Monday, March 26, 2007

Self Challenge - Week 4 in Review

Here it is, the end of Month 1... I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed in the month overall. While I've managed to complete the minimum amount of required workouts, I only had one really good week. I'm falling behind on my two Nike+ goals that I'd set for myself: one was to run 16 times this month and the other was to run 5 runs at a faster pace than I normally do.
I actually still have 3 days to try and finish these goals, but it's looking a bit unlikely that I'll manage.

So, here we go:

3 x 30 minute cardio workouts
2 x 25 minute strength workouts

What I actually did:
3 x cardio workouts: 45, 30, & 35 minutes, all running (booo! that's even less than last week!)
3 x Yourself Fitness workouts: 45 minutes of lower-body, 45 minutes of core & 45 minutes of flexibility

Yeah, nothing new here.

So where does that leave me after one month? Pretty much nowhere. I weigh exactly the same, my measurements are identical... I don't really have a tangible success meter. Oh well, time to keep on trucking.

I thought it was interesting that I've found this article that says that a well known NYC fitness guru has been recommending the Self Challenge to his clients. Well, that's interesting, but I guess it's possible that it would help if I followed the eating plan. Although I must admit, the eating plan seems to be very restrictive in terms of calories! I'm pretty certain (and Tamsen even more so) that I need more than 1600 calories a day.

Well, here we go, onto Month 2 and its new and improved diet plan!

Bring it, now!

Having said it to the tune of "y'all come back, now!", Maya just didn't really inspire the bringing it feeling I was hoping for. Not that that didn't mean she was doing all she could to take it from me, whether I'd brought it or not.

Much like Teetering Tamsen, Maya had me doing some yoga moves for my core workout this week that had me flailing about, grabbing on to the nearest bit of furniture and desperately trying to keep my balance. Tamsen and I were complaining to each other and realized that we were having trouble with the very same move (the half moon pose, I believe) - which was fascinating, because that meant that our very different workout programs seem to have quite a bit of overlap.

It would be interesting once our 90 days are through to swap workouts for a week and see how we do on the other.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


i do try very hard to clear my mind when i'm doing Yoga X. i do try very hard not to laugh when i'm wobbling uncontrollably in a terribly advanced pose. i do try very hard not to fall in such a way that i will smash something valuable - like my head. i try even harder to jump back into the pose for the remaining time after i've narrowly avoided careening into a wall.

it ain't pretty, but it sticks with me all day. i can feel my muscles just a wee bit stronger, my chest lifted a wee bit higher. can't say i've gotten that from any other yoga i've taken in studio - bikram, hatha or iyengar. but then again, i've never gone for the more advanced classes. i am known for not pushing myself hard enough, this program forces me to take that issue more seriously.

don't expect to see me in studio doing advanced ashtanga, though - one false move and i'd take out about neighboring students like they were a row of harleys.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Self Challenge - Week 3 in Review

Well, after last week's über-motivated working out, week three was back to the bare minimum... This time, my excuse was travel. I had to fly to NYC on thursday and knew I wouldn't be able to do any strength workouts, so I crammed them all in the beginning of the week. And by all, I mean I only got two strength workouts down. *bows head in shame*

3 x 30 minute cardio workouts
2 x 25 minute strength workouts

What I actually did:
3 x cardio workouts: 45, 45, & 45 minutes, all running (the last two on the treadmill in our hotel)
2 x Yourself Fitness workouts: 45 minutes of upper-body, 45 minutes of core

Still no journal. I do hope next month has a better food plan, because this month's just isn't doing it for me!

Not too happy about this week, but I guess I still did more than the base Self Challenge requirements. That still doesn't make it satisfying though.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Self Challenge - Week 2 in Review

3 x 30 minute cardio workouts
2 x 25 minute strength workouts

What I actually did:
3 x cardio workouts: 125, 40, 45 & 152 minutes, all running.
3 x Yourself Fitness workouts: 45 minutes of upper-body, 30 minutes of lower body, 45 minutes of core and 30 minutes of flexibility

Didn't keep the journal - again. I've been researching how to create healthful balanced meals, and writing about it for, but that's about it.

My workouts were quite over the basic requirements. For the cardio, that was merely because I couldn't complete my long run over the weekend and had to do it on Monday, but then kept my next 13-miler on Sunday, so that adds a lot of extra time that would normally have been broken up over two weeks.

As for the strength, having Maya to push me through my workouts has been much more interesting than the Self strength workouts, so it's kept me showing up again and again. Clearly, this is great when I'm home, but when I'm travelling, which I'll be doing a lot of this spring, things get a bit trickier.

How am I doing? I'm not having trouble completing the basic requirements, don't think I've lost any weight (nor would I expect to this soon), I still can't complete one of those blasted narrow-arm push ups, and Maya tells me the session after next is going to be a fitness evaluation. Oh my!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Failure, the P90X Way

I've learned a lot about fitness in the past five years - how to eat, how to balance, what works, what doesn't. What has surprised me about P90X is what it's teaching me about failure.

I'm not just talking about pushing to failure, that muscle-tension mantra that we shoot for when we're taking on more weight for our triceps or whatever. I'm also referring to the entire concept of Bloody Hell, I Just Can't Do This. Now, I am no athlete, although I have tried to adopt that mentality; but there are parts of the P90 workout that I just can't do. And I am learning more about my physical self, my mental approach and my spirit from those exercises than I am from the others.

Case in point: there is this ratbastard push-up in the Chest and Back workout called a Dive Bomber. It has some origins in yoga, but essentially it entails scooping your chest low from a Downward Dog through a push-up position, then reversing it. Not just lowering your chest, scooping it, like you're trying to get under a low fence. Push-ups are tough for me anyway, the upper body focus of P90X was what made me click the buy button. But HOLY Mother of Tony Horton, this thing...I can't even pretend to fake it, can't get close to it, can't even whisper to its future self, I Can't Do It.

And I love that.

Mind you, I have had to fake and stumble through many of the sets during this first three weeks. This is no weenie workout, any of it, even the yoga busts my ass. But the Dive Bomber is telling me stories, like:

- I am not where I thought I was physically
- How I frame this is going to shape the entire 90-day result
- The Dive Bomber is the Signpost

The first is self explanatory - I knew I wasn't an Olympian but I have been able to hop in and out of my concept of "fit" pretty easily. Dive Bomber tells me I am nowhere near the true value of the term fit.

The second, the framing part, comes from an incredibly influencial article written by Alan Deutschman (an article he expanded into a book) for Fast Company magazine, called "Change or Die." Essentially, "I can't do Dive Bomber" will inevitably ensure that I won't ever be able to do Dive Bomber. Instead, I change the frame. The new one is "I'm coming after you, DB, and I will not stop until I have you." This is something that Tony Horton and the P90 program promotes from the beginning - "you're not taking a 'before' picture, you're taking a 'goodbye!' picture." Might seem like simple semantics, but baby, that shit matters. Boy, does it matter.

The last? Dive Bomber is the Signpost. Fear is a famous Signpost; avoidance is one too. You know the Signpost - it points the way to the right road, so you follow it. I may not end this 90 days in the best shape of my life, but Dive Bomber, that fabulous slap in my fitness face, will tell me precisely how many miles I have to go, and what direction to take to get there.

So: How I fail now will determine how I succeed later. (Oh, yeah, NOW it makes sense...)

All this being said, I have wanted to post this for days and wish I had posted it every day: I flipped the switch about day 10 - I can't get P90X out of my head. I plan my day around the workout, and slightly obsess about the food program (I had to have an intervention because it's Girl Scout Cookie season. I did not lose the faith, just followed the shiny thing for a bit) and I - seriously - look forward to the workouts, I do. I have a workout partner. He's a hard-driving bastard who won't let me off the hook. I flail all over the place but he keeps me solid. And every day I see him I thank GOD he can't see me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You Sound Like My Date Last Night...

That's what Maya said to me last night, when I told her (or rather selected as a response when she asked how I was doing) "You're lucky I'm here." Maya, my personal trainer. My Playstation2 virtual personal trainer.

Yourself! Fitness has been the perfect solution to the lack of inspiration provided to me by the Self Challenge. The way I see it, the Self Challenge offers a great log to keep track of the number of workouts I've been doing, and some good preliminary motivation with its requirements: keeping me on track for at least two 25-min strength workouts a week and three 30-min cardio. However, its offerings in terms of strength workouts are quite slim. In fact, just one offering really: one measly confusing little 25 minutes strength workout. And not a very good one, at that.

But I digress. When you first put on Maya, she greets you and puts you through a personal fitness evaluation. This consists of entering all the general stats, height, weight, age, gender and resting heart rate, then a fitness test: 2 minutes of jumping jacks (waaaay harder than I thought it would be! My calves started cramping a bit at 30 seconds!), take your heart rate again, then as many as you can do (up to a set maximum) of the following: Sit ups, push ups, and squats.

I was able to complete the maximum of sit ups (60) and squats (50) but only 15 out of the 40 max push ups. Finally, there was a little flexibility test, where sitting on the ground with your legs out in front of you, you walk your hands towards your feet on the floor and see how far you can go. I'm pretty flexible.

Once this is done, Maya gives you her suggestion for what your focus could be. For me, she shockingly suggested an Upper Body Strength focus, but I then had the option to change, if I so desired, to Weight Loss, Cardio, Core Strength, Lower Body Strength or Flexibility. I decided to go with her suggestion.

Next, she showed me the week plan, and suggested I work out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 45 minutes at a time. However, this part too was completely customizable. Again, I stayed with her suggestions. Finally, she offers you a full meal plan for a suggested daily calorie total.

Once this phase is done, you can go to your workout or you can go visit the meditation garden (a lovely garden scene where Maya leads you through a 20-minute or so yoga routine). On any given day, you can go with the recommended workout for that day or change it to any other type. You also get to choose your music and workout space and whether or not you have any equipment available (your choices are free weights, balance ball, step and something else that I can't seem to recall).

I have yet to try the yoga, but I've done several workouts with Maya: Core, Lower Body, Upper Body and Flexibility. They're great! They change frequently, and Maya is tough! Although she always asks how difficult a workout was and I've definitely noticed a fine tuning process. After I bitched about how hard the military narrow armed push ups were (as in, I couldn't even complete one), she has me back at regular positioned girlie push-ups. And that's about all I can handle... For now, at least.

Coming up next: Week 2 in review!

Friday, March 9, 2007

P90X - Week 1 in Review

i was not prepared.

the buzzphrase for this program is BRING IT, which at first i scoffed at then realized i perhaps had packed it then left it at home. this is typical of me, on most issues of commitment, dedication and discipline. i am fantastically skilled at sliding strong into second base then remaining there, curled up in a nap. (one of my favorite episodes of "invader zim": zim drives his easily-distracted robot gir into a movitational frenzy, whereupon gir launches into a fierce run that ends twenty steps later in a deep snooze.)

so i am no longer permitted to scoff at cheesy motivational declarations.

however, when i did manage to BRING IT, i got my ass kicked in a good way. you know that wobbly feeling you get when you've worked muscles that have been lounging by the pool for years? ahhhyeah, that.

P90 in general: It's fast, furious and funny - Tony Horton is one of those charismatic and passionate trainers, using a charming, energy-infused, take-no-prisoners style. He reminds me a lot of the fantastic Jim Karanas, a fitness coach based at Club One in San Francisco, who justifiably has a passionate following. Most of the P90 workouts are about an hour long; the Ab Ripper is 15 minutes (of pure hell). since i'll be doing these workouts for rest of march, i'll only go over a couple at a time.

Chest & Back and the Ab Ripper X
Chest and Back, like the rest of the weight-based programs, is constructed to work alternating muscle sets, something i tried to do with freeweights but wasn't really sure i was doing. It's approximately 22 sets, some repeats, of weight lifting (i used bands) and nasty-ass push-ups. my upper body is my weakest spot (tri- and biceps having lounged by that pool with mai tais for far too long). i did not manage as many reps as i thought i should in some parts, and managed far too many (meaning i wasn't using enough weight) in others. but i learned a lot about my capacity and i know i'll easily be able to mark my progress. if i can do a single, decent military push-up at any point before the 90 days is up, it will be a lifetime first.

Ab Ripper: 13 rapid exercises of 25 reps each, 325 reps total. no, i couldn't do them all, and most of them left me laughing in weak surrender. can you say OW?

Shoulders and Arms (also with Ab Ripper)
hello, my dear. i am called a tricep. we apparently have never met before, although i think you imagine we had. i do believe i will make my presence known to you for days at a time now. when you push up from your side using only me, that is our greatest moment of intimacy.

triceps, did you just call me biyatch? oh yes you did. and my shoulders called me filthy names that cannot be repeated here. suffice it to say that there were a lot more lounge chairs by that pool than i had pretended to know. still: wobbly, sore, cranky and profane though they are, these muscles are mine and i am their master...if i do what i'm told. quite the paradox.

more soon...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Self Challenge - Week 1 in Review

I finished week 1 of 12 of the Self Challenge, and I have to admit, I'm still a bit meh about it.

3 x 30 minute cardio workouts
2 x 25 minute strength workouts

What I actually did:
3 x 30 minute cardio workouts (only because I flaked out on my 2 hour Sunday run, which means that this week will be off the charts, since I did it on Monday instead)
2 x 25 minute strength workouts (the self challenge one)
1 x 60 minute Pilates session
1 x 30 minute Yourself Fitness upper body workout

Didn't keep the journal - My "food plan" has me eating: about 450 calories for breakfast, 400 calories for lunch, a calcium snack of 100 calories, another 550 calories for dinner and a 120-calorie treat - so 1620 a day, which doesn't seem like enough to me.

I tried to make sure I had about 450 for breakfast, then the rest of my day is usually a mystery, though I have been cutting down on the amount of alcohol in the evenings (to cut those unnecessary calories... except for when they were necessary, and then I didn't cut them.)

My second attempt at the Self Challenge Month 1 Strength Workout was only slightly less frustrating. I did make it through the entire thing this time, but was still a bit annoyed at it. I also tried to do the mp3 walkthrough this time but I'm pretty sure it miscounted the reps and it also wouldn't let me pause it. Which was annoying.

I'm not sure I'll do it again since I have my Yourself! fitness program now and therefore have someone to walk me through all my exercises and count down for me. I'm lazy that way.

Friday, March 2, 2007


So I got an email from the Self Challenge today.

Your SELF Challenge reminder

Been a few days since you checked in with the SELF Challenge?
Come on back! Studies show those who keep track of their goals are more likely to achieve them. In other words, go to now to update your workout log or food diary, and we'll help you get your best body ever.
If you'd like to start the plan back where you left off—or even back at Week 1—hit the Previous Week button on your My Log page.
Now that's a bit odd, seeing as that I uploaded my first workout monday, then took tuesday off, then wednesday I entered two half hour cardio sessions (I went for an hour run, but they didn't have the pace I ran - a 10:30 - so I entered half an hour at 10 and half an hour at 11), then yesterday, I entered the Strength workout, which I actually did all the way through this time, and while I'm a bit less pissed at it, I still don't love it. So yeah, that just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that warrants a reminder.

Now, don't get me wrong, the reminder thing is brilliant idea, and the first thing I did when I got it was hurry on up and upload another workout for yesterday (half hour run at 10 minute miles, even though I actually did 9:30s but that's not an option either, even though 8:30 and 7:30 do exist... whatever.) I also put a one hour pilates session for today... and that ladies and gents fulfills my Self Challenge requirements for this week, which is funny because I still have two days of workout left in me.

But why did they send me a "where have you been?" note??? Should I be updating twice a day? every hour??? or is it the lack of food diary entering?