Quote of the Day: The Art of Living

Found this quote on another blog, and thought it was worth re-posting:

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. he simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

– Francois Auguste Rene Chateaubriand

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Weekend Update: P90X-Style

Today’s post will be an exercise in efficiency—or laziness, depending on how you look at it.  I stayed current with my workout schedule over the weekend, but I cannot say the same for my blog posting schedule.  So rather than boring you with three separate posts, I will bore you three times as much with just one.  I know, I know…I’m all heart.

So here goes–

Saturday: Shoulders & Arms

Still slightly sore from the Chest & Back beatdown of two days ago, I decided to keep with my new “Full Routine or Bust” mantra. This one brought me close to “bust” than I expected.  Make no mistake, my arms got the workout they’d been dreading, but the crazy thing is that I really enjoyed putting them through the paces.  I’m not sure if this is cause for concern, but I think somehow all this physical exertion is making my brain work differently.  I think I felt a twinge of…dare I say it?  Motivation!  I KNOW!!  Freaked me out too! 

I did identify my favorite workout of the day though.  It was the “One-Arm-Full-Supination-Concentration Curls”.  It’s not the exercise itself that makes it my favorite–it’s the fact that it sounds like Jesse Jackson was responsible for naming it.  Just the way that “…supination concentration…” rolls off the tongue makes it sound like one of his sermons /speeches.  It was as if the curls were agents of oppression, and my biceps were the victims. (Cue inspirational background music)

The egregious pain and preposterous agony inflicted soooooooo long by these tyrants of torture has caused my biceps to RIIIIIIIISE UP and proclaim that though they are small…though they may be weak…they will not stand for this abomination, this desecration, this Sony Play-station, this ceaseless inundation. From this day forward they will lift longer, they will be stronger.

Thank you, Rev. Jackson! 

Sunday: Yoga X

So far, Yoga continues to be the most challenging workout of the entire series.  The ridiculous part of this challenge is that all the other routines require constant movement, and I’m doing just fine with those.  Yoga X is a different animal all together.  Much of it requires standing still, in ridiculous poses, and I wind up sweating more in one session of yoga than I do in all the other routines combined.  Today, it also introduced a new challenge—one that I’m certain the creators of P90X could never have accounted for.

As I unrolled my mat on the hardwood floor, this session began like any other.  I stood on the mat, performed my split-leg hamstring stretches and calmly moved on to the Ashtunga Sun Salutations.  I placed my hands on the ground, jumped my feet back, and held in Plank for a few moments.  This is when I sensed a disturbance in the force.  (Thought I’d throw in a Star Wars reference, since that is as foreign to me as most of the yoga moves).  Lowering myself slowly into the bottom of a push-up, I was overwhelmed with what would become the day’s chief struggle.  My dog had peed on my yoga mat.  Right where my face lowers on 90% of the moves.  Once this realization struck me, I found it impossible to clear my mind.  It is difficult to be “in the moment” when one would like to remove his dogs kidneys through her ears.  To mitigate the offending side of my mat, I spun it around—only to discover that since I had rolled the mat up before I knew of the stain, the scent was conveniently spaced at regular intervals over the entire length of the mat.  My little Cairn terrier had managed to claim my all 6 feet of rolled foam as her own, thanks to my oversight.

Toto was a Cairn terrier.  I can’t help but think that if Toto had peed on Dorothy’s yoga mat, The Wizard of Oz might have been a very different movie.  Mrs. Gulch wouldn’t have had the chance to take little Toto, because when Dorothy did her first vinyasa of the day, Toto wouldn’t have been in Kansas anymore.

Monday: Legs & Back

Today’s update can easily be summed up in three words.

Wall. Squats. Evil.

While the gang on the TV joins me in these squats, it does my heart good to see Dreya burn Tony with a look of disdain so intense that it’s only occurrence in nature was observed when an manipulative little dog peed on her unsuspecting owner’s yoga mat. 

Absolutely, unequivocally, positively preposterous!!

Plyometrics: Think Like A Cat

Plyometrics—Take Two!

Yep.  I said it.  And now I’m sorry.

Yesterday I said I was looking forward to my next Plyometrics workout.  As it turns out, my upper body was just bitter about having to work so hard.  It said things it didn’t mean. We all do from time to time.  It only hopes that my lower body will forgive it eventually.  After this morning’s plyo workout, it might be years before my upper & lower body speak to each other.

I’m finding that knowing what is coming in these workouts is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing because I don’t have to stand there and watch the first several reps to see how to do them, but it’s a curse because I don’t have the excuse of needing to stand there for a few reps to see how to do them. So now it’s up to me to just jump in and start destroying the very appendages I depend on for mobility. I still question my sanity.

At the start of every routine, Tony gives his “Tip of the Day”.  For Plyo, the tip of the day is “Think like a cat”.  Now I understand his reasoning—mainly because he explains himself right after giving this tip.  He wants us to focus on landing softly, like a cat.  I get the reference, but there’s just one hitch in this giddyup—I made a mistake and started thinking like MY cat.

My cat makes Garfield look motivated.  Content to merely take up space, he generally looks at any sort of physical activity as an affront.  I couldn’t figure out how this was going to help me, but hey—Tony is a professional.  Who am I to doubt him?  So for the rest of the routine, I thought about things like my cat would.  My internal dialogue took on an uppity British accent. ( It’s a little known fact, but contrary to what you see in the movies and cartoons, all male cats have internal voices that sound like Anthony Hopkins and all female cats sound like Julie Andrews.  Trust me, I used to work for a veterinarian.)

Tony:  “Welcome to Plyometrics—the MOTHER of all P90X workouts!”

Me: “My good man…my mother abandoned me when I was 6 weeks old.  I was re-homed to live with these humans.  If you’re telling me that this workout will leave me feeling scared and hollow inside, I do believe I’ll pass.”

Tony: “We’re all wearing heart rate monitors. I highly recommend one.”

Me: “Anthony, if my heart beats fast enough that monitoring it is prudent, then something has gone terribly amiss.  I will defer.”

Tony: (in reference to the upcoming exercise) “We’re going to do this for 30 seconds. You can do ANYTHING for 30 seconds!”

Me: “Oh bugger. Ol’ Chap, if I blink more than twice in 30 seconds, I consider myself overworked. But you go right ahead. Spit, spot.”

I think you get the point.  Thinking like a cat did NOT help me one bit.  Actually, I started thinking like a dog, and made it through just fine.  Like my dog chasing a ball, if it gets thrown, it gets chased.  If Tony said there was another exercise to do, it got done.  I just did what he asked me to…with a stupid look on my face.  My legs are completely shot, but at least I did it.

So apparently his tip of the day wasn’t the best idea for me.  Like any workout program, you have to find what works for you and do it–even if it involves thinking like a dog.  Although I should point out, drinking from the toilet on your water break ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Round 2: Protective Gear Recommended

In breaking with tradition (two days in a row is tradition, right?), I did not work out in the morning yesterday.  I would like to claim that was intentional and that I CHOSE to work out in the evening in order to be able to “bring it” with more intensity—but the truth is that I overslept in the morning.  This seeming mistake led to a new and unexpected experience.

I spent all day actually looking forward to a workout.

Weird, I know.  But it happened. You see, I’m the guy that decided to be a goalkeeper on my high school soccer team because it involved the least amount of running.  That’s right—I’d rather take a knee to the head, get repeatedly kicked in the shins, and voluntarily throw my body in front of a solid object travelling at a ridiculously high rate of speed, just to avoid some additional running.  That’s why it was so strange to spend the day looking forward to the torture I was going to put my body through in the evening.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you this: for the first week, I decided only to do half-routines.  This was done so that I could still function in society the day after the workout.  It worked well.  I hurt, but I also didn’t require the services of a night nurse or a jazzy chair after the workouts.  So all in all, it was the right move for me.  However—this is the beginning of Week 2: Full routines—total commitment.  I’d given myself the call up.  This was the big leagues. 

Precariously perched on the precipice of pain provided by pushing and pulling, I pressed play.

The Chest & Back routine is divided into two rounds—12 exercises in each round.  The mantra of Round 1 is “pace yourself”.  Unfortunately, I paced myself like a kindergartener who ingested a Costco-sized sack of Fun Dip right before recess.  When it came time for Round 2, I was spent.  But I had made a commitment to myself, so I was going to finish one way or another.

Round 2’s mantra is “maximum reps”.  By the time I grabbed the pull-up bar, I was hoping that maybe in my exhaustion I misunderstood Tony and he had said “maximum good intentions”.  He didn’t.  At least the word maximum conveys that you’re supposed to do as many as you possibly can.  I definitely did that.  Sometimes 3 is the max.  I struggled through the entire round, but I made it to the end.  As fate would have it, the final exercise was Dive Bomber Push-Ups.  From what I understand, this is a popular exercise in the military.  That should tell you something.  The military also is fond of meals featuring powdered prime rib in a plastic bag, scrubbing urinals with toothbrushes, and drill sergeants that purvey unsavory rumors about your mother.  Luckily the Dive Bombers were the end of the workout, because they were the end of me as well.  I literally crashed on my face.  I’ll wear a helmet with a facemask for Round 2 from now on.

When I finally summoned the strength to lift myself off the floor, there was a me-shaped puddle on the hard wood.  At first, I thought it was sweat, but then I realized the truth.  My muscles were crying.  I would have consoled myself with a gentle pat on the back, but I think we all realize that wasn’t even remotely possible. 

Thank goodness Plyometrics is next—WAIT–did I just say that?!  Really?   I must have hit my head harder than I thought.

Welcome to the Dojo

Day 6: Kenpo X

Well, I made it.  This is the last day of the first week of P90X, and this is a fun one.  I get to do karate–or some form of movement that is loosely based on karate.  All I know is that one of the people in the video is an actual black belt instructor in Kenpo…so that makes it official as far as I’m concerned.  It makes me feel good that this guy who has dedicated the better part of his lifetime to learning the discipline and principles of this ancient form of self-defense is getting bossed around by Tony too.  It levels the playing field.

And that’s pretty much how it starts out: Tony yelling at the Sensei to get his knees up during warm-ups.  It makes me wonder whether Tony realizes that with one swift palm heel strike to the solar plexus his life could be over.  Maybe it’s good to be ignorant about some things.  Oh well, the Sensei lifts his knees higher, so I do too.

After warming up and stretching, we move right into the punches.  We work on jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.  I feel like I’m in the game Punchout, and I keep expecting to hear a computer generated voice screaming “BODY BLOW! BODY BLOW!”  There is no such voice…just the sound of Tony counting, and me breathing (technically, it was probably closer to panting, but you get the point).  I enjoy watching the “real” people in the video.  They know the routine, but they’re not quite as polished as Tony.  I think I can actually see the one lady’s mouth moving as she counts her jabs.  That’s the fitness equivalent to doing addition on your fingers.  I like her.  She can stay. 

The Sensei?  He is on another level.  While Tony makes the sequences look like well-choreographed kick-boxing moves, he is combining all the punches in such a lightning quick, smooth motion that I miss a pair of jab-cross combos because I’m hypnotized by his flying fists of death. 

After punches, we’re on to kicking, blocking, and eviscerating (at least that’s why I imagine in order to keep myself entertained).  I have to admit…Kenpo X is a lot of fun.  It’s pretty tiring, but it’s a good time.  There’s only one thing that bothers me. 

As much trouble as I have keeping up with the routine, I realize that if I, or my family, is ever accosted in real life, the assailant is in very little danger.  I can only hope that when he’ll be scared off when he sees how high I get my knees during the warm-up.

Legs, Back, and Bitterness

Day 5: Legs & Back 

Hello, arch nemesis old friend.   It’s mildly depressing  fantastic to see you again, Legs & Back.  Looks like we’ll be working together today.  Oh, Crud! Great!

 In the past, when it comes to workout routines, I’ve always managed to avoid leg workouts.  It’s not because I don’t think they’re important.  It’s not because I don’t realize that the legs house the largest muscles in the body, thereby providing the best calorie burn during and post-workout.  The simple fact is that I don’t like leg workouts.  They’re hard and they bore me.  But since I’ve decided to chronicle this journey for you, my readers, I owe it to you to complete each one of the workouts and write about it.  So this morning, I did leg exercises due to that sense of responsibility.  I apologize for the names I called you.

One thing that this program is showing me is that I tend to have many defense mechanisms for helping myself deal with the fact that I’m lousy at the exercises.  For example, the first exercise this morning was a “One-Leg-Balance-Lunges”.  This involves resting the top of one foot on a chair placed behind you, stepping forward with the other foot, and performing a lunge with your foot remaining on the chair.  This move does not lend itself well to being performed when still bleary-eyed from waking up earlier than usual.  Suffice to say, I spent more time trying to regain my balance than actually lunging.  All of this struggling gnaws at my sports-ego more than I ever imagined.  So how do I handle this?

I make fun of Tony, of course.  During the warm-ups, he introduces us to the three participants in the video, and he describes one of them as possessing “super-sonic-fitness!”  As I’m careening from side to side during the balance lunges, I’m delivering this monologue.  Out loud.

                “Supersonic fitness, huh?  So these people are in better shape than the speed of sound? That IS impressive!  But is it possible?  I don’t think so. Tony, you’re gonna need to do better than that.  That’s like saying I have better eyesight than Archimedes Screw…or that I have the lung capacity of the Post Office.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  How am I supposed to focus my energy on maintaining proper form when I’m critiquing your descriptive word selection?!”

If my dedication and work ethic ever catch up with my rationalization and deflection skills, I will be a physical force to be reckoned with.  For now, I’m just a poorly balanced, bitter, argumentative person that doesn’t have the leg strength left to make it up to the 5th floor I work on–and I use the elevator.  But as I mentioned, I’m doing it all for you guys.

You’re welcome.

Let the games begin!

As promised, here is a brief rundown of the first 4 days of my latest P90X experience:

First of all, I should mention that “Tony” is Tony Horton—creator of the P90 series.  To save on word count, I will refer to him only as Tony from this point forward.  You will see his name mentioned in phrases like “When Tony says push-up…”, “Tony’s constant encouragement…”, or “I HATE YOU, TONY!”  Seriously though, this guy is pretty unbelievable.  He’s 50 years old, and he makes me look like a geriatric stoner when it comes to overall strength and energy level.  If I can get halfway as ripped as that dude, I will probably forgo wearing shirts in public for the rest of my life–except when attending church, of course.   Clearly, that would call for a freshly-pressed tank top.

So with that little bit of background information, let get started:

Day 1—Chest & Back:

Seems pretty simple.  It’s essentially push-ups and pull-ups.  Like gym class—with a hyper-intensity disorder.  The push-ups I can handle, just not at the level that the guys & gal in the video handle them.  They’re cranking out 30-40 with one leg raised in the air while whistling the 3rd verse of the National Anthem, and I’m still struggling with my 10th.  I know it’s a work in progress, but come on.  Have I let myself fall THIS far?  The answer is a definitive “YES”.   Then we move to pull up’s.

These are evil.  Wide grip. Close grip underhanded.  Overhand close grip.  Regardless of the chosen grip, the biggest problem is that it involves lugging my entire bodyweight skyward.  If you think about it, this is a pretty crappy deal for someone who is out of shape and overweight.  Sure, Tony is doing one-armed pull ups while making monkey faces at me…but that’s because he weighs a good 60lbs less than I do.  Technically, I’m lifting more than he is. (In your sculpted face, Tony. ) To avoid total failure on these, I place a foot on a chair to assist myself.  I still groan like I’m doing a real pull-up though.  At least I SOUND like I’m doing it right.

I finish my workout feeling like I’ve given my best effort.  I’m tired, but pleased.  I can only hope the latent pain that comes the day after a workout won’t be too bad.

Day 2—Plyometrics:

It is that bad.  The pain.  The inability to lift my arms for any reason.  If back muscles could speak, mine would sound as if they were scripted by Tarantino himself.  My. Goodness.  If the saying is true, and pain really IS weakness leaving the body, I have negative levels of weakness.  It’s a good thing that plyometrics focuses on the lower body.

Hah!

Focus isn’t the right word.  Picks on…humiliates…oppresses…tortures….any of these would be a better description for what this workout does to my legs.  Also known as “Jump Training”, this particular fitness gem requires me to launch my mass towards the ceiling repeatedly.   Tony keeps preaching that this routine will help me be better at just about any sport I choose.  If this keeps up, I may never choose a sport again.  If this is what it takes to get better, I’d rather suck. 

OK, ok…that’s just my inner-lazy person talking.  Truly, I know it’s beneficial, so I press on.  I move from something called a Run-Stance-Squat-Pickup to a beauty known as Airborne Heisman’s. Then it’s on to swing kicks and Mary Katherine’s (think “Superstar!!”).

I should have known that when the warm-up included walking lunges and deep-knee squats, the workout itself was going to be hellacious.  I know now.

After the workout, I do a little research.  It turns out the word “plyometric” comes from the Latin, metric meaning “to measure” and  plyo meaning “I hate you”.

 

Day 3: Shoulder & Arms:

This is the one I’ve been looking forward to.  As Tony says in the intro, this is the glamour routine.  Shoulders, biceps, and triceps…that’s what we’ll be working today.  We’re focusing on The Guns.  These are the muscles I’ve been showing off since I was 3 years old, so they’re the ones I’ve always worked when I would go to a gym.  I’m sure I’ll be familiar with the exercises, so I’m feeling confident. 

All in all, this workout went well.  The moves were fairly simple: shoulder presses, bicep curls, and tricep extensions.  To borrow a phrase from the musclehead community, I got a good pump from the workout.

I check this one off with a smile.

 

Day 4: Yoga X

I’m not smiling any more.  My triceps have staged a coup.  They refuse to work without causing searing pain.  From previous experience, I remember that yoga involves a lot of push-up style movements and a lot more holding very still in a posture that is not natural.  All of these involve the triceps.  Tony says “clear your mind”.  I’d rather sever my arms just below the shoulder.

Being the silent warrior that I am (for the duration of this workout), I press on.

This yoga thing is SO foreign to me.  I’ve played sports my entire life and done rather well, thank you.  I’d like to think I’m fairly coordinated.  These yoga poses seem indicate that I have the flexibility of ceramic tile and the balance of greased bowling ball on a steep incline.  It was not pretty.  My Upward Dog looked like a great dane that had just suffered a severe spinal injury.  My Sun Salutation actually made the sun ignore me like a hot chick in high school.  

One thing that did make me laugh is that during the routines, Tony will say “…now back to plank…push-up if you want to…now back to downward dog…”   That part about “if you want to” gets me.  It’s like he thinks there’s a chance I’m actually going to do more work that I’m required to do.  That Tony—so naive.

I was glad that I hadn’t signed up to take a yoga class in public.  The only eyes watching me were those of my golden retriever, and so help me, if he decides to show me his version of what a REAL downward dog looks like, I’ll throw a reverse warrior on him faster than you can say “Namaste”. 

Once I can feel my arms again, that is.

The “P” Stands for Punishment

In an effort to regain some semblance of physical fitness, I’ve started a round of P90X. I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve tried this before, haven’t you?” 

Why yes, yes I have.  Thank you for paying attention so closely.  “Tried” is the operative word. Having never finished a complete round, I thought I’d give it another go.

If you’ve followed my blog recently–I’m shocked.  Since there have been no new posts since the Haiti earthquake, there hasn’t really been much to follow.  So what exactly have you been doing?  Reading old posts?  Imagining new ones?  Muttering to yourself about the waste of valuable cyberspace?  Well, whatever it is that you’ve been following…thanks for sticking around.  Your patience has paid off.  I’m writing again.

I figured that one of the best ways to sustain my motivation for working out is to write about my experiences each day.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a commercial for P90X.  There will be no banner ads (unless WordPress puts them there).  There will be no offers to sign up in my Coaching Club for a small fee, so that I can encourage you in your own quest.  It’s just going to be my thoughts, observations, and ramblings as I puts my body through the rigors of a workout program designed to make grown men cry.  And possibly vomit.

I’ve already completed the first three days…so I’ll try to hit those highlights in my next post.  For now, I’m off to ice down my deltoids, triceps, lats, quads, calves, neurons, eyelids, and hair follicles.