Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oh, there's a Diet plan too?

About a week into P90X, as I'm about to embark on the 2nd rotation of 6 DVD's (you get one day off to rest), I start grousing to my fellow grunts that I have no idea what the nutritional component they talk about is comprised of. "What am I supposed to be eating?" I ask them. "Didn't you get that booklet that came with the set?" they ask me back. Ohhhhhh.... Heh. You mean the one that says "Nutrition Plan: Eating for Power Performance"? Could that possibly be it?

Goodbye, my loves, I'll see you on the other side...

It actually is not too onerous, this meal plan. Quite sensible. I'm doing 1800 calories/day, and that's not a problem. And keeping track of calories? I've been doing that with my son for 3 months, but for the opposite reason. Him I'm trying to fatten up (half and half in the cereal? Sure!). Me, not so much.

A rotation of shoulder presses, bicep curls and tricep extensions, done and then done again. Tony calls these muscles "The glamour muscles" since you show them off when in a tank top. Here, I mourn my lack of dumbbells. Doing bicep curls with colored bands doesn't quite give you that gritty "Oz" prison weight room feel. Plus, I can never get the tension right.
Participants: Another two guys and a woman: The affable, Matt Lattanzi look-alike Daniel; a Tony Horton doppleganger named Joe, and most important, the infamous Dreya, the Teutonic shield maiden who I will see many times during these 90 days. She is an aerialist, she's on the P90X manual, and she will rip you apart. Don't mess with Dreya. Alas, even she can be coerced into making the forearm "X" sign with Daniel, Joe & Tony at the end of the workout. It's like when my father used to make us do a "thumbs up" shot at every family gathering. It's just embarrassing. Don't do that to the kids, Tony. 

"No one gets paid without
making this sign."
Tony Horton waxes poetic: "Look at those triceps: diamonds of gold."
Revelation of the Day: "Wow upside down is Mom." 
Fist Bumps: 4 doubles! Plus much hand slapping. 
Tony's Soup of the Day: Lobster Bisque.
Straight Quotient: The ubiquitous "My brutha." 
Gay Appeal: Did I mention that one of the guys looks like Matt Lattanzi?
Notable Exercises: For some reason, I really like the Lying-Down Tricep Extension. You're on your side, the lower arm is clutching the opposite shoulder, and the higher arm pushes off against the floor to a straight position. It's so simple, yet so... excruciating.

Each of the weight training days is followed by the aptly named AB RIPPER X.
As you may have guessed, these are 349 core-slash-ab exercises (Tony actually says "slash" with accompanying hand gesture). These exercises I've got to modify like crazy, since there's a lot of Pilate-style heaving one's body up on down balancing on your butt. My back, she no like-a that. Despite the somewhat maniacal, "Great Santini" tone to Tony on this video ("Hit my hand! Hit my hand!!") I do a lot of safe crunches on my big yellow exercise ball. 

Gay Appeal: Finally, someone without a shirt on! What kind of workout video IS this? But it's worth the wait.
Enter Adam, aptly named because he is what the first man on earth would look like. Sigh... motivation enough.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 2: Plyo Hell

The good folks at want you to truly COMMIT to this P90X program, and to that end they encourage you to take your weight and body measurements before, during and after you've done the three months of conditioning. They even give you a little workbook to do record this information. Not only that, but they'd like you to take photos of yourself, in as little as possible, before and after! Make videos! Post photos and videos online! Show the world what you've got, and what you did with it!

Uh, no.

But I understand the conceit (in all connotations of the word). If you can chart your progress, you'd be more encouraged by how your body changed, and more willing to go forward. Here are a few before/after photos of P90X users that I've found online:
This one's pretty impressive, though he's two months over.
Wow, though it's at different angles and postures...
Nah, I'll give it to her.
Amazing what a black background will do for a person...
Hey! No body hair-shaving allowed! Unfair!

Okay, if I'm going to display photos of others, I guess, in all fairness, turnabout is fair play. Though it seems awfully vainglorious, after much trepidation and soul-searching I've decided to go ahead and post my "before" photo. It's not terribly well-lit and it puts me in a, you know, vulnerable position. Please, be kind (click on the "read more" to go on):

Friday, June 24, 2011

P90X: Bring What?

Skepticism abounds, yet I pop in my first DVD. Day #1 of a 90 day exercise program. Am I really going through with it? Yes. I've got the stretchy colored bands, I've got the mat, I've got the push-up bars. All of this equipment the detritus of other, older workout regimens. At least I'm recycling. It's Eco-fitness!

First, there's an introductory DVD called "How to Bring It." A primer on potlucks? No such luck.

"How to Bring It" explains how the program works. It's kind of a Getting to Know You moment for me and P90X—

Wouldn't you rather be watching this than doing a workout?

... with me in my boxer briefs playing the part of Deborah Kerr, and, in the role of Yul Brenner, making his debut in my bedroom TV, please give a warm studio welcome to—

Don't talk smack about my program, 
or I will find you. Blam!
Mr. Tony Horton! Ah Mr. Horton, fitness god, guru to the stars, he of the chiseled body, gaunt face and zealot's eyes. He will be my trainer for the next three months. I'm a little trepidatious. This guy is, I have to admit, a little too straight-guy-jock to be in my comfort zone. He's got a few too many fist-bumps and sports metaphors in his repertoire. I mean, come on, my first foray into a post-college exercise program was the Soloflex, and the draw for me wasn't so much the sleek precision of the machine or the easy-to-use-patented bands, but the brochure:
Reflections of happier workout days...

Oh, Scott Madsen, where are you when I need you?

Mr. Horton is no doe-eyed, soft-focus, glistening man-boy. Tony is a rock-hard drill sergeant who's got that Tony Robbins motivational patter leavened with occasional goofy high-pitched exclamations that signify hi-larity. It's like having Jim Carrey as a personal trainer. Come to think of it...

Did you see Jim Carrey's body in "I Love You Phillip Morris?" Maybe it IS him!

... Hears a Who
Tony Horton...

But, I digress.

Tony tells me that this is my home for the next 90 days. He tells me of the three phases. He tells me— but I've gotta pick the kid up from school in 90 minutes. Keep it moving. Fast forward. Three-Part Nutrition plan— fast forward. Special workout supplements, online support, safety issues— skip, skip, skip. "In your workout, never, ever—" Whatever. Eject. Time to start: Chest & Back!

It's an hour of a bazillion push-up and pull-up exercises. I use bands instead of a pull-up bar because my door trim is too thick. Even my door trim is overweight! The bands are much easier than doing real pull-ups, though at one point I position it wrong and while pulling the green band snaps off, ricocheting off my chest and causing a welt. Ouch. Not the kind of definition I was looking for. 

Participants: Two guys and a gal, all toned and pleasant. 
Pithy Tony Horton quote: "It's a beautiful thing."
Fist Bumps: 11, I think, plus a couple of high-fives and a weird bump-onto-palm slap.
Jock Lingo: Lots of "My brothah's," "he's a wild man," and "rock on's".
Notable Exercises: You'd be surprised at how many different kind of pull-ups you can do. Theoretically.
Food mentions: Crispy Cremes.
Imaginary Soup He's Stirring During Stretch: Navy Bean. 

I like it! Kinda.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Reluctant X-Man

These hands also double as Ginzu
Knives, absolutely free
A college friend of mine blew into town the other day (I won't give him the satisfaction of naming him), and I noticed right away that something was different with him. He'd lost a ton of weight, he looked healthier, and when I chanced to see him without his shirt off  (how did he manage to contrive that? I can't recall— bastard) I was shocked to see that he was ripped. Ripped! Dear God, what had happened? We weren't supposed to look like that on this side of the hill. How much spinach was he sucking down that pipe of his? Turns out it wasn't leafy greens; my friends. He had just completed a REVOLUTIONARY NEW exercise program that had already been making ripples in the  L.A. trendosphere: P90X (rasp-whispered like Wolverine with requisite forearm-crossing in front of his face). P90...EHHXXXX.

What a disappointment. Here I was, content to settle in for a long, slow slide into decrepitude and midsection accretion, when this alternate reality presented itself. Still, sweet, lard-soaked inertia might have prevailed had not the entire P90X 12 DVD, fitness-guide-with-requisite-soft-porn-black-and-white-muscle-photos, nutrition-plan-I-conveniently-overlooked, package landed on my doorstep. Or, more accurately, had been quietly boxed up on my dresser for the past three months. I had won the damn thing at a silent auction (I was only trying to goose the bidding! Honest!) and had been mulling trying the program since March. By mulling, I mean ignoring. But now, I had the program AND the results staring me in the face. It seemed like a sign. What could I lose, aside from the ten pounds I've been trying to get rid of since the new millenia?

Maybe YOU'VE been contemplating a life change. Maybe YOU'VE watched those informercials and wondered, could that be for me? Maybe YOU'VE always wanted some random middle-aged man with two torn menisci and a bulging lumbar disk to give you fitness advice. If so, step right up! I'm ready to talk!

What is this P90X? Well, I know the "90" is the number of days you train. The "X" must stand for "Xtreme." The "P" I'm guessing is "Power," cause it has that explosive, onomatopoetic sound so popular with high-fiving-muscle men and protein bars. P90X is a 90-day program built around the premise that if you are constantly switching up your routine and "confusing" your muscles, you will see more dramatic results without the dread "plateau" you hear people who actually exercise talk about. To that end, there are twelve DVD's that you are constantly shuffling in and out of your player, pretty evenly divided between cardio/stretching sessions and muscle-building sessions. There is a "Classic" program for those who want to lose fat and gain muscle, and a "Lean" version for those who just want to look thin for their upcoming high school reunion.

Is P90X for me? The literature and videos stress that this exercise program is for those who are already fit. They warn that it's for the hard-core exercise junkie that wants wild results in 90 days. That said, I don't know anyone who has let that warning stop them, no matter what shape they're initially in. I think it's a pretty shrewd on the part Team Beachbody, the group who put out these videos. They can sound cautious but still be utterly tempting. Most of us want to believe that we're in shape enough for an exercise video. Hell yes, we're fit enough to be included! It's the same reason why lower-middle class families vote Republican and support cutting taxes for the wealthy. Aspirational Delusion, an American right!

The warning is true, though: it's pretty intense. In the Classic version, anyway, there is a lot of high-impact cardio and tons of weight training (you can also use bands, or soup cans, or very heavy maracas). I was worried because of my injuries, but so far, I've been able to modify the routines (as in, check my Facebook page) to accommodate my special needs. And I still sweat like a pig.

The program ain't cheap. Amazon's selling it for like $140, though I'd imagine there are a lot of sheepish people putting it up on E-Bay for a lot less. You'll also need a heart monitor, some barbells or bands, and a yoga mat. All of which, by coincidence, is sold at the Beachbody website! They also hawk their protein supplement drinks and bars, but I have yet to drink that Kool-Aid. If you're serious, though, there's nothing like shelling out some big bucks to keep you motivated. And if you are someone who just needs to follow a program mindlessly and see results, then they've laid it all out for you.

Does P90X really work? OK, look, on the one hand, if you're doing a 60-90 minutes workout six days a week for NINETY DAYS, and are even semi-conscious of what you're putting in your mouth, then you're going to see some results no matter what you do. You could parade around your house recreating the "All the Single Ladies"music video every day for three months and lose weight. At least initially. P90X is like going to the gym every day to take a different class, but you get to do it wearing just your underwear. Are these videos any better than doing any other hardcore exercise videos? I don't know. I like that they incorporate a warm up and cool down, so I haven't injured myself yet. And— (here is the other hand) I know it works. I know at least three people who have gone through the program, and they look great. A friend of mine started it a week ahead of me, and she lost nine pounds in less than two weeks. I have to admit I looked in the mirror after two sessions and thought that things looked a little...tighter. Is P90X just the newest fad? Probably. Does this fad work? Yes.

It'll be interesting to see if I last the ninety days. I'm not much of a "joiner," and Beachbody is all about joining the cult of P90X, with message boards and motivational online help (don't forget those protein drinks!). On the other hand, I've got an OCD mentality when it comes to finishing things—those of you who have seen me trying to get three stars on every level of "Angry Birds" know this only too well. This post will announce my commitment to the world, (shame being a powerful motivator)  and  I'll be doing some bonus mocking of my progress on future posts, because, like "hydration" and "stretching," "mocking" is an essential part of any exercise program.
Let the X-Games begin!