2017-06-23

What My Body Has Been Saying

Not long ago (whoa, it's been two months already?), I wrote a blog post about listening to my body, figuring out what my fitness weak-links were, and designing a workout regimen to correct them. Designing this workout regimen was a good exercise (pun intended) in thinking critically about my workout philosophy and my real-world results, and attempting to improve, not just from a "how many push-ups can I do" perspective, but also from a "how do I keep my body injury-free" perspective.

That was then, this is now. It's been some time, so I thought I should probably provide an update on how well that's been going.

Let's Review

In brief, I went from a P90X-in-the-mornings-and-running-in-the-afternoons workout regimen to something more specific to me. 

I went from twice-daily workouts to twice-daily-every-other-day-and-once-daily-every-other-day workouts. That is, I run every day, and I also do calisthenics every-other-day. So about half the time I workout twice-daily and the rest of the time I simply go for a daily run. 

It's not that I don't want to workout twice-daily every day, it's just that I can't do calisthenics every day, or else my muscles will tire. P90X gets around this nuance by interspersing plyometics, yoga, and stretch days along with the strength training days. The non-strength days allow the muscles to recover from the strength training days. I've eliminated the plyo and yoga aspects of my training regimen, and so I end up with more recovery days - at least as far as strength training is concerned.

My calisthenics workouts involve push-ups, pull-ups, and abdominal exercises, along with some walking, some arm-circles, and some jumping jacks. As such, they are "full body" workouts, which means I definitely can't do them every single day. 

Yoga is an absolute waste of my time, and I'm glad to be rid of it. 

Plyometric training is something I miss, but I don't believe I can reincorporate it into my regimen until I have adequate abdominal strength.

Stretching, interestingly enough, is something I do more now than ever before. Instead of the once-a-week, hour-long stretch session that I was getting with P90X, I now stretch 2-3 times per day, for about 15 minutes each time.

The Results

Results over the past two months have been mostly positive. 

I suffered a two-week period over which my back pain was the most excruciating it has ever been. I hobbled around and stretched futilely before rediscovering my foam roller. With regular use of the foam roller, my back has returned to 90% of full capacity. Combined with the stretching regimen I've taken on, my muscles now feel looser and more agile than they ever have, at least in my adult years. Good decision. 

I lost some training time to the back injury and fell a little behind on my running, but I've been able to turn that around, too. Now I'm running reasonably quickly and putting in decent miles. I'd like to run more, but we're entering the hottest part of the year in Texas, and that heat can take its toll. In general, once it gets this hot, you have to choose any two of the following: (a) Run fast, (b) Run daily, (c) Run far. I've chosen to run fast and daily. My mileage has declined some.

My strength has increased rather dramatically. Even while doing P90X, I couldn't seem to do more than about 10 pull-ups per set. I've now worked my way into the teens for most styles of pull-ups and can now do more corn cob pull-ups than ever before.


Where Do I Go Next?

Having said all this, I don't feel like a superhero right now. It's not that I feel bad (I don't), it's just that I'm missing that amazing feeling I had when I was running and doing P90X at the same time. I feel fit and healthy. I feel strong and flexible. But I don't have that extra "something." 

Part of the reason might simply be that I'm not doing two workouts every single day. Perhaps one of the reasons I felt so strong in February was the fact that I would jump out of bed at four o'clock in the morning, every morning, and start working out. Even though I wasn't putting in very many running miles, the mere ritual of always knowing that my workout was a few hours away may have conferred a lot of psychic benefits. And surely there were physical benefits as well.

Another reason is the lack of plyometric training. Longtime readers will know that I have been a passionate advocate of plyometric trianing since I read Sean Burch's amazing book, Hyperfitness. I firmly believe that plyometrics is the secret to feeling not just good but amazing. It's that special added ingredient that can take your training to the next level. Still, it's a challenging way to train and it placed a high burden on my back. So I won't get back to it until I feel that my abs are ready for it.

While my posture has improved, I think I have a ways to go. I'm glad that my pull-ups numbers are increasing, but I intend to get the up further still. I think 20-25 pull-ups per set is a reasonable target for a guy like me.

I think adding a morning run on my "off" days is also an important thing to do. First, this is an extra 10-20 miles per week, and that's sure to make me feel good. Second, it will keep my routine up. Third, it will give me an opportunity to run in cooler temperatures. And finally, it will give me some workout flexibility. For example, I might choose to make Fridays a "plyometrics day," as I used to do a couple of years ago. I'd need gym equipment for that, but if I run in the morning, then I'll have the ability to hit the gym during the lunch hour. I'd still be running daily, but I'd also have added plyo. 

All that is to say that my more personalized training approach has paid off for me, but there is still lots of room for improvement, and that's what I'll be doing for the next little while.