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P90X Experiment Results Are In!

Posted Feb 28 2010 7:29pm
I bet MacGyver did P90X. Just sayin'

It's a good thing that our YMCA recently replaced the carpeting on the gym floor (I will leave you to ponder why there is carpet on the gym floor at all) because if it's one thing P90X did well, it was make me eat carpet. I did dive bomber push ups to failure - proven by the fact that the last one saw my arms give out and I had a close shave with a carpet burned nose. I did abs - gloriously titled The Ab Ripper Workout, not because you will get ripped abs from doing it but because it feels like your abs are being ripped out of your body - until I collapsed into the comforting embrace of the cushion-less carpet. And then after the 3 weeks of intense workouts were finished and we were on our "recovery week" filled with light cardio, stretching and yoga, I attempted a chaturanga "run" (alternate knees to elbows while hovering 3 inches above the floor) and yet again turfed it face first into the purply bluish gray (with some red speckles - to hide the blood!) carpet. My only consolation was on that last one Gym Buddy Allison ate it too and we then proceeded to laugh ourselves silly. Oh, and that same workout I snapped myself across the butt with a resistance band gone rogue.

So you will understand why I thought the "P" in P90X stood for pain. It does not. Nor does it stand for perfect, push up, polyester (wha?) or performance - all guesses bandied about this month as we tried to separate the fact from the infomercial hype. The P apparently stands for "program" - how anticlimactic! - although ChaCha begs to disagree . (Updated: Azusmom just alerted me to the fact that the P actually stands for "power.") The 90 is for 90 days. And the X? Xtreme of course!

What I Liked
The workouts were tough and there was plenty of variation from week to week. We always got a good sweat, even from the yoga. In fact, the workout that made me Toilet Sore - that's Gym Buddy parlance for when you get so sore you have to use both hands to lower yourself onto the toilet and even then you just end up falling the last few inches - was the Core Synergistics program and that was supposed to be a rest workout. I was gimpy for four days afterward.

In addition to challenging workouts there were a lot of innovative moves. I've gotten to a point now where I feel like I have done it all (except for aerial dancing - which I'm still dying to do so please call me Circus People!) but P90X had lots of stuff I'd never tried before. They even found a way to make lunges new - it's called the Sneaky Lunge and it's straight out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

As you can tell, there was a lot of opportunity for fun. Tony Horton, the inventor of P90X and the main instructor on all the videos is a freakin' riot. There aren't many people who can keep me entertained during a home workout but him and his "fancy hands" cracked me up. Were we to ever meet, he and I would be workout BFFs, I just know it.

What I Didn't Like
Similar to CrossFit and other heavy on the lifting programs, P90X is very joint intensive. By the end of week two, my wrists were killing me from all the various push ups and each of the Gym Buddies ended up with a tweaked knee, painful elbows or a stressed shoulder. In addition to the weights, the cardio, especially the Plyometrics workout, involves a lot (A LOT) of jumping up and down. So there were rolled ankles, foot pain and other impact related aches. Nothing serious for any of us but I'm just saying if you have a trick knee (you know who you are!!) or other existing joint issue, this might exacerbate it.

My only other complaint is all the hype. It's similar in tone, intensity and workout style to several other existing workouts (CrossFit most notably) and so it seems that the primary way they set themselves apart is by a lot of Xtreme rhetoric. Oh yeah and black-and-white muscle glamor shots.

The rockstar of the group this month was Gym Buddy Megan (fitting, as it was her Christmas present we were all horning in on after all). She lost an inch off of every body part and dropped six pounds. She bought a new bikini to celebrate! My results, on the other hand, were a little ambiguous. I know I got stronger. I can still only do one pull up but now I cheat less with the jumping. Push ups, pull ups, squats and even my baby-worn abs are all noticeably stronger performance-wise. My other excitement was a pair of pre-baby jeans that I couldn't even wedge myself into with a shoehorn at the beginning of the month now not only fit but are actually a bit loose (just in the waist - nothing is ever loose on my legs, give it up for athletic thighs!). And yet the scale only went down a pound. But perhaps I was building muscle? All my measurements are exactly the same, even the waist. So maybe my jeans just got stretched out from all the trying on. At any rate, I am pleased. Between last month and this month my LASTTENPOUNDS has now been downgraded (and decapitalized) to my lastfivepounds, not bad for almost 4 months post partum.

March's Great Fitness Experiment
One point that was really driven home to me this month is the importance of nutrition. I can kill myself in the gym and make all the sweet, sweet love to the carpet I want and yet if my food is off, I won't lose an ounce. Between having to go nearly vegan again and dealing with the feelings of deprivation that come with that and the frightening hunger that comes with lactating, I have been eating more than I should. I haven't really gone crazy with the junk food but OD'ing on nut butter (my new food crush: I Love Peanut Butter's dark chocolate dreams - it's vegan and pretty much the only chocolate left to me) will still pack on the pounds. For me the magic ratio seems to be about 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.

As P90X is a 90 day program and we have only completed the first month, we are going to continue on with their workouts for March. Therefore March's Great Fitness Experiment will be a dietary one. Tune in tomorrow to hear all about it!

Gym Buddy Opinions
I'm a neurotic mess so thank goodness for the Gym Buddies and their opinions! (See Sensei Don's comprehensive review for a much-need male perspective! Finally, a Gym Buddy who doesn't pee when they jump!)

Gym Buddy Megan: In general, I have been happy with the program. I definitely feel stronger (even if I still can't quite do a pull-up) and have been happy to focus on weights since I'm usually since a cardio-happy girl. And, I actually noticed a difference when I ran yesterday - haven't run in a number of weeks and I did 3 miles quite a bit faster than "usual" and still had plenty of gas in the tank. I like the fact that we did a different work out everyday of the week and we get to change it up just as I was starting to get bored. Although, the Yoga workout gets a big YAWN from me...BO-RING!! (Charlotte's note: true story about the yoga. Sorry, Tony.) The workouts certainly made me sore, but they weren't as bad as I was expecting (especially the Plyo workout that I heard horror stories about), but maybe that's because we're all just so fit to begin with!! And, I'm happy I got to workout with my gym buddies and my hubby, because as much as Tony Horton makes me giggle, I think I would have tired of him quickly if I had to listen to him every day. I just finished the Core Synergistics workout and it was a doozy!

Gym Buddy Allison: I liked the workouts. I didn't get bored from them and they gave me enough of a push. It wasn't as hard as expected but was hard enough considering the pull ups, hindu push ups(?) and a couple others!!

Gym Buddy Jeni: I only did two sessions with you and one I only completed half way but here are my thoughts...of the two sessions that I did with you I have incorporated those moves into my normal lifting and strength training routine. I love to pull up sections and never would've thought of doing those myself and I loved (and hated), the wall sits. I think it did a great job of engaging the large and small muscles at the same time which lead to bigger calorie burns and more muscle fatigue, which I think is good, right?!?! I would love to regularly do the P90X with you guys or I;d at least like to learn a few new moves to incoporate. It's HARD though. I don't have to tell you that!

Gym Buddy Daria: I have liked the workouts. [...] It was REALLY nice for me to start doing weights since I haven't used weights in a year. Yikes! So I have definitely felt stronger. I also like the change from day to day. I can now run for 25minutes with no break! 2.5 miles! Yippee!

Sensei Don
I have been really enjoying the P90X. In general, it is a really well rounded exercise program that is a good compliment to my other athletic endeavors (Karate-do, triathlons). I am finding that my balance, mobility, flexibility and energy level have all improved although this is a largely subjective evaluation. In real terms I have increased the repetitions, weight or both for almost every exercise. I have upped the ante on the plyometrics by wearing a 30 lb weight vest in week 3 (Charlotte's note: For the love of little green apples, Don!). This is a significant improvement since the first time I did plyo I was only able to keep up at the "minimum level" - meaning I didn't do any moves at double-time and did not do the same number of reps as the video showed. Below are some pros and cons to the program as I see it:
  • It is a flexible program - can be customized for your personal schedule and desired level of intensity
  • There is a wide variety of exercises that target areas that may be neglected by otehr routines. A good example is the set of muscles (arms and legs) used in side-to-side movemement. Lateral jumps, raises and lunges build strength in areas often under-exercised in running and cycling which are almost completely linear in nature. In individuals who only do running it is common for the adductors, abductors and side glutes to be diproportionately weak compared to the quads and rear glutes. P90X even goes so far as to focus on the calf muscles at three different angles to cover the complete muscle group
  • The P90X program has had a social effect for me and others I've observed. It is a program that you can do together with someone. Even if you work out alone, there is a common language and experience that facilitates comradere among P90Xers. This element, I think, brings more motivation and discipline than a self-designed, self-directed exercise program knowing that your friends and others are doing the same workout. It can bring out the supportive and/or competitive elements that can help individuals push through the physical and psychological challenges of intense training.
  • The prorgam cannot be done properly without key pieces of equipment. Specifically, access to a pull-up bar is an obstacle to some - especially while traveling for business. The use of a band does not sufficiently cover for this since you still need a sturdy and safe way to attach the band to a ceiling/ door/ etc. Hotel rooms and hotel workout facilities rarely accommodate this.
  • The X Stretch is very elementary. There is not a thorough explanation on the types of stretching beyond static and ballistic. There are more advanced stretching methods available that are known to produce faster results especially if your goal is dynamic flexibility (i.e. greater range of motion while moving/ engaging the muscle groups) which is the case for most athletes.
  • Tony spends a lot of time at the beginning of each warm-up doing static stretching. My understanding is that current research advises against this; that it does not prevent injury and actually can decrease performance.
  • Tony can be very annoying during the videos - but you can play the video with just the music and time indicators
How did it go for you this month? Anyone else do P90X? Have you ever been Toilet Sore? What's your magic nutrition/exercise ratio?
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