Monday, June 10, 2013

P90X2: Transformation and Rewards

You may have read a while back that I intended to try something new in Thailand-- to complete 90 days of P90X2 and finally be in the shape I want to be in. I had more than 90 days left in Thailand when I started, so why not? An hour or more is easier to reserve for the gym when you don't have some of the temptations, social opportunities, and distractions that everyday life provides. Here I am, 90 days later, to say that I have nearly completed the program (I'm doing 112 days) and am more athletic than I have been at any point in my life.

Last time I was in shape
before now... 2008
I've never been able to call myself "athletic". I'm clumsy, I'm not naturally muscular, I was lean but in a lanky way, and I nearly always hurt myself when I tried to involve myself in sports or exercise. Volleyball ended in a broken shoulder and ring finger, track ended in a broken big toe and weird lung problems, cross country accounted for tendinitis, etc. Yes, I was involved in sports, but I was a C-Team competitor with a knack for bench-warming (I mostly liked sports for the social aspect).

College came around and I started to gain a sophomore 15 after I stopped participating in marching band and drumline. My metabolism changed and I had free buffet at my fingertips for every meal. Therefore, I tried P90X. In my dorm room (no joke). The gym was too far to walk and too crowded and I didn't know how to work out on my own in a safe and efficient manner. I don't remember how I heard about P90X, but I started it and I liked it. The problem is... if you don't have a buddy, working out can be hard. There are certainly challenges and set-backs to working out in your dorm room (no pull-up bars, little-to-no floor space for stretching out, someone living below-- limiting jumping abilities, hot stuffiness, etc.). Regrettably, I made it about 60 days before I got bored or frustrated.... or who knows what.... and gave it up. I'm guessing that I skipped a day here and there to study and felt like I could never catch up. That's the optimistic rationale.

Anyway, I knew I had it in me to like P90X and give it a go.. and I knew it led to results for me. My family even gave it a try and mom seemed to like it. Someday I would be back.

Student teaching left me in the worst shape I've ever been in. My diet consisted of microwaved burritos and TV dinners on most occasions. I didn't exercise once (or the previous year, for that matter). I was lethargic and certainly didn't have time for exercise on most days. And Aaron stayed in great shape, which made me feel worse and worse about being out-of-shape.

That's a lot of workouts.
Something about Thailand makes me want to be a better person all-around. I want to be fit, to eat healthy and hearty food (everything is so natural here!), read books, meditate, be a great fiance, etc. And a 6-month window is perfect for a self-update. I can't remember if I was inspired by the Happiness Project or something else.. but I committed to P90X2 for the next 90- 112 days.

My P90X2 journey has been so interesting, challenging, and empowering. The program is tiered to your success level, starting at the "foundation phase", moving to the "strength phase", and then the "post-activation potentiation phase"(fancy words for hard and fast-paced). The foundation and strength phases were optional 3-6 week time blocks and I chose the longest possible amount to see the most results and stretch the program until the last week I'm here. In case you're wondering about the difference between P90X1 and 2, the second focuses on balance and efficiency (i.e. if you're balancing on one foot while doing curls, you're engaging many muscle groups at once). Almost everything is done on 1 foot or in a plank position. Tony talks about it being the "next generation of fitness"-- and I think I agree! After a few weeks, I really felt my legs become rock-hard from balance moves while I worked to build up my upper half.

Here, Tony describes the difference between 1 & 2 better.
Having said that... I don't really agree with the balance moves that have you positioned atop of 3 balls of various sizes doing push-ups. At one point, I fell off my ball and jammed my pinky whilst trying to keep my head from smashing through my wall (I mostly succeeded). I also re-injured my previously destroyed shoulder ligament from years ago when I slid off of the ball doing push-ups with my arms on the ball (sweat= slippery). Despite these minor injures, I haven't had to actually stop working out ever. I haven't had to take a break because of tendinitis, muscles so sore I couldn't stand it, or knee pain. In fact, I have had less soreness than I have ever experienced without any added supplements (protein shakes, extra stretching, ice packs, etc.). Yet another reason why I love the multi-muscle activation in P90X2 that focuses on turning you into an athlete rather than a wad of muscle.
This YouTube video contains some examples of the hardest moves from the hardest workout. 
Ok, so it's probably starting to sound like I'm pushing a product. No, I don't endorse Tony Horton and his products. I feel downright sorry for my friends that have had to listen to me blab about this for the past 90 days, but I really am quite proud of my tenacity on this round of P90X :P While I certainly can't do every move and am still lifting with the smallest weights in the gym, my stability, athleticism, control/balance, and threshold for future training is greatly improved. You'll have to wait until 112 days to see the final comparison pictures, but I'd like to leave you with a couple of the rewards I've experienced in the final days of my program:
  • Getting to the top of a mountain I've climbed once before in a time I never dreamed I could make it in-- 23 minutes. Yeah, I know, it's not about how fast I get there ("or what's waitin' on the other side"-ha)... But I had another chance to enjoy the climb before and this time was different. This time was about proving to myself that I could be better and could defeat my old exercise induced asthma. Here's a link to a blog with a story and video from my last trip up the mountain. The 1, 237-step climb was still quite a challenge, but my lungs were champions and my legs did the work they needed to do without putting up too much of a fight. Boy it felt great to reach the top and be rewarded with a view to remember forever and a feeling of pure power and accomplishment.
First picture after tackling the mountain.
The mountain we climbed: Wat Tham Sua, Krabi, Thailand
  • On yet another Krabi excursion, I found myself on a beach watching rock climbers scale the wall of a cave overlooking the beach my group and I were swimming at. I thought to myself "wow, I would love to work up to that someday"... knowing that my "someday" at Railay Beach would probably never come again. The next thing I know, my friend has talked a guy into letting him borrow some equipment and he's on his way up the wall. My time in Thailand was running too short to not follow suit and try. Besides the slippery rocks and challenges of limited experience, my muscles handled it well. I wasn't sore anywhere except my forearms the next day and I realized that I had done a great job of balancing my upper and lower body strength so I wasn't using too much of either. What a cool experience my newfound athletic confidence has led me to.  
Rock climbing at Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

Stay tuned for my 112th day before and after photos. Thanks for reading :)

Remember-- "do your best and forget the rest".