Tuesday, March 18, 2014

P90X3: Decelerator Review

Yesterday I started block 3 on the classic calendar with the workout Decelerator. Decelerator is the last new workout on the P90X3 classic calendar. Once I tried it, it was clear why they had saved it for last -- this is a tricky one.

Decelerator alternates between upper and lower body movements. The lower body movements are not as challenging as the upper body movements, it my opinion. The workout incorporates all of the elements you've worked on in P90X3 so far -- strength, cardio/plyo, and balance/flexibility.

You don't use weights in Decelerator, but there are enough moves on the pull-up bar and push-ups to get in a really great upper body workout. There are even some advanced plyo push-up moves. All in all, this workout is not for beginners. If you're exercising for the first time with P90X3, then Decelerator is going to be a toughie. There are ways to modify, but, like with the rest of P90X3, they are somewhat limited. (Overall, I feel the modifications in P90X3 are not as robust as in Focus T25. This makes T25 a much better workout program for someone starting out in my opinion.)

Here is the moves list for Decelerator. The descriptions immediately follow the move names and my comments, where I have them, are in parenthesis. The workout started with the standard warm-up of jogging, jacks, twists, shoulder circles, chest stretch, knee pulls, pigeon pulls, and quad pulls.
  • Bounding Squats: Standing on your leg, jump forward 45-degrees to your other foot and hold. Then jump 45-degrees forward again to the other leg. Reverse the movement and switch sides. Do 30 seconds on each side. (This was a fairly easy move and like a lot of the plyo and balance combo moves in the P90X3 program overall. Tony occasionally has you hold your position for a while, so you'll want to be secure on your standing leg.)
  • Crane Cracker Push-up: In plank, do a push-up, bring one knee to the top of the same tricep. Extend you other leg out to the side and balance. Switch sides on each push-up. (So this is basically the hardest thing ever. The modification is leaving one leg down instead of bringing it out to the side to balance. You are down in the push-up position when you bring your knee to balance on your tricep in a way that's reminiscent of Crane in yoga -- hence the name of this move. I can seriously not do Crane in yoga and similarly was unable to get my leg up high enough to really balance it on the tricep here. I had to keep one leg on the floor for sure!)
  • Good God Squat: In a squat with heels off the floor and arms overhead, lean over with your torso until it's almost parallel to the ground. Maintaining this position, do squats while keeping the heels off the floor. (This move wasn't as bad as it sounds. It did work the calves and quads, but was totally manageable. Balancing on the toes was a little challenging, but, again, not too bad. It's easy to make this move less challenging by not pitching your torso over quite as far.)
  • Elevator Pull-ups: Perform pull-ups stopping at the cued height -- high, middle, lower. (This is the same idea as the Elevator Push-ups from some of the other workouts, but, in this case, it's done on the pull-up bar. Obviously much harder. Fortunately, "bottom floor" is just hanging from the bar, so you do get a rest. With all the workouts that use the pull-up bar, I keep a chair close in case I need to have a bit of assistance. Beachbody also advertises a pull-up assist band -- same difference as the chair, I think.)
  • 2-Pop Hop: From a squat position, jump up and land on one leg keeping the other off the ground. Slowly lower the foot that's in the air and lower down into a squat again. Jump and land on the other leg. Alternate side to side. (This move is fun and not overly difficult. My calves have been a trouble area, so I had to be a bit careful landing on just one leg because it seemed to both my calf a little bit. But this move is fun -- I liked getting up as high as I could and landing as softly as possible on one leg.)
  • Crawly Plyo Push-up: In low plank, bring your right knee to the right elbow. Explode off the ground switching your knee and elbow from right to left in the air. Alternate side to side. (Yikes! This never gets easier. Plyo push-ups are always a huge challenge. I was able to do the jumps but certainly got very tired at the end and fell behind the cues a little. You can also do this as a push-up with a knee to tricep without the jump if you want to modify.)
  • Holmsen Screamer Hold: In a lunge with your right food back, jump off your left foot, driving your right knee into the air and then return back to the same lunge. Do half a minute on each side.
  • Chin Pulls: Do a chin-up. At the top of the move, pull your knees into your chest. Lower and repeat. (I think add the knee pull at the top of the chin-up doesn't actually add too much additional difficulty -- doing any sort of chin-up or pull-up is hard enough. I actually feel like I got a little bit of momentum at the top of the move, which kind of helped with the chin-up.)
  • Joel Jump Freeze: Standing on your right leg, jump forward to your left keeping the right foot lifted and reaching your right hand to the outside of your left foot. Jump back to your right foot, keeping the left foot elevated this time and touching the left hand to the outside of the right foot. Repeat back and forth for thirty seconds on each side. (This move has been all over the place from Agility X onward. Not too hard in my opinion though some balance is required because Tony cues each move and will often have you freeze on one leg for a while.)
  • Starfish Push-up: Do a push-up, then open into a side-arm balance with the top leg lifted so you make a starfish shape. Rotate back into plank, do a push-up and then rotate to the other side for another side arm balance. Switch sides after each push-up. (This move was so much fun! I loved balancing in Starfish pose on each side. It was challenging to keep my leg up, but you didn't have to hold the move long. As a bonus, this move is super cool looking. If your friends are watching you workout, they will be impressed.)
  • Duper 2: Standing on one leg with the other extended out to the side, do a squat on the standing leg. Tap the floor with the opposite hand. Straighten up bringing the floating leg into your torso. Repeat on each side for half a minute. (Another move from other P90X3 workouts.)
  • Vaulter Pull-ups: Hold the bar with one palm towards you and the other facing away. Do pull-ups. After half a minute, switch your grip. (Again, a repeat move, which I believe we first saw in The Challenge. It's still a challenge for me.)
  • Elevator Tiptoe Squat: With toes turned out and legs wide, come up onto the balls of your feet. Bend your knees lowering on cue to lower, mid, and top of the move. At the top of the move don't have your legs fully straight, but instead keep your knees still slightly bended. (This is basically done in plie position. Mid range certainly seems the toughest in my opinion. This works the inter thighs and calves well. It's still not one of hardest moves though.)
  • Superman/Bow: Lying on the floor on your stomach, lift your legs and arms into Superman. On cue, reach back and grab both ankles with your hands lifting into Bow. (Basic moves, but be sure to keep your abs engaged so you're not putting stress on the lower back.)
  • Spinning Plyo Squat Lunges: In a squat, jump back into a lunge, jump back into squat, and then jump into a lunge on the other leg. Jump back into squat and then jump 180-degrees. Begin the sequence again with the lunges. (Fun! I love plyo moves. The 180-degree turn was the best part. This definitely worked the quads -- after a minute they were getting pretty tired.)
  • Big Brother Burpees: From standing, jump back into plank and do a push-up, bringing your right knee to the right arm. Then rotate out into a right-sided T-stand/side arm balance. Go back into plank, jump your feet in and stand up, do a tuck jump and then go back down into plank. Repeat the sequence on the left. Alternate sides for a minute. (I loved this move as well. We didn't have to go too fast, so these weren't the most challenging burpees in terms of cardio, but this was a complex combination move that had you turning each way and definitely made you use your strength and forced you to stabilize.)
Decelerator had a mix of more basic and move complex moves. I think we see more complicated compound moves in here than in any of the other workouts. This is definitely fun and keeps you engaged. Because of the difficulty of some of the moves, it makes sense that this is the last workout you add into P90X3. I liked getting to try new exercises that I had never done before. Variety is fun!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stride Box Review

Recently, I subscribed to Stride Box, a monthly subscription box for runners. For $15 per month, you get a box that includes nutrition for athletes (like gels and nutrition bars) and products for runners (like a headlamp or lipbalm).

The nutrition bit is similar to Kona Kase, the monthly subscription box I used to subscribe to that contained food-stuffs for people who are very active. I loved Kona Kase, but after a year of the service, I was starting to get repeat items. To me the job of the subscription boxes is trying new things, so I decided to cancel Kona Kase and explore Stride Box.

I was very excited to check out what Stride Box had to offer this month. Here's a picture of what's inside.

I think the box included a nice variety. As with other monthly subscription boxes, Stride Box had a card listing all the items packed in the box. One interesting thing was that they listed the value of each item. Unlike Kona Kase, I didn't see any discount codes listed on the insert, but perhaps you have to go online for that.

Here's what was in the box.

I'm pretty excited about the value of this box, which seems excellent. I haven't tried any of the products yet, but have a few I'm very excited to experiment with. I love a good recovery drink, so I'm looking forward to trying the Fluid. I got to try the GU recovery drink when I was using Kona Kase and found it made a difference after doing an OCR, so hopefully this will be similarly good. (Because finding the GU locally has been hard.) I'm also excited to try the bonus salted caramel GU. I've heard many people speak very favorably about it, so it will be fun to try a new flavor of GU. Also, you can't go wrong with anti-chafing cream for your long runs. I use a anti-chafing stick all the time but could try this too since it has bonus moisturizing. 

There are a couple of products I'm less likely to use. For example, I'm not a huge user of electrolyte add-ins for my fluids. Maybe I should. I do sweat, but not so much that I feel I need extra electrolytes or that I've had my performance hampered by this sort of thing. I only occasionally use electrolyte brews during the hottest days of summer. I'll stash these for then. (I also have some bonus electrolyte mixes saved from Kona Kase.) I'm also not sure that I'll use the lace lockers. I'm sure they work well, but they are super dorky looking. While I don't mind this per say, I also don't feel that my shoes coming undone is something I worry about a ton. I've only had it happen in a race once (the Gives a Hoot 5K in Northampton). I'm not fast enough that having to stop to tie my shoes will matter in most races. Plus, I usually run for fun instead of to PR. 

All in all, I'm pretty excited about the Stride Box. The value seems great, the products are interesting, and it's always fun to get mail. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you're a runner or into endurance fitness. (Kona Kase is good too.)

My Stride Box actually came in the mail at a funny time. For those of you who have been following my blog, you know I've been training for the race series that the running club I'm in is doing this year. The series kicks off on April 6 with an 8 miler. I've been training hard three days a week with a speed session, a tempo run, and a long run. I cross train on the other days, in general doing another cardio and a couple of strength training days. I also try to do a day of stretching/yoga (which I admit I totally dislike.) Things had been going very well up until last Wednesday. 

Back in November, while doing the Cider Donut 10K in Amherst, I injured my left calf while running up one of the hills on the course. Over the last three plus months I've been working hard to rehab my calf. I've done foam rolling, compression socks, yoga/dynamic stretching, and strengthening moves, such as calf raises. Once my calf was starting to feel better in early January, I started adding hill repeats into my workouts to strengthen the calf even more. 

This seemed to be going great! I was getting much stronger on hills, which was a good thing since lots of the races in the race series have hills. I was also feeling more confident about my running since I could tackle a hilly course. 

Last Wednesday, on a day with unpleasant weather, I was doing some hill repeats on the treadmill at the gym. Because of the polar vortex, I've been on the treadmill a lot this winter. While I don't prefer it for hills, it does give you some flexibility with steepness and length for your hills. Since I'd been doing well with my calf, I decided to tackle a few longer and trickier hills. After the first long hill I knew something was wrong -- my calf was hurting oddly. With determination, if not smarts, I still finished my workout tackling the rest of my hills. I foam rolled and later in the day felt okay. 

So on Saturday I decided to go for an eight mile long run to prepare for the 8 mile race in early April. Things went only okay. I felt sluggish and my legs felt heavy. When I finished the run it was clear that my left calf was again in a world of hurt. I had obviously done more "damage" on Wednesday's run than I thought.

Obviously this is a huge bummer. I had to take some days off from training especially since my upper hamstring started to hurt in addition to my calf -- probably because I was negatively adjusting my stride during my eight mile run without noticing because of my calf. Yesterday, I was able to do a three mile slow run (for me 10:30/mile) and felt okay. My calf seems fine today as well. 

I think I might just need to take it easier with the hills/speed training for a while. This is kind of a bummer since I was hoping to really race well in the 8 miler on April 6. However being healthy is more important than being fast since I'm registered for the first two races in the race series on April 6 (8 milers) and 26 (10K). Being able to participate is key. The 8 miler is going to be a little bit hilly, so I'm going to have to make sure to stay safe. Hopefully I'll be able to do a bit of leg work before then and feel stronger. 

I also have a fun run that I'm doing this Sunday with my dad and stepmom. In honor of my dad and my birthday's we're doing the Max's O'Hartford 5K.The race looks flat, fast, and fun. It will be a great time with family. I am glad that I was able to do that slow run yesterday. I was worried at first when everything happened last week that I wouldn't even be able to participate in the 5K. Now I know that I can -- I'll just have to go slow. 

Hopefully I'll be back to my formerly slightly less slow running speed and can get back into "serious" training. For now, the focus is on getting my calf and hamstring back up to snuff and completing the races I have scheduled. I'll be happy to participate and have a good time. That's more my focus than PRs anyway.