Monday, February 3, 2014

My 24 Hour Relationship with a 3 Day Cleanse

Month one of P90X3 was done and even though I lost a full 1.5% of body fat and definitely saw strength gains, the scale hadn't budged. I know my nutrition this past month was to blame.  While I eat sensibly most of the time, I did have a few late night treats and a couple extra "cheat meals" this month. Beachbody sells a supplement shake called Shakeology and many people claim doing a 3 day "cleanse" with Shakeology helped them bust through a plateau.

I felt I needed something drastic to reset my eating habits, so I purchased a bag of Shakeology off of Ebay ($40 cheaper than if you go through Beachbody) and convinced my significant other to do this 3 day adventure with me. I had purchased a sampler pack of Shakeology a month ago, so I knew what to expect in terms of taste and thought I could handle 3 days of nothin' but shakes. (After all, I successfully completed the 17 Day Diet... I can commit to nutritionally sound dietary changes.)  I extensively researched Shakeology, as the FDA does not regulate any supplements, so you have to be very careful with any supplement; they can have adverse side effects and can also interfere with medications you might be taking, and some are just plain dangerous. But after reading reviews and doing my research, I felt comfortable giving it a try.

The Shakeology "cleanse" isn't a traditional cleanse… you drink 3 shakes a day and eat some fruit and a portion of protein and big salad/veggies for one meal. You also drink green tea and lots of water. And you do this for 3 days straight. Some people lose weight while doing this; most claim it helps them recommit to a healthy lifestyle. (Of course, I couldn't find any negative reviews of the cleanse, so perhaps I shall be the first?)

My spouse and I woke up Thursday morning and in lieu of our cups of coffee, we had a cup of green tea. Shortly after, we had our breakfast of greenberry Shakeology. Technically, you're only supposed to mix the Shakeology with ice and water during the cleanse, but if I had to drink this 9 times in 3 days, I needed something to disguise the taste of algae-fied pond water. We mixed it with Trop50 pomegranate/blueberry juice - not too much added sugar, but enough to add some flavor. Unfortunately, it was a horrible flavor, but we managed to gulp it down. Most reviewers I found online who do this cleanse suffer from a lack of energy, so I quickly completed my P90X3 Yoga workout, before my energy ran out. Two hours later, we had our "snack" of fruit.

Time was ticking by so slowly Thursday. The weather was horrible - cold and rainy - and it was killing us not to drink hot chocolate. Instead we had some more green tea. Lunch was another greenberry Shakeology, this time with low sugar apple juice - again just adding approximately 50 calories to the shake.  Even though I really liked the apple juice/greenberry combo when I tried it 3 weeks ago, it was all I could do to not regurgitate it half way through. It took me 15 minutes to finally finish a mere 8 oz shake.

They claim Shakeology reduces your cravings and it certainly reduced mine… my stomach felt heavy and  nauseated after that second shake. Our second snack of the day (which is a 3rd shake) could be consumed in the afternoon or after dinner. I didn't want to touch another one, so I set my mind to not eating anything prior to dinner - it actually wasn't too hard to do.

A horrible headache kicked in around 1pm that day. It could have been the weather or it could have been the lack of solid food.  My mood was depressed, I had no energy, and I felt entirely lazy and unmotivated. My spouse was feeling the same way and actually fell asleep on lunch break (we both work from home). At 4pm, my spouse - who at this point resembled a zombie - emerged from the home office exclaiming "I need FOOOOOD!"  Even in my lethargic, depressed state, I nearly fell on the floor laughing.

I began cooking dinner at 4:30pm, a half hour earlier than normal - baked chicken with a huge salad.  I swear, greens have never tasted so good and that chicken was probably the best chicken I've ever cooked in my life. After dinner, I saw that giant bag of Shakeology staring at me on the counter and I knew I was supposed to have one more shake that night.  I couldn't do it - if I had to drink one more of those shakes I knew it wouldn't make it all the way down and stay down.

Defeated, I tentatively inquired as to if my spouse wanted to keep doing the cleanse. The response was "I think one day is fine." With a huge sigh of relief, I smiled for the first time that day.  Unfortunately, the headache and extreme lethargy continued throughout the rest of the night.

Friday I woke up and ate Van's Power Grains Waffles and a cup of fruit for breakfast and I felt amazing. We had set out to do a 3 day cleanse and finished only one day.  The perfectionist in me was tempted to beat myself up and feel like a failure. But I learned quite a bit from this 24 hour "cleanse."

  • Humans need to eat solid food. There is a satisfaction and satiety that comes from physically chewing good, nutritious food. Not being able to fully consume real food for 10 hours made me savor every bite of my chicken and salad. This in turn, made me realize how often I mindlessly eat without truly enjoying the taste and texture. Lesson to move forward with:  practice mindful eating.
  • There are a lot of pros (and cons) to fasting and cleansing, but ultimately each individual needs to determine what's best for him or her.  Don't cleanse or fast just because that's the fad right now or some "expert" on the Dr. Oz show said to do it. After 10 hours of "cleansing", I determined it was not worth it for me to continue doing so, if it meant feeling physically ill and emotionally wrecked. Lesson to move forward with: what works for someone else may not be the best thing for you.
  • There is no magic pill. I have always been a firm believer in not taking supplements for weight loss nor replacing meals with shakes/bars. Because when the weight comes off, will you continue to consume those products for the rest of your life?  Instead, learning proper nutrition and portion control and eating a balanced diet sets you up for a lifestyle change, which aids in weight loss and then weight maintenance.  Could I have lost a few pounds had I continued the "cleanse"? Probably. Experiencing a migraine and mood alterations was not worth it to me to lose a quick few pounds that way. What I gained was the affirmation that, for me, eating well and counting calories is a tried and true method, with minimal negative physical/emotional side effects.
Have you tried a cleanse? Thoughts? Positive experience? Negative experience? Please share in the comments!

P90X3 Transition Week - Pilates X & Accelerator Reviews

P90X3 transition week continued with Pilates X and Accelerator and then finished with CVX and X3 Yoga, which were workouts also found in Block 1.

Pilates X - This workout has you laying on the floor the entire time, mostly working your core and flexibility. Tony also wants you to focus on rapid, forceful breathing which I dropped 2 minutes in because it sounded like I was in labor. I wanted to focus on nailing the exercises and form as best I could and that loud breathing made me lose my concentration. Aside from a few challenging side planks, this workout was fairly restful for transition week (could be because I wasn't doing the lamaze breathing). Pilates X only shows up in the transition weeks between blocks and twice during Block 3, which is good since it is not a workout I particularly enjoy.

Accelerator - This is meant as a cardiovascular workout, but also includes plenty of bodyweight resistance training. Out of 20 exercises total (which you perform for one minute each), 9 involve some variation of a plank: mountain climbers, burpees, walking planks, swimmer's planks, etc. The final move is particularly intense, involving a donkey kick (hands on floor, kick both feet up in the air behind you), then landing on the ground pulling one leg through to the side while raising an arm in the air and attempting to balance in a one legged frog stance. (It looks much cooler than my words are alluding to.) However, I would highly recommend either pressing pause and practicing this move slowly and/or not worrying about keeping up with Tony and his posse. As with the majority of transition week workouts, Accelerator only appears in the P90X3 program two more times, which is a shame as it is a great workout with a lot of variety.

No external weights are used in any transition week workout (aside from CVX) and I found myself missing push ups and pull ups, in addition to other weighted strength moves. The transition week workouts were nice to add variety into the schedule, but I am glad some of them only appear a few more times.

30 days down, 60 to go. Next up: Block 2!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

P90X3 Transition Week - Isometrix & Dynamix Workout Reviews

Phase 1 of P90X3 consists of three weeks of intense workouts and then one transition week with a different set of workouts. I thought "transition" meant a time for the body to take a breather and refresh for Phase 2. I was wrong.
P90X3 Transition Week is Not for the Weary
The first two workouts of the transition week are Isometrix and Dynamix, or the yin and yang of stretching/flexibility/mobility workouts.  Isometrix requires you to hold a fixed position for 45 seconds. Most of these are yoga poses, including extreme variations of plank, tree pose, chair, and down dog. When I say extreme variations, I mean things like side planks with upper leg lifted, regular planks with one arm extended, and down dogs with one arm gripping the contralateral ankle and the other foot extended skyward. You lose your balance just concocting that pose in your mind.

I tend to not enjoy things I'm not good at, and many of the Isometrix moves challenged me extensively. I finished the workout and immediately ran to the P90X3 calendar to see how many more times I'd have to endure this workout. (Luckily, it's only on the schedule 2 more times. Whew!)

Dynamix, on the other hand, has you moving throughout each pose, with very little static or isometric holds. It is very heavy on lower body mobility and flexibility and I found myself wishing Tony Horton had included a few more upper body movements. While there are a few plank variations, which certainly challenge the upper body, the only upper body specific move was a simple shoulder stretch. Especially since many P90X3 workouts are driven by pushing and pulling movements, a few more upper body mobility moves would round out this session nicely.

The interesting thing about Dynamix is that, on the P90X3 calendar, in addition to being a workout during the Transition Weeks, it is also listed as an optional workout for your rest days. So you can either rest (not do a workout) or do Dynamix.  This is akin to saying you could either read a magazine or you could read a 300 page novel.  You should not pop the Dynamix workout into the DVD player on a rest day and expect a light stretch and no sweat. In my first three weeks of P90X3, I took a full rest day each week. After completing Dynamix during the transition week, I'm glad I did. One full day of rest does a body good.

The rest of Transition week involves X3 Yoga and CVX from phase 1, in addition to two new workouts: Pilates X3 and Accelerator. After the first two workouts, I'm already expecting intensity.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wrist Pain During Workouts? Try Strength Wraps

My snazzy Green/Black Strength Wraps
Prior to P90X3 showing up at my door, I knew I needed to do something to help my wrists during the excessive push ups and pull ups that the P90X3 advertisements promised were coming my way. I've always had wrist pain during push ups, specifically in my left wrist. I've tried all the alleged antidotes over the past few years, from using hex dumbbells to neutralize my push up grip to modifying my body and hand position. Nothing worked. I could go a few days pain free, but then the gnawing pain in my radial wrist joint would flare up and I'd have to lay off push ups for several weeks.

Then I found Strength Wraps.  They were listed among several pieces of equipment on a random website's "Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Cross Fitters." They're primarily used to support the wrists during overhead presses using heavy weights, but they're marketed as versatile enough to use during your entire workout, without compromising form or function during body weight exercises. I ordered a pair for myself after reading several reviews and watching a few "how to" videos. Everyone raved about them and they seemed simple enough to use. I was hoping they would work for me too.

I am three weeks into P90X3 and haven't had wrist pain at all in the past month, thanks to the Strength Wraps. I wear them for any workout involving push ups, pull ups, or a significant amount of planks.  One of the P90X3 workouts is entirely push ups and pull ups (The Challenge). This week during The Challenge workout, I did approximately 48 regular pushups, 90 modified push ups, and 40 assisted pull ups - my wrists felt great afterward. They barely knew they had a workout.

The Strength Wraps are comfortable, washable, and easy to loosen and tighten. They do not get in the way of any exercise or movement and I barely know they're there.  They come in a variety of attractive colors and styles too! I am constantly amazed that these simple wraps aid my performance and allow me to push past boundaries that were previously dictated by physical discomfort.

I am not being remunerated for this review in any way. I just really believe in this product and after 10 years of suffering from wrist pain during push ups, it's amazing to have found a simple, cost effective solution. Check them out for yourself at .

Disclaimer: If you feel any pain during a workout, always STOP and consult a physician first and foremost. This blog post, nor any products recommended, are not a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis by a qualified medical practitioner. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Traveling While On P90X3

After only 7 days of P90X3, my work schedule called for me to travel out of state for 4 days. From day 1 of P90X3, I was planning how I would deal with this bump in the road.

Here's how I dealt with staying committed to P90X3 while traveling. If you're on P90X3 and have to travel, perhaps some of these tips can help.

- P90X3 allows a rest day every 7th day. My travel day fell on day 8 of P90X3, so I just swapped the day 8 workout for my rest day.  Therefore, while I was flying and getting settled in my destination, I didn't have to worry about a workout. For my return flight, I again used a rest day.

- Because my travel had me in a different time zone, I chose to get up and work out first thing in the morning. Even though I was working out at 5:30am MT, my body thought it was 7:30am ET, so it was fairly doable. I knew that by the time I got home from work at 5:30pm MT (7:30pm ET), I would not feel up to a workout.

- Luckily, the workouts that I would need to do were pretty travel-friendly. X3 Yoga and Agility X require no equipment. So I planned to complete those as the schedule dictated and packed those DVDs in my suitcase.

- X3 Yoga was very easy to do while in the hotel room. Throw down a towel and knock out the yoga.

- Agility X was a little more complicated. It does require tape on the floor, which I packed from home and used on the hotel room carpet. However, I was placed on a 3rd floor room, meaning all the jumps and running required in Agility X made me self conscious for my neighbors beneath me... especially at 5:30am local time. I modified by not jumping as much, which did weaken the workout a little bit, but I'll make up for it in the next Agility X workout.

- Eating while traveling is always a challenge. I had packed some protein bars and almonds, and tried to have soup and salad when possible. And I kept my water bottle full and with me at all times.

- Rest and rejuvenation are important. I had a few extra hours at the airport on the way home and got a chair massage at Xpress Spa. If you ever get the opportunity for one of these chair massages, take it. I've had two in the past year and they are THE best massages I've ever had in my life.

- Walk, walk, walk. I wear a pedometer every day and aimed to hit 10,000 steps, especially on the days I was flying.

Overall, I accomplished my P90X3 travel goals and resumed my scheduled workouts upon arriving home with no problem.  The key to maintaining fitness while traveling is to plan ahead as much as possible. Luckily, the P90X3 system makes workouts fairly portable.

Two weeks in - still on schedule!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My P90X3 Journey - One Week Down

Thoughts After My First Week of P90X3
  • 30 minute workouts rock. After 30 minutes, I feel plenty worked, but not so burnt I can't muster energy to get through the rest of my day. It is awesome to get your workout done and get on with your day. 
  • Pre-workout drinks taste like antifreeze, but they probably help. The P90X3 Ultimate Kit came with an Energy & Endurance pre-workout drink. I decided to incorporate it into my daily routine to get the full P90X3 experience.  The drink is supposed to be lemon-lime flavor, but let me tell you, it's no Gatorade. I chug it down 15-20 minutes before my workout. Most days this week, I did feel pretty energetic throughout the workouts. This could also be placebo effect. 
  • Recovery drinks taste amazing and they definitely help. The P90X3 Ultimate Kit also came with a Rest & Recovery post-workout drink. It tastes like orange creamsicle and is VERY good. (My spouse, who isn't doing P90X3, will sit on the couch and watch me do my workout just so I'll share 2 sips of my Rest & Recovery drink after I finish.)  Prior to P90X3, I was doing fairly intense strength and cardio workouts, e.g. boot camps,  kettlebells, sandbags.  It felt like every other day, a different body part was sore afterward. This week, I have been surprised at how NOT sore I've been. I did notice some soreness after the pullup/pushup workout (The Challenge), but nowhere near what I was expecting after spending 30 minutes non stop doing those exercises. I truly believe the Rest & Recovery drink has helped my muscles and body recover from these pretty intense workouts. If you do P90X3, you don't have to buy the Beachbody formula; a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio should work too. Many people swear by chocolate milk as a post workout drink. Your local nutrition store could help you too. 
  • Pullups, where have you been all of my life? I think women traditionally shy away from hard core upper body movements, simply because it's more challenging for us - we find our strength more easily in our legs. I am so glad I purchased the chin up bar with the P90X3 system, as it's challenging me and pushing me in ways I haven't pursued before. If you start P90X3, get the chin up bar; you don't have to get the one through Beachbody, as it's overpriced. Target, WalMart, or your local sports store will sell one for $30-$40 cheaper. But get one! You'll be glad you did. 
  • You will get out what you put in. This is true with anything in life, but especially when it comes to health and wellness. A popular quote in the fitness world is that you can't outtrain a bad diet. If you're putting in the 30 minutes a day to workout, you have to spend the other 23 1/2 hours a day eating well, being active, and getting enough sleep. It's all part of the equation. Working out has never been an issue for me; eating well is the challenge. But I am committed to progress and reaching my goals and that mindset has helped me stick with the eating plan. I can't say it hasn't made me cranky and a little unpleasant to be around some days, but I'm sure that will pass after the first week or so. It's all worth it in the end, and luckily my family/friends are supportive of that. 
After 1 week of P90X3, would I recommend it?  Yes!  If you have baseline strength and cardiovascular fitness and like to be challenged, go for it.  If you are new to working out or extremely out of shape, I would recommend starting with a fitness plan that is NOT extreme and working your way up to P90X3. 

P90X3 - Days 5 & 6 - Workout Review

Read about Days 1 & 2 Workouts here.
Read about Days 3 & 4 Workouts here. 

Day 5 - CVX:  Fast heart rate, short rest breaks: that's my 6 word minimalistic review of the P90X3 CVX (Cardiovascular) workout.

Maybe the workouts are catching up with me, or maybe I was just having an off day. But this was the hardest workout to get through so far. CVX is full of faster paced full body moves like lunges, jumps, high knees, but you carry a weight in your hands the entire time and lift that in various directions as your lower body lunges and squats. Tony recommends not using anything heavier than a 12 lb weight; I used a 6 lb sandbell, and that was heavy enough.  CVX is the day after the pull up and pushup workout (The Challenge), so my upper body was really feeling the movement today.

I had to push pause and take several extended rest breaks throughout and never was I so glad to see the P90X3 screen clock hit 0:00. But I did get through it… glad I don't have to see it again for another week.

Day 6 - The Warrior: After CVX zapping my energy the day before, I was worried about my stamina getting through this no equipment, full bodyweight moves workout.  Surprisingly, I nailed almost every move.  Elevator pushups, rolling boats, and one legged squat jumps are just a few of the challenges in this workout. But by far the hardest was the thumbs up pushup, which is essentially a plank, pushup, and then plank with contralateral limbs raised off the ground, so that you're in plank position with only one hand and one foot on the ground at a time. I modified by not doing the pushup in the middle, but still struggled with the 1 arm/1 leg plank.

The 30 minutes went by quickly as Tony structures each set with a upper body move, a cardio blast, a core move and then a lower body exercise. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat with a different set structured the same.

Overall, a great workout - elevated heart rate, lots of sweat, and feeling pretty tough at the end.