Back to the Body part 5

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Wednesday, March 7th. The 15th day of Lent.

I apologize for the length of this. But I started this thing, so I guess I’ll try and finish it.

It took me four months to get through P90X the first time. It’s supposed to be 3 months but I had a number of nagging injuries and a couple of weeks when I was out of town. A warning for people over 40: this is an intense program, so Tony Horton isn’t kidding when he says to be careful. My tendency was to push hard and just deal with the injuries. I didn’t want any excuse to slack off because I would have. Look, you’re going to be sore every day during this program. I just ignored most of the small pains. But if I pulled a muscle or tweaked a joint and felt I needed rest, I would stay on the diet, take a few days off to recover, and then pick up where I left off as soon as I could.

What did P90X do for me?

I have photos but showing them would be creepy. So let me give you some before and after numbers. Look, this is going to sound a bit braggadocious, but I’m offering this as encourgement to anyone who is wondering what can be done in 3 or 4 months. When I was wondering whether or not to try P90X, this is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to know from someone I trusted. Does it work?

When I began last May I was 5’8″ and 196 pounds.
When I finished I was 174 pounds and lost 5 inches in my waist.
Note: I built some muscle mass in this process. So it’s possible I lost as much as 30 pounds of fat.

When I began my resting heart rate was 72 beats a minute.
I gave blood after I was done and my heart rate was 58 beats a minute. Blood pressure 102/66.

My first workout I did 35 pushups over the course of an hour, never more than 6 in a set.
11 weeks later, on my last Chest and Back workout, I did 161 pushups in the hour.

It was 6 weeks before I managed 1 real pull-up without a chair beneath me.
At the end I did 10 pull-ups in one set (without putting my feet on the ground between them) and 40 in the 1 hour session.

And Plyometrics? By the end I could make it through the video without a pause and even jogging during the “breaks.” I’ve progressed farther after the first time through the program. These days I do what I call “Plyo and 1/2.” 3 times through each sequence instead of 2.

After my first time through the program I started running. I don’t really like the yoga video so I substitute running for that. I can run 6 miles in 56 minutes without stopping. I’m not going to win a marathon, but a year ago I couldn’t have run a mile without falling over.

There’s nothing magic about P90X. You exercise 6 days a week and you radically change your diet. The program works because it’s based on sound principles. You eat 2500 calories a day during the program. I have to eat 6 times a day just to get all the calories in. You don’t starve yourself. You just eat better foods. I was afraid of the diet before I began because I relied on food as a comfort, and I didn’t know how I would comfort myself without it. Before P90X I ate mostly carbs, sugars, and fats. Weeks would go by without me eating a decent vegetable or fruit. Now I stick pretty closely to the diet plan. And I like it. I don’t want to go back to the way I was eating. The diet looks like this:

  • 7 protein portions
  • 4 vegetable portions
  • 3 lowfat dairy portions
  • 1 fruit
  • 1 or 2 carb portions
  • 1 fat
  • 2 condiments
  • 1 protein bar
  • 1 snack
  • 1 recovery drink after exercise

That’s how I eat now. I’ve gotten used to thinking of food in a more utilitarian way. It’s there to feed my body, not to bring me pleasure with every meal. Every Friday is a free day. I eat what I want. It’s probably slowed my weight loss a bit, but celebrating is good for the soul. I like having an indulgent day. But I find that I don’t really want to eat 6 slices of pizza for lunch like I used to, even on a Friday. Indulgent means a bag of chips with lunch, a desert, and a treat in the evening. Maybe even a couple of slices of pizza at a meal. Stuff I normally would have done every day. But now it’s more fun because it’s something I treat myself to once a week.

My depression is gone. My anxiety is gone as well. A number of other physical problems I had disappeared along with the weight. This is kind of intangible, but I feel better as a man when I feel that I’m capable of physical things. I like my arms being strong enough to pull myself up with them. I feel good. It’s pretty simple stuff, really. But I had forgotten what that feels like.

What about life after P90X?

I finished the program at the end of August. For the next four months I experimented with maintenance programs. I knew I couldn’t go back to the way I was before or I’d lose everything I had gained. But I was tired and a little bored with the program. I tried exercising every other day and doing half the weight exercises instead of the full hour. I loosed up the diet a bit. I still mainly followed the plan, but I was more indulgent during the week.

November was a bit iffy though. And December was kind of a relapse month. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted. Nothing like I used to, but yeah, I was pretty indulgent. And I only exercised 6 or 7 times in the whole month.

By the end of the December I could feel a difference. I put on about 5 pounds. And I could feel my stamina had dropped. When I tried to do pull-ups I could only do 5 instead of 10. Plometrics was kicking my ass again. Even the Kempo workout was harder than it had been. It was amazing how much I slipped in just a couple of months. But it’s also good to have some benchmarks so you know when you need to get to work again.

And there is some good news. I now know what to do if I’m not happy with how I feel or look. It’s not like before when I would look in the mirror and say “I need to lose some weight.” The problem was, I had no idea how to do that. Now I have a program. Rather than mope about December, on January 1st I jumped right back into P90X. Full dietary regulations and exercise every day. Two months later and I’m back where I was.

I’m not inclined to make any wild promises. I’m not saying that I’m going to live like this forever. But I’ve been on a strict diet and exercise plan (apart from December) for 10 months. I feel good. And I don’t want to go back to the way I was before. I take things one month at a time. At the end of March I’ll have been through P90X a second time. That’s all I know for now.

I’ll decide what to do in April when April gets here.

Gordon

Last piece tomorrow. Some lessons about my body that I’ve learned in this 10 month journey.

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