too tight. My legs, too, gained a little bit more size so some jeans are too tight now, which is cool and uncool. More cool. I like having this problem.
Beyond the diet stuff mentioned above, I generally have more energy throughout the day, both for physical activity, and for any time of day. I’m still tired on days I “sit at a desk all day” and work as well as chasing the kids, but even that is easier. It’s weird, too; I don’t just sit there going “omg, I have tons of energy!”. It’s more of a “I feel good and calm”. Then suddenly, if I have to exert myself, like say unload a moving truck, or move furniture, or just anything physical… I breathe heavy, but I’m not tired; I could do it all day. That’s really cool. It REALLY helped with all the recent moving/removing recently; I could of moved all day!
Towards my 2nd week into Round 2, I was finding that it just… wasn’t enough. I felt like doing more cardio. I started getting a lot of energy and wasn’t sure what to do with it. So I donned my running shoes and figured I’d see how far I could run. Typically I could barely do a mile or so before passing out. I found out I could do 3 miles / 4.8 km jog no problem even after doing an hour workout before hand. A week later I did 6 miles / 9.7 km jog no problem. Even after that 6, I realized I could of kept going long into the night.
Then, one of my clients approved temporary housing in New York, specifically the West Village in Manhattan. I didn’t see the point of getting a gym membership to continue my P90X since I had my family in town and… well, if you’ve ever worked in Manhattan, all you typically do there is work. Therefore, I instead decided to at the recommendation of one of my business partners, Brian, to just do Core week for 3 weeks, putting my P90X on pause (I started over just to ensure I was being fair).
I was only 2 avenues from the Hudson river which has a wonderful bike & running path all along the west side / 1st avenue. Starting from the south, you grit your teeth towards the Intrepid, and then you smile at the Freedom Tower on the way back. I’d basically do Core Synergistics, Kenpo, or Yoga and go running after the girls were in bed; quite challenging in a 1 bed room, small (albeit insanely nice) NYC apartment.
After the first week, though, while I started reading online that while my distances were good, my times weren’t that great. As someone who’s competitive, I ignore my short size as a factor in the long times. I read up on interval training since I heard it helps improve your times, downloaded Interval Running, and made 21 minutes, 42 seconds my new goal based off of my age group and the minimum passing score in the Army Physical Fitness Test. Within 4 days, I beat it, so I then set my next goal at 100. I beat that.
My new goal is getting a 100 on the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test, not just for running. That’s 3 miles / 4.8 km in 18:00 minutes. That’s 3, 6 minute miles. So far, I haven’t hit it, even with working out + interval training + regular running. I WILL hit it eventually.
Vibram Five Fingers
In my research, I’ve learned about a few ways to improve my run times, such as stride length, cadence, where your body leans, etc. One is foot strike, specifically fore foot or mid foot striking. There aren’t enough studies, sadly, about as much as programming. The concepts make sense, and a few notable people corroborate it, though, so I figured it was worth a try. No, I haven’t read the Born To Run book yet that spawned this whole crazy thing. Steven Sacks suggested I get myself some Bikula’s. Keith Peters told me to check out this guy’s blog.
Even though I’m working my legs out a lot in both cardio and strength training, my calves were dying the first week. You’re only supposed to run 10% of your distance until your body gets used to changing your stride, such as the one I’ve had for 30+ years. I ignored the advice and did 50%, which I shouldn’t have done, but oh well; now I’m totally fine. My knees hurt less, and I love to use them for general working out.
For walking and Plyometrics they hurt my knees big time. In fact, I’m going back to some [shoes] for the time being in hopes to help my knees feel better as well as seeing if I can correct my foot pronation easier (I land on the inside of my foot too much). For running, though, I love ’em. They’re not that fun on concrete, but softer asphalt, grass, dirt, etc. are uber fun. Overall, wearing them for Kenpo, Yoga, and various other excercises where you need foot stability I believe has strengthened my feet and ankle muscles a bit which is awesome.
I also briefly gave Mantra Meditation a try. There has been a lot of studies (1, 2, 3) that have corroborated each other about the benefits of meditation, and the 3 minute stint at the end of P90X Yoga isn’t really enough. There is an app, Simply Being, that you can use as well for guided which is easier to do + schedule if you have a busy day like me. Given all the insane stuff that has happened this year, even with P90X + diet making me healthy, I found I still wasn’t 100% stress/frustration free and I wanted to fix that.
I’ve also found a ton of YouTube videos that I can use as well in the middle of the work day, usually after lunch. It’s been uber challenging to fit meditation time in amongst working out + cooking. I can feel it’s benefits for AT LEAST 1 hour; I’m just… calmer. Not calmer like BDNF / Endorphin runner’s high, but… almost like a buffer for the stress of the day. Then the kids come home and sap most of it away so I’ve been curious if I made it a regular part of my 6 day schedule, if those benefits could last all day.
I’ve found it’s easier to do on the YouTube videos if I play the ones that have a mantra in them, like Om or some other repeated word. It’s easier to focus. The drone ones are great, but I tend to travel more and not really follow the whole mindfulness thing as much. However, like dreaming, it’s good to de-frag your brain like that, so alternating is good too. I’ve got a general Meditation playlist that has 1 hour+ Om’s, nature sounds, and white noise. They also help for sleep and white noise for younger kids. I’ve also got a Tibetan Singing Bowl playlist which has been tweaked and lasts for hours; I’ll work to this somedays as it helps me focus. If music and/or melodic drone is more your thing, I’ve got a general Meditations (notice the plural) playlist as well which includes ambient/psy/chill music and drone soundscapes. If you use the YouTube app on your iPhone, you have to keep it running (you can’t lock your phone). I haven’t found a good set on SoundCloud yet which has better app/music support.
I’ve been somewhat careful. I’ve ensured I avoid all “bad pain”, and ignore the “good pain”. If something doesn’t feel right, I trust my body and don’t do it. 1 arm push ups on concrete for example; I just use 2 arms and put 95% of the weight on each arm alternatively. I ensure I land the best I can, ensure my workout area is safe, and I only push the exhaustion barrier, not the physical barrier. If my legs hurt in a good way, I grit my teeth through it. If my back starts to hurt in a bad way, I immediately back off. I do push myself, though, as much as possible.
One day I did a jog of 3 miles at 5 am with my sister in-law and a friend of hers down the street, did 1 hour and 30 minutes of yoga over lunch, and felt so good by dinner I asked my brother in-law if I could edge his yard since he was going to mow. I twisted wrong, hurting my knee. I’m still doing the doctor trips to figure out what I did (I suspect a 2nd degree Lateral Collateral Ligament injury), but suffice to say, I barely finished P90X for 2 weeks there, and basically had to stop running. Once I went up stairs, the pain was excruciating. For 6 weeks while waiting for my new house to close, we lived on the 3rd floor, so… it sucked. I looked ridiculous going up and down the stairs, and the pain negatively affected my mood, but we got through it.
I was really impressed that I was able to overcome that much pain, continue my P90X while modifying some of the Kenpo and Plyo moves, and focusing on work. I learned a lot about how you can modify, and with advice online + creative thinking, you can still burn calories, work out, and not make the injury worse. I also learned, and had corroborated, that a lot of injuries can happen for benign things such as using a ladder, picking up a piece of paper on the ground, or even weed whacking your brother in-law’s lawn. #fightComplacency
I’ve taken 2 weeks off before I start up Round 3, we’ll see what the ortho says.
My First 5K
I also managed to run my first 5k race even with the above injury. If the boy in my daughters Kindergarten class can get through cancer treatment at his age, then I can survive a knee issue whilst running 3.2 miles for a great cause.
Assuming the doc says I’m legit I hope to start and finish P90X2, hit my running time goal (yes, along with the sit ups + pull ups), and hopefully sign up for Wing Chun here in town (Ip Man 1 and 2 got me hooooooked). … and continually read more about nutrition, it’s all so complex and hard to get facts.
I’m still reading 2 books; when I validate they aren’t crap, I’ll recommend. If you’re looking for some online resources in the meantime, WebMD will sometimes link sources that look legit, and Live Strong tends to have some sources + new food ideas which is helpful.