Wednesday, May 22, 2013

2013 vlog #6 | I finished P90X, but now what?

So as you may know I embarked upon the P90X workout program in late February. There were a few days here and there that I missed, but for the most part I kept on schedule. Today is the last day of Week 12 of the 13 week program. But I don't think I'm going to do Week 13 since that's just a "recovery week." It might be nice to have a slightly easier week after four straight weeks of pretty intense resistance workouts, but I've found that I've always gained weight during the recovery weeks because those workouts are easier and you just don't burn that many calories doing them. And yes, I did try to make up for the less calories by doing more cardio.

Not that I did P90X to lose weight anyway. I didn't really lose a lot of weight since I started the program. In fact, my weight went up and down by a few pounds over the last 12 weeks. 

I had already lost most of the weight I wanted to lose back in 2012. I did put some weight on around the holidays, but that's because I did slack off some. I got under my upper limit weight of 180 after New Year's and that's when I decided it was time to really challenge myself and try P90X. I've been "fit" and "in shape" for about a year now, but I wanted to see if I could get back to my boot camp days. I'd say I'm probably in even better shape now than I was then. So in that respect, P90X did what it was supposed to do and I'm satisfied with the program and glad I made it through.

So my question is, now that I've finished with P90X, where do I go from here? If you're going to say "do it all over again," let me stop you right there. Even though P90X is specifically designed (or so they say) to prevent you from plateuing, I don't see how doing the same workout regimen over and over wouldn't lead to plateuing in some way, shape or form. Also, if I had to keep watching these videos everyday I'd go crazy from the monotony and the repetitiveness. I feel that way when I watch Seinfeld and Friends reruns - I'm just tired of the same old same old.

Everyone seems to agree that you have to change up your workout every three months or less, otherwise your muscles get used to the routine and stop responding and you plateau. But I figure everyone plateaus eventually. I mean, the world's strongest man can't lift a car over his head.

What I need is a program or a website or an app that will build a workout routine for me that enables me to stay in as good of shape as I am now, if not even better. And that program should change everything up on a somewhat regular basis, at least quarterly. Like I just said, routine and monotony drive me crazy, so I want to try new things as often as I can. I have done some brief investigation into this and there are a lot of apps that offer a lot of different workout regimens, but they're all kind of "one size fits all" approach. Also, a lot of the equipment in these programs isn't available at my gym. I go to Planet Fitness, but even their selection of equipment is actually kind of skimpy. You'd be surprised at what they don't have there.

So if anyone can recommend any specific websites or apps that would suit my needs please let me know. If you're a P90X grad, what did you do after you completed the program?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I ran an impromptu 30K today

When I first started getting into running in 2012 I never really had goals. Mostly I wanted to run for as long as I could on a fairly consistent basis. Then in late September I ran an impromptu half marathon on the treadmill I had on my front porch at the time (I gave it to my sister and her husband for Christmas last year). I've run 13.1+ miles a few times since then, but it's been a while since I ran further than 8 miles.

I've reached a point where, depending on the day, I can run 8 miles in a little over an hour. I haven't deliberately run "slowly" in a long time. I'm so used to hightailing it around the neighborhood at 7mph, the thought of running at anything less than full speed seems like dogging it. I decided it was time to go for a serious long distance run, and the best way for me to do it is to go to the gym and get on the treadmill and run at 6mph because I literally can't run slowly on my own.

Today was Mother's Day, so I went to church with my parents at 10:30am and then we went to Panera Bread for lunch at noon. I hadn't eaten breakfast and I actually wasn't that hungry, but I did get two bagels, a muffin, and an iced coffee. My original plan was to do P90X Yoga when I got home and then go for a 6-8 mile run around the neighborhood. By the time I got home, changed, and ready to go it was after 2pm (usually I'm done by that time). I also had been outside a bit taking care of my garden and realized it was the worst possible running weather: in the low 50's, overcast and pretty darn windy. That kind of weather is too warm to wear a sweatshirt and long pants (I've done it before and I overheated), but too cold to wear shorts and a t-shirt (I've done that too and I froze). So I thought, why not just skip yoga and go for a run on the treadmill for two hours? Surely that'd be enough cardio.

My VA-issued athletic knee brace
So my goal was to run two hours at 6mph each. I've done it many times and at that pace it's perfect because it's never too intense for me, yet I always manage to get a decent workout. I had a new two hour-long podcast to listen to, so I figured that would help kill the time (and it did). Also, I put on the knee brace I got from the VA hospital that I keept forgetting I have.

My epic run was broken up in a few segments. Here's a timetable of them all:

  • End of Hour 1: A nice jog at 6mph. I burned 886 calories in 60 minutes. I had a good sweat going, yet I wasn't particularly thirsty and only took a few swigs of water the entire hour. I periodically checked my heartrate and it was between 135-140bpm. I felt totally fine when it was done. I took a quick bathroom break and started all over for another hour of 6mph
  • 30 minutes into Hour 2: I realize I really have to go to the bathroom. I start panicking because this has happened to me before and when it does I usually don't start back up again after an unscheduled potty break. I think, ok I'll just stick it out for another 10 minutes which would bring me up to an even 10 miles for the day, which would've been perfectly acceptable for me. I come back and feel totally fine. I refill my water bottle and I figure I'll finish up those last two miles. The problem is I have to start all over again at time 0:00.
  •  5 minutes into the third part of the run, the podcast I was listening to finishes. I find the song "Beyond This Life" by Dream Theater on my iPod and queue it up. This particular track is almost 20 minutes long! I figure I'll just listen to this song and it'll bring me close to 13 miles and since I'm going that far I'll just go for a half marathon and call it a day.
  • I hit the 13.1 mile mark and I feel fine. Usually when I go for long distance runs like this I'm pretty exhausted and lethargic by the time I hit 12 miles. I think I was flying high on all the carbs I had for lunch. My entire body feels fine, surprisingly enough. My knee doesn't hurt at all thanks to the brace (the first time I've worn it for a run this long). The only thing that's even slightly off is the inside arch of my left foot. I can tell it's irritated, but it's not all that painful. It's at this point I realize I feel fine, so why stop now? I figure I'll just finish up the hour which will bring me to 16 miles and would set a record for my longest-ever run (my previous record was about 14 miles in October of 2012).
  • As I'm nearing the end of the 60-minute block I start concentrating on all my vitals. Am I parched? No. Am I sweating profusely? No. Is my heart rate normal? At around 142bpm - yes. Does my knee hurt? No. Does anything else hurt? Aside from a slight stinging on the inside arch of my left foot and a slight tightness in my lower back I really feel okay. When I hit the 60 minute mark I realize I'm only 30 minutes away from 19 miles. 30 Kilometers is 18.641 miles and is generally the second-longest race behind a full marathon (26.2 miles). Since I feel so good why not go just another 30 minutes? I've been running this long already, 30 minutes is practically nothing.
  • I refill my water bottle, take one more quick bathroom break and get back on the treadmill. At this point I'm expecting to experience exhaustion, lethargy and apathy. This has happened to me in the past when I've broken up a long distance run. Once I stop, the motivation to start again usually disappears. Yet in this situation that didn’t happen. I'm sure there's physiology to it, but in my opinion is was all self-efficacy. I set my mind to accomplish this task and believed I could do it, so I did it.
  • When the clock struck 30 minutes I felt almost as good as the previous times it had stopped in the last few hours. By this point my left foot was starting to bug me as well as my back. When I got off the treadmill and walked around, I did notice some pain in my left knee and lower back. It wasn't excruciating, just annoying.
  • In the last few minutes before the machine hits the 30-minute mark (19 total miles) I started thinking about going for a full marathon. I'd only need to run another 7.2 miles which would be about another 70-something minutes. I thought it would be awesome just to do it, but I thought it probably wouldn't be a good idea to run a marathon without having run a 30k first. Also, I don't have any food and I know long-distance runners usually eat honey or another source of glycogen mid-race to make sure their blood sugar doesn't drop too low. At this point I was also starting to get a little hungry and also a little bored and ready to go home. So I played it safe and finished up at 19.29 miles total (the last .29 miles coming from the 5-minute cool down period).
Just to recap the workout:
  1. Ran 6mph for 60 minutes
  2. Ran 6mph for 40 minutes (10 miles in 100 minutes)
  3. Ran 6mph for 60 minutes (16 miles in 160 minutes)
  4. Ran 6mph for 30 minutes (19 miles in 190 minutes)
Burned 2,860 calories
Drank 64oz of water
When I got home I made sure to spend a good 10-15 minutes stretching my quads, calves and hamstrings as well as other major muscle groups. I've heard chocolate milk is actually a good recovery drink, so I made a protein shake because the mix I use is basically chocolate milk with protein.

DINNER of champions!
What's funny is even after all that I was never all that parched or hungry. After I stretched and showered I noticed I was getting my normal dinner-time hunger, but I wasn't famished as I've often been after an intense workout. I figured I owed myself a reward, so I got my favorite meal: a personal pizza from Paesan's with pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms; plus 10 hot wings. I downed it with two of my favorite beers: Ithaca Flower Power and Southern Tier Live. I was stuffed for the rest of the night as if I had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner. I doubt this is an ideal recovery meal for that kind of workout, but it wasn't so much for nutritional value or physiological value, but rather for psychological value. I rarely treat myself to these types of indulgences anymore, so I figured this one time wouldn't kill me and it really did feel like a reward for a job well done.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

P90X Weeks 9 and 10

I can't believe we're heading for the finish line already! Ok, I still have three more weeks, but still, the last two and a half months have just flown by. It's funny when I go back and read my entries on the first week or two and how far I've come since then. I remember feeling like a total idiot trying to do plyometrics and Kenpo X, but now I can do them with ease. Well, maybe not "ease" per se, but with grace? Coordination? Something like that.

Anyway, Week 9 was a short week. I did the fat freeze on the last day of week 8 and my stomach was really sensitive for the next week or so. It's been two weeks and it's still not quite back to normal, but at least it doesn't hurt when I run in place anymore. What sucks is I can't really see any change in the size of my belly. But it's only been two weeks, they say it takes upwards of two MONTHS for this procedure to really take effect. 

What's also annoying is that I've been gaining weight again. I haven't put on any significant weight since the beginning of the program. It steadily declined from weeks two through 8, but then shot back up between Weeks 8 and 10. What the hell!? This can't be due entirely to TAP NY as I was already gaining weight well before I went to that beer fest. In fact, I only gained a pound from that whole weekend, which isn't too bad considering how much I ate and drank and the fact I hardly worked out at all that entire weekend.

So where IS this weight coming from, anyway? When I stepped on the scale on April 15th and saw that I was down to 172lbs and had officially lost 40lbs that made me so happy. But I didn't go out and start eating pizza three meals a day, I pretty much kept the same diet going. It was also about this time I stopped calorie counting with "My Fitness Pal" and just logged my workouts. Maybe I should have. 

I do have a theory on the weight gain, though. I think my body just won't allow itself to be that lean. I really should invest in one of those scales that measures your body fat percentage and muscle percentage and all that. Maybe all the weight I gained wasn't just water and fat, but actual muscle? I haven't been measuring my chest and arms, or pretty much any of my body contours. I basically go by how I look in t-shirts and how snug or loosely my pants fit. Even when I was at 177lbs my pants were still pretty loose, which was nice.

 But anyway, getting back to the actual P90X. Week 9 is identical to weeks 1 through 3. Some of these DVDs I haven't watched in a long time, so it was kind of like doing a brand new workout. I had forgotten about some of the characters in these videos and some of Tony's classic and cheesy lines. And I was right, he DOES refer to both "Chest & Back" and "Plyometrics" as "the mother of all P90X workouts." Maybe one is the mother of the resistance workouts and the other is the mother of all cardio workouts? After all this time, plyometrics STILL wears me out. Now that the weather is warm it's even tougher to do. I still have to pause it throughout the workout because I get dizzy and/or exhausted.

The biggest change to happen over the last two weeks was that I finally got a Bluetooth heart rate monitor that's compatible with "Map My Run." In fact, I got it through MMR when I upgraded to the MVP membership (actually I bought the HRM and it came with a free year of MVP). What's nice is you can use it for ANY workout, not just running. I never noticed MMR actually has all the P90X workouts in its menu. So what I do is select the workout, connect the HRM and hit start. It estimates your calorie burn based on your heart rate and what "zone" you're in. Though I think it WAY over-estimated the calories burned on plyometrics. Even though my heart rate was 150+ bpm for most of the workout, it said I burned close to 1200 calories over the hour. WHAT? No way! I mean, even the 750-900 calories estimates seems a bit high to me. I don't burn 1200 calories running for an hour and my heart rate is usually around 150bpm, so why would plyometrics burn so much more calories in the same (or less) amount of time?

I'll be curious to see if my weight takes as steep a drop over the next few weeks as it did between weeks 2 and 5, or if it'll just go down slowly (if at all).

Another thing I've noticed, not just lately but over the last two months, is that it's difficult for me to even take a day off. Today is my off day, but I woke up early and couldn’t fall back asleep. I felt like going for a run, but I know if I do I'll get exhausted after just a few minutes. I've noticed I've been getting worn out a lot quicker lately. Maybe that's normal when you're coming off the recovery week, but it's definitely more noticeably in weeks 9 and 10 than in weeks 5-7. Maybe I'm just not giving my body enough of a break? I'm going to make an effort to make a rest day a true rest day from now on.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Working from home: Month 1

This blog is about a week late. Not that there was any rush to get it out there. April 25th marked one month since I began working from home. Now that I'm pretty used to the routine, here are some things I've noticed since I started working from home:


My day goes by so quickly it's amazing. You'd think it would go by slow since I'm essentially in the same place all the time. I sleep until 9 or 10am, then usually spend an hour or two doing nothing productive. I'll eat breakfast, check Facebook and YouTube and all that for a while.

I try to get started on my daily workout by noon, but sometimes I go longer. I essentially do two workouts in a row: first the day's P90X routine then I'll either go for a run or go to the gym for more cardio. By the time I get back it's usually somewhere between 2:30 and 4pm. I'll shower, eat lunch and then fire up the work computer and get to work. Most days I have all my previous day's work done by 5, so then I'll watch TV from 5-8pm.

At 8 I come back in my room and write that night's beer review. By the time I'm done with that it's 9pm and I only have three hours of work left. These last few hours are usually spent doing more of the usual: surfing the web. By the time midnight rolls around I'm usually tired, but I rarely go to bed at 12:01 and will continue doing whatever I was doing until 12:30 or 1. I try not to stay up past 1, but if I'm in the middle of a good book or watching a movie or whatever I will. I can always make up for the sleep debt the next day.

So that's why time flies because I'm in a lock-step routine. Even though I don’t have a lot to do, I'm always on schedule.

My meal schedule is wacky.

When I was a 9-5er I'd wake up and immediately start working out, then eat breakfast before heading off to work. Now I almost always wake up hungry and start on breakfast immediately. Then I usually wait an hour or two before I work out. Doing P90X on a remotely full stomach is not a good idea. Once I finish the workout I'm not usually hungry per se, but I will try to eat a small snack or drink a protein shake. Then I go for a run or to the gym. By the time I get back it's pretty late in the afternoon and I'll eat lunch.

What baffles me is that no matter how late I eat lunch my body will get hungry for dinner at 5:30 or 6pm, which is the time I've usually had dinner for the majority of my life. I once ate lunch at 4:30 and found myself getting hungry for dinner only 90 minutes later. Is this a psychosomatic thing? Is it simply circadian rhythm?

I try to eat dinner as late as possible because I notice I start to get hungry again around 11pm. Most nights I can shrug it off and go to bed, but other nights it drives me crazy and I'll have to have a snack just to be able to fall asleep. Beer doesn't work as a snack for me - it has to be food.

And then there's other days where I'm not hungry for dinner at all. But I never skip dinner, so on these rare days I'll basically have another lunch instead of cooking a full dinner.

Monday is the slowest day, Friday is the busiest

When I was in the navy we had a saying: "The gear never breaks on Friday." What's weird is that Friday nights tend to be the time where everything decides to up and break at the same time! I don’t know what accounts for this and it's not a matter of the first shift simply passing tickets to us, it's a series of incidents where high priority matters start popping up.

As for regular work, I think the reason the beginning of the week is slower is because the day shift is doing way more work then. As someone who just got off day shift I can attest to this fact. Though I always noticed that Friday went by the slowest and Monday went by the fastest. On second shift, every day goes by equally as fast. It's rare I'm watching the clock at all unless I'm in a high-stress situation and I want it to be over.

I lost a bunch of weight, then gained it all back!

I started working from home on March 25th and I was 175lbs that day. A week later I was 174 and three weeks later I was 172 - woo hoo! Then a week after that I shot up to 176 and a week after that (this past monday) I was up to 177! WTF?! How did this happen? I'm working out about as much now as I was during the day shift, if not even more, so where did the weight gain come from? I haven't started eating pizza three meals a day. And the beer fest didn't happen until last weekend (and I probably only accounted for that last pound gained).

Not that I'm really worried about it, but if my weight keeps yo-yoing I'll probably call my doctor. I'd imagine it should start to go back down soon. I did have the fat frozen after all, so I should start to see my stomach get smaller over the next few weeks (as of right now I can't tell a difference).

There's probably a bunch of other things I could add to this list, but we're at 1,000 words so this seems like a good ending point. If I think of more I'll put them in a future blog.