Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

Here We Are, at the End of Things

I Brought It. I was Ready to Rock and Roll. I Got Busy. I crossed the P90X finish line. One summer. 90 days. 12 DVD’s. 75 protein bars. Countless quaffs of that oh-so-tasty Recovery Drink. While visiting my parents in Laguna. In a hotel basement in Brooklyn. Before Disneyland, for Chrissake. I feel like I was on my own personal Amazing Race. Where’s the mat, Phil? Where?
What’s really amazing, though, is that I got through it WITHOUT MAJOR DAMAGE. A man with two bum knees, a bulging lumbar vertebral disc and propensity for overdoing it— it’s a pretty big accomplishment just to cross the finish line. One of the things I’ve learned most during this program was finding where my limits are and being comfortable with them, but not letting them slow me into inertia. There’ve been some twinges, some close calls (damn you, twisting side bend!) but I’ve not been totally derailed. SUCK IT, INJURIES!
Let’s take a look at my progress, shall we? 

DAY 1: What a mess!
DAY 30: Getting  better…
DAY 60: Firming up…
And, finally:

(after the jump)


Look at the definition! The articulation! AND, I’m fully poseable! It got a little bloody at the end, as you can see, but it was totally worth it. 

Yes, I’ve changed. Nothing drastic, no oh-my-god transformation from Don Knotts to David Beckham. I think I’ve arrived at where I was 10 years ago, before Benjamin; namely, I’ve lost the baby weight. I’ve tightened, my shoulders are maybe hillier, my midsection has definitely decreased. I don’t have that gaunt-faced look of those who have dropped a ton of weight quickly, but my sister says my neck is skinnier (was that a compliment?) I don’t think it’s anything you’re really going to notice in clothes. Not that I haven’t been trying— my pathetic need for validation causes me to call attention to myself in subtle ways:  like stretching my arms casually over my head, biceps flexing furiously; like pushing off against walls for no apparent reason; like going up to total strangers and lifting up my shirt. I’m told this stage will pass soon. 
I notice the difference. As someone who has been obsessively studying myself for this ninety day journey into narcissism, searching for every new indentation, it’s more than satisfying. New belt and jeans. Sometimes, even, I can be beguiled into attributing to myself the descriptive I’ve always longed for: lithe. Of course, to achieve this I’ve got to contort my body sideways, suck in, twist, angle and hide half of myself from the mirror’s image, but still, I’ll take it.    
Am I glad I did this program? Yes. Though I could gladly go through the rest of my life without hearing Tony Horton mis-pronounce the word “but-TOCKS” (a Forest Gump reference?) I thank you, P90X, and yes, thank you Mr. Horton, for all of your cajolery and nausea-making trainer talk. I mostly do the exercises with the “cues, no music” option now, but you still need the propulsion of someone constantly moving on to the next exercise. It’s too easy to get distracted otherwise. Even now, just doing the exercises is harder without the “90 Day” drumbeat pounding in your head. 
For those of you who, for god knows what reason, feel impelled by this blog to take up P90X, let me throw some pearls of wisdom your way: 
  1. DO THE WARM UPS. And the cool-downs. You’ll be tempted to skip them, to speed up the agony of exercise, but especially if you’re injury-prone, they’re going to save you from major catastrophe. 
  2. STRING CHEESE IS YOUR FRIEND Who knew I’d be eating those plastic-wrapped white sticks that are always returning in my son’s lunchbox? They’re relatively low in calories, good for protein, has a satisfying salty mouthfeel. Their only downside is that they aren’t so good when they’ve been out of the fridge for a while. Oh, THAT’S why they come back in my son’s lunchbox…
  3. DUMBBELLS ARE EXPENSIVE. Thanks for the loan, Denis. I like them better than the bands, though, because they’re more exact, more consistent. However—
  4. BANDS CAN BE YOUR FRIEND. Those stretchy colored exercise bands are great for traveling. And if pull-ups are too daunting at first, you can ramp up to them using the bands. 
  5. DON’T LET THE PERFECT GET IN THE WAY OF THE GOOD. Barack speaks truth. If you can’t do some of the exercises, who cares? No one’s going to rat on you, or deride you, even if you substitute, or modify an exercise to unrecognizability. That’s the advantage of doing the program in the comfort of your own home. Half of the Ab Ripper exercises I have to do flat on my back instead of balanced on my butt, and I use the exercise ball on two other exercises, but better to do them like that than not doing ab work at all.
  6. READ THE BOOKLET AT SOME POINT. It gives you tips on how to do the routines, nutritional guidelines, and a game plan. Plus, it counts as exercising.
  7. DERISION AS DISTRACTION. Hey, if you’re not really feeling it, you can always mock Tony Horton to distract you. Laugh each time he uses the word “taunt” in place  of “taut” (as in, “keep your muscles taunt while you go pull in.”) Ponder his use of the phrase “flop sweat” when he notices someone perspiring (are they flopping, Tony? Really?). Notice how uncannily he sounds like Michael Scott from “The Office,” especially when he puts on accents (Doug clued me into this and now I cannot NOT hear Steve Carrell coming out of Tony’s mouth. Freaky—it’s like ventriloquism). Even laughing at yourself can be helpful— notice how your martial arts kicks look like a crippled Rockette attempting the finale of “New York, New York,” or how your baseball pitching during Plyometrics is really just a big, gay “Oh, YOU!” swat of the hand.
Mostly, I’ve been grateful for the chance to transform, and I am very aware right now of the potential for change in everyone. I look at a young kid and can see the man he will become, and I see the adult and can work backwards to see his younger self. Our sense of who we are is really a confluence of conditions that have arisen together to create a perception of reality, and those conditions are changing every moment, whether we perceive them to be changing or not. Life is more fluid than we think. But that’s the Buddhist in me talking.  
For those who have been reading, thanks for sticking with me. Listening to someone talk about their exercise program is like having someone recount their dream to you—mildly interesting only if you happen to be in them. Now that this episode of my life is over I’ll be going back to writing about pithy, meaningful topics, like Angry Birds and desserts. (“How’s that writing going?” you may ask. Hey, narcissism take up a lot of time!)
I must say, there’s something a little anticlimactic about finishing. I mean, there’s no bouquets or cheering crowds or million dollar checks. I’ve crossed the finish line, only to find that I’m not really done. There’s a lot of life ahead, and though I’m at a better starting place, I’d better get running. 
Where’s my protein bar?
update: Went to visit relations in Godfrey, IL. the day after I finished the program. Land of barbecued pork steaks and scalloped (pronounced “scalp”) potatoes. Three days of a pull-out sofa beds and hauling luggage accomplished what 90 days of exercise could not: threw out my back. Guess I shouldn’t have told my injuries to suck it. Hubris!

September 12th, 2011 - Still Life Las Vegas

One response to “Here We Are, at the End of Things”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Bravo! Cheers! Way to Go!!!~
    but sorry about your back. Back to reality…
    To eternal youth….

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