Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Booty Boot Camp - The beginning (days 1&2)

The Deadline Diet begins with an intensive first week - 7 days of working out in a row. The cardio starts at 20 minutes and builds up until day seven, when I'm supposed to do up to 45 minutes of moderate-maximum intensity cardio.

The first problem I've encountered is that I don't have a heart rate monitor. Yesterday's 20 minutes of moderate cardio (60-70% MHR*) seemed easy: Schleef and I headed out for a 14 mile run starting in Crissy field and had gotten past Fisherman's Wharf, and a ways down the Embarcadero (4+ miles or 44 minutes according to my Nike+) when my girlie woes hit a new low. I had a few cramps when I started running, but had always heard that exercise was supposed to lessen the pain, so I ran. When I was doubled over in pain after 44 minutes of running, nauseous and barely capable of walking, I decided that another 10 miles weren't going to help. We took a cab back to our car at the start. It's funny - I'd sometimes joked about taking a cab back to the start but never actually thought I would do it.

Regardless, my 44 minutes of running definitely seemed to cover the 20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio, so after I'd taken some ibuprofin and a 2 hour nap, I decided to tackle the rest of my requirements of the day: Core Workout #1.

First, the workouts are not available in the magazine, only online. I wasn't too crazy about that, but they were fairly easy to find and were available in slide show format (no audio or video downloads, but then again, Self didn't exactly do that part right either).

So what was Core Workout #1? Three core exercises:

#1 - Prone Plank: One of my favourites. They say to hold for 20-60 seconds each rep. No problem. How many reps? 2 sets of 10-12. Huh??? That's how many sets of push ups I'd expect to do, not of planks! I only held each for 30 seconds because I knew so many were coming, and I had a hard time completing the first set, let alone the second. But first thought is that this was a mistake, but then again, there were only three moves in this workout, so it is possible that it was intentional.

#2 - Locust: Holding each for 5-10 breaths. Again, 2 sets of 10-12 reps. Wah! Exhausting, but I did 2 sets of 10, holding each for 5 breaths. Almost.

#3 - Seated Ball Stabilizer. Sadly, I don't have a ball I could sit on, so I sat on the wobbliest of my bed and tried the move, but don't feel like I was getting anything from it. Also, it didn't say how many reps I should complete for this move, so I was assumed it was the standard 2 sets of 10-12.

Overall, the workout did not feel all that challenging.

Today, I had to do 25 minutes of moderate intensity cardio and Upper-Body Workout #1. For the cardio, I chose to do the Yourself! 30 minute cardio workout. It turned out to be only 22 minutes of cardio, so I paused the program and did an additional 3 minutes of jumping jacks to finish up. I don't know if it was actually moderate intensity or not but it was a higher intensity than the run yesterday.

I then finished the last few minutes of the Yourself! workout: some squats, pliés and the evil squat-lunges with bicep curls and flies. Then I moved onto the Upper-Body workout:

#1 - Bench Press with Dumbells: Straight forward enough - 2 sets of 15 reps with 8 lb weights, using foam roller as a bench (adds a bit of core work to the movement since you need to stabilize on the roller).

#2 - Standing V-Pull: This move required a machine, which I don't have, and since the workout doesn't specify an alternate or which muscles this move targets, I decided to do overhead presses - 2 sets of 15 reps with the 8lb weights.

#3 - Stability Ball Chest Press - Aside from the stability ball (which I still don't have), this move doesn't seem any different from the previous bench press, so I just did another two sets of 15 on the foam roller: it doesn't require as much core work, but 4 sets of intermediate core stabilizing is better than none.

#4 - Biceps Curls - 2 sets of 15 reps with 8lb weights. Nothing new here.

#5 - Rotating Triceps Kickbacks - Same as the usual kickbacks that I do, but with an arm twist at the end to turn the palms facing the ceiling. 2 sets of 15 reps with 8lb weights.

This workout felt more effective than yesterday's core workout.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tiny 90 - Phase Two: WH's Deadline Diet

For my second round of Tiny 90 challenging, I've decided to stick with the magazine theme and try out a plan in this month's Women's Health. The plan, called the deadline diet, is actually scalable to work for 1 week, 1 month or 60 days.

The Deadline Diet includes a workout plan and, as the name might indicate, a day to day meal plan. If you've paid any attention to my efforts with the Self Challenge you know that I am not so good with the meal plans, but I'll at least give it a shot. I will have to scale it up a bit though, since it is only 1400 calories, and I'll be running far too much to be eating that little.

I tend not to be fond of diets as it is, and don't really like this plan's name, but the first week is called the booty boot camp, so I think from now on, that will be what I call this thing.

So to get started, here are my current statistics:

Height: 5'9"
Weight: 157lbs
Waist circumference:30in
Hip circumference: 44in
Left thigh: 24in
Right thigh: 25.5in
Run/walk a mile in: 9:16 min.
Can max the Self Challenge tests for squats (50 in a row) and for crunches (60 in a row) and can do 20 pushups (bent knee. Hey, when I started, I could only do 10!!!)

Ready to go! My first day is Monday the 28th of May!

P90X: Lessons, Progress and The One Thing

Friday, May 25 was the end of our first 90-day trial for our two or three programs (Note: Sara's Self Magazine Challenge was less than challenging, so she added on Yourself! Fitness' kickass cyber-training with Maya, the virtual cutie pie of screaming musculature). I followed P90X with enthusiasm until around the sixth week. I got another four to five weeks in before my shoulders threatened to secede. We start our second 90 days tomorrow; I'm taking on P90X Doubles (the regular program but two workouts a day - I was almost doing that with my running + P90). I thought it would help to remind myself of what just went on...

Regardless of time missed, I did have progress:

- Definte improvement in upper body strength
- A greater overall fitness in just a few weeks
- An advancement in certain abilities (push-ups, flexibility, balance)
- A much better understanding of how to make the program work

On that last one, understanding how to make it work, I had to be taught a few lessons:

- Ignoring recovery weeks was a rookie mistake.

- Sometimes less is more: I really didn't need the heavier weights on some of those moves.

- The menu plans, while appearing to be an awful lot of food (Confession: I never fully subscribed to the EGGPOUNDER 4000 plan. Who the hell wants to eat 18 egg whites every week?) were on target for the most part. It requires a lot more cardio, at least for me, to justify those quantities. While I was running alongside the P90X plan, I was running long, slow miles, which doesn't really kick in the afterburners. In this next 90 days I'll know how to use those calories.

- Supplement, supplement, supplement. I didn't go for any of the Beachbody products because they inexcuseably leave ingredient lists to our imagination on their products page. (Do they really think we don't care? Mui stupido.) I used Clif Recovery and Electrolite powders, Clif protein bars and Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem and yummy energy bars (I tried and rapidly discarded Hammer's recovery formula; the Xylitol sweetener, while natural and low-glycemic, is too cloying for me). But those balancing, endurance and recovery solutions made a huge difference.

And the one thing? Another re-learned lesson: it doesn't work if your head isn't in the game until way past overtime.

p.s. even after 90 days I still say "P90X" like the dude from Monster Jam

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mistake of Enthusiasm

My Tiny90 partner, Sara, is in her last week of her Self (non) Challenge; because I re-did that week a month ago, I technically have one more week.

However, I made one serious error, a very common one. As you can tell from these posts, I'm an enthusiastic supporter of P90X. It's well-planned, well-executed, fun and produces visible results. So I got all excited about my progress, how it felt, how fit and strong I was becoming and how I was progressing. A few weeks ago I went to my favorite place in San Francisco, SportsBasement (we heathens who sweat call it Church) and bought heavier bands for the last weeks of the program. It's time, I thought, I can take this on! I'm doing so well! URRRRRG. I quickly had a flare-up of bursitis in both shoulders and could barely push myself up out of bed in the morning.

Such a rookie mistake, but an easy one to make. Enthusiasm, while good for the long haul, is dangerous in the short-term. It's easy to trick yourself into pushing harder than you should - a classic lesson I learned in marathon training was "Don't let the excitement of the event push your pace." Different scenario, same mistake. I decided not to "make up" the lost time, which has ended up being two weeks. Instead I'll take the end of my program at the same time as Sara and start over...doing P90X Doubles.

Hey, it was a rookie mistake, but I haven't lost the enthusiasm. Lesson learned; no backing down. I still have a finish line ahead of me, 90 days from...uh, whenever Sara says :-).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Last Call for the Self (non) Challenge

Here it is, the final week... How did the Self Challenge hold up? It didn't seem to be nearly as challenging as it was in previous years. The workout requirements were all very manageable (when I wasn't both sick and travelling at the same time).

I finished up quite strongly (well, it's not over yet, but this week is looking good thus far).
I'm still doing way more cardio than required and I've taken to doing one Yourself! Maya cardio session with my 3 or 4 runs each week. The strength training portion is the hardest but with Maya yelling at me each time I miss a session, I've been doing alright.

I seem to have settled roughly around 157 pounds, which is fine for now although I'd be happy if I lost another 5 pounds or so.

The best result of all came during the relay last week: I ran my fastest pace yet - a 9'16" minute mile. Wheee... I'm hoping my continued training will move me along further along in that arena.

Most interesting is that although my upper body is noticeably thinner, my lower body is now larger. My hip and thigh measurements are both bigger than before, and while many pairs of slacks are quite a bit looser around the waist, some pairs are tighter around the bootay. Can that just be the muscle from all the training?

I'm trying to decide whether to give myself a challenge-free week between this program and my next (still secret) 90 day plan. I might just play it by ear this weekend. I'm already back on running training track: I have two half marathons coming up very shortly, so it's not really like I can back off of my training. Maybe it's time for me to try out the p90x???

Friday, May 4, 2007

The SickFreak Thing

Got a guy a know, I've mentioned him before: Jim Karanas. Club One trainer extraordinaire and their NorCal fitness director. Savvy, knowledgeable, motiviated, enthusiastic. Resident SickFreak.

You know what I mean if you're involved with P90X at all - Tony Horton doing Plyo Push-ups. That's what I'm talking about. Don't take it like it's a bad thing; it's the "I have this body, WHAT CAN IT DO?" thing. Push it. Tweak it. Where is the edge and what does it look like? Where is the space before the space where I break? Being the Chuck Yeager of physical development.

Jim Karanas is a respected trainer partially because he sets the challenges high and trains with the team. I have watched dozens of people take on events they would have laughed at without Jim Karanas: Indoor Rowing competitions, The Davis Double, even climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. The true SickFreak event here in California is The Death Ride. Watching someone get through that is an experience in itself.

I bring this up because Matthew, an X-er who has commented here a few times, confessed to his very own SickFreak moment inspired by his new P90X level of fitness: he decided it would be fun to go down a flight of stairs doing push-ups (Matthew it's official, per me: you're now a registered member of the SickFreak club).

This is what I love most about the X: work the program, see the physical change then feel the mental shift. Suddenly, your body is part of your playtime arsenal; you scan the web for cool triathlons, Ultimate Frisbee becomes a passtime, you choose a vacation spot for the free climbing - if it's challenging, it's fun. Instead of thinking you're not fit enough to ride a 129 mile-long course with 15,000 feet of climbing in under 14 hours (that's why they call it The Death Ride), you think, "Huh. I could do that. That sounds cool." The mental shift is profound, life-changing. As Jim told us in Performance Max, his endurance strength program, "This program will change your life because it will change the way you think." Damn straight it did. So does P90X.

If you're wondering if you have a SickFreak in you, here's what to look for, using the Death Ride comment above: the "I could do that" portion is a logical progression for the physically fit; the "...that sounds cool," however, makes you a SickFreak. Own it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What *Does* A Girl Need?

I've been thinking, ever since my latest Yourself! fitness evaluation, about what I need really.
According to Maya, it's upper body strength. According to my own changing body image, I need to lose about 5 pounds, an inch or so each around my waist and my hips.

Looking back at when I first started the Self Challenge, I entered my measurements:

Height: 5'9"

Weight: 161lbs
Waist circumference: 30in
Hip circumference: 41in
Left thigh: 25in
Right thigh: 25in
Run/walk a mile in: 10 min.

So let's see where I am now, after two and a half months of the challenge.

Weight: 158lbs
Waist circumference:30in
Hip circumference: 44in (um... huh? did I mismeasure this the first time?!?!)
Left thigh: 24in
Right thigh: 25.5in
Run/walk a mile in: 9:26 min.

Well now... I don't know if that qualifies as "improvement." I try to not count weight loss as improvement since it's really hard to tell, and muscle weighs more than fat. Normally I'd go with measurements, but I'm pretty sure my increased thigh size is due to all the running, since I'm a bit right-legged and that one seems to be getting bigger. My legs definitely don't look fatter - they look pretty toned and muscled.

As for the hips - who knows what's going on there?!
The only clear improvement is the faster mile. Now that's something I'm proud of.

So in the meantime, while I'm deciding what to focus my workouts on, I'm still unsure what to pick. Maya still thinks I need a stronger upper body, which may be true, but I am inclined to think I need more cardio. What to do, what to do...

Ups and Downs of Upper and Lower

The balancing act of late has been akin to the side plank (from the Shoulders, Chest and Triceps* set - Yoga Journal online has a picture of this pose). How to balance sudden shoulder irritation with lower fatigue? Tricky.

Bursitis in both shoulders lept into my world last week, so this week I stepped back and gave *SCT a rest, which I have grown to love (my shoulders have great definition, my triceps are trimming up and Push-ups Are My Friends), as well as Back and Biceps, just in case. Alas, it also eliminated Yoga X from the process so I was left with Plyometrics (also a favorite), AbRipper and Legs and Back.


The Relay is this weekend. My race segments (#5, 17 and 29) are not terribly challenging, but Plyo and Legs and Back have utterly kicked my lower body during this second phase, leaving my running legs - uh - irritable. Cranky. Bitchy. "Why are we running?? You just worked us, COW!"

Never listen to your legs. (Well, until you hear the "SCHK!" sound of the switchblade.)

Ideally, this week would have been about water - easy laps in the pool, perhaps a bit of water running. But water takes time, time I didn't have. So I've spent the week doing relatively nothing in the P90X set, and taking on a tapered week of running. I missed the X, it left a void...all week I have had this odd sense of having left the gas on (ref: Eddie Izzard on squirrel reflections, about 1:13 in).

Gratefully, my shoulders are aching for a workout, so it will be back to the routine on Monday. It was an easy week physically, a tough week mentally. Unbalanced. I kept looking for something that wasn't there.

Monkeys thin on the ground, folks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Creeping Along The Self-Challenge Way

So first, I'd like to complain some more about this so-called Self "Challenge". Month 3's workout requirements are no more than Month 2's! What's up with that?
I'm still required to do one 45-min and two 35-min Cardio workouts per week, and three 25-min strength workouts. Am I missing something? The old Self Challenges used to continue to ramp up your requirements each month.

Don't even get me started on Month 3's Eating Plan - Food on the go: how to get healthful meals from McDonald's and Wendy's. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure that's useful for a lot of people, but I'm looking for more useful advice.

Now that that's out of the way, I had my third physical evaluation by Maya last night. Now, I have to admit, I wasn't really sure I was up to it. I'd just had a little bike accident on the way home. Nothing big at all, but it had me all shaken up and I wasn't in the best of mind frames.

I couldn't do the kneeling pushups she has me do for the evaluation (because I landed on my knee and it hurt), so I could only do 12 regular pushups. For the situps and squats, I could still do the maximum, so no obvious improvement there.

The only part I realized I clearly don't understand is the resting and elevated heart rate analysis. The way it works is she has me take my resting pulse then do a full two minutes of jumping jacks then measure again. This time my elevated heart rate was higher. Now is that good? Does that mean that my cardio fitness is improving? I'll have to do some more reading about that.

Our big race is coming up this weekend and I'll be tapering down my workouts this week, though should still be able to get all the Self requirements done. Soon, oh so soon, the whole thing will be over and I'll move onto my next 90 challenge. Hopefully the next one will be more interesting and possibly yield more substantial results. I guess it may have helped if I paid any attention to the food plan section, but it really just didn't suit me or my lifestyle.