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.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

P90X3 - Days 3 & 4 - Workout Review

Read my review of Days 1 & 2 workouts here

Day 3 - Yoga:  The 3rd workout in the series is yoga. However, given the P90X3 mantra of "work as hard as you can in 30 minutes," you don't spend a lot of time in each pose. I found this to be quite refreshing as I am easily bored spending multiple breaths holding various poses.  Tony takes you through a vast range of poses: warrior, crescent, chair, tree, crow, triangle, sun salutation. And in between each pose is a vinyasa (a flow of plank, chaturanga, up dog, down dog). The workout ends with some floor work, consisting of plow, shoulder stands and a figure 4 series.

I was actually sweating at the end of the workout. I have fairly good flexibility and was familiar with almost all of the poses, but I still was challenged by several of them and have room to improve.

So far in P90x3, I have been impressed with the variety of workouts. It's nice to do something different each day. Having a yoga day definitely contributes to the enjoyability of the overall program as well as provides an opportunity for non-impact, stress reducing, flexibility enhancing, deep breathing movement - something our bodies definitely need.

Gator Girls Do Pullups

Day 4 - The Challenge: Pushups & Pullups… non stop for 30 minutes - that is The Challenge. The key to this workout is to pick a number for both exercises and hit that number of repetitions for each set of respective exercise. I picked 3 pull-ups (assisted with a resistance band) and 5 push ups (non modified).  Since those were lower numbers and you get anywhere from 30-60 seconds for each round, I had a second number of modified pull ups (12 - resistance band pull downs) and modified push ups (10) to add on after I finished my non modified exercises in each set.  I hit my numbers every single time except for the military pushups - I could only do those on my knees.  As you do The Challenge each week, you try to beat your numbers from the previous week.

The 30 minutes went by surprisingly fast, and it definitely worked all muscles in the upper body.  Doing a pull-up, even with a resistance band assisting you, makes you feel pretty bad-a$$, so I'm very much looking forward to working on that goal over the next few months. I even read today that the Marines use 3 pull-ups as their minimum requirement for their annual fitness test (for both males and females).  So I feel my goal of completing 3 non-assisted pull ups by the end of this program is pretty hard core.

4 days in… feeling good.  Who's with me on this? Anyone up for P90X3? Let's bring it!

Friday, January 3, 2014

P90X3 - Days 1 & 2 Workout Review

I began P90X3 on 12/31/13. Here are my initial thoughts on the first two workouts.

Day 1 - Total Synergistics: This workout uses bodyweight, the chin up bar, and dumbbells. The moves are complex, involving multiple major muscle groups within each exercise - hence, working synergistically.  On day 1, I was unable to do the moves on the chin up bar, so I used the resistance bands for those. I was excited to get started with P90X3, so I had a lot of natural energy flowing as I began the workout.  My Ultimate Kit also came with an energy and endurance supplement, so I drank 4 oz of that 20 minutes before beginning my workout. That probably raised my energy level a few notches too.

I am proud to say I could do all of the exercises (sans the chin up bar ones) and I did most of them really well.  I performed all of the pushups in a non-modified format and maintained good form.  I was cautious and chose lighter dumbbells the first time out for some moves and will increase the weight next time. I honestly thought the workout would be harder and was hoping this was just an easier workout to kick off the program. At the end of the 30 minutes, I felt like I could - and should - keep working out and even contemplated jumping on the elliptical machine for a few minutes. I think that might have been that energy supplement talking :). I noticed that this workout is only in month 1, so I am guessing it is one of the easier workouts in the system.

Total Synergistics - P90X3 workout

Day 2 - Agility X:  Put 2 strips of tape on the floor, 3 feet apart. Mark them with X's.  X marks the spot. Hit the spot.  That's the premise of this high speed, agility workout.  The only equipment is your bodyweight and that tape.

It was New Year's Day and I was ready for day 2 of P90X3. It was a rainy day here in Orlando, and despite drinking my energy and endurance drink again, the overcast weather made me a tad less energetic than day 1.  If I had any doubts from day 1 that P90X3 workouts would be less than challenging,  they were all removed by the end of Agility X. This workout had me skating, lunging, jumping, and running all over my taped up hardwood floors. It was entirely nonstop for the full 30 minutes - so much so that I had to press pause twice and take a few breathers. While there are a few planks and pushups in this workout, it is mostly lower body exercises. The pace and variety of movements made this workout fly.  Compared to Synergistics (day 1), I felt thoroughly worked at the end and I didn't have any desire to jump on the elliptical for a few more minutes.

Two days in, so far so good. :)

Agility X - P90X3 workout

Days 3 & 4 - Workout Review

Thursday, January 2, 2014

P90X3 - The Journey Begins

Zero Hour

As I begin my P90X3 journey, it's important to cover some basic information: goals, expectations, equipment, etc.

Time commitment:  P90X3 is based on the fact that it's a quick, in and out, 30 minute workout (it's actually about 33-34 minutes with the cool down). I work a full time job and operate my training business on the side. Plus I have very demanding 4-legged kids and a spouse who I like to spend time with. 30 minutes a day is perfect for busy individuals and I can commit to 7 days a week of working out.

Intensity: Testers of P90X3 lost significant body fat and weight by completing these 30 minute workouts. The reason why is that they're intense. You need to bring it, hard core for 30 minutes straight. Science has shown that high intensity interval training workouts are more effective at reducing fat and improving fitness levels than longer, steady state exercise.

Nutrition: Proper nutrition is imperative to getting great fitness results. I will be following the P90X3 eating plan and since my order came with several supplements, I'll be trying those out and reviewing them too.

Equipment: All of the workouts in P90X3 can be done with bodyweight, dumbbells, and a chin up bar. Resistance bands can be substituted for the dumbbells and chin up bar and modifications are given in each workout. Since I purchased the Ultimate Kit, I now have a chin up bar to complete my home gym. (Note to Beachbody - please include more detailed instructions on putting the chin up bar together. One picture with numbers and dotted lines all over it did not make for an easy hour.) 

My Goals for the next 90-120 days:
I am doing the Elite program after the basic 90 day program - so I will note goal progress at both 90 and 120 days.

  • Lose 10-15 pounds
  • Lose 8% body fat
  • Complete 3 unassisted chin ups
  • Complete 20 consecutive non-modified push ups

First Impressions upon Opening the P90X3 Box:

The P90X3 program comes with a great fitness and nutrition guide - it's worth it to read it BEFORE beginning day 1. In the guide is a fit test, which will show how much progress you've made during the program. The test is a mini-workout in itself. The guide will also help you determine your eating plan. There is also a getting started DVD, which should be watched prior to jumping in day 1 as well.

From a personal trainer's perspective, the P90X3 system is based in science and the creators have put a lot of thought and effort into making a complete package (eating + moving) that, if followed, should help participants reach their fitness goals. I personally believe in all of the principles that guide both the fitness and eating plans. So at this point, having read all the materials, I'm impressed with the program and feel it is high quality and a sound investment.

As mentioned previously, this is marketed as an extreme fitness program. I naturally worry about my ability to undertake such extreme exercise (which is why I don't do CrossFit). But as Tony Horton (the P90X3 trainer) points out, we've got 90 days to build up - we won't be perfect the first time we do each workout.

The only downside thus far has been putting together that darn chin up bar. However, once I did figure it out, it is a super cool home gym addition!

Next stop: Day 1.

Read more about why I chose P90X3 as my New Year's Resolution. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Even Personal Trainers Need Motivation: My P90X3 Resolution

As a personal trainer, I love writing fitness programs for other people, but I get bored with writing them for myself. I look to other trainers to help me advance my own fitness level as well as provide me with new ideas and knowledge that I can use with my clients.

In the latter half of 2013, my own personal fitness motivation really sagged. I dealt with some personal health issues that caused the scale to go up a few pounds despite still working out consistently and watching my diet. (Darn that thyroid!) And other life stressors just got in the way and I found myself just going through the fitness motions without passion or joy.  This was actually a good experience for me as a trainer, though, because it reminds me of what my clients go through and how they need my help and motivation.

And that's what I needed: help and motivation with my personal fitness plan. I came across it in an unusual way. I was reading a blog on the ACE Fitness website and saw an ad for T25, a 25 minute workout system by Shaun T (creator of Insanity).  I clicked over and reviewed it for a few minutes, but then got sidetracked by an ad on that site for P90X3. (Oh the Internet, helping everyone lose their attention span one ad at a time.)

For the next week, I researched P90X3 every way that I could: I watched videos with Tony Horton, read reviews of those who were in the test group, and read blogs of individuals who were just starting the program. P90X3 launched in mid December, so there isn't a lot of "been there, done that" reviews to read, but I researched all that I could. And I was inspired and impressed with what I found.

The marketing worked on me - I purchased the most expensive kit, the Ultimate P90X3, with a chin up bar, a jump mat, Elite workouts, resistance bands, and more. Even after I ordered it, I continued to research and prepare. I was probably just trying to assuage my buyer's remorse after dropping a hefty sum to I still felt good about my purchase though, and once the box arrived with all the goodies, I knew it was a good deal.

Ultimate P90X3 Kit

If you haven't heard of P90X3, here's a brief synopsis. It's from the same creators of P90X and P90X2. However, you don't have to have completed either one of those to do P90X3. (For the record, I have not done either program, nor any other Beachbody fitness program.) This program contains 30 minute workouts focusing on resistance exercise and cardiovascular endurance using body weight and minimal equipment. Along with the exercise plan is an eating plan, focusing on smart choices and realistically moderating intake. There are no gimmicks with the plan - it's nutritionally sound, you're not asked to give up one food group, and you can either count calories or just monitor portions. Because P90X3 is sold by Beachbody, which also has a whole line of supplements, they encourage you to partake in some of them, but it's not mandated by the eating plan.

So on December 31, 2013 I began my P90X3 journey. It will actually be about 120 days, because I am doing the Elite block in addition to the 90 days.  I will chronicle it here and I hope you join me. If anyone reading this is also doing P90X3, please chime in. Let the journey begin! :)

Trainer's note: P90X3 is an extreme fitness program, it is not for everyone. Let me be frank: Participants should have some baseline strength and endurance in order to not hurt themselves doing these activities. Before beginning any exercise program, always consult with your physician.