The fitness project that I began in early February came to an end almost one week ago, but it's taken me some time to reflect upon and process the whole experience. I'm feeling differently than expected, but I'm still really happy with the entire thing. Most importantly, I've learned some valuable lessons about fitness, nutrition and holistic wellness, and I feel like this is just the beginning of a lifelong love of fitness and movement for me.
*You can follow my journey with this project from the beginning - just click THE FITNESS PROJECT category to the right to see all related posts.*
the quick + dirty
Just to quickly recap: I followed the P90X workout regimen, initially using the dietary and nutrition recommendations from this program mixed with the 80 Day Obsession diet program on Beach Body, but I stopped "dieting" after the first month, and began eating as many (healthy/wholesome) calories as I could get in my body. After a few weeks, I realized that the nature of my job meant that I was expending more calories than what would normally be taken into consideration with these dietary recommendations, so I needed to adjust my approach to the diet.
Alright, let's get straight to my results.
Overall, I lost 4 pounds and 5.5 inches. I gained very minimally around my arms, but lost some girth in all other measurements. I was actually trying to put on muscle from very early on, and I have to admit, I wasn't super successful in that endeavour. I absolutely reconfigured the constitution of my body (trimmed, toned, and added muscle to my upper body) through strength training, but I didn't make any massive "gains" (those were almost all mental/emotional for me...) That being said, I'm very happy with my results, and I have no regrets.
I had a vegan diet until about Week 9, at which point I had a couple of eggs and a little bit of cheese (essentially just resumed my eating habits from before the program). I'm still eating very little dairy, and I haven't had eggs in weeks, but this is only because I know what feels best for me, so I eat for optimal energy and digestion more than anything else. Also, just ask me how happy I am to have wine back in my life. (I'm very happy.)
when things nearly fell apart
I said from the beginning that I was blogging about this journey in order to record and share a totally authentic experience with "getting into shape" over 30, and I'm so glad that I did, because I think it's helpful to recognize that there are so many factors that must work together in order to maintain such a demanding routine.
It almost fell apart for me more than once, and although I hardly worked out at all in the final week, I still feel like I finished the program in the best way that I could: respecting my personal circumstances and being grateful for all that I was able to accomplish. As Tony always encourages: I did my best and forgot the rest.
I felt confident and strong more than I ever have before. I also struggled hard, and often; 90 days is a long-ass time - a lot can happen in 90 days...
I struggled with my digestion through the first third of the program, I struggled with my hormones through the second third, and I struggled with energy and mood in the last third of this program. I felt like I was on the brink of adrenal fatigue at times, and I had twice as many menstrual cycles as I should have. Thankfully, I never injured myself, but I did have some old injuries resurface at times when I was pushing myself too hard.
I wanted to give up a few times, and I put a lot of careful thought into what would really be best for me. Ultimately, I decided that I needed to finish out the full 90 days as well as I could, without putting too much pressure on myself to stick to the program exactly as it's written.
Being okay with less or having to edit goals or expectations isn't always easy, but it's a very empowering practice to accept your best, exactly as it is.
if I knew then what I know now...
First of all, let me just say that I probably will never again do the original P90X program. It's pretty old, and I feel like we've learned so much about health and fitness since the original launch of this program; I'm absolutely going to continue training at home with Beach Body (it's just my preference over training at a gym - more on that in previous posts!) but I'm going to create my own training routine until the LIIFT4 program comes out in the fall.
The premise behind P90X is strong, but for me, it was just too intense for too long: 60-75-minute workouts 6 days per week plus around 5-8 hours of yoga weekly was, simply put, running me down and wearing me out. I'm not able to reduce my yoga activity, so I have to adjust my training routine to support that; as yoga is not only my passion but also my job, this will always take priority.
Would I recommend it? Maybe.... I would suggest that you put a good deal of consideration into any new exercise routine or diet plan, because it will most certainly become a lifestyle and will affect you in more ways than you might initially realize. As I always say with yoga, this practice should support you. I feel the same about strength training, and I believe that pushing yourself in this way, with something new, is not only healthy, but helps us to expand and evolve as individuals. The key is to stay connected to your body and the experience to ensure your approach isn't becoming too rigid or all-consuming.
harder, better, faster, stronger
Before I started this fitness journey, I truly thought I hated working out -- I don't. I actually love it, just as I do a really challenging asana practice. In fact, I was able to draw so many parallels between strength training/HIIT/classic weight lifting and yoga, that this experience has really served to deepen my connection to my body, as well as my dedication to living the healthiest life I can.
Before P90X, I could only do a military push-up, and that was because of my work in Chaturanga Dandasana over the past couple of years. Now, I can do every variation in the program, and depending on where I am in the workout, I'm able to pound out around 6-7 reps before needing to take it to my knees. This is probably my greatest accomplishment, because at 32 years old and having always identified as someone with a "weak" upper body, I didn't really know if I'd ever be able to perform a single push-up properly, with good form and steady control. This experience has helped me prove to myself that I'm stronger than I often give myself credit for, and I'm capable of accomplishing great things when I set my mind to something and stick with it.
At the end of this journey, I'm feeling grateful, optimistic and excited for the beginning of my next adventure.
It's all about the FEELS, baby...
Okay, not really. But, this second phase has definitely been more introspective and has continued to provide many lessons, both in terms of the diet and program and also in a more general sense.
I still have quite a few people messaging me with questions about the specifics of this new fitness routine and approach to nutrition, so I wanted to take a moment to do a basic review of what this all entails for me.
(Feel free to skip ahead if you've been following along and already know what's up!)
I'm now on Day 60 of the P90X program from Beach Body on Demand (a paid membership app that offers access to a massive library of workouts and dietary information/plans.)
*Quick disclaimer: I am in no way sponsored by BeachBody, nor do I have any affiliation: all of my recommendations are truly based on my unbiased experiences*
I've been following the program almost exactly, with the exception of a couple of yoga substitutions for the KenpoX video (and we don't practice the YogaX video... because it's just not our jam; we do Bikram/26&2 in most cases.)
If you're wondering: "who is 'we'?" That would be Cam and I. I've briefly mentioned in previous posts that he's joined me on this journey, but I haven't shared too much about his experiences so far. Cam has done P90X in the past, but nearly a decade ago, so he's working with a *more experienced* body and mind. So far, he's lost about 12 pounds and has been putting on visible muscle since the beginning. (He's also gained 1.5 inches around the hips, which is all in the booty!) We almost always work out together in the mornings, but sometimes our schedules require us to do the workouts separately. It's been so great having a partner in all this, but I probably drive him crazy with my goofiness during workouts! (There's a lot of dancing and weird stuff... I get pretty pumped up in there!)
I'm not going to elaborate much on what the workouts entail, because they've already done that all for you over at the BeachBody site.
In Phase 3, we alternate the workouts even more, creating that total "muscle confusion" that Tony always talks about in P90X; I think this has been one of the keys to my success so far, so I'm really excited about this final portion of the program.
Oh, and have I mentioned that I LOVE WORKING OUT AT HOME?! I do. It's 1000% the best and I have never achieved even remotely the level of success in working out at gyms, or even with a trainer. I'm a homebody, so for me, having really killer home workouts has been a total game changer; just as in my yoga practice, I truly prefer to do it at home, as I feel I get the most out of the experience this way.
VEGAN * NUTRIENT-DENSE * BALANCED
Need I say more?! (Probably - I've learned that people usually want the details when it comes to diet and fitness!)
Prior to starting this fitness journey, I had a pretty decent diet in place; it was mostly vegan, but I was eating quite a bit of cheese (lactose and rennet-free), eggs maybe once a week or so, and lots of milk chocolate. I also drank on average one bottle of wine per week, and although that's not a whole lot, this has definitely been the most challenging dietary restriction for me. (T-30 days until WINE CITY!!)
I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself on the diet side of things, but I am still struggling to put on weight. At first, I was eating a pretty limited diet (usually around 1,600 calories daily), and I lost 6 pounds within the first 6 weeks. Since then, I've increased my caloric intake drastically, but still have not been able to gain weight. It seems like I'm going to need to eat around 2,200 - 2,500 calories a day if I want to put on any mass at all, and I am just not a big eater, so I find this extremely difficult. (I'm currently achieving closer to 2,000 daily calories.) I've been adding coconut oil to almost everything, eating more nuts, and upping my avo ante (which is tough: my avo game is already STRONG.)
I actually didn't have time to do the end-of-phase-2 physique update with photos in every pose, (it's been a really busy week) but I've been sharing selfies/ab-checks etc pretty regularly through Instagram - primarily in my stories - so please follow me there if you'd like to join me on this journey.
Weight and inches are all pretty much the same as the last report, except for one (two) little things: MY BOOBIES! Oh my goodness, my tiny little boobs... I've lost 2 inches in my chest; I'm a 32A right now (hello, training bra). I never thought I would miss my boobs (I was a 34D for most of my life), but my friends, I DO! I miss them quite a bit, and I hope they will chose to return soon enough.
The two questions I get most often: "IS IT REALLY HARD" * "DO YOU ACTUALLY LOVE IT?" > The quick and dirty answer to both questions is a resounding YES.
The longer response is that it is really difficult, but in a good way; the tough workouts and strict programming help you to strengthen your determination and stay on track with your commitment to bettering your life through diet and fitness. I couldn't do much in the way of push-ups or pull-ups 60 days ago, but now I can do more than I ever imagined I could, and I've never felt more empowered in my entire life; just like I often teach in yoga; use the strength you have to develop greater strength.
On that note, I think my yoga training has been really helpful in this foray into fitness; I'm able to draw upon yoga philosophy both when I'm struggling and excelling, and I've noticed so many little connections between the practices of asana, pranayama, and good old fashioned strength training workouts. In my humble opinion, the winning combination of skills for a project like this are:
*body awareness* | *breath integration* | *steadiness of mind/focus* | *patience* | *self-love*
I'm a yogi - not a certified personal trainer or fitness fanatic - so please bear in mind that everything I post here comes from a place of truly authentic sharing; I'm no expert, and I have no intention to add Fitness Programs to my personal offering. I just wanted to put my experience out there, in the hopes that something might connect to someone who's looking for another reason to make some fitness or dietary changes in their own life.
If you want to chat: awesome! Please reach out. I am always happy to make new connections and I'm very open, so don't hesitate to message me with any questions you might have.
We're coming to the end of our seventh week of this fitness journey, which means we've just crossed the halfway point!
This post isn't going to go into the specifics of the diet or my weight/measurements, because I want to address some of the more interesting parts of this experience. (However, if you have questions of that nature, I'm happy to address them in a private message!)
One of the most valuable lessons I've been reminded of over and over throughout the past 7 weeks is that creating expectations for myself (particularly around limitations - mentally noting all the things I probably can't do) is a terrible misuse of energy.
I've been surprised by my ability during workouts so many times that I've now stopped thinking about the workouts and exercises almost entirely. Lately, there is no dialogue that takes place, no more negotiating, no budgeting, and no hedging my bets: I'm all in, and my mind is solely focused on the task at hand. I've seen positive results with this approach in two specific areas: physically, I'm getting a lot more out the time I've already devoted to working out; and mentally, I'm strengthening my determination so consistently with this practice (it amounts to about 7 hours per week, after all) that the motivation to do my best and push myself beyond my perceived limitations comes much more naturally to me now.
On the other hand, I learned a similar lesson about assumptions and expectations the other day when I went into a workout a bit cocky, thinking I'd love it and smash it and walk out feeling like a total Goddess. My actual experience turned out to be far different: I struggled, faded quickly, and became irritated with myself for not doing as well as I'd planned. After that disappointing workout, I gave myself a loving pep talk and reminder of my longest standing personal mantra:
~ quiet mind, open heart ~
(Does anybody remember my very first blog of the same name?!)
IT IS POSSIBLE TO REVIVE THE BOOTY AFTER 30
THE QUEST FOR GAINS
The strength gains I've made over the past 7 weeks have showed up in all aspects of my workouts, as well as my yoga practice.
On the topic of gains (and in the interest of sharing my authentic experience with full transparency): I am still struggling a bit on the diet side of things.
I basically removed my daily caloric limit a few weeks ago, after losing about 6 pounds and not wanting to lose more. I try to eat as much as possible now (still no alcohol, processed sugar, meat or dairy) but I've struggled to consume more than about 2,000 calories daily. My digestion has settled since the beginning, but I still feel nauseous if I eat a large volume of food at once (I have to eat small meals, frequently, in order to feel my best), and with my schedule and obligations, I've been eating less, in general, than I would like to be.
Still, I'm okay with all of this, for the most part, because I know that I'm truly doing my best with the knowledge and resources I have available to me; however, I've been hesitant to share this part of my experience for fear of the judgement I might encounter...
I don't want people to think I'm trying to lose more weight (and I'm not - I've maintained the same weight for a couple of weeks now), but I also feel like complaining about the inability to put on weight is generally very poorly received among the public, because, let's be honest: most people struggle with the opposite issue. I've personally fit into that category (those who struggle to lose weight) for a large part of my life, so please don't think that I don't understand. Between chronic stress, a poor diet for years, addictive tendencies, disordered eating, gastrointestinal diseases and depression, I've fought with my body over my weight on nearly every battlefield.
My nutrition, fitness, and mental health have been a mess at different times in my life, but I've finally regained control of these relationships, having invested time and energy in the healing and restoration necessary for future growth, and I am just starting to find my groove, at the age of 32.
To be fair, I know I have advantages in a number of areas, and I don't fail to recognize the good fortunate that has contributed to my success so far:
*Cam and I were able to set up a gym space in our garage, complete with weights and a rack, a pull-up bar, a bench, and some other accessories - everything required to follow the P90X program as instructed;
*We also have access to healthy food and vegan protein supplements; in the past, I couldn't afford to eat this way, and I fully understand finances being a limiting factor in which foods - and how much- you're able to eat;
*I work in the health and wellness industry, and I'm also very fortunate to work from home; this lifestyle already supports the relatively easy integration of fitness and balanced nutrition into my days, so making the jump and just pushing harder was not a super drastic transition for me;
*Cam and I have been doing this entire thing together from the start, and it has absolutely made a huge difference in my motivation and commitment to the program. He's kind enough to work out with me in the morning before he goes to work, since I often teach yoga in the evenings and wouldn't be able to do it then. This wouldn't be his preference, so I'm very grateful that he supports me in this way (and so many others).
“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”
I've got a lot more I'd love to share with you now, but I'm going to hold back just a little and will be back for a full update at the end of Phase 2 - which is just over one week away!
Cam and I are now one month into our fitness project and we have moved into Phase 2 of our program!
The most notable changes with this transition are a few new workouts and even more calories in the diet... but before I get into that, I want to share some of my reflections and insights from the journey so far.
PROGRAM SUMMARY (PHASE 1)
*I'm sorry if you've been following along and this part is old news to you - feel free to skip ahead!*)
P90X (yep, the old school original!) 6 days per week in our home gym, as well as at least an hour of yoga daily. P90X is a strength training program that incorporates body weight exercises, weight lifting, plyometrics, and yoga, and works mainly on the premise of muscle confusion (ie mixing up the areas you're training, as well as the methods, with the intention of getting the most out of each exercise.) It's known as a fairly advanced program and some of it has been really challenging for me, but I've also surprised myself with the improvements in my strength, and I'm able to do so much more now than I was able to when I started just one month ago. I'm thrilled that I've maintained my yoga practice; in fact, I've amped it up in recent weeks! It feels like even more of a necessity, now that I'm dealing with sore muscles and tension in my body pretty much all of the time.
Plant-based, nutrient-dense, mostly-vegan ~ *balanced*. I originally planned on eating around 1,200 calories per day but I quickly found that wasn't nearly enough, so I've been eating about 1,600 calories daily, but I'm trying to eat even more (around 1,800) for this phase (2) of the program. My main challenge with the diet is simply eating enough; in my previous post I discuss some of my digestive quirks (euphemism for sure), and while my guts seem to have adjusted to this new diet for the most part, it still feels like a bit of a struggle to deal with the increase in volume, at times. I haven't really been eating eggs for the past couple of weeks, so the diet has been almost totally vegan, with the exception of a little bit of honey in the mustard for our meatless strips. (Why does that sound like a lyric in a country song...?)
I started out recording all nutritional information for every single thing I ate, and while that was definitely a worthwhile exercise for the week-or-so that I maintained in, it simply wasn't manageable in the long run; I feel like I'm eating way too much to have to keep track of it all like that! The main considerations in my diet are the macros: protein, carbs and fat. But I also keep an eye on sugar (I try to not have any refined sugar at all), as well as fibre and sodium. Overall, I'm very happy with the diet... but I still miss wine!
PHASE 1 - RESULTS + REFLECTIONS
My weight started to dip down around 106lbs in weeks 3 and 4, so I've been trying to eat even more than originally planned. I've been a fairly steady 108lbs (give or take a pound) since then and I'm thinking (hoping) I'm going to start to actually put weight on soon; I don't have a goal weight, but I do want to add more muscle to my body and I understand that doing so will likely make my weight go up. I'm really not concerned about this number though, and I found the changes in my measurements a much more interesting indicator of the transformations within my body; I was pleasantly surprised that I lost an inch in each thigh and gained 0.25" in each arm! The graphic isn't super clear, but I've lost a total of 4.5 inches and 4 pounds in the last 30 days. What you don't see in these numbers is greater and more consistent energy, better skin, nails and hair, and improvements in strength and stability that are translating to both my yoga practice and my everyday life.
I'm so happy that I made these changes a month ago and I'm feeling more motivated than ever to continue improving my health and wellness.
“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”