05 May, 2012

P90X Day 8: Chest & Back

I plan on two updates today, but the second one may be quite a bit later. That’s going to be the one on nutrition and diet. This one is still workout related.

Second verse: same as the first.

I’m in week 2 now. Weeks 2 and 3 are just like Week 1.

So, that means it’s easier, right? Wrong.

Not sure if I’m just pushing myself harder now, or what, but each of the last few days have seemed like the hardest so far. Today was no exception.

The quote for today: “If you don’t know what you DID, how will you know what to DO?”

For all of the strength training exercises, Tony makes you write down how many reps you did and what weight you used. So, when you hit this workout again, you know what you did. And you know to push yourself, and do at least what you did last time.

Me? I did at least 5 more push ups on every single push up type. I increased the reps or the weight on all of the weight exercises. In fact, one of them was still too easy. Going to have to up the weight on that one again. I also increased number of reps for all of the pull ups save one. Damn you, second round of Wide Front Pull Ups.

Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue this rate of increase. But I know next Saturday, my sheet is going to look even better than today’s sheet. For the push ups, I’m probably going to have to start using push up bars soon. The regular way is just getting too easy. Now, that’s something I never thought I’d say.

Also on the menu today is Ab Ripper X, of course. Not sure if I was just out of gas from putting so much into Chest & Back, or if the 2 day layoff from Ab Ripper set me back a bit. But I struggled today with the ab exercises. I didn’t feel like I did as well with them as I did on Wednesday. I was definitely better than last Saturday, and even Monday, but slipped a bit from the progress I had made on Wednesday. Still, it was a painful and exhausting 15 minutes. Hopefully I will again see improvement next time. There’s plenty of opportunity for improvement on Ab Ripper X. You do it at 3 times a week every week except 4, 8, and 13.

Anyway, I’m sore today, incredibly so. But looking forward to (and dreading) tomorrow’s Plyometrics.

04 May, 2012

P90X Day 6: Stretch X

It’s just stretching, right? How hard can that be?

Hard. This is P90X as Tony says.

I’ll be honest. This might have been the hardest day for me yet. And also the most emotionally rewarding. For a few of the stretches, I was able to stretch measurably farther than I have been able to in years, probably decades, even.

I think I did overdo it a bit at one point. You should stretch to the point where you’re feeling it, but after you get out of the stretch, you should feel good. And at one point, my right hamstring actually felt a little sore between stretches. That’s probably not good. Seems better now, but that did make me nervous for a while.

Anyway, like the rest of the workouts, this is a solid hour, but just stretches. First we did arms, neck and shoulders, then back and legs. A lot of the stretches are ones we did on the Yoga X day, and others are ones that are part of most of the daily warm ups. What was nice about today though is that we spent a bit longer on them, and Tony spent much more time describing and showing the correct position. I found I wasn’t doing a couple of the warm up stretches correctly. But, now I’ll know for next time.

In truth, I kind of wish this had been the first day. It’s definitely a more relaxed start, and would have been nice to have had the direction before doing the stretches on the strength workout days. But I’m sure Tony and the gang know what they’re doing. You need a bit of a break after a week of doing P90X, and while Stretch X is intense, it’s not like doing 7 different kinds of pushups, mixed with 4 different kinds of pull ups, and doing both twice.

Anyway, this completes week one of P90X. I made it through the first week. Definitely not something I could’ve done a year ago, or probably even a couple months ago.

Tomorrow? Back to Chest & Back, and everyone’s favorite, Ab Ripper X.

Next week, I’ll spend a bit more time talking about diet and nutrition. Stay tuned.

May 4, 1979

“Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher becomes British Prime Minister. She is the first, and so far, only woman to hold the position. She saved a generation of Brits from socialism, and reversed the course of their downfall.

Her election was timely, as a year later, Americans would elect President Ronald Reagan (R-USA). The two of them rekindled the U.S.-UK relationship and are considered conservative icons of the twentieth century, as well as heroes of the Cold War. Thatcher shared Reagan’s belief in the evils of Communism and also shared his dry wit.

But Thatcher is not merely a shadow of Reagan. She is her own woman, and a strong one. The position and direction of the UK at the time of her election are eerily similar to what America faces today. She was able to turn things around, just when it seemed that socialism would take over and steer the UK to its inevitable demise. Britain prospered under her leadership and is still feeling the effects of her efforts today, though she’s been out of office for over 20 years.

Incidentally, her nickname of “Iron Lady” was given to her by the Soviet Army newspaper, Red Star.

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them. – Margaret Thatcher, February 5, 1976

And The Coveted Chris of Rights Endorsement Goes To…

…no one.

I sincerely doubt anyone covets my endorsement, and I don’t really feel like I should endorse anyone, in any event. I will tell you who I’m going to be voting for in IN’s May 8th primary, and why.

For U.S. President, I’m actually still unsure. I am pretty sure that I’m going to vote for former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA). I know he’s going to be the nominee, and I’ve long since decided I can support him and vote for him in November. But I may still vote for someone else in the primary, just to remind him that I expect him to govern from the right. I will probably vote for Mitt, but I may change my mind at the last moment.

For U.S. Senator, my choice is clear, but not as clear as I’d like. I’ve had issues with Senator Lugar (R-IN) since around 2003. I had to hold my nose and vote for him in 2006, and hoped that it would be the last time. So, I’m definitely voting for Richard Mourdock. Still, this is sadly a “lesser of two evils” vote. I’m nowhere near as enamored with Mourdock as most of the rest of my Tea Party brethren. I’ve been watching him for months, and I am just not sure I believe he truly means everything he says. I think the best we can hope for from Mourdock is that he becomes a reliable conservative vote in the Senate, and otherwise disappears. It seems to me that if he’s making news on Capitol Hill, it’s more likely to be the negative variety. I would really love to be wrong about him. Time will tell.

For U.S. Representative Congressional District 5, again the choice is a little murky. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN-05) announced his retirement in January. This was met with muted celebration. To say that Burton had lost popularity back home would be a huge understatement. Eight people have thrown their hats into the ring on the Republican side to be his replacement. I don’t think anyone knows for sure what’s going to happen here. The only thing that’s a near certainty is that the winner of this primary will be our new Congressman/Congresswoman. I don’t even know who is running on the Democrat side, but it would be a minor miracle if they won. Former Congressman David McIntosh (R-IN-02) is the odds on favorite, I guess. He’s got lots of name recognition, having been a Congressman before, and even having been the GOP nominee for Governor in 2000. He’s got the support of the NRA, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and the Indiana Right to Life. Still, as a prior Congressman, and prior gubernatorial nominee, he’s hardly  the “fresh new blood” that most of us have been hoping for. And he’s got residency issues, much like Senator Lugar. After careful consideration, I’ve decided not to vote for McIntosh. Of the remaining seven, I like Susan Brooks the best. She’s energetic. She has strong fiscal and social conservative credentials, and she seems like she’ll work hard for CD5. I think she has a steep hill to climb to beat McIntosh, but anything is possible. She could easily finish anywhere from first to fourth in the race, I think. We’ll just have to see how it all turns out.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the down ballot races. There are a couple that I’m still mulling over, but none of them are likely to make national or even statewide news in 2012.

03 May, 2012

P90X Day 6: Kenpo X

In which I prove that I’ve completely lost it.

If attempting P90X at 45 after having never done any serious workouts my adult life until the last 120 days, wasn’t proof enough.

Day 6 is called Kenpo X. What the heck is Kenpo? I don’t know either. Wikipedia says it’s a name for Hawaiian martial arts with Japanese and Chinese influences. Ok, sure. Seemed like kickboxing to me. Although I did sand the floor and wax on/wax off (Karate Kid reference).

This is another cardio day, like Day 2, Plyometrics. For the cardio workouts, it’s a good idea (not required) to wear a heart rate monitor. This lets you know if you’re not really working very hard, or if, you’re incredibly out of shape, it might tell you that, hey, you need a break.

I’m telling you all this because it’s useful information later.

I have to be honest, this seemed like the least eXtreme of all the workouts so far. I felt like I didn’t get much of a workout at all from it. But this is more my fault and the fault of some external factors than the fault of the DVD. Let me explain.

Initially, I was having a lot of problems with my heart rate monitor. I’d check it and it’d say “0”. Now, since I was pretty sure I wasn’t dead, I knew that the monitor wasn’t reading right, and I needed to adjust it. So, I’d pause the DVD and adjust the monitor until it started reading, and I’d restart. This happened to me at least 4 times.

This is a problem. A good cardio workout is all about pacing and getting into a rhythm. I wasn’t getting into one. When I was checking my heart rate and the monitor was actually working, I’d be in the low 130s. This is ok. It’s better than sitting in my chair typing like I am now, but low 130s is not going to count as an anaerobic workout for most people.

Once I finally got the heart rate monitor working consistently, I had other problems. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not incredibly flexible. I’m also not the most coordinated person in the world, either. On the workout DVD, Tony would say what the combo was, and then immediately start doing it. Usually, I would have to watch a couple and then rewind and start over before I could do them. Even then, I’d be focusing my energies more on doing it right, than on doing it with intensity. Again, I wasn’t getting a good rhythm going and I wasn’t working hard. I did get the heart rate up into the 140s, and briefly hit 150 a couple times. This is a little better, but I was still in the 130s more than the 150s.

At one point Tony checks his heart rate and announces it at 164. Mine at that moment was 119. I can get my heart rate up over 119 just walking up and down the stairs in my house a couple times. 119 is nothing. I knew I wasn’t getting a good workout, and I had the evidence on my shirt as well. A little sweat, but not nearly as much as the people on the DVD.

So, I finished it, and I didn’t feel like I’d gotten an eXtreme workout at all. In fact, several of the workouts I got on the EA Sports Active were far more intense than today’s. I tried to console myself with the thought that after a couple times, the movements would feel more natural, and I’d be able to concentrate on working hard, not just one getting the moves right. And this is definitely true. I can tell I’ve improved dramatically on the Ab Ripper X after just three times.

But, frankly, I still felt a little down.

So, what did I do? Recall the first line of this post…

In which I prove that I’ve completely lost it.

After about an hour of sitting around moping, and even writing up most of this post, I decided to fix the problem. I put the DVD back in, and started it up again.

Yes, I did Kenpo X twice in one day. Second time, no issues with the heart rate monitor. Second time, much more focus on working it, than on watching the moves. Heart rate consistently in the 150s, some times in the 160s. Yes, I did dip down in the 140s for a bit, but rarely lower (the point where Tony says he’s at 164, I was at 139…still room for improvement). I still didn’t finish the workout quite where I wanted to be, but it was much closer. Close enough that I felt good about it, and close enough that I desperately needed a shower and a change of clothes.

I wouldn’t recommend doing something like this for one of the strength training DVDs. You’d likely hurt yourself. But for a cardio one, especially if you’ve got a good heart rate monitor and can see if you’re overdoing it, it’s not awful. But I definitely proved to myself today that I’m serious about getting into better shape and serious about P90X.

Tomorrow can be a rest day or stretches. You know I’ll be doing Stretch X, the final workout in Week 1. Stay tuned.

02 May, 2012

P90X Day 5: Legs & Back

P90X is all about “muscle confusion” as Tony Horton calls it. That means you work different muscles every day, and even on every exercise. And you don’t even stay with the same muscle groups throughout a single workout. You work one area, and then give it time to rest before going back to the same area.

For today, that means lots of squats and lunges, and mixed within, more pull-ups. None of this is easy. And if it is, don’t worry. Tony’s got you covered. Do the lunges and squats with weights. Oh boy, that’s fun. You should be feeling “the burn” by the end of every single exercise set in P90X. If you’re not, then you need to change what you’re doing. You’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

But, my legs are all right. I made it through all the lunges and squats. I was hurting, but I made it through them. I did find my nemesis today, and it has a name: Wide Front Pull-Ups. If I can get to the point where I can do ten of those, I’ll feel like I’ve really accomplished something. So, I have a goal now. Ten wide front pull-ups.

Unlike previous workouts in the series, where you double up everything, you only do one each of all the lunges and squats. You do two sets each of all of the pull ups though. I’ll admit it. On the second set of wide front pull-ups, I did one. Yes, one. Go ahead, mock me now. But there’s still over 12 weeks in this program. I have plenty of time to improve. I won’t be doing just one at the end.

And, of course, since we haven’t done Ab Ripper X since Monday, that was on the menu for today too. I’m getting noticeably better at the ab exercises, even after just three sessions. I still had to pause a couple times, and there’s still one of the exercises where I’m unable to do a full set of 25 (13 today, closer). But, for most of them, I’m able to keep up, and my form is good enough that I’m feeling it in the right places. That’s the last Ab Ripper X this week, thank God. I need the break. Saturday, it’ll be back, though. I’ll be ready.

May 2, 2005

I really want to get back to doing my “On This Day” series. Today seems like a good day to start. Little Farah’s story is absolutely heart-wrenching. Read it now if you never have before.

This is from Michael Yon’s book, “Moment of Truth in Iraq”, which I highly recommend:

When little Farah heard the American Strykers, she dashed out of the house barefoot to wave at the Americans. Other kids had done the same. The soldiers tossed candy. The suicide-murderer driving the car bomb could have waited a couple of blocks to attack our soldiers, but instead rammed his car into the Stryker while about twenty kids were crowded around.

An Iraqi woman rushed little Farah out of the smoke and flames to sniper Sergeant Walt Gaya who, instead of pushing into sniper position, rushed Farah back to the medics. Major Mark Bieger saw Farah and scooped her up and rushed to a Stryker, but along the way Bieger kept stopping to hug her. Some of Farah’s relatives loaded into the Stryker and they rushed to the hospital where Farah died.

Shortly after Farah’s murder in May 2005, this picture, published all over Iraq and all over the world, had a devastating effect on the terrorists. Farah’s death was not in vain.

Whenever someone tells me that our troops are “baby killers”, “occupiers”, or that we were not wanted in Iraq, I remember Bieger and Farah. And whenever someone tells me that the terrorists there are like our Minutemen, I remember this picture, and know that Farah is dead because of these “insurgents”.

I honor little Farah, who died 7 years ago today, but I also honor American soldiers all over the world who do this kind of thing every day without thought of recognition for it, but because it’s the right thing to do.

01 May, 2012

P90X Day 4: Yoga X

The good news about the yoga workout: from a heart-pounding/sweating standpoint, it’s a little less intense than the first three days.

The bad news: instead of getting worn out and wishing it was over at 30-35 minutes, you hit that point at about 20-25 minutes.

The worse news: instead of 60 minutes, Yoga X is 90.

Don’t think that yoga is girlish or doesn’t help with strength training. If you truly believe that, you’ll never reach anywhere near your full potential. The stretches allow you to properly workout your muscles on the strength days. In addition, more than a few of the yoga poses require a hefty amount of strength themselves. You will get a workout from Yoga X.

Still, the P90Xperts say you burn about 600 calories during one of the workouts. I doubt it’s anywhere near that high during Yoga X. It’s probably not over 300. That does not mean it’s easy. If you’re like me, you’ll be moaning and/or whimpering long before it’s over.

The mantra for today is “Just do your best, and forget the rest.”

The workout is divided into two parts. The first is a set of more kinetic yoga poses. You move quickly from pose to pose to pose throughout the first 45 minutes, with only the briefest of breaks. By the end of this part, my form was awful, and I was exhausted.

The second part is more static poses. Move into the pose and hold it for a bit. It starts out with some balance poses, then moves on to stretches. This is a little less taxing than the kinetic part, but probably even more painful. Remember, I said a few days ago that I’m less than limber. It was during the last 20 minutes or so of this workout that my tightness here showed itself. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than when the cool down phase started. Still, I could tell the stretches helped, and I know for a fact I have better balance and am more flexible than I was last Christmas.

4 days in, and I feel like I’m getting the hang of this thing. My diet is improving (18 grams of fat total so far today!), and I’m feeling better every day. Tomorrow is Legs & Back, and another round of Ab Ripper X. This should play mostly to my area of strength, well, except for the pull ups and the ab stuff. Wish me luck, and stay tuned.

30 April, 2012

P90X Day 3: Shoulders & Arms

Just completed the day 3 workout. This one was a bit harder for me. I’m weak on upper body, and I always have been. But the real reason this one was harder is that I pushed myself harder. Even though each workout is different, I think I’m starting to get a feel of the intensity level and how hard I can push myself and still have enough left in the tank to finish.

Also, this one was mostly weights, variations on bicep curls, etc. I bought a fairly cheap set of barbells. I can change the weights on them, but it’s not incredibly easy to do so. It’s hard enough that I don’t want to take a break from the pace P90X sets for you to do it. So, I used the same weight for almost all of the exercises, and it might have been a bit too high for a few of them.

There are a few exercises where Tony specifically says to lower the weight. For those, I used my resistance bands. Note that you can use resistance bands pretty much throughout P90X. You can even use them for the pull up exercises. I don’t like them, because I feel like it’s too easy for me to cheat up a little with them. YMMV.

Anyway, I’ve determined that (so far) it looks like I can get by with 3 different weight amounts. A lighter weight for the ones where Tony directs it, the regular weight that I’ve been using, and another that’s a bit heavier. That weight amount was too light for me on one of the exercises on day one. Then I’ll hopefully being upgrading the weight amounts for all three as time goes by.

I have to admit, today’s workout was fun. It was hard, and I’m definitely feeling it. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to really be feeling it tomorrow. Like the other two days, it’s about an hour, and after about 35-40 minutes, I was ready for it to be over.

Finally, today had the 15 minute Ab Ripper X set at the end. These are optional, and hard as…well, they’re hard. Smile But I did do the full 25 reps for all but one of the exercises this time, unlike Saturday. That meant I had to pause the disc a couple times, because even though I did 25, I couldn’t keep up with the trainer’s pace. You do 12 different ab exercises, and 25 reps (at least) of each, in under 15 minutes. And then you go lay on the ground and whimper.

Tomorrow, Yoga X. The light yoga exercises I’ve been doing have been killing me. I can’t wait to see what kind of torture the P90X gang has dreamed up. Stay tuned.

Polling the President-April 2012

I haven’t done this in over 6 months, so it’s definitely time to restart this. This is my monthly look at how well or poorly President Barack Obama (D-USA) is polling.

As always, I’ll start with the RealClearPolitics averages. Today, his approval/disapproval number stands at 47.6/48.0. This is a bad number for the President, but it’s not terrible. People have been re-elected many times with sub 50 on their approval. And if this was the worst number for the President, it would be causing some mild concern from the White House, but no major fears. The good news is that this number is virtually unchanged over the last several months, and even a bit higher than last August.

Unfortunately, for the White House, that’s the bright spot in his numbers. Right Track/Wrong Track for the country is at 32/60.8. Again, the President can take some solace in the fact that it was far worse six months ago. But, if I’m a political consultant, I’m salivating at the opportunity to run against an incumbent President when only 32% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction.

Finally, I take a peek at the Consumer Confidence Index from The Conference Board. The CCI for April is 69.2. Again, this is a big improvement over the mid-40s he was looking at last summer, and it’s in the ballpark of Obama’s all time high (70.4 from 2/2011). But it’s also a long way from the 90 rating that’s considered “healthy”. If unemployment numbers and GDP numbers released in the last few weeks are any guide, CCI will be lower next month, as well.

Starting next month, I will likely include some head-to-head numbers with former Governor Mitt Romney (R-USA). April seems a bit early for that though. Eventually, I’ll include battleground states as well, and start doing this more frequently, but likely not until sometime this summer.

29 April, 2012

P90X: Day Two: Plyohhhhmetrics

Day two is Plyometrics, a great big fancy word meaning “jump training”. Basically, this is 60 minutes of relatively high impact aerobics involving lots of jumping. The general impression I’ve gotten from my research is that Chest & Back (yesterday) and Plyometrics (today) are the two hardest workout routines of the series.

It’s nice knowing that going in. When you finish day two, you get lots of endorphins, because you can tell yourself with confidence, “I can do this.” I think it was oversold to me, a bit. I admit I was nervous about today, but I got through it without feeling like I needed to go crawl back into bed and die.

Tony Horton, the inventor of P90X has a mantra for the plyometric workouts. “You can do anything for 30 seconds.” That’s the length of most of the exercises. And it’s a true statement. All of the exercises are doable for 30 seconds. They’re definitely working your heart, but it’s not like you’re doing 30 minutes of wind sprints or Herbies (see, 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team).

I got through today with some pain, but it wasn’t awful. I think I have a few advantages over most people starting out on P90X though.

  1. I’m thin. 12% body fat is pretty good. I can’t imagine doing today’s workout a year ago when I was 35 pounds heavier, or a few years ago when I was 70 pounds heavier. I’ve seen lots of before & after pictures of people doing P90X, and those of you that were pretty heavy to start with, I don’t know how you did it.
  2. I’ve been working out now for 120+ days. That can not be discounted. There’s a reason plyometrics is day two, after a killer day one. You’re sore and tired, and that makes it even harder. But since I’d been working out, I didn’t get the first day soreness nearly as bad as most will.
  3. Another thing about those 120 days of workouts. I’ve been doing lots of cardio, particularly the last 6 weeks. I didn’t get winded from the exercises today like I would have even a couple months ago.
  4. While this is primarily an aerobic workout, there’s no doubt that it works your legs pretty hard. I admit that I’m kind of a wimp, but the one area of my body that’s always been relatively strong is my legs. I’ve added a little more balance over the last 120 days by adding a little more upper body muscle, but my legs are still strong.

The key to getting through this workout is pacing yourself. Yes, it’s supposed to be eXtreme. You’re supposed to push yourself, but if you throw everything you have into the first 15 minutes, you’ll never make it through all 60. I admit that I probably didn’t push myself quite as hard as I could have. It was my first time, and I wasn’t sure how much my body could take, or how hard the exercises were going to be. Most of them are pretty easy individually, it’s the long series of them that makes it difficult. Still, my heart rate was consistently over 150, and even over 160 for a little while. That’s a pretty good number for a 45 year old, and the 160s might even be high. After the first 30 minutes, I was definitely starting to feel tired. Even still, I’ll likely try to push myself a little harder the next time this workout rolls around.

How am I doing on the diet? Eh. I didn’t get to 2000 calories yesterday. I realize I need to eat more to have enough energy for the workouts, and to give my body nourishment to grow. But, one of my keys to losing weight has been simple: eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not. I did eat more than usual yesterday, but getting all the way up to 2,000 would have meant eating when I wasn’t hungry. Still, my protein and carb numbers were pretty good. Even fat was ok, but a little high, proportionally. I did finish under 40 g of fat for the day, though, and any day I can do that I’m going to count as a win.

Today I’m doing even better. Have had breakfast, lunch, and a snack already, and am at 134 g of protein, and 8 (yes, eight) g of fat. I may even be able to have some popcorn tonight, if I can keep that fat number down (sorry, I don’t do air popped popcorn—tastes like cardboard).

So, I’ve made it through the first two days of exercise without passing out or collapsing. I am feeling it though, on both upper and lower body. Tomorrow is Shoulders & Arms, and another Ab Ripper X. More pull ups. I have to admit, I walked by my pull up bar this morning and my chest and arms complained just at the sight. And I’m already dreading the days with Ab Ripper. Tomorrow will be fun. Tune in for the next update. I’ll try to get it out tomorrow night, but may be Tuesday morning.