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.


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

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