Saturday, May 8, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Variety is the spice of life and fitness. A lifetime of health and fitness is achievable when you can think outside the box. You have to mix it up all the time. Stay curious and creative, and stick with the kinds of workouts that you enjoy. A variety of exercises, workouts, and sports will allow you to avoid injuries, plateaus, and boredom.
One of the reasons Power 90®, Power Half Hour®, Power 90 Master Series, and P90X work so well for so many people—people who have tried and failed with other programs—is because they are NOT one discipline. These programs incorporate a variety of things: sectional progression, plyometrics, ab and core routines, boxing and kickboxing, yoga, stretching, and cardiovascular exercises. From Tony & the Kids! to P90X, I have always tried to make the routines fun and filled with a variety of movements—these workouts are uncomplicated, easy to follow, and time-tested, and have combinations that work. I'm not a fan of boredom. Doing the same routines and movements over and over again doesn't appeal to me. That's why many of my programs don't repeat the same move twice.
Curiosity is a key reason I've been able to sustain a high level of fitness for over 20 years. If I see something that looks fun and challenging, I'll try it. If it doesn't ring my chimes, I'll move on to something else. Curiosity was one of the reasons you decided to order Power 90, Power Half Hour, Power 90 Master Series, or P90X. You weren't happy with the status quo. You were probably unhappy and unhealthy. You were in a rut and you wanted a change. When I'm in a rut, I look for ways to mix it up. Just because something works for me right now doesn't mean it will work or hold my interest later. Too many people hold on too tightly to things that don't work anymore. You know it's time to change things when you hear yourself saying "I feel burned out," "This isn't fun anymore," or "I'm no longer seeing improvement with this routine."
You could be suffering from a temporary bout of mind babble, or maybe it's your heart telling you that it's time to move on. Only you know the difference. Don't do something just because everyone else is doing it. Figure out what keeps you in the game, even if it's very different from what others think you need. If you're beating yourself up when it comes to inspiration and motivation regarding perspiration, then you need an alteration to your transformation.
Variety in your fitness world will keep boredom, injuries, and plateaus at bay. That's the reason Power 90 has two levels. P90X and Power 90 Master Series were created so you'll have myriad ways to mix it up and continue to see improvements over time. If you really want to improve your fitness and physique and make this a lifestyle thing, then eventually the other box you'll need to get outside of . . . is your house. This might be hard for people with a hectic schedule, but why not skip that Sunday barbecue for a hike or run or skate or swim or volleyball game? After you've seen my goofy mug too many times, you might want to open the door and explore.
P90X or Power 90 can be the on switch to a lifetime of health and fitness. After your 90 days are up, a nice variety of activities, workouts, and athletic endeavors will turn on even more lights. I like to call the program after Power 90 Power 10,950. That's 30 years. You can reinvent yourself and take control of your life if you stay curious and try new things. Finishing an exercise program lets you begin to explore all the possibilities. Variety in fitness and life is essential for keeping the lights on.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Before we analyze why you need to embrace "going backward," let's answer the obvious question: why would we design this type of program? Certainly, there are exercise programs that don't put you through torture. Could we have chosen such a path with P90X®?
The answer is that programs lacking this trilogy don't provide you an incentive to get in top shape. In the early stages of any exercise program, it's possible to structure the schedule and diet around making small improvements. I call this the Curves® template. You push your body above its normal output, though just barely, and you keep it there. If you are greatly deconditioned, it will yield improvements. This approach doesn't hurt, and frankly, it helps people who've never exercised—mainly due to the mental boost they get from feeling they can exercise. It's a nice alternative for some people. But let's be realistic. None of them would sit through a P90X infomercial, much less be inspired by it.
The Curves template is what we would call a foundation phase of training for someone who has never exercised. The next step would be one of our programs, like P90X or Slim in 6® (these programs also work on the Curves template because you can choose modified variations). The upside with this method is that each day you leave the gym feeling better than when you walked in. The downside is that you'll never have the body of a fitness model. To achieve a higher level of fitness, you need to periodize your training (see "Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I" in the Related Articles section below) and eventually stare into your Nietzschean abyss. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger is more than a cliché with P90X—it's your life.
Soreness is the easiest symptom to understand. Most of us have been sore at some point. It happens anytime we do something physical that we're unaccustomed to. From yard work to a pickup game with your old team to a marathon shopping spree, when you push your body beyond what you do in your normal day-to-day activity, you get sore. This is true even if you used to do the said activity all the time. In fact, that generally makes it worse, because you still hang on to the muscle memory of how to do the activity, which means you can really put the hurt on if you don't have the requisite fitness base.
Most soreness comes from the breakdown of fast twitch muscle fibers. Our bodies have both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. Slow twitch fibers have a low recruitment factor, which simply means they get fired up at low outputs. Fast twitch fibers have a high recruitment factor, meaning it takes something more intense to get them going. A simple example would be raising your fork to your mouth, which requires slow twitch fibers, compared to raising a heavy barbell over your head, which requires fast twitch fibers. Furthermore, we all have some extra fast twitch fiber for emergencies. When you run from a bear, you're engaging these, which is why you're likely to run faster than you ever have before.
Fast twitch fibers are repaired much more slowly than slow twitch fibers. You can pretty much keep shoving food into your mouth and never get tired. When you do get tired, you'll be able to resume the activity quickly. Lifting a barbell over your head will wear you out, and it will take some time before your body is able to do it again. The more weight you add, the quicker you'll get tired and the longer it will take before your body is ready to do it again. And once you've escaped the bear, you'd do well to avoid him for a couple of weeks. Those emergency fibers you've thrashed will take that long to recover.
Hypertrophy means muscle growth. Almost all training programs target this, even weight loss programs, because changing a body from rotund to svelte requires you to lose body fat. And the quickest way to lose body fat is to gain more muscle. Muscle requires more work from your body, even at rest, so you're body will take the nutrients from the foods you eat and store them in muscle tissue rather than adipose (or fat) tissue.
To create hypertrophy, you need to overload your muscle fibers progressively to keep breaking them down. As you get fitter, you engage higher-threshold muscle cell motor units to keep the overload coming. Breaking down exactly the number of muscle cells your body can replenish right away is nearly impossible. This means that to advance your level of fitness, you are going to break down more muscle fibers than you intended. When this happens, you get sore.
"I heard I would get less hungry and all I can think about is eating" is a common sentiment expressed on our Message Boards. The reason is somewhat obvious—our entry-level programs have low-calorie diets, not to mention restricted diets. Most of these people are simply craving the junk foods we've had them cut out.
But Xers get hungry too, and they're usually eating enough calories. This is because your body cries out for nutrients when it's in breakdown mode, even when you've eaten all you can. Learning that this craving is normal will greatly help your success curve.
When your body is craving nutrients, you want to feed it. However, under the type of duress a hard program creates, you can't possibly give it enough nutrients. Many of us try. We eat and eat. And while eating can help ease the mental anguish your body is going through, you can't put all of these calories to use, and some will get stored in fat tissue.
But no matter how well we strategize, we're all going to get hungry at some point in our programs. So much so that staying hungry is a metaphor for the bodybuilding lifestyle. In the film Stay Hungry, a bodybuilding champion (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) sums this up with the line, "I don't want to get too comfortable. I'd rather stay hungry."
This is the hardest condition to conceptualize but the easiest to explain. During hypertrophy, your muscles are growing. Growing muscles are a bit like a growing person. Just as you learn how to grow into a developing body, you need to learn how to use new muscles. During the hypertrophy stage of your exercise program, your muscles are "big and dumb," like the old-school concept of the "musclehead."
Larger muscles have a greater capacity for strength than smaller ones. A large muscle isn't necessarily stronger, but if trained properly, it will become stronger. Muscular efficiency (or absolute strength) is what gets targeted in the latter stages of a training program. Doing low repetitions, along with eccentric and plyometric movements, is all about teaching your muscles efficiency—essentially, the ability to recruit high-threshold muscle cell motor units.
We'll talk more about strength training in another article. Today, my point is to explain the rationale behind what I call "getting slow." While your muscles are growing, your ability to move quickly lessens. This is why athletes do all of their body-altering training in the off-season. When you start to feel slow, it's a sign that your program is working. Just remember that you'll want to increase your intensity and whip those big lugs into shape later on.
Wanting to experience the trilogy of grumpiness should help you during your next program or training cycle. But remember that these are stages, not chronic conditions. You should only experience them early in a program or new cycle of training. If you aren't experiencing them at all, it means you're ready to ramp your training up to the next level. But if they persist beyond 4 weeks, you're overdoing it and risk overtraining. You may also experience them each time you transition to a new phase. In this case, though, they should be gone before you move into the next phase.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
- FREQUENT THE FARMER'S MARKET - Find out firsthand which fruits and vegetables are freshest while supporting the local growers who bring their harvest to you community. To locate a marker near you, visit localharvest.org. The site allows you to plug in your zip code for a list of local venues.
- SIGN UP FOR A CSA - One of the easiest ways to cook and eat locally is to receive a weekly box of produce fresh from a nearby farm. To find a Community Supported Agriculture program in your are, and for more information, visit localharvest.org.
- CHAT UP YOUR GREEN GROCER - Your supermarket may surprise you. Talk to the produce manager to fin out if anything on the shelves is locally grown. If not, be sure to voice your interest.
- PLANT A KITCHEN GARDEN - You may not have room for an entire vegetable patch, but it's easy and rewarding to grow herbs, baby lettuces - even radishes and tomatoes. Consider setting up a garden swap - your green peppers for your neighbors baby cukes.
- SUBSTITUTE SEASONAL INGREDIENTS - You don't have to come up with a new repertoire of recipes to accommodate locally grown fruits and veggies. Just add them to dishes you're already familiar with, whether they be pastas, omelets, or stir-fries.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I've learned from my own experiences (filled with the usual trials and tribulations) that life has stages. These stages can occur in any and all aspects of life—physical, spiritual, psychological, financial, romantic, adventurous, familial, and so on. As you look back at your life (so far), you can see where you've excelled and where you've come up short.
Most people spend their whole lives focusing on only two or three of the abovementioned categories. They neglect other areas of life because of lack of interest or desire or necessity. The truth is that a lot of men and women these days spend a substantial amount of their time working to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and money in their pockets. Many homemakers (male and female) spend most of their time keeping the hatches battened down.
So if life feels like an endless episode of Survivor, then how the hell do we focus on what I call the "Bliss Maker" areas of life—the romantic, spiritual/psychological, physical, purposeful, and adventurous areas? The three key ingredients for finding bliss in these areas of life are TIME, ENERGY, and PURPOSE. If you live in a 9-to-5 world and feel overwhelmed, then it's going to be pretty tough to find the TIME, ENERGY, and PURPOSE to discover your true bliss.
The average person can find temporary bliss in food, alcohol, drugs, tall tales, and sex. This kind of short-term bliss will take away health, consciousness, rationality, discretion, accountability, and responsibility, along with distorting values and a sense of morality.
If you're lucky enough to finally discover that there's more to life than making a buck, feeding your face, getting off, and manipulating reality, you'll start to inquire about how to find your bliss. Then you'll have to begin to find the TIME, ENERGY, and PURPOSE.
Time isn't that difficult, really. You look at your schedule, move some stuff around, explain to people what you're doing, and figure out a reasonable TIME frame in which to accomplish your goals. ENERGY is a piece of cake! You can master that every time you decide to Push Play! Doing P90X or any other kind of physical activity will automatically propel you into one of the most important "Bliss Maker" categories. PURPOSE is probably the most difficult and complicated variable when it comes to long-term success and bliss.
If you ever chase any of these areas of life for the PURPOSE of looking for attention, accolades, and kudos from others, then you are doomed to a life of confrontation, depression, confusion, illusion, and delusion. I never said pursuing your bliss was easy. That's why most people who try it fail.
You can avoid failure by pursuing your bliss with clarity, wisdom, acceptance, vulnerability, patience, consciousness, and truth. These words, in both the selfish and selfless ilk, represent intent. Your intent is everything and the only thing that matters when it comes to the right use of will.
I believe that real lifelong change and bliss are achieved over the course of three separate stages:
- Recognition. Knowing and understanding that there must be a shift in the way you approach certain segments of your life and an undaunted willingness to want to make a change.
- Catharsis. The period of time you spend venting, releasing, and unleashing the emotions that keep you from your bliss.
- Application. The employment and utilization of the tools you've learned at the cathartic stage.
If you can move through these three stages with the right intentions, then you will know what it's like to live on this earth in a state of bliss.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Myth #1: If you want to lose weight, you must have an incredible metabolism; otherwise, you'll need to starve yourself.
If most of us had the choice between winning the lottery and having a perfect metabolism, the decision would be tough. For many people, the ability to eat whatever they desire seems a gift beyond price. The reality is that only a tiny percentage of people are so blessed, and that number decreases as people age, get pregnant, and experience various health issues. So when a Hollywood starlet claims she can eat whatever she wants and still look great, she's probably lying.
At the other end of the spectrum, there's severe caloric deprivation. The problem with depriving yourself of calories is that you can only sustain it for so long, and it can often lead to overeating and a slower metabolism. The longer you try to exist on a reduced-calorie diet, the greater the likelihood you can slow down how quickly your muscles repair themselves, as well as suffering psychological problems—or even brain damage. Of course, the answer is to eat, but you have to eat healthy foods that fuel your workouts. The P90X program includes a very specific nutrition plan you can tailor to your goals, but the nutrition plan requires a lifestyle change. This means not fad diets, but a plan that's going to require that you eat more food than you imagined possible. What's truly great is that the nutrition plan can be maintained for the rest of your life. So start eating—correctly—and watch the change begin.
Myth #2: Doing hours of cardiovascular exercise is the only way to burn fat.
Hours of anything, besides sleep, can be redundant and boring. The idea of spending hours on a StairMaster® makes me want to fall asleep right now. Although a necessary component of any workout routine, cardiovascular exercise is definitely not the most effective way to lose weight. In fact, doing more than an hour of it without some type of fuel can cause your body to break down muscle mass and slow down your metabolism. And when you do the same repetitive motion every day, your body can become used to the motion, which can slow or even halt your progress.
P90X is effective in helping you lose weight because of the enormous variety it offers. Your body doesn't get used to the stimuli, because the stimuli are constantly changing and becoming more difficult. Plus P90X helps you build muscle, which turns your body into a fat-burning machine. And P90X is fun and entertaining, and doesn't take 3 hours a day to complete. The singer Pink was recently quoted as saying she does an hour of P90X 6 days a week and has seen incredible results. An hour a day for amazing results is a relatively small investment for such a great return.
Myth #3: Weight training builds bulky muscles.
Perhaps the greatest myth out there is the "bulky muscles" myth. Here's the reality: muscles do one of two things—increase (hypertrophy) or decrease (atrophy). But they don't just "bulk up." For a woman to create a bodybuilder-type physique, she'd need to overstimulate her muscles with very heavy weights, constantly training to failure with very short repetitions. And frankly, even then, unless she had a great amount of testosterone in her body, it might be impossible.
P90X effectively uses resistance training to increase muscle, thereby increasing your metabolism and helping you burn fat. And although you'll work to exhaustion, your muscles won't bulk up if you keep the repetitions at 12 to 15. P90X also keeps you moving, so your heart rate stays high, simulating the effects of a cardiovascular workout. You will build muscle but still maintain a sexy, feminine physique.
Myth #4: You shouldn't build muscle until you lose all excess fat, as building muscle will push the fat out and make you look larger.
This myth is particularly funny, as it was probably perpetuated by a fitness trainer telling a client there was a six-pack hiding underneath a layer of fat that just needed to be uncovered. Yes, we all do have a six pack in there, and possibly buns of steel, but muscle building doesn't happen under that layer of fat. Building muscle actually changes your body's composition, and eventually the fat becomes less a part of the picture.
No amount of sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, or squats will push any layer of excess tissue out. In fact, P90X is so effective at totally transforming your body, you'll soon forget there was a layer of fat to be concerned about.
Myth #5: You should only work out the specific areas where you want to shed fat.
It's been said again and again: spot training doesn't work. And yet every month, the fitness magazines print a slew of new, specific exercises for lifting the booty, flattening the stomach, or tightening dangling upper-arm flab. Yes, if you work a specific muscle group, it will become more toned, but that has nothing to do with the fat on top of the muscle group in question. The most effective way to change your body is to work large muscle groups, consistently altering the stimulus, and sticking to a sound nutrition plan. No amount of leg lifts alone will give you the thighs of your dreams.
P90X will attack every muscle in your body and create visible changes in your appearance. There are specific workouts for all your areas of concern, but there are many more for every other area, to give you a beautiful, proportioned body.
There's no magic pill, combination of foods, or even surgery that can give you the body of your dreams. An enviable physique comes from hard work, dedication, and a lot of sweat. P90X is the most effective way for a woman to shape her body because she has to work hard to get there. And as lovely as it would be to naturally have the metabolism of a 12-year-old boy, there's something truly satisfying about creating such great change in your own life and controlling your own outcome. We can often feel at the mercy of others. Our health and fitness are areas we completely control. So even if you dedicate 23 hours a day to your relationship, job, and/or children, one hour in your own living room can truly create transformation. And no diet book, magazine article, or silly celebrity statement can refute the thousands of P90X Success Stories out there. So make a decision to put down the fad exercise magazines, put in the work, and watch your life begin to change.