Thursday, December 31, 2009

P90X - A Runner's Experience (Part 1)

In September, I decided to do the P90X program to support a couple of friends who wanted a third person to help hold them accountable for the staying with the regimen. I had never attempted a workout program for a simple reason: I do NOT like following a scheduled regimen. I also can not emphasize enough my dislike for home exercise videos and I was also in the second half of my NYC marathon training. But because these friends are near and dear to me, I decided to jump in.

Going into the program, I already considered myself pretty fit. Ever since I can remember, I could never sit still. I was an avid skateboarder, played basketball endlessly in high school and college, lifted weights to gain mass, mountain biked, etc. Before getting married, my fiancee introduced me to triathlons and distance races quickly became an addiction. After moving to New York, I've been only road races since I do not want to swim in any bodies of water here. My proudest accomplishment so far has been to qualify for the Boston Marathon in May 2009 at the NJ marathon at 3:14. The P90X program was something completely new and different for me so I thought why not try. It can only help to do other workouts instead of just run run running.

The P90X Program
If you want in depth info about the program, you can it from the official website. Otherwise, here's a brief summary from the home page.

"P90X® is a revolutionary system of 12 sweat-inducing, muscle-pumping workouts, designed to transform your body from regular to ripped in just 90 days. You'll also receive a comprehensive 3-phase nutrition plan, specially designed supplement options, a detailed fitness guide, a calendar to track your progress, online peer support, and much more. Your personal trainer, Tony Horton, will keep you engaged every step of the way, and you won't believe your results!"

01 Chest & Back
Targeted strength and definition workout emphasizes two classic upper-body exercises.

02 Plyometrics
Explosive jumping cardio routine proven to dramatically improve athletic performance.

03 Shoulders & Arms
Potent combination of pressing, curling, and fly movements, that will leave you stronger.

04 Yoga X
Combines strength, balance, flexibility, and breath work to enhance your physique and calm your mind.

05 Legs & Back
Get ready to squat, lunge, and pull for a total-body workout like no other.

06 Kenpo X
Intense cardiovascular workout with punching and kicking for endurance, balance, and coordination.

07 X Stretch
Achieve a higher level of athleticism over a longer period of time, plus prevent injuries and avoid plateaus.

08 Core Synergistics
Build and support multiple muscle groups to build and support the core while conditioning your body.

09 Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
Target both large and small upper body muscles to push you to the brink.

10 Back & Biceps
Flex those powerful biceps and focus on toning and tightening these showcase arm muscles.

11 Cardio X
Low-impact cardio routine that is a fun fat-burning workout that will leave you feeling lean and mean.

12 Ab Ripper X
Sculpt the six-pack abs of your dreams and benefit your health and physical performance.

The supporting materials consist of three different exercise schedules (P90X Classic, Lean, or Double for those that want to do two-a-days) and a nutrition plan. Both are essential for a successful results. We followed the P90X classic schedule, which looked like this:

In addition to the workout discs, I ordered the pull-up bar and extra resistance bands to add to an existing set of dumbbells. Of the pull-up bar, bands and dumbbells, I highly recommend the pull-up bar and some dumbbells. Note that a door frame is needed for the pull-up bar.

Workouts were done in my apartment or at my buddy's place in NJ when I happened to be there. My apartment is about 350sf so space was obviously tight. Luckily the workouts don't require too much space. About 40sf should do.

Getting Started
We started the program on September 29, 2009, with the fit test which consisted of max effort pull-ups, push-ups, vertical jump, flexibility measurement, and so forth. We were fully aware that the program date would encompass the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. This meant that we would have to refrain from "festive eating."

The start date was on a Tuesday to coincide with my rest Mondays for NYC marathon training. I needed to make sure I had the luxury of at least one recovery day so my body did not get beat up too badly.

Pre P90X Numbers

The following sets of numbers are my basic numbers, physical measurements and my physical performance test before the program. The weight is up a couple of pounds because of a "celebratory" pre-start dinner consisting of lots of roast duck, noodles at our favorite Chinatown restaurant and eat-until-we-get-sick dessert at Viniero's. The body fat % was taken from this type of Tanita scale. I usually took my measurements in the evening to try to keep things consistent.

Basic numbers


Initial Fit Test Results

Not bad, but not great either. I'm sure a long run earlier that day affected my numbers, especially the vertical leap. I wasn't too concerned about my cardiac condition numbers since I found it difficult to get my heart rate up with the P90X heart rate maximizer exercise. I usually get my heart rate (way) up during interval workouts on hills, Tabata repeats or other length intervals.

Now we get to the part that most people care about - results. I'll break this down per workout disc. We started with disc 1 (chest and back) the day after the fit test. We didn't realize what a mistake that was because we did not give ourselves a chance for recovery from the fit test.

I always tried to do more than I did the previous week with each workout. For the most part, I think I was successful.

Disc 1 - Chest and Back

One of my favorite discs. Absolutely killed me the first day I did it. As a matter of fact, I had to rely on a chair for pull-ups for second sets on the first day.

The numbers indicate that I definitely gained a lot of strength for both muscle groups. Of note, I could only do 25 and 8 military push-ups over two sets. My last workout, the numbers were 35 and 42. The over-hand close grip pull-ups were 6 and 12 with chair in week 1. In week 11, the numbers were 15 and 15.

I think the results speak loudest when you look at the overall rep totals. In the first workout, I did a total of 58 pull-ups (counting chair assistance) and 217 total push-ups. In the last workout, I did a total of 61 pull-ups (no chairs!) and 417 push-ups.

For runners and endurance athletes, I think push-ups are a must for building core strength and that final kick when you're using a lot of upper body to get you to the finish line.

Disc 2 - Plyometrics
This was a disc I did not enjoy. I did it only because it was on the program. It's a decent workout, but I much prefer doing hill repeats. I think the only thing I liked about this video was the jump knee tuck exercise. It was the only workout that I felt got my heart rate going. Except for my mental note that I usually did about 47 jump knee tucks per workout, I do not have any other numbers.

As much as I disliked the workout, I still think it's essential for building quickness and leg strength for runners.

Disc 3 - Shoulders & Arms
This workout consisted of shoulder presses and multiple varieties of curls. I had never worked on my arms so much. You'll notice that some of the "Notes" blocks in the image have "green", "purple", or "red." I used bands the last three times I did this because we shared weights. Bands provide some of the toughest resistance at the far end of it's elasticity and can be a great alternative to weights.

Disc 4 - Yoga
I had experienced yoga once prior to P90X and I was not a fan. By the third time I did the P90X yoga workout however, I became a fan. I finally understand why yogies consider yoga a great workout. Furthermore, I think it helped me to develop core strength and definitely flexibility, both of which are tantamount attributes for running. Moving forward, I'll be incorporating yoga more into my workout schedule. One other benefit I enjoyed doing yoga was the sense of escape during the routine; very similar to the escape I feel when I'm out for a run.

No measurements for this one except the flexibility measurement at the end of the program.

Disc 5 - Legs & Back This is the one strength workout that was included every week of the program. My guess is because Tony Horton, as he proclaims in the workouts, loves pull-ups. A better guess might be that back and leg muscles are large muscles that help us keep a better posture, saving us from later back pain, and well developed large muscles produce more testosterone to spur muscle growth for other workouts.

I did not enjoy doing the leg workouts, but they're necessary for runners. Various lunges and squats develop stronger legs make a better runner. At least that's what I'm told. Looking at the bottom tallies, my total pull-ups in week 1 was 89. I remember thinking then, "Wow. I've never done so many in my life." In week 12, I was able to do 145. I should also disclose that I was super motivated for every last workout, making final week numbers sometimes look out of place.

Disc 6 - Kenpo
If there is a disc I would love to throw away, it's this one. It just was not enough for me. Consequently, I found myself bored even though I tried to make sure I moved firmly and aggressively. No measurements necessary. Just 57 minutes or so of punching, kicking and stretching. The one saving grace for me was that I tried to focus on my core every time I did this workout. I also carried 2.5lb weights sometimes to make it more intense.


Part 2 of review coming in the next couple of days....


Cherisa said...

I'm in awe of you, Allen!

Speedy828 said...

i landed on your blog by luck. turns out you are a fellow DMer.. lol..

Anonymous said...

What are the differences between p90x and insanity base off your experiences? A couple of friends want to do a small group workout as an alternative to the gym but we have a tie vote on which one to tackle.

On another note, I sprained my ankle after running in the rain and my husband wants me to run on a treadmill. He was going to buy a reebok treadmill from craigslist but I wanted to know if you had any experiences with that brand.