Saturday, August 27, 2011

Drinking the Kool-Aid

In the last weeks of my grand P90X experience, I have utterly and completely drunk the Kool-Aid. I'm buying stronger bands for my pull-ups, I'm scarfing up protein bars, I'm amping up the weight on my dumbbells. Perhaps it's the realization that I'm nearing the end of the program and I still don't look like a 21-year-old Zach Efron, but a sort of last-ditch desperation has taken over. The most egregious example of this is that when I say I've drunk the  Kool-Aid, I mean it literally. Yes, yes, I broke down and did it: I BOUGHT THE P90X RECOVERY DRINK. A month's supply. How could I not? It's got a high protein efficiency ratio for rapid muscle resynthesis! It's got a dextrose-based formula for optimum glycogen replenishment! It's got the endorsement of TONY HORTON HIMSELF! How could I deny myself such vital tools for success? Hoo boy. The constant shilling, the ads after each workout, it was too much for my little bear brain.
Like this,
but without
the astronauts.

The Recovery drink comes in a huge tub emblazoned with a chiseled torso. It's in powder form, and the smell of it is intensely synthetic and nostalgic at the same time. It's as if you dehydrated a creamsicle and made it into Pixie Stix. A friend, (after mocking me mercilessly) accurately defined the smell: it is exactly the essence of a Bayer's Children's Aspirin. If you have a soft spot for those orange-y, melty little orange pills we all used to take by the handfuls, by all means, get yourself a tub of this stuff. It tastes as fake as it smells (remember Tang?), but after a few days I got used to it. Mixed it with coconut water and frozen strawberries. I drink it every day after a workout, in the precious hour where OH MY GOD THE CHANCE FOR MUSCULAR GROWTH IS OPTIMAL! Hmm. For the record? I notice no appreciable difference at all, as far as post-workout soreness or suddenly burgeoning muscles. Ah well. At least I get to stare at the tub.
My... Preciousssss...
Recently, I went to the Glendale Galleria to undergo a rite which, in terms of transformative ecstasy, must rank up there with one's first dip into recreational drugs or an audience with the Pope: I bought jeans in a smaller size. Waltzed into Lucky Jeans with a swagger. "Well, I was wearing a 32, but I think I'm a 30 now..." I might as well have been wearing a "My Son is an Honor Student at..." bumper sticker affixed to my ass. The salesperson confided that three other folk had come in just that week for the very same purpose, buying skinnier jeans because of P90X. Call Congress! P90X could singlehandedly save this economy, folks!

How weird, how one exercise program catches the fancy of a nation, while other equally valid ones languish in bargain bins. Hey! I'm part of a fad! A trend! How unlike me (pay no attention to that Soloflex behind the curtain...) This is what it must have been like to have ridden that Jane Fonda Aerobics Express all those years back. I somehow missed my chance to display leg warmers, but I shan't deny myself the opportunity now. I'm sure P90X will flame out eventually, and there will be the inevitable backlash and we'll find it's terribly harmful to joints and tendons, but for now, someone get me that Beachbody tank top—I'm going in.
Tony, this could be  you in... five years.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zen and the Art of P90X

Lately I've been grappling with the inherent dissonance between this 90-day, "transform your body, be in the best shape of your life!"exercise regimen, and the Buddhist teachings I've been delving into. On the one hand, the transformation of one's body fits in perfectly with Zen precepts: we are every day, every moment, a new being; nothing is fixed. Change is an essential component of life. Just months ago I was resigned to the slow creep of poundage, reconciled with my two tweaky knees and bad back, ready for an existence of loose cardigans and baggy jeans. Now, I'm jumping, I'm pumping; I am, if not close to the best shape of my life, near to the best looking shape of my life. What better example for the impermanence of our existence?

Except that it's all a lie.

Sure, I'm happy to observe the process of change, the "fluidity" of the natural world, but only if it's going in one direction. I'm not so sanguine about it flowing back the other way. And what is all this working out for, anyway? I'm not doing it to "shoot hoops" better, or "hit the slopes" or "round the bases" or "grease the pig" (is that even a thing? I'm so far out of my wheelhouse). No, whatever muscles I will attain during these 90 days are purely show muscles. For what? Am I trying to regain a younger ideal, to push back time? Am I attempting, ultimately, to stave off death? That's a losing proposition. We are, Buddhists also say, every day dying (thanks, Buddhists). Buddhists believe that we suffer in this life because we are ruled by our attachments: attachments to emotions, to things, to our perceptions. And with my daily workouts I'm becoming mighty attached to an image I have of myself, and I'm already fretting about being able to sustain that image. I want to stay like this all the time. So much for impermanence. 

The trick, I believe, is to enjoy the process. To observe the changes that are occurring, to enjoy them, but to refrain from placing too much value on them. The state of my body does not define who I am, it is merely one manifestation of who I am. I must realize that, inevitably, my body will not stay the same—

Wait a minute: are those lat muscles I see poking up under my arm? 

Forget what I said. Must go do more pull-ups.

We're back to pull-ups (or, in my case, band work) alternating with various forms of bicep curls. Grueling, but aesthetically very satisfying.

Chewing gum, I swear!
Participants: Oh, this is a chatty, almost giddy group. Everyone here reminds me of someone: Katie looks like Chloe from "24" and sounds like Jenna Fischer from "The Office;" Bobby is a shaggier version of Jon Hamm, and perhaps a gayer version too (I have no concrete evidence, just a radar bleep, plus the fact that he exclaimed, "Oh my!" twice in one minute). Timmy, diminutive, former marine Timmy, kinda looks like a ripped hobbit from LOTR with a shirt like The Green Lantern shirt and a swagger like Tommy Mickens in "True Blood." He's chewing gum during the warm-up, for Christ's sake!

Tony Horton Words of Wisdom: "Ya got tickets to the show?" (flexes arms) "The gun show." Really, Tony? Really? 
Fist Bumps: 3 singles & 3 doubles. 
Straight Quotient: How many times can you ask if you're "ready to rock and roll" before it all sounds a little too silly?
Gay Appeal: I could be wrong, maybe it's my geek fantasy of buff hobbits coloring everything, but the homoerotic energy abounds in this video. Tony is teasing Bobby mercilessly, the way a handsome, unattainable straight man will tease a gay man appreciative of such attention. Every other sentence out of Tony's mouth is rife with double entendres: "Whack it! Whack it!"; "Squeeze one out;" "I'm pulling on something—use your imagination." Oh, I am. 
Shameless Shilling: Maybe he's distracted by thoughts of towel-snapping in the showers later, but Tony barely gets in one plug for the Recovery drink at the very very end of the video. 
Tony's Pot-Stirring Stretch Soup of the Day: Non-dairy Corn Chowder.