Friday, February 28, 2014

Race Series

Someday soon, I may begin to feel like a "real runner." About a week and a half ago, I registered for the race series that my running club, Sugarloaf Mountain Athletic Club, is putting on.

The race series consists of 14 different races, starting in April and going through November. The distances range from 5Ks (3.1 miles) to a half marathon (13.1 miles), at the end of the series in November. You get points for the races you complete in the series. Points are awarded based on a combination of miles-run for each race, time it took to complete the race, and your time compared to the winning time. You can get bonus points for volunteering and for being a "series finisher". In order to be considered a "series finisher" you have to complete at least eight of the 14 races in the series.

I definitely plan to take part in as many of these races as possible! The races are all local and the registration fees are very affordable. I'm starting graduate school at Simmon's Graduate School of Library and Information Science this fall, so I know that I won't have a lot of extra funds or a lot of time to travel around to races. For this reason, racing locally is ideal.

Racing in the SMAC race series will also help me with my goal of getting to meet more local runners. When I attended the SMAC annual meeting earlier this winter they highlighted the race series as the best way to get involved with the club.

I'm very excited to participate in the race series because I think it will keep me focused on improving my running this year. Knowing that I have the race series coming I've been very dedicated about my training through the winter, running three very strategic runs a week: one speed session (often hill repeats), one tempo run, and one long run.

The first run takes place on April 6 and is the Ron Hebert 8 Miler. It looks like the course might be a little hilly -- many of the SMAC race series courses seem challenging in the way. I think I'm going to be glad I've been doing my weekly hill repeats. I'm feeling good about the making the distance; I did a seven mile run today and it went fine. Now I just have to put together the training I've done on hills with the distance runs I've done in order to have success on race day. I want to have the first race be really successful and am even considering going over and running the course later in March as time allows.

It certainly looks to be a challenging one, but I feel like I'm working hard and will try to do my best. I still have over a month to keep working on my running and hopefully get in some more outdoor runs if the weather ever turns reasonable in temperature.

Other than the SMAC series my two big running experiences of the year will be the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay, which I'm doing in May and the Hogsback Half Marathon in September.

The Ragnar Relay is a 200 mile relay run, which I am doing with a team of twelve people I've met online. I'll be running three five mile legs over the two-day relay. This will definitely be a unique experience -- lots of running, little sleep, and meeting new people.

Hogsback, of course, I have done before. It was my first half marathon. I love the course and hope to go there in September and have a great race! Other than for the SMAC series, Hogsback is what all my training is for!

Other than that, I'm keeping myself free other other commitments. After all, the SMAC series offers so many races that I'm not even sure I'll have time with school to do all of them. They all look amazing through -- here's the list from the SMAC website.

I'll keep you updated on my progress with my training and with my races. I can say for now that I am getting stronger on hills and that I'm doing longer sections at tempo (up to 2.5 miles) on my tempo runs. This is making my long runs feel easier because they are done at a slower pace. I was able to finish my seven miler with a very fast finish today and even did a mile at the end at tempo. This makes me feel good because in the past I would have been very tired at the end and not able to give it any more. I'm hoping this good training comes into play on race day!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

P90X3: MMX Review

This morning, I got to try out the last new workout for the first three weeks of block two on the P90X3 classic calendar, MMX.

I was very skeptical of MMX going in since I remembered the Kenpo X review from the original P90X, which I found to be less than stellar. I was pleasantly surprised -- MMX was awesome! It was a very advanced kickboxing / mixed martial arts workout that has you moving fast. A word of caution, there isn't much explanation in the MMX workout and the moves are complex and come quickly. A familiarity with this style of workout is definitely necessary for this reason.

Also, you will stumble and fumble the first time through the workout. There isn't any explanation or preview before you jump into the moves, so you'll be struggling to keep up at first. It might make sense to watch this DVD before you try it for the first time, especially if you're new to kickboxing. After you get used to the moves, you'll be glad to not have to wait for explanations. The workout is only 30 minutes, so I'm glad that it moves fast.

Finally, you can take the moves at any speed you want. I was doing this workout for the first time today, so I took the moves a bit slower in some cases to really focus on form and learn moves that were new to me. I can speed it up next time.

I've done a lot of kickboxing-style workouts, including Les Mills Combat and TurboFire. Many of the moves in P90X3's MMX workout were familiar, but there were some new moves as well. I'm listing out a few of the moves / terms that other might not be familiar with. Then I'll go ahead and list out the moves list for the MMX workout. Here are some of the moves that I found new and exciting.
  • Superman Punch: Hop forward on your leading foot as you do a cross punch
  • 4-Punch Scramble: Run back with jabs going forward left-right-left-right
  • Sprawl: Half-burpee with wide legs
  • Crescent Kick: Kick you leg up and around you body in an arc back into fighter stance
  • Gladiator: Jump kick into a downward punch
  • Sprawl/Scramble: While down in a sprawl, scramble the feet 180-degrees before standing up (This move requires a lot of space, which was a bit problematic for me. Do you best.)

Now that I've listed out some of the less common moves, here is the complete moves list for the workout. The workout began with the most comprehensive warm-up I've seen in P90X3 so far. The warm-up lasted a full five minutes and consisted of some basic cardio moves (jogging, jumping jacks) and a lot of leg stretches. We then moved into the main workout. During the MMX workout, each move was done once on the right lead for thirty seconds and then again on the left lead for thirty seconds. There were short thirty second breaks after each set of four moves.
  • High Low Jab / Cross
  • Hook / Uppercut / Front Knee
  • Triple Jab / Cross / Back Knee
  • Hook Elbow / Down Elbow
  • Jab / Over the Top Elbow / Crescent Kick
  • Superman Punch / 4-Punch Scramble / Sprawl
  • Lead Uppercut / Hook Elbow / Snap Kick
  • Sprawl / Power Knees / Hook and Upper Elbow (The Power Knees were done while down in the Sprawl. While in plank, you brought the knee up the the chest and back twice on the same side before standing up.)
  • Upper Back Elbow / Hook Elbow / Back Kick
  • Jab / Cross / Sprawl / Hook / Uppercut / Sprawl
  • Push Kick / Snap Kick
  • Hook / Uppercut / Hook / Uppercut / Sprawl
  • Front Leg Check / Front Snap Kick / Superman Punch
  • Jab / Cross / Sprawl / Scramble (Here the Scramble was done while on the floor in the Sprawl.)
  • Jab / Cross / Hook Elbow / Over the Top Elbow
  • Gladiator / Sprawl / Jab / Cross / Hook / Uppercut

As you can see, the combinations for the MMX workout were complex and seemed to get even more complex in the second half of the workout. The sequences with the Sprawls were especially challenging because they were so fast -- you had to get down to the ground and back up with speed! This really got me breathing and my heart was going. This was definitely the best cardio workout by far of any of the P90X3 workouts I've done.

This workout was definitely a blast! I was mentally engaged the entire time, focusing on getting the moves and form down and on going as quickly as possible. I love kickboxing -- it's one of my favorite types of workout. I'm pretty demanding about what I consider to be a good kickboxing-style workout, but P90X3 MMX is definitely one of them. I love the pacing, variety of moves, and integration of new moves that I've never seen before. This workout is definitely not for beginners, and I would worry that because of the lack of tutorial a newbie might get hurt. If you haven't done kickboxing before, taking this workout way slower than the participants on the DVD when you do it. They are very very fast -- I struggled to keep up with them -- and if you don't know how to do kickboxing, you can definitely risk injury. Focus instead of watching what everyone is doing in the workout and learning proper form.

This is an upper body focused workout. I actually think my only complaint is that I wish they had included more kicking in the workout. The Sprawls do work your legs though. Getting up and down a lot definitely means your getting your leg work in, so I'm guessing that's why MMX is kick-light. The sequences with the Sprawls are definitely the hardest ones, so I wouldn't want to get rid of those for any reason.

I loved the MMX workout and can't wait until I get to do it again next week. Great cardio in thirty minutes!

P90X3: Incinerator Review

I'm a day behind in my P90X classic schedule for block 2 because of my cold; however, I was able to get back to exercising today and got to check out Incinerator and MMX.

Incinerator is a total upper body strength training workout that mixes body weight exercises, dumbbells, and the pull-up bar.

For this workout, you work each muscle group twice -- doing two different moves that target the same muscle and then moving on. Most of the work is done with dumbbells. The goal is to do ten reps, so it's important to pick a weight that is heavy enough to make you fatigued after only ten reps of each move. If you're like me and don't have as wide a variety of weights, you can do more reps to make yourself fatigued, but this seems to be less Tony's focus for Incinerator. (He does on a couple of moves show the strategy of lighter weights with more reps though. So I think even Tony understand that you might not have every weight available.)

Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up some heavier weights soon. I used ten pound weights for most of my moves. Sometimes that worked great, and I was tired by the end, but sometimes, I had to move quickly and do more reps to get my muscles tired by the end. By the end of the workout however, my body was definitely feeling it. I was shaking on the burnout! I think I did what needed to be done to have a successful workout with Incinerator.

Here are the moves for the workout. We did a quick warm-up and then moved into the program. All the moves were times, but the goal was always to do around ten reps at least. Since you worked the same muscle group twice in a row, you had to be very smart about the weight you picked.
  • Renegade Row: In plank, holding a dumbbell in each hand, row one arm at a time up to your torso. (I've done this move before in Asylum. Going with a moderate weight works well here since you have to balance in plank.)
  • Pull-ups
  • Floor Flys: Lying on your back, do straight arms flies. (Since we only did ten reps, the ten pound weights were way too light for me. I compensated by doing many more reps.)
  • Push-ups
  • Rocket Launcher Row: Stand in a wide lunge leaning forward. Do lat rows. (Again, the lats are a strong muscle and doing ten reps is not that hard. Go heavy.)
  • Chin-ups
  • "A" Press: Lying on your back, extend your arms straight up with palms fating each other at chest level. Bend and bring them down so your triceps are on either side of your body. (This move is similar to a chest press -- go heavy!)
  • Military Push-up: Narrow push-up with arms going back and scraping along the torso.
  • Monkey Pump: Holding dumbbells at shoulder level, do an overhead press, then bend to 90-degrees. Close your arms and re open. Lower your forearms parallel to the ground, then lift to perpendicular and repeat. (I had never done this move before. Tony says to go light here, and he means it. My ten pound weights were, for the first time in the workout, way too heavy. I will probably use five pound weights next time. This move is very tough.)
  • Pike Press: In a pike-up position, do shoulder presses. (We did this move in Insanity. I did it in P90X3 while holding dumbbells to get a little bit more range of motion in my arms, and it was great. This definitely intensifies the move and makes it better.)
  • Pterodactyl Flys: Stand in a wide lunge leaning forward with arms towards the ground. Lift both arms straight to the sides, keeping the hands to the floor. (Ten pound weights were perfect for this move. I did ten reps and it was the perfect amount of struggle. These definitely work the back of the shoulder.)
  • Flipper: In forearm plank, walk your feet a few inches forward and pitch your hips up. Lower your hips and then repeat raising them back again. (This move was fairly odd feeling. It didn't feel that hard, but I'm not 100% sure I got the form right the first time through.)
  • Popeye Hammer Curls: Do bicep curls alternating hands and bringing the weight across the body. Each set of two -- so one on each side -- is one rep. (I probably could have done this move with twelve pound weights or more since you're alternating, giving each arm a little rest in between moves.)
  • Kneeler Curls: One one knee leaning forward, extend you arms towards the floor with palms up. Do bicep curls. (This position is difficult to maintain. Ten pound weights worked well for me. One of the ladies in the DVD used tens as well and did more reps since the weight was lighter for her. It made me feel good to see someone using the same strategy I was employing for this move.)
  • Hail to the Chief: Lying on your back with arms straight up, alternate bringing a weight to the shoulder in a tricep "scull crusher" type move with the hand holding the weight meeting the opposite shoulder (instead of going to the head). (You do ten of these on each side. The ten pounds worked for me because I was getting fairly tired at this point.)
  • Skyfers: Tricep dips in table-top position. Really extend your hips up into table top when at the top of the move.
  • Arm and Hammer: Do bicep curls alternating weights to the front and then to a side hammer curl. Each set of two is one rep. (I probably could have done this move with twelve pound weights, but since each set of two counts as one rep, you're really doing 20 curls here instead of ten. So you might not need to go as heavy as you think.)
  • Rocket Launcher Kickbacks: In a lunge, leaning forward with elbows raised behind you and along the torso, extend your arms. (Tricep kickbacks are tough in this position because you really have to focus on keeping the elbows raised. Ten pounds was perfect for me here.)
  • Burnout: On cue from Tony do push-ups, hold plank, go into low plank, balance with one arm and leg out, do side t-stands, and go into Downward Dog. (We did this for over two minutes. Midway through my entire body was shaking. This is hard after all the other work you've done in the workout. I had to take a quick ten second break on my knees and then get back into it. What a way to end!)

I loved this workout! It offered great variety in the moves that you did and the equipment that you got to use. We effectively worked the entire upper body: chest, shoulders, lats, triceps, and biceps -- nothing got left out, and I felt like we used all the muscles pretty equally.

This workout is definitely best if you have a wide variety of weights at your disposal. This is something I want to work on. I have threes, fives, eights, and tens at the moment, but really need to get some heavier weights -- at least a set of twelves. As I've said many times before in this review, you only have to do ten reps so go heavy. Still you have to play it smart and remember that you're going to be doing another exercise to work that muscle group again, so don't work to complete failure and be sure to maintain form.

Another fun part of this workout is that you don't repeat any moves. You do each move once and move on, which differs from a lot of the P90X3 workouts but definitely helps to keep things fresh. I would say that as a result this is one of my favorite workouts in the set. A keeper!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

P90X3: Eccentric Lower Review

Yesterday, I got to try the next new workout in block 2 of the classic P90X3 training calendar, Eccentric Lower. Today, my legs are still feeling it. (Though the decision to do a run with hill repeats yesterday after the Eccentric Lower workout plus the fact that I now have a cold are probably also factors.)

I really enjoyed Eccentric Lower. The upper body focused, Eccentric Upper, which I did earlier in the week was great, and Eccentric Lower did not disappoint. The workout consisted of moves using the body as resistance with dumbbells added for extra weight. The moves were classic and they work.

For all of the moves in Eccentric lower, you do one count of concentric movement and three counts of eccentric movement. This means that, if you were doing squats for example, you lower for three counts and then quickly raise in a single count. You do each move ten times before moving on.

Below is the moves list for the workout with explanations, as needed. My comments, where I have them, are in parenthesis.
  • Squats: Traditional squat done holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lower for three and stand up on a one count. (I used eight pound dumbbells for this. I probably could have used tens because we only did ten reps.)
  • Lunge: Traditional lunges done by lowering up and down in lunge position. Do ten on one side and then ten on the other. Done holding dumbbells. Lower for three and stand up on one. (For me lunges are definitely harder than squats, so I felt good with eight pound weights here.)
  • Sumo: With a stance wider than a traditional squat and feet rotated slightly out do a squat. Move is done holding one weight between the legs. Lower for three and stand up in one. (I really need to get a set of 12 pound weights. Here is another place where I wish I had more weight. Again, we were only doing ten reps and we only had one weight in hand, so I could have gone heavier.)
  • Weighted Pistol: Standing on one leg, extend the other in front of you. Bend your knee on the standing leg and do a one-legged squat. Do this while holding one weight in your hand. Do ten on each side. (One-legged squats are always a good workout and balance move. I've never heard them called Weighted Pistol before, but maybe Tony just wants to be fancy.)
  • Side Kick: Stand on one leg and lean over far in the opposite direction bringing the other leg up as to kick. Kicking leg should be at least at hip height. Kick out on one and then bring the leg in for three. Do ten on each side. (This move is done with the leg very high. The participants in the DVD hold a chair for balance, which I recommend since you're doing the side kick at hip height and extending higher if you can. This move was definitely not as hard as the earlier moves, but the standing leg got a workout as did the glutes on the raised leg.)
  • Front Kick: Stand on one leg, bring the other knee up to hip height and set a dumbbell on that thigh. Extend the bent leg on one and retract for three. Do ten on each side. (The main challenge here is keeping your leg at hip height as you extend and retract.)
  • Albanian Squat: Start in a lunge stance with the back leg raised on a chair behind you. Holding dumbbells in each hand, lower for three and come up on one. Do ten on each side. (Doing a lunge with your back leg raised really changes the game. These lunges were without a doubt the hardest move in the sequence. My back leg was shaking after just ten reps on each side.)
  • Adductor Lunge: Do a side lunge, stepping on wide to the side and bending the stepping leg with the other leg extended straight in a line. Lower into the bent leg for three. Come up on one extending the formerly bent leg out straight to the side. Repeat ten times on each side. (I always find this move slightly awkward, but I know it's good for the hips and inner thighs. It's not the most challenging move; more the focus is on sitting back far in the bent leg.)
  • Cross Reach: Stand on one leg with the opposite knee raised and a weight in the same hand as bend leg. Bend you standing leg like in a squat. Extend your weight across the body bringing the raised leg behind. Lower for one and raise for three. Do ten on each side. (This was a decently challenging balance move, plus it did a great job working the standing leg. This was similar to doing a one-legged squat, but forced you to move through a wider range of motion, which made it balance challenge as well. At this point in the workout, my legs were getting plenty tired, so having to balance added a layer of difficulty to the move, which was excellent.)
  • TT Plus: In side plank on the forearm, lift the top leg up for one and lower for three to the front. Then lift it again and lower for three to the back. Alternate back and front for ten reps, then switch sides. (You can do this move either in a full t-stand, forearm side plank, or in a side plank with the bottom leg supporting you. I did the forearm side plank. This was the middle level of difficulty and suited me well at this point, since I was doing the move for the first time. My main focus here was keeping my body from tumbling over as I brought my top leg to the front or back. I engaged my core to help keep balanced in the side plank position.)
  • Bridge Kicks: Lie on your back with knees bent and glutes off the floor in Bridge. Extend on leg up straight. Drive that foot towards the ceiling for one and lower for three. Do ten times on each side. (Bridge Kicks require you to stabilize through the shoulders and really focus on keeping the glutes raised in Bridge. If the glutes drop the move loses some of its impact, so I spent most of my time trying to remember to engage my glutes and keep them raised.)
  • Hip Flexor Splits: Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and your hands next to your gluest. Lift your glutes off the ground and open your legs to either side; close you legs for three counts. (For added difficulty, some of the people on the DVD were doing this with push-up bars. The leg part of this wasn't nearly as hard as supporting yourself with your arms. It was possible to modify by keeping your bottom on the ground, which could let you concentrate on the legs more.)
  • Calf Dog: In Down Dog, put your toes on the oppose heel. Push up onto the ball of your foot on a one count and then lower for three. (My calves have been a problem area, so I've been working to strengthen them. It must be working because this move didn't feel too hard. It more felt like a great calf stretch.)

By the end of Eccentric Lower my legs were feeling pretty tired. There aren't any revolutionary moves in this workout. Most of these exercises I had done before in my aerobics class or in other workout videos. The Hip Flexor Splits were the only move that was completely different for me. The others I had either done before or done a very close variation. That is not a bad thing though. I thought the moves in Eccentric Lower were put together nicely for a good lower body workout. This might not be the hardest DVD in P90X3, but it's a solid lower body workout that is efficient and effective.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

P90X3: Triometrics Review

For today's snow day, workout two was Triometrics, the second workout that you do in block 2 of the P90X3 classic calendar. I have somewhat mixed feeling about Triometrics. I went into the workout thinking that this would be a predominantly cardio-based routine. In fact, the workout seemed to focus more on lower body strength and balance with some cardio moves mixed in.

Triometrics is so named because each move you do has three levels. Since this workout is basically all legs, the progression generally consists of going deeper into each move that you're doing; for example, you might start with doing squats and then move to a deep squat where you have to squat far enough down that your hands touch the floor.

Here are the moves that make up the Triometrics workout. I'll list descriptions, including the three levels along with my comments in parenthesis. Each move was done for one minute, with twenty seconds at level one, then level two, then level three.
  • Calf Raise Squats: Do a squat reaching your hands to the floor. Come up extending your arms overhead and going up onto your toes. Level 1: Reach (towards the floor), Level 2: Touch, Level 3: Fists
  • The Duper Skater: Standing on one leg, bend into a squat and extend the other leg, swinging it forward and back. When you leg goes back, bring your same arm as standing leg to the floor. Level 1: Reach (towards the floor), Level 2: Reach and kick leg, Level 3: Tap floor and kick (Standing on one leg for a minute is pretty challenging work for the standing leg. Having to stabilize at the same time caused definite fatigue.)
  • Frog Jumps: Lower to the floor in a squat. Come up and do a little hop. Level 1: Fingertips (to the floor) to prayer, Level 2: Fists to floor and sky, Level 3: Palm to floor and jump (The Level 3 version of this move was definitely the best. The little bit of jumping was good to get the heart rate up.)
  • Warrior 3 Squats: Start in Warrior 3, standing on one leg with the other extended straight behind and parallel to the floor and torso tipped forward. Bend the standing leg into a squat and straighten. Level 1: Arms to the side, Level 2: Airplane arms, Level 3: Arms to the front reaching (Nothing working the standing leg quite like Warrior 3. I found this move to be quite a challenge for balance as my leg got tired, and I wobbled a little. On my less strong side, I even tottered over and had to get back into position. I found Level 2 of this position actually the easiest to balance in through it's supposed to be harder than Level 1 because you're working your shoulders more. Still, I needed the balance help more than I cared about my shoulders at this point.)
  • Speed Skater: Start on one leg and jump laterally to the other bringing the leg you jump off of back behind you. Have your arms follow your movement. Level 1: Singles, Level 2: Doubles, Level 3: Triples (We see this move in a couple of the other P90X3 workouts. The introduction of the triple jump is new here.)
  • Superman Lunge: In a squat, lean your torso forward and begin alternating your legs back into a long lunge. Keep low as if there is a 3 foot ceiling above you. Level 1: Step (back into lunge), Level 2: Skip, Level 3: Jump (I actually found doing Level 2 of this move to be the hardest. When you get to Level 3, you get to jump, which means you're not in the static low squat to lunge. This sort of gives the legs a break from the semi-isometric hold they were in.)
  • Sumo Kick: With legs wide and toes slightly turned out, lower into a sumo squat, bringing your hands towards the ground. Stand and do a snap kick to one side. Lower back into sumo squat and then kick to the other side. Level 1: Fingers (to the floor), Level 2: Fists, Level 3: Palms
  • Run Stance Squats: Begin with feet in a staggered stance. Alternate feet rotating back to front slightly less than 180-degrees. Tap the front hand to the floor. Level 1: Step, Level 2: Touch the floor, Level 3: Jump
  • Iso Squat: Begin on one leg with the other extended behind you. Bend your standing leg and reach the opposite hand towards the floor and standing leg. Stand up bringing your hand to the ceiling. Level 1: Bent foot behind you, Level 2: Bent foot next to you, Level 3: Bent foot in front of you (Another move on one leg -- these were definitely the hardest. Level 3 of this move was a real balance and strength challenge. It was hard to get the hand that was trying to tap the floor around the suspended front leg while maintaining good balance.)
  • Slater Squat: Bend down into a squat and get into plank position by stepping your feel back one after the other. Do a push-up. Step back into squat position and stay low (without extending your knees into standing. Level 1: Step up, Level 2: Jump up, Level 3: Jump up and add tuck jump (Yay! Finally a cardio move. I liked this pseudo-burpee, especially Level 3 with the tuck jump.)
  • Duper 2: Like The Duper Skater but with your leg extending directly to the side instead of back and front. Level 1: Leg out to knee up, Level 2: Leg out to knee up and tap the floor, Level 3: Leg stays out and tap floor
  • Jack Squats: With legs wide in a squat, like a sumo squat, and toes rotated out. Jump feet together staying low. As your feet jump together, bring your arms together overhead as if you're doing a jumping jack. Level 1: Reaching (to the floor), Level 2: Tapping, Level 3: Tapping and X-jump
  • Hell's Chair: Begin in Chair from yoga. Extend one leg out in front of you. After twenty second switch legs. For the last twenty second have you feet together in Chair. Level 1: Right leg lifts, Level 2: Left leg lifts, Level 3: Feet together (This was actually a nice rest, and I found my shoulders got more tired than my legs. Probably a result of doing Eccentric Upper right before this workout.)
  • Kablam: Begin in a lunge. Jump up and land in a squat. Jump back and land in a lunge with the opposite leg back than before. Continue alternating. Level 1: Step to step with arms in prayer, Level 2: Arms up skip, Level 3: Arms moving, jump
  • Burnout: Small jumps laterally side to side with feet together. To increase difficulty, bring your knees up high into a tuck jump as you jump side to side. (Fun! And we only did this for half a minute, so it wasn't very hard at all -- there was no time to get tired.)

Tony took fairly frequent breaks during this workout, some of what I considered to be significant length. This was a disappointment because the moves were overall not that challenging, and certainly not challenging cardiovascularly for someone who exercises regularly. By putting in so much rest time, this workout seemed to rob participants of the chance to get their heart rates up. Perhaps the frequent breaks were because this was more of a strength workout for lower body, and Tony wanted to have time for muscle recovery between sets. Still, I wish that things had moved a bit more rapidly. There were a couple of times where I found myself saying, "Come on -- stop talking -- let's go!"

That being said, this workout definitely gave my legs a run for their money and caused fatigue. By the end of the 30 minutes, my legs felt wobbly in a way I had not felt since Asylum 2: Power Legs. Not to cause any confusion -- I definitely did not like Triometrics nearly as much as Power Legs. While Power Legs gave you an amazing cardio workout while also working all the leg muscles, with Triometrics, it was really more static leg work. There were some cardio leg moves worked in, but they were not as prevalent as in Power Legs, which is definitely a minus. Triometrics more seemed like a resistance-style leg workout, without weights, with some cardio thrown in. This is fine, but remember the focus of this workout when you're going to do it. In the end I was glad that I did this workout and Eccentric Upper back-to-back on the same day for an hour of strength training. Tomorrow, I'll do a cardio day and feel good knowing I did some solid total body resistance training the day before.

P90X3: Eccentric Upper Review

Another major winter storm hit New England today and is keeping me inside. With my extra time, I decided to try the first two workouts in P90X3 block 2 from the classic calendar. The first of these workouts was Eccentric Upper, an upper body resistance training focused workout. I really enjoyed Eccentric Upper with it's nice mash-up of weights, push-ups, and pull-ups. All the moves in the workout were done eccentricly, meaning that you contracted the muscle fast and released it slowly. For practical purposes, this means that you brought the weight up (or did your push-up or pull-up) for one count and then released for three.

Because the workout had you doing push-ups, pull-ups, and work with dumbbells or bands, you're going to need a lot of equipment. Also, be sure to bring many different sizes of weights. In Eccentric Upper, you do all of the moves ten times each. You will be working small and large muscles and doing short and long lever moves, so having a wide range of weights is key. I used five, eight, and ten pound weights. If I had a set of twelves (which I really need to get), I would have used those too. You are not doing a lot of reps, so go as heavy as you can while still keeping good form.

Here's the moves list for Eccentric Upper. Remember, for all moves, you contract for one count and then release for a three count. Tony provides a brief rest of around thirty seconds after each two or three moves. There are ten reps per move. Descriptions are listed after each move as needed. My comments are in parenthesis. A lot of the pull-up and push-up moves are the same as in The Challenge.
  • Standard Push-ups: (Tony strongly recommends doing push-ups in full plank and limiting range of motion, instead of going to the knees, to modify. This is, of course, way harder. However, because you only have to do ten reps here, Tony's philosophy works fine. I would still encourage people to go to their knees if your form is starting to suffer.)
  • Standard Pull-ups: (Straight off I found it hard to do a pull-up on one and release for three. I'm not that strong at doing pull-ups, so it was tricky to keep pace and get in all ten pull-ups. I did the best I could and did as many reps as possible, trying to keep pace and tempo.)
  • Military Press: Do a push-up with arms in tight against your body. When lowering, have your elbows go back, scraping the sides of your torso. This works the triceps more.
  • Chin-ups
  • Deep Swimmer's Press: Overhead shoulder presses. At the top of the movement, turn the weights so they face each other. Lower to chin level. (I did these with eight pound weight but because there are only ten reps, I probably could have gone heavier.)
  • Fly Push-ups: Do a push-up with your hands a few inches wider than your shoulder.
  • V Pull-ups: Do a pull-up bringing your chin to your left hand. Lower. Do another pull-up bringing your chin to the right hand. Alternate side to side. (This is definitely one of the more challenging pull-ups. I had to use a chair for support a lot here.)
  • Upright Hammer Pull: Do a front row, perform a mini bicep curl with elbows lifted. Lower. (It was a bit tricky to do the mini bicep curl at the top of a shoulder row. I had to really concentrate of keeping my elbows lifted, as they had a tendency to drop as I moved the weight around in this position. Mastering this part, seems key to the Upright Hammer Pull move.)
  • Staggered Push-ups: In plank, have hand staggered. The hand that's close to you will go down along your body (like in a Military Press) when you lower. The hand out in front will go out to the side. After five reps, switch which hand is out farther.
  • Rocket Launcher Row: Stand in a wide lunge, leaning forward with arms in front, and pull arms back into a classic lat row. (I do lat rows all the time, so this was a move where doing ten reps with the ten pound weights didn't really fatigue the muscles enough. This would be a good move for me to get a larger weight for.)
  • Lateral/Anterior Raise: Do a side raise for the shoulders with your thumbs towards the ceiling. Lower to your sides and do a shoulder raise to the front, again with thumbs up. Each set of two raises, front and side, is one rep. (Five pound weights were good for me for this move. It's a long lever shoulder exercise, so I wouldn't recommend going too heavy.)
  • Plyo Push-ups: Do a push-up and then explode off the ground with hands and feet. Land and bend your elbows for protection. (This is one of the hardest moves in P90X3. It's very challenging to jump the hands and feet off the floor, maintain plank, and come back down. I definitely tend to hand hard and feel it vibrating through my body. I think I need to figure out a way to land more gently.)
  • Vaulter Pull-ups: Do a pull-up with one hand facing out and one facing in. After five reps, switch the directions of your hands and do another five reps.
  • Pterodactyl Flies: Lean forward with arms towards the ground. Raise the weights up out to the sides and back, keeping the arms straight and at shoulder level. (This works the back and rear shoulder and is a wonderful move for posture. I did this with an eight pound weight because I do this move frequently, but we're working small muscles here, so keep it light.)
  • Rocket Launcher Kickbacks: Leaning forward with elbows against your sides and bent, do a tricep kickback extending the weights to the ceiling. (I do this move a lot, but find it to be the most challenging of the tricep moves. It's very easy to let your elbow drop, which is not the goal. I tend to do this with a lighter five pound weight to ensure good form.)
  • Flip Flop Combo: Do a bicep curl. At the top of the move, rotate to hammer position and lower. (Another move where I wish I had a heavier weight since we were only doing ten reps.)
  • Tricep Skyfers: Tricep dips with one leg in the air. Change which leg is lifted after five reps. Make sure to bring your hips up to tabletop position after each tricep dip. (Love tricep dips! It was great to have time to really work through the range of motion and make sure to bring my hips high.)
  • Kneeling Preacher Curl: On one knee with the torso forwards, do bicep curls. (I did these with the ten pound weights, which was fine since the positioning -- on one knee -- was kind of awkward for this move.)

I really liked the Eccentric Upper workout. It had great variety, including push-ups, pull-ups, and weights. I liked that we did most of the pull-ups in the first half when we were still a little bit fresher. I think we hit all the major muscles in the upper body: chest, shoulder, triceps, back, and biceps.

Had it not been a snow day today, I would have had a weight training class at Smith. I think that doing Eccentric Upper was a great substitute. This is a dynamic and complete upper body workout. It will be great a great one to do whenever I have a day that I want to do a little bit extra strength training work. At thirty minutes, it's the perfect addition to a cardio day.

This will be a nice workout to add into my routine both during P90X3 and after. It's probably most like The Challenge from block 1, but the fact that it's not all push-ups and pull-ups makes it a little more fun and easier to manage.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

P90X3: Pilates X Review

Mid-way through the transition week, it was time for the final new program of block 1, Pilates X. My Beachbody coach and aerobics instructor, Rosalie, had done Pilates X before me and mentioned it was a hard one, though she said she was sure I could handle it. Let me say as a bit of a disclaimer that when I did Pilates X yesterday it had been more or less my first time doing pilates since college when I was kind of obsessed with it. Basically, I hadn't done pilates in around seven or eight years. And, yes, Pilates X was hard. I would call it a very advanced pilates workout, even compared with the workouts I did when in college; some of which said the word "advanced" on the DVD case.

The workout started with Tony talking a bit about the breathing style in pilates. I am far from an expert and hats off to you if you can master the pilates breathing style. I sound like I am in distress when I do it and end up making funny huffing noises. Either way, I tried my best as we started through the moves.

Here's a list of what we did in the Pilates X workout. Explanations are inspired by the P90X3 fitness guide. My comments, where I have them, follow in parenthesis.
  • Hundreds: On your back, curl your chin up and extend you legs outward and at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Extend arms towards hips and pump them towards the floor while breathing. (This is a classic pilates move, and I remembered it as the starting move for all my college workouts.)
  • Single Leg Stretch: On your back, pull your knees into your chest and curl you chin up. Reach your right hand to the left knee and your left hand to the left ankle. Extend the other leg out at a 45-degree angle. Pull on your leg twice then switch.
  • Double Leg Stretch: Like the Single Leg Stretch, except instead of pulling your knees to your chest, you do this with both legs straight. (I remember this move being called Scissors. I think it's the same thing.)
  • Peter's Bridge: On your back, have your legs straight. Extend your legs towards the floor being sure to keep your lower back down. Only lower your legs until you feel your lower back move. Lift legs and repeat. (We do this move in aerobics a lot. It's a great one for the lower abs. At this point in the workout I was still feeling fairly comfortable and pretty good about my performance. I was familiar with the moves thus far and doing great.)
  • Teaser: Start on your back with legs straight up to the ceiling. Extend arms overhead and legs down to 45-degrees as you begin to lift into Boat. Lower and repeat. (This is always a challenging move for me. I don't have very flexible hamstrings and always find I have to bend my legs a little bit. One of the men in the DVD had his legs bent a little bit too, which made me feel better.)
  • V Rocker: In Plow, grab both ankles and rock forward to balance on your tailbone. Rock back and forth, repeating. (V Rocker left me flailing all over the place. I could not do this move unmodified on the first time through. More practice is definitely required if I want to do it without aid from my hands on the roll up.)
  • Bridge Lifts: On your back with knees bent, press your hips to the ceiling and extend on leg up. Lower the straight leg down and back up lifting the hips. Repeat. (It's a bit tricky getting the hang of this balance at first, but the move is definitely do-able and certainly easier than Teaser or V Rocker. You can have your leg at 45-degrees instead of to the ceiling if flexibility is an issue like it is for me.)
  • Scissor Ball: Seated on your tailbone, hold the outside of your ankles and rock to your shoulders. Next, rock forward to balance on your tailbone again bringing on leg straight upward and the other straight and hovering off the floor. Curl back into a ball and rock back extending the legs in opposite directions. (Yikes! I think I am seriously challenged by these rolling moves like Scissor Ball and V Rocker. I need to find a way to make myself rounder when I roll or something.)
  • Bicycle: Start seated with knees bent and wide elbows behind the head. Extend one leg out at 45-degrees, keeping the other bent. Turn your elbows towards the bent knees. Switch legs and rotate your elbows so you are always having your elbow go towards the bent knee. (This version of Bicycle was interesting to me. I am used to doing this move on my back, so doing it seated was very interesting. I liked the modification for a change of pace, though the move seemed to work more or less the same muscles seated as on your back.)
  • Hip Circles: Lying on your back, extend on leg straight up. Circle that leg out, around, and up. Switch directions after five reps. Then switch sides and do the other side five times in each direction. (I have always liked this move. It's a nice challenge trying to keep the hips stable as you rotate the leg. You can have the leg do bigger or smaller circles depending on the level of challenge you desire.)
  • Floating Cobra: On your stomach with core engaged, lift your chest and shoulders off the ground without using your hands. Hold and then lower. Repeat. (I remember this as more of a yoga move than a pilates one. It's great for increasing strength in the lower back.)
  • The Swimmer / The Flutter / The Bad Attitude: On your stomach, extend your arms overhead in front of you. Kick your legs and alternate your arms for The Swimmer. For The Flutter, bring your arms behind you and try tapping them together over your body. Have your legs crisscross above and below each other. For The Bad Attitude, bend both knees and bring your heels together behind your glutes. Place you head on the floor and push the heels towards the ceiling. (I liked doing these moves in sequence. I've done variations on The Swimmer before, and they are always great. I had also done The Bad Attitude before, not knowing what it's called. I definitely feel like it's hard to keep my heels together while doing the glute work, but that's part of the fun!)
  • Saw: On your back with legs wide, curl up off the gloor and reach straight forward. Come into a seated position and reach your arm to the opposite foot, then lower back to the floor. On the next time up, switch sides so you're reaching the other arm to the other foot. (In the past when I have done this move, it's been just from a seated position without the curl up.)
  • Alphabet Soup: Lying on your back with your hands flat underneath you, lower your legs to 45-degrees. Spell the alphabet in the air. (This was basically the last move that I felt good about. The last half dozen in the workout were crazy!)
  • Scissor Side Plank: On your side with your forearm on the ground in a low t-stand, lift your top leg and kick it forward and then sweep it back. (It's very hard to balance in this position for the ten reps. I had to really engage my core to keep from tumbling forward or backward.)
  • Sphinx Flag: In forearm plank, lift one foot behind you. Pulse it twice in the air and then bring it out to the side, tap the floor twice. Repeat switching sides each time. (The participants in the DVD all got their legs very far out. I could barely get mind to the side much at all. What a struggle!)
  • Clam Killer: In side arm plank, bring your top foot to your knee, rotate up and back, and then bring it back to your ankle. Kick that leg up to the ceiling and repeat. Do the move on both sides, doing one side completely and then the other. (I've read time and time again that Clam is good for preventing a lot of running injuries, so I was glad to do the move here. Adding in the element of doing Clam in plank definitely adds a level of difficulty since, like with Scissor Side Plank, keeping balanced requires a lot of work. Plus at this point with three exercises in some version of plank in a row, my shoulders were getting quite tired.)
  • T's T: In side plank, lift your top foot to the ceiling and then tap the floor in front of you. Bring the leg back up and tap the floor behind.
  • Scissor Roller: One your back with legs and arms extended, curl your torso off the ground and reach your hands past your toes. Next, lift your torso and your right straight leg. Release both down to starting position. (What!?! Just crazy. I had the same problem with this as with the other ball and rolling moves, but kind of worse since I also find it hard to get my leg straight in positions like this. There was an option to modify and put one foot on the ground when you came up, which I definitely took advantage of.)
  • The Pretzel: Seated, with your right foot crossed over your left and your weight on your left hand, lift your right leg up and around until it bend behind you. Pulse and then return to crossed position. On the last rep, pulse for double the time to the back, side, and front. Do this on both sides, completing on and then the other. (Getting to watch Tony struggle through this move made me feel better about this. This move gets me in a lot of places where I am tight, which is great, but it is hard to get the leg back there.)

The Pilates X workout ended up being quite a hard one. I can't say it was my favorite sort of challenge, since I've kind of lost my interest in pilates. I will say I definitely preferred this workout to Isometrix but didn't like it as much as X3 Yoga or Dynamix. I list all these reviews together because I consider them the same class of workout -- non-strength or cardio workouts that focus on flexibility, mobility, balance, and having good range of motion.

I certainly see the benefit of Pilates X in working the core and providing a sort of strengthening that's different than traditional weight work. I can see this being a workout that won't be my favorite, but it might be one that grows on me in time. For my needs, I think doing Dynamix is probably best from the set of four workouts I've encountered so far of this sort. However, it's always nice to have a pilates workout to pull out for a day when I don't want high impact activity.

Pilates X is the last of the new workouts for the transition week, as I mentioned before. On Monday, I'll be moving on to block 2 of the P90X3 classic calendar where I will get to encounter five new workouts. More to come next week!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

P90X3: Accelerator Review

The transition week at the end of block 1 of P90X3 introduces a few new workouts Isometrix, Accelerator, and Pilates X. (These workouts are on days one, three, and four of the transition week.) Today, I checked out the second of these new workouts, Accelerator, a super awesome cardio strength workout. While it was slower paced, some parts of Accelerator reminded me of what I loved about Insanity -- you can get a great cardio workout and still feel you're working your muscles. Hard.

Accelerator did a great job alternating between standing cardio moves, which involved a bit of jumping, and moves done on the floor in plank to work the upper body. By the end of this workout my shoulder were saying, "Enough!"

One thing I really liked about Accelerator was how much Tony Horton changed speeds during each move. Most moves lasted for a minute, allowing us to start at a moderate pace and then speed up and slow down multiple times. Tony remarked that this is similar to how one performs in sports in real life. Totally true; it was very helpful to train this way.

Here's a list of all the moves in Accelerator with explanations (inspired by the text in the P90X3 fitness guide). My notes about each move follow in parenthesis. The warm-up was integrated into the workout, so the first two moves listed are considered the warm-up for Accelerator. If you want more of a warm-up, you can always do the Cold Start before beginning Accelerator.
  • Speed Salutation: Standing with your feet together, sweep your arms up, swan dive forward, put your hands on the floor, jump into plank, and transition into Upward Dog. Push your hips up into Downward Dog, jump in, and reverse swan dive to standing.
  • Twist and Pivot: With hands together and elbows high, parallel to the floor, step and pivot your feet twisting your torso so that the arms follow. Adjust speed according to cues.
  • Foot Pursuit: Run in place with high knees. Speed up and slow down on cue.
  • Get Up/Get Down: From standing, bend down, placing hand on the floor and stepping back into plank one foot at a time. Return to standing. Do a push-up at the bottom of the move when cued to do so. (This was basically a slow burpee. We did increase pace as we went on and you needed to move it a bit to get the push-up in and return to standing in time, but this wasn't nearly as hard as a "real" burpee.)
  • X Jacks and Punch Jacks: Do jumping jacks with either arms up in a V so the body is like an X or with arms punching directly above head. Alternate jack types and speed on cue.
  • Balance Burpees: In a wide squat, place hands on floor and jump back into plank. Do a push-up and lift an arm into a side t-stand, rotate back to plank and do a push-up, then do a t-stand to the other side. Put your hand back on the floor and jump back up to squat position. (I liked this move a lot. They switched up the number of push-ups and did other slight variations during this move.)
  • Slalom Hops: With two markers on the floor, jump laterally over them, twice to each side, back and forth. (I usually roll up my warm-up jacket when time comes to have a marker on the floor. This was a problem for this move, since you needed two items; plus the jacket was a little tall and wide for such an agility move.)
  • Mountain Climbers: In plank, run your knees towards your chest one at a time.
  • Spin Tops: From a deep squat, jump in alternating directions 45 degrees. Switch between high and low.
  • Plank Walkers: In plank position, follow cues and move left, right, forward, and back. (This was fairly tricky to keep up for a minute. The shoulders and chest got very tired. It was fun to move in all the different directions though since I've only done plank walks left and right before.)
  • Joel Jumps: Lay a towel on the ground. Stand on one leg on one side of the tape. They jump forward, alternating legs. Reach the alternate hand down to touch the ground. Jump over and along the line switching sides and legs. (This move was revisited from Agility X. It's not overly hard. Since the Accelerator workout is harder than the Agility X workout, this move was a nice one for a bit of recovery.)
  • Plank Circles: In plank, crawl clockwise, then counterclockwise, changing directions on cue. (Doing this move properly requires a fair amount of space, which was a bit of a problem for me. I wasn't able to quite rotate a full 180 in the space where I workout. This meant I sometimes had to change direction a bit earlier than the cue. Like the Plank Walkers, this move definitely worked the shoulders and chest because you spent a full minute in plank position.)
  • Roadrunner: In a deep lunge, alternate feet in a skipping motion or in a low plyo jump. Keep low never allowing your head to come up.
  • Double Trouble Climbers: In plank, pull one knee at a time towards the opposite triceps. Lower to forearm plank on cue and pull knee up and out to the side to the same triceps. (This was a fantastic move. I've done a lot of climbers before, but adding the low plank component made this move new and exciting.)
  • Diamond Hops: Place a small marker on the floor and begin and to hop clockwise or counterclockwise, changing on cue.
  • Swimmer's Planks: In plank, alternate lifting your arm and opposite leg. When you lift your arm, performs a front or backstroke motion. (You can modify this move by doing a lift with your arm instead of a front or backstroke. It's actually a bit harder to balance when you do the front stroke instead of the lift. I alternated between doing a lift and a stroke until I got a hang of the form and balance.)
  • Speed Skater: On your right leg, jump to the left foot, crossing your right leg behind you. Alternate between single and double hops on cue.
  • Plank/Sphinx Combo: Start out in plank, then lower down into forearm plank. Alternate between plank and sphinx with additional leg lifts on cue.
  • 3 Squat Hops: Starting in squat position hop three times in one direction, then switch. Alternate between three shuffles in each direction and three high jumps on cue. (This move was fun! I loved jumping as high and as far laterally as I could.)
  • Donkey Kicks: Start with hands on the floor and your feet tucked in a crouch. Kick both feet off the ground and as high up as you can into a V. Lower one foot to the floor and cross the other in front of it, kicking to the side with the same hand as supporting leg in the air. Switch sides. (Woah -- this move is crazy! I remember seeing it on the ad for P90X3 and thinking that P90X3 would certainly be an interesting program. The participants in the DVD seemed to get their legs at differing heights. Tony almost got himself into a full handstand. I was a bit lower with the other two men doing the workout.)

I loved this workout. It was a great thirty minutes of cardio and a nice challenge. I think it was the best cardio I've felt that I've gotten from a P90X3 workout. This might be because I really liked the combination of floor work with standing work, as it reminded me of some of the best Shaun T workouts.

Accelerator, like Isometrix, seems to be only done during transition weeks if you're using the Classic P90X3 calendar. Kind of a shame because I like this workout better than some of the other cardio workouts I've seen in P90X3. For example, I think this workout is much better than Agility X.

This would be a good workout to do on days when I need a quick cardio fix with a nice balance of resistance work. I was sweating at the end and felt I had worked all my systems and muscles. Excellent addition to the program!

P90X3: Isometrix Review

Three weeks of P90X3 down, and it is time to change things up! This week begins the fourth week of the program and the transition week, which will take me from block 1 to block 2 on the training calendar. The transition week has a few new workouts and some workouts that I have already done. It will lead into block 2, where I will be doing completely different workouts from block 1.

To recap, the first three weeks of P90X3 and block 1 have looked like this according to the Classic schedule, which I am doing:
Classic Schedule Block 1:
Weeks 1 - 3:
Week 4 (Transition Week):
  • Monday: Isometrix (New workout)
  • Tuesday: Dynamix
  • Wednesday: Accelerator (New workout)
  • Thursday: Pilates X (New workout)
  • Friday: CVX
  • Saturday: X3 Yoga
  • Sunday: Dynamix (or Rest)

I'm kind of naughty, and have allowed myself to get ahead of the schedule, so even though today is Sunday, and I should be finishing week 3, I've already done a few of the week 4 workouts. The first one I tried is Isometrix.

Isometrix is, as the name implies, an isometric workout that has you holding positions for an extended period of time. This lets you focus on strength and balance. The workout seemed heavily influenced by yoga. The moves were challenging, but you won't break a sweat. This is not a cardio workout, and while you need strength to do the moves, you won't be building muscle. Like X3 Yoga and Dynamix, this is a great supplementary workout on days when you are doing another cardio or strength workout. The moves in Isometrix will help you become stronger and more balanced which can support your work in other areas and sports. As always, I hope that doing this workout has a positive impact on my running.

During this workout, you hold almost all of the moves for around 45 seconds. That may sound short, but don't let the time fool you -- 45 seconds can be hard. Try the workout if you don't believe me.

Here's a list of the moves in the workout. I have explanations for each one, explained similarly to the P90X3 fitness guide. My notes about the moves, as needed, follow in parenthesis. All of the moves were done in groups of two. You did two moves on the left side and then two moves on the right. So for purposes of reading this moves list, divide up the moves into sets of two that you do one after each other on the left and then the right.
  • Plank, Arm Reach: In plank, extend one arm parallel to the floor out in front of you and hold.
  • Standing Leg Extension: Standing on one foot, extend the other leg straight in front of you and hold. (I was not able to get my leg very high in this move. Some of the participants in the DVD had their leg parallel to the floor. I was probably at more of a 75 degree angle and had to keep my knee a little bit bent because of my tight hamstrings.)
  • Plank Arm, Leg Lift: In plank, extend one arm in front of you and the opposite leg in back of you. Arm and leg are parallel to the floor. Hold. (45 seconds in this move feels like a million years! I had trouble balancing the entire time, but, of course, found this move easier with legs slightly wider. While they don't offer a modification in the DVD, you can do this move on one knee if you have trouble balancing or can't hold the position for the full time.)
  • Chair with Leg Extended Forward: With your feet and knees together and knees bent in Chair, extend one leg straight out infront and hold.
  • Forearm Side Balance: Lie on your side propped up on your forearm. Push your hips off the floor and hold in a t-shaped position.
  • Royal Dancer: Stand on one leg. Bend the other knee and grab that foot behind you with your same hand as leg. Lean over extending the same arm as standing leg and creating a bow-shape with your back. Hold. (I love this move. It really makes the quads feel a nice stretch. I find that standing in this position is not as hard a balance move as I might anticipate.)
  • One Arm Sphinx: In forearm plank, extend one arm out in front of you and hold. (I had not taken the time to put out my favorite mat for this workout. On this move, I regretted it, as I began to get forearm rug burn, and had Seth bring me the mat. I strongly recommend a yoga or plyo mat for this workout.)
  • Tree Pose: Stand on one leg and pick up your other leg placing the sole of your foot high on your upper inner thigh and rotating the knee out. Hold with arms in prayer position or held above you. (I like this balance move and enjoy doing it with arms extended above my head. When I am looking for an extra challenge, I also look upwards.)
  • Side Arm Balance: This is a classic t-stand. On your side, hold up your body into a straight line with the arm supporting you fully extended. Have hips stacked one on top of the other. You can stagger the feet for greater ease. (At this point in the workout, my shoulders were starting to get fairly tired from all the plank and balance moves. 45 seconds was definitely beginning to seem long enough.)
  • Warrior 3: On one leg, extend the other leg behind you and parallel to the ground, leaning your torso forward until it too is parallel to the floor. Extend arms straight past your ears and hold. (This is definitely a more advanced balance move, but still fairly do-able for me. Plus, I was glad to not be supporting my weight on my shoulders in plank.)
  • Bound Dog: Start in Downward Dog. Lift one hand and grab the opposite ankle. Hold. (Or in my case, get your hand as close as you can to the opposite foot. Doing my best...)
  • Inner Balance: Standing on one leg, lift the other foot off the ground. Close both eyes and balance. (Keeping your eyes closed makes this a much more interesting and challenging experience. I did not realize how much I rely on my eyes for balance until I tried to stand on one leg without them. It was a very curious sensation to focus on balance just by the way my body felt in space and making micro adjustments to keep from falling.)
  • Bound Dog Leg Lift: With wide legs in Downward Dog, lift one arm and grab onto the opposite ankle. Then lift your other leg off the floor behind you. (This would have been a great move to have a modification for on the DVD. I literally could not balance in this move at all. Every time I tried to lift the leg I wasn't holding onto I fell. I ended up just doing Bound Dog without the bonus leg lift. I will have to try this move a few more times to see if I can get it.)
  • Moon Dog: Stand on one leg with the other leg off the floor behind you. Lower until your leg and torso are parallel to the floor. Reach your arms out towards your ears and hold. (I found doing this move against a wall a good way to practice as I got comfortable with the balance. Moon Dog works your standing leg a lot!)

Isometrix was a very interesting workout. I can't say that it was my favorite, but I definitely think it has merit. I likened it earlier to X3 Yoga and Dynamix. I like both of those workouts better than Isometrix, but I see where the isometric movements fit in and how this workout differs. It certainly offers more floor work to strengthen the upper body.

This might not be a workout that I revisit after I finish with P90X3, but it's one that I am glad is included in the set. I think I worked some different muscles when doing a lot of these balance moves. My lower legs were a bit sore the day after this workout probably because of all the stabilizing muscles I was using for the "first" time. I think that this workout has the potential to be one that grows on me. I certainly want to focus on learning some of the moves a bit better in my next time through the workout.

We actually won't see this workout again until the next transition week for the program at the end of block 2, week 8. If you're doing the Lean calendar though, this workout is featured weekly in block 1. I might try to do this workout again before week 8 to see if I can get those couple of tricky moves down. Isometrix is different than most of the workouts I do, so I think it's a nice one to have and a good addition to the program, though I can't say I am too disappointed that it won't be featured overly much.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


I'm now two weeks into P90X3 and almost a month into my 2014 running training, with a goal of being a stronger faster runner. Overall, I think things are going well. I felt a bit tired at the beginning of this week, as my body adapted to doing two workouts a day again, but I now feel better after having taken it a bit easier for a couple of days. I thought I might give a recap on how P90X3 and my running are going.



I have now completed two weeks of the same seven workouts. I have one more week with these workouts in the same sequence. Then, on week four of the program, I begin a transition week which will take me to month two of the program and a new set of workouts. (To read detailed reviews of all seven of the P90X3 workouts I've done to date, click here.)

  • Doing an extra 30 minute P90X3 workout each day has been an excellent suppliment to my other workouts. I would not recommend doing just this workout alone if you're looking to increase fitness, but it would work well for someone getting into exercise.
  • We do a lot of balance moves in P90X3. I'm still struggling here, but noticing slight improvements in my form.
  • Pull-ups are a key piece of P90X3. When I started, I had to rely on the chair for everything. I can now do a pull-up or two without chair support. I then add the chair in for help during the rest of the set. Seeing gains here in just two weeks feels great!
  • P90X3 has a couple of great workouts that are lower intensity and focus on flexability and mobility: X3 Yoga and Dynamix. I do not get enough of this type of exercise. I especially love the Dynamix workout, which focused on dynamix flexability and strength (versus the static stretching you often do in yoga). Since starting P90X3, I have had almost no discomfort in my right hip, where I suffer from tendonitis. My left calf, which had been bothering me since November, has also been feeling a lot stronger. I think that Dynamix is part of this solution along with drinking cherry juice (for inflamation fighting) and concentrating on my running form.


I have been running three days a week. This is the same as what I have done in the past, but I am handling my workouts very differently. I used to do two medium length runs (for me 3 - 5 miles) during the week and, if I was training for a race, a longer run on the weekend in the six plus mile range. (If I wasn't training, I would just do another medium length run.)


I would do all my runs at basically the same pace, 10:00/mile, for the entire run. I'd do my long runs a bit more slowly and take a couple of walk breaks for water and fuel intake, but otherwise, I was running three days a week at the same pace.


Part of plan "Get to be a better runner" was reevaluating my running. I knew going into this that I did not want to spend more than three days a week, or occasionally four, running. I like to run, but I also like to do weight training, HIIT, bootcamp, kickboxing, aerobics class, and my fitness DVD programs, like P90X3. I was not willing to give these things up to become a better runner. Honestly, if it was between giving up all my cross training and knowing I'd stay slow, I'd stay slow. Other runners find that running is their main activity and everything else is just, for lack of a better word, a side dish. For me, giving up my other training is nonnegotiable. Maybe this will mean that I will never be a very strong runner -- in fact likely that's true -- but I still hope to become a better runner.


Knowing I didn't want to run more, I did a bunch of research, including reading an excellent article in Running Times about maximizing training time. The main point was, that yes you can train less, but you have to train hard. To that end, I decided to create a workout schedule with three important workouts in a week: speed/hill workout, tempo run, long run.


As things go, I think this has been working out pretty well. I'm not sure how much faster or stronger I feel on my runs yet, but I do feel that my hard work is getting some results. I definitely feel better on hills. I think this is both a mental and physical change. I've been running more hills, so my body is better prepared to handle hills during my runs. However, I also mentally embrace the hill! In the past, whenever I saw a hill I would mentally groan. I tried to create training runs where hills were minimized. Now that is not the case. When I see a hill I think of it as both a challenge and a chance to become a better and improved runner. "This hill is going help me reach my goals," I think. I've been tackling more hills with this attitute and feeling better and my chances on hilly runs and future races. Hill training is also a form of speed training, in a way (though perhaps purests would disagree), so I feel this will help me do better in races.


I've also been doing weekly tempo runs. I've been doing these as 3.5 to 4 mile runs. I'll do a mile at 10:00 pace and then around two miles at 9:40 pace followed by a mile at 10:00 pace. My best 10K was done at under 9:40 pace on a hilly course. That was a great day, but it makes me know I can do this. I want to have my general running speed, which is now 10:00, be more like 9:30 or 9:40 when the year is done. The tempo runs are letting me practice that skill. Hopefully as time goes on, I can increase the length of those runs and of the time at which I am doing the fast tempo speed. I want to get my body used to feeling what 9:40 feels like and thinking of it as a default pace. I don't want to do too much too soon, so I am easing into this. I already feel like my 10:00 pace is starting to feel easier and slower, which is great news!


I'm also getting into my long runs easily. I had been spending most of the past few months just doing three or four mile runs. As a result, did a five mile long run the first week, a 5.5 mile run the second, and a six mile run the third. This week, I did my longest run of the week on Saturday and decided to do something different. The weather has been brutally cold here in the North East, forcing me to do a lot of my running inside on the treadmill. However, yesterday was a balmy high of 40 degrees.


I had been very much wanting to get a pair of trail shoes for a while now. I love to run in the woods and along the many trails in our area. However, because I have road running shoes only, I usually limit my time along trails to ten minutes max. I tend to slide around and have always been causious of getting hurt. However, with some holiday gift money this year, I finally was able to get myself some shoes, a pair of Altra Lone Peak trail sneakers.



I had been dying to try them out, but situtations outside had been too scary to consider a trail run. However, Saturday was perfect. I decided for my long run to do an hour on the trails instead of a 6.5 to 7 mile run on the road. I had forgotten to charge my GPS watch, so doing a trail run based on milage wasn't an option; hence the decision to run based on time.


I headed out and did a run along the nearby Robert Frost Trail and basically had the best time ever! The shoes were amazing. I absolutely love Altras. They are the only shoes I run in now. I have a pair of the Intuition 1.5 for running outside, the slightly lower profile The One for the treadmill and fitness classes at the gym, and now the Lone Peak 1.5 for trails. I have wide feet and the wide toebox on the Altra sneakers is seriously the best thing. I also like zero drop design because for some reason having a large drop on a sneaker makes my quads hurt -- I think it's because having too much of a heel on a shoe makes my stride funky.


There were so many things about my trail run that were amazing yesterday. First, I had a great time because my shoes were exactly what I needed. The Lone Peak sneakers gripped the trail and meant that there wasn't any sliding around. In my Intuitions I feel great on the road, but when I go off road, I find that my feet slip back as I try to run forward. The Lone Peaks completely fixed this problem.


The other great part about my trail run, was that it was kind of nice to be out in the woods and not worried about my speed or distance. I was just focusing on going as well as I could. You can't run as fast in the woods as on the road because you have to avoid rocks and watch your footing. I could really dial into how I was feeling as I moved and run to effort. I honestly have no idea how far I went during this run. I was out for around 55 minutes and probably covered five miles, which is much less than I would have on the road. Still I got in a great workout because I was using all my stabilizers and tackling some big hills.


Talking about hills leads into the next great part of this run. With my new found enthusiasm and training on hills, I embraced the hills on the Robert Frost Trail. Some of them were quite steep, and there were a few times I was forced to walk, but I did not avoid them. I tried to go up every hill I could find. Since trail running is packed with hills, having a good attitude about them is key.


I also think that my training was very helpful in recovery. As I've said before, I have only done around a mile on trails before. Yesterday I did an hour of trail running. My legs felt quite a bit tired when I exited the trails to do the half mile road run back home. I had been using some different muscles. I was worried that I would be very very sore the next day. However, today my legs feel more or less fine. Sure they are a little tired, so I took the day to just do upper body work, but my legs are not killing me. I think it's all the cross training I do to strengthen my legs and the fact that I now have more experience with hills.


I won't do a trail run for my long run every week, but I sure did love it. I think it's a great alternative and that doing the run based on time instead of distance makes sense. Every once in a while it's nice to forget about all the hard training and go out and run for fun. The woods is a great place to do that. The run was hard, but it was also fun and relaxing and rejuvinating.


To finish up the summary of my running training, in almost all of my runs I've been adding some form of strides at the end, sections where I really pick up the pace. I love doing this sort of fast finish and giving my legs the chance to feel different speeds. It's a push some days, but I try to do it as much as I can!


So to wrap things up, training is going well. I am seeing some small changes and hoping that my hard work will pay off. I have some races scheduled on my calendar for 2014 to look forward to where I hope I will see the results of my work.


The first run of the year will be the SMAC 8 milers on April 6. It's the first race in their race series, and I am eager for it.


The main race I am training for now is one that excites me very much and not even something that was on my original bucket list for the year. It's the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. This will be a 200 mile relay race along the Cape that will take place over two days the first weekend in May. Each runner will be responsible for running three legs at three different times. My total milage looks like it will be around 15 miles from three legs around 5 miles each in length. I'm doing this race with some people that I have met through an obstacle course racing group I'm a member of online. The Ragnar Relay will be very different from anything I have done before and should prove a fun challenge!


I'm also very focused on the Hogsback Half Marathon. This is the race that I really want to PR in this year. I'm doing my running schedule with a hope of really improving my time here. This race isn't until September, giving me months and months to trail. I want to be ready for it, and I think that keeping up with the races in the SMAC race series will prove good preparation for this half.


In terms of obstacle course races, I'm still looking forward to the Tough Mudder on June 1 with Seth. Based on having completed that race before, I am feeling pretty confident about tackling it again with my level of fitness.


Also, on a lark, I signed up for the Merrill Down & Dirty 10K obstacle course race in Hartford. There was a great deal on LivingSocial, and I couldn't resist. By the looks of it, this race shouldn't be too much of a challenge, but it should be a fun time. I'm trying to convince my dad and stepmom to do it with me.


I'm still trying to figure out some dates for other events. For running, I plan to do the races in the SMAC race series, since I want to get involved with the running club as much as I can. Because of this and the fact that I really want to train well for the Hogsback Half Marathon in September, I might be taking some of my bucket list races off the list for 2014. I had on the list the Newburyport half marathon, but I'm going to take that off for 2014. I also have the Runner's World Heart Break Hill half marathon on the list. Honestly, I am still going back and forth on this one. It's the Sunday after Tough Mudder, and I am still trying to decide if that will be too much. At this point, I will probably decide to wait until next year.


For the obstacle course races, of course Tough Mudder is in and the Bone Frog Challenge, which I had been hoping to do, is out because of a scheduling conflict. I am still hoping to do a Spartan Race. Spartan basically still has all the races in the area I'm interested in doing on preregistration. When they announce some actual dates and locations I will figure out what I'm going to do there.


All in all, it looks like 2014 will turn out to be a good year. Hopefully I will be able to balance my race calendar with some excellent training and really improve my running and overall fitness this year!