All posts tagged yoga

I didn’t notice much body changes or lose weight for the first five weeks, depressing.. But what a difference now! It seems like it takes at least a month for your body to realize something is going on and adjust to the new daily workload. I think of all the people who quit after phase one when they are so close to success..

My stomach is flatter, I can see my abs a little, along with small muscles showing on the sides. My biceps, which used to be nonexistent, are now slightly visible even without flexing. I can see the outline of the muscles in my shoulders. My whole body shrunk a bit, showing more muscles underneath. Sorry, no photos yet, I will take them soon or later..

This week is my phase 2 recovery week. “Recovery” is a relative term when used in P90X.. Two Core Synergistics and two Yoga X sessions, X stretch and Kenpo X, the latest I dropped all together and replace by whatever I feel like doing that day. I am also teaching the Systema class this week, until the 31st. which gives me three 1:30 workouts on top of P90X.

Ab Ripper X is still my favorite, and has become a bit too easy.. I completed it yesterday (replacing Kenpo), without batting an eye. I will need to add weights of some sort to feel more burn at the end.

If you are doing P90X, one word of advise: Don’t quit! It is hard, it takes time and dedication, and you most likely won’t see changes the first month, but wait a little and keep at it, you won’t be disappointed!

Update: I did finish P90X and kept on going! Almost did it twice. Unfortunately I then left for a long trip out West and didn’t keep up the work. I am back to where I started! It will be time soon to do it again. I did look pretty darn good!

One month done, two to go! I slacked off a bit during the recovery week, skipped a couple days because I didn’t feel well, but came back with a vengeance yesterday with Shoulders Back and Triceps, followed by a systema class (1:30), I was exhausted, but today I feel great. I am still a bit unnerved by not losing any weight, even though I am more toned. Bye-bye love handles! Now do I see slight physical changes in my body. After some research, it seems like this is normal. Your body goes through a 3-4 week period when it doesn’t know how to react to the shock and stores water. Most videos I found on Youtube show a certain pattern depending on body weight. Overly overweight people change the most during the first month, losing a lot of fat, probably because of the diet change. Those in a decent, though not perfect shape, like myself, see changes mostly in the second month. Skinny or already toned people progress rapidly throughout the program. That is my observation anyway. My slow metabolism might require a second round.

I have by the way replaced Kenpo X, which I find ridiculous, by my Systema class. If it doesn’t fall on the right day, I will then modify it to be more Systema-like. I mean constant and rotational movements as opposed to stop-and-go action.

Yoga feels better, since I am getting noticeably stronger. Still, 1:30 is a long time. At least I mostly do enjoy it now, but for a few poses.

One word of caution here.. The temptation to slack off and quit is great at this time. Fortunately or not, I am stubborn and hate not finishing what I set myself to do. I might even up the ante by going to two or three Systema classes per week, as opposed to one. I was able to complete Ab Ripper X without pressing the pause button on Sunday, what a great feeling! I have only one regret after one month, and that it not being able to do a single pull-up yet.

X Stretch which I had not tried yet turned out to be a great routine. No sweating here, just a nice, comfortable warmth and great stretches, some of them you would have already done in the warm-ups and Yoga X. I would definitely suggest anyone to do it during their recovery day every week. It is like a nice body massage, and leaves you with the satisfaction of doing something that day.

Core Synergistics is a very hard workout. You pretty much work your whole body. I was not able to do all the exercises, and don’t expect to, probably until phase three. I suggest you to watch any workout you haven’t done before actually going ahead, because otherwise you lose a lot of time learning the moves and your first session gets botched up.

Shoulders Back and Triceps: Lots of push-ups, some I could not do like the one-handed version. I had to go buy ten-pound dumbbells for certain moves. You end-up with a lot of weight above your head, working those shoulders and triceps. I hit the pause button a few times to catch my breath, but finished nevertheless.

One third of the way through, and I am still impatient. The changes I see do not come fast enough, but I am pushing myself hard, and can’t do much more.. I will take my 30-day photos tonight and hopefully there will be a visible difference. A couple people have noticed and told me so, but I can’t see it much. Maybe on a screen side-by-side, it will be more obvious. I just need to be patient and not give-up. Tonight I have Plyometrics, followed by a Systema class, if I’m not too exhausted. That will be another 2:30 exercise day in a row.

Two weeks completed! Almost, I am about to do Yoga X on my day off, since I skipped it a few days ago and did Ab Ripper X instead.

To my surprise, I gained 5Lbs the first ten days! Disappointing, since I am hoping to drop 15Lbs during the twelve weeks. It turns out that this isn’t unusual at the beginning of each phase. The body reacts to soreness by storing water everywhere. I did reduce my calories intake a bit, and bingo, I am back down to 203.5Lbs. I know such small changes mean nothing, but it keeps me motivated. I hope to reach 195Lbs by mid July. That would be of course more than a 5Lbs fat loss, since I am also putting on muscle mass. I did replace Kenpo X by a systema class plus Ab Ripper X, and it easily made up for it. I was wondering about dropping Yoga this week, but I am committed to this program, and I can’t start cheating now.

Creatine: I got myself a kilo of creatine. It definitely seems to help getting a few more reps at the end, especially when doing abs. I didn’t load as much as product manufacturers suggest (20g/day for 5-7 days), but did 15g/day for five days. Now I take 5g 30 minutes before a workout.

Kenpo X: I have much to say about Kenpo X. Consider it a cardio workout, and nothing else. The P90X book calls Kenpo a “raw street fighting style.” I disagree. Do not hope to use your Kenpo X to defend yourself, or you might get in trouble. The punches are ‘stop-and-back’ classical karate style with a lot of tension. There are a couple problems associated with that. First, why hurt your joints by stopping your arm in mid air and pulling back? This sudden reversal of kinetic energy is wasteful and pulls quite a bit on your joints. Second, when you punch someone, you want the energy generated by mass and movement to transfer to your target, not bounce right back to you. Translation: You must keep a loose shoulder for your punch to be efficient. Instead of stop-and-back, I punch in a circular or elliptical motion. I do not slow down my punches at any time during this motion. If I was to hit something, most of the energy would be transfered. Same for the blocks. If you don’t have to block, don’t. Redirect attacks with circular motion. I try to keep constant motion during Kenpo X, no linear back-and-forth movements. You could do the same for kicks, but I left that part unchanged. After all, this is not a self defense workout, but a cardio one. I might post a video here later to explain those changes.

Legs and Back: Probably the easiest of the resistance series for me. Easiest doesn’t mean easy.. I think my daily bicycle rides, though short, helped me quite a bit. Not much to say here, just that it is a sound, classic workout, like most of the others.

X Stretch: I haven’t tried yet. The last day of weeks 1 through 4 is supposed to be either off or X Stretch. Since I skipped a couple days, I had to catch up during my day off.

After two weeks of training, I can’t see any difference in my body shape yet, and it is too soon for that. I am just happy to be sticking with the program. 1:15 of exercise a day actually takes much more time. Consider meal preparations (6/day), shopping, calorie counting on, more showers, more laundry… So, I estimate more like a 2:00 to 2:30 daily commitment. I still try to go to my Systema class once or twice a week.

Two more weeks and I will be posting about the recovery week four and my results at the end of phase one. And now, on to Yoga X. I hate that one… Oh well…

I finally decided to get myself a new body! Well, sort of.. I have been practicing Systema for five years now, and reached a plateau which I deem to be physical. Problem is, I find it very hard to stay motivated as far as working out goes.. Forget going to the gym, although there is a lot of eye candy at mixed gender venues. Let’s face it, I need structure, something to stick to, a plan of some sort. So, I searched the net for something that would suit my needs.

Everything seemed to point to P90X. It is a very hard program, 90 days, about 1:15 a day of strenuous workouts, along with a nutrition plan that probably will make my French ancestors turn in their graves. The box came, containing twelve DVDs, a nutrition book and workout book. The only things you need are a pull-up bar (you’ll be doing a lot of those!) and dumbbells. I thought it would be one DVD per week, but you actually use different disks every day.

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Looking at the nutrition book left me a bit puzzled. For the first month, I am supposed to eat 3000 calories a day, 20% fats, 30% carbohydrates, and 50% proteins. Let me tell you, that little fat and carbs is nothing. I find it difficult to keep them down, while consuming enough proteins. I don’t think I could do it without Whey protein powder. If you are thinking about getting into P90X, or any similar exercise regimen, plan on spending good money on quality food and supplements.

I am now 6’2”, 200Lbs. Not bad for a 43yo, but I could bulk up a bit, especially on the arms, and lose enough belly to see my six-pack abs (I know they are in there somewhere). I probably won’t have to lose any weight, just redistribute it. You won’t see my before photos yet, because I don’t like them. I will post them later, when I see some visible improvements. Who wants to see a half naked middle-aged Frenchman anyway, right?

Here is a brief overview of my first few days, and what I think of the different workouts:

Ab Ripper X: Only sixteen minutes long, you do it along with other workouts. I have always been good at abs, so no problem there, I can almost keep up with these guys, but for some reps in the last five minutes. You really feel a nice burn with these exercises, lower and upper abs, the later which I seem to have disregarded in the past, given the pain I feel now. There is only one way to get a six-pack, and that is to lower you percentage of body fat to at least 10% (15% for women). No amount of exercise will do it. Ab Ripper X though is certainly a good start.

Plyometrics: It’s all about jumping around, up and down. My legs are still sore from the day before last. One hour is pretty hard. I hit the pause button a few times to drink water and dry myself with a towel. Your heart rate goes way up, and you sweat buckets. I felt pretty good after, more from the accomplishment of finishing it than the workout itself. It’s a hell of a way to start the day.

Chest and Back: That’s when the dumbbells come in. I got a set at Goodwill for $23, the kind that use sliding plates. Bad idea… You end-up changing weights all the time, pressing the pause button every few minutes. A one hour workout takes one and a half. I need to get a few pairs: 10Lbs, 25Lbs, and 30Lbs, for now. 25Lbs is what I use the most right now. My friend Ted loaned me a pull-up bar you put on a door frame. It works fine, but I have seen better ones, allowing a wider grip, at Walmart, of all places. Right now I can’t do even one pull-up, so I put my feet on a chair. If one word defines “Chest and Back,” it’s “push-ups.” I did 23 on the first day, but I know I can go up to 30 on a good day.

Shoulders and Arms: Bring on the weights! Lots of curls, triceps, dips with a chair. It is hard (I suspect none of these twelve workouts will be easy..), but quite fun. My left shoulder is much weaker than my right, due to a dislocation a few years ago. My elbow joints hurt on the inside, I wonder what I could do to take care of that.. That is one workout however I will be looking forward to.

Yoga X: I’ll be honest here, the first half really sucks. I am as flexible as a cutting board and could do practically none of it. The book says it is based on Hatha Yoga, but the first half is more like Iyengar, which I do not like. I prefer a more dynamic yoga, without so many balance and holding poses (though I can stay in tree pose forever). I was almost going to give-up and replace it with something else, like Cardio X. The problem is that if I start making one concession, I will make others.. I really want to stick to the program as closely as I possibly can, without missing any days or avoiding exercises I dislike.

I just finished day 4, and will describe the last workouts of this week in a few days, namely “Legs and Back,” “Kenpo X,” which by the way is in my opinion practically worthless for self defense as presented in P90X (I only mention this because they did mention self-defense), and “X Stretch,” which you can do on your off day. Feel free to ask any questions or give me advise in the comments box below..

Well, that’s a bit of a pompous title for such a simple routine. I am not a fitness (nor combat) expert, mind you. The question everyone should ask themselves about exercising is “why?” Aside from the obvious health benefits. Knowing why, you can find out how.. My goal is to improve my Systema, and of course, looking better naked wouldn’t hurt. I have learned that there are three important exercises related to martial arts: Push-ups, abs and squats. You can find a flurry of great drills online to build muscles, some pertaining to strength building, others to looks, but those three are the strict minimum. I would even add pull-ups to the list, if I was doing them, but I still need to set-up a bar somewhere in the back yard.. By the way, follow my advise at your own risk.. As I said already, I am no expert, and I might be wrong. Advise from professionals is welcome by the way..

Push-ups: Are great to build your shoulders, arms, and strenghten your wrists, if you do them the right way, that is. They also can teach you to relax muscles that are not necessary to hold your position or go up and down. Breathing properly is of the utmost importance, as with any other exercise, your immediate strength comes from oxygen. Food energy gives you endurance, but in martial arts or dealing with violence (I mean civilian), you most likely wouldn’t be engaging long enough to deplete those resources. Not breathing properly though will bring you to your knees fairly quickly. So, get into your push-up position considering it mostly a breathing and relaxation exercise. Keep your body straight, but do not tense up too much. Muscles burn oxygen quickly, and you need to conserve it. Besides, tense muscles when hit will get damaged, and we want to avoid injuries when training in martial arts. Remember that drunk drivers often don’t get hurt in accidents, because they stay loose. You want to keep just enough tension to keep things in place, no more. That by the way includes your face muscles. Squinting, puffing and grunting won’t help you. Just keep breathing slowly in through your nose, out through your mouth. These principles hold true for the other exercises by the way. One last thing to consider is your wrist position. Bending your wrist ninety degrees is not a natural position. It might be less painful to have your hands flat on the ground, but there is nothing to gain from it, and it isn’t good for your wrists. In Systema, as in many other martial arts using strikes, we do push-ups on our fists. Make sure you leave your thumb ‘outside’. You will strengthen your wrists that way, which is great for striking. Do your push-ups slowly. I start by doing as many as I can, then rest a couple minutes before the next drill. I repeat the operation between all my other exercises, and one last time at the end of my session.
Holding a push-up position is also a great way to gain core strength. I like to stay in push-up position, elbows unlocked, relax and breathe with my eyes closed, listening to a song on my Ipod. You might only be able to hold one minute at first, but ten minutes is an attainable goal. I am now up to nine minutes, when I can relax enough. That’s two songs.. Knowing how much time is left seems to make it harder, so listening to songs allows you to forget about the time and concentrate on the music. You should try not to feel sorry for yourself and just keep going. You can always do more than what you think is possible. The mind quits first, not the body. If you can reverse that, you’re doing better than me.

Abs: Everyone wants a sixpack.. However, nutrition plays a big role here, and you won’t get one eating ‘normal’ meals. The goal in martial arts is core strength, which helps you keep a good form while moving around, and is also very important for ground fighting. I start by laying on my back, and doing a hundred crunches, looking up, lifting my shoulders off the ground. You don’t need to go all the way up, just rise straight up a few inches. Keep breathing, and use only the necessary muscles. After resting a couple minutes, and doing a series of push-ups, I repeat the operation, but with my left arm along my side, and my right hand behind my head, lifting my right shoulder up and to the left fifty times. Rest, push-ups, rest, and I repeat on the other side. At last, I put both my arms along my sides, straigthen my legs and do fifty leg raises up to ninety degrees (straight up), and down an inch from the ground. That works your lower abs. The numbers here depend on you. Do as many as you can, and that will be your starting numbers. As it gets easier, you can add weight by holding something heavy behind your head or on your chest. I use a cannon ball.. If you do so however, you will have to rest your muscles for a few days between sessions. Otherwise, you can do it without weight every day.

Squats: This one is very simple. Keep your back straight, heels on the ground, and slowly go down while trying not to bend forward. Breathe, relax. Repeat as many times as you can, then do a few more (good general policy ;-). In a fight, real or training, you don’t want top bend over or backwards, too dangerous. Someone can easily grab your head then and smash it on their knee, ground, or whatever other hard surface might be around. When you go down, you should keep your form and use your legs, just like you should do when picking up something on the floor. I do fifty squats, but again, that depends on your level.

Pull-ups: One thing I learned about pull-ups is to do them with the back of you hands facing you, not the other way around, which is pretty useless. Imagine having to go over a wall.. You can’t grab a wall palms up.. I am pretty bad at pull-ups, so I will probably start with a low bar, hanging at an angle, so that I can do more than one. As I get better, I will keep raising the bar until I can hang straight from it and do at least a few pull-ups. If you think about it, you really should be able to pull up your own weight, at least a couple times to go over an obstacle.. Sometimes, you might need to climb to safety. Accidents happen, you never know..

Cardio: Don’t forget to exercise your heart.. Running is good, but I can’t run with that titanium rod inside my femur, the impact hurts my hip, where the screws are.. So, I decided to try rope jumping. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but it seems to be a great workout and very popular with boxers. Right now bicycling works fine, although it isn’t quite intense enough, but it’s almost July here in Florida, and the temperature is in the high nineties. I wish there was an Olympic pool nearby, that would be great.

Right now, I exercise two to three times a week on top of my one or two Systema classes, and one Yoga class a week at Rosemary Court. Yoga helps my back tremendously, and I need to be more flexible. Not that I need to be able to kick high, we don’t really do that in Systema. I kick knees.. If I want to kick someone in the head, I’ll put him down first and kick his head then, much safer that way.. I will work my way up to a daily routine. It is hard to find motivation at home, but I am seeing some results, and that makes me wanting more. When the going gets though, just remember: “Pain is weakness leaving the body!”