Posted in Stories

I’m only falling ten inches!

P90X2 is not a new workout program. But it’s new for me. Tony Horton and Beachbody released it ten years ago. I did P90X. I followed up with P90X3, which involves all thirty minute workouts. Just recently I decided to go back and see what P90X2 was all about. It’s been a good, challenging workout, combining strength and balance on an inflated stability ball and a variety of medicine balls.

Some workouts are push ups or side arm balances on two med balls. Otheres are pushups on four med balls. Tricep dips or mountain climbers on three med balls. Plyo pushups onto a ball or two or three. Some of these skills I have mastered. For others I roll onto the floor. Each day I am able to do a few more. When my wife comments, “You’re going to kill yourself out there (in the garage),” my reply is, “I’m only falling ten inches!”

You’ve got to find something which will challenge you in new ways. These workouts are doing just that for me.

Posted in Stories

This fitness journey just keeps going

In 2018, my wife heard about a Crossfit box in our town and decided to try it out. She liked it and got me to try a class, too. The coaches were nice, the workouts were challenging and different than I had done before, and the other folks there were also fitness and wellness minded. So I did my onramp initiation and made Crossfit my main fitness regimen.

Though I could do pushups and pull-ups and run, I had a lot to learn about box jumps, double-unders, handstands and olympic lifting. The warmup stretching was good, I learned some lifting and rope-climbing skills, the metcons were challenging, and as you can see, I picked up a lot of vocabulary words, too. Since I made it to the box three or four times a week, I gained some fitness I hadn’t had before and made a lot of new friends.

I also picked up a few injuries. In my quest to do kipping Crossfit pull-ups, my shoulders got sorer and sorer. I had more and more trouble doing pushups and benchpress was nearly impossible. I was really afraid that I had injured my rotator cuffs, so I became a student of shoulder stretches and rehab. These provided some relief, but then in my zeal to get back up on the pull-up bar, I felt and heard something near my left elbow pop. That same day I was spotting a friend doing a back squat, when the bar rolled off his back and jerked that same arm down at an awkward angle, rupturing the bicep.

An orthopedic doctor took a look at my arm and said, “It’s mostly cosmetic. Once it heals up you can do what you want.” I decided I would change what I wanted to do. I think my muscles could handle the workouts, but my 62 year-old joints struggled. Plus, we started feeling the impact of the monthly fees, much more than we were used to paying. I know, I know, everyone said it was worth it, but we were trying to scale back our expenses rather than increase them up as I began to consider retirement.

So we decided to ramp up our home workout capabilities in the garage. We invested in a Concept-2 rower, a Rogue air bike, a box to jump on, some Crossover Symmetry cables, and a barbell with a few weights. I hung a pull-up bar from the ceiling, we put down some thick stable mats on the floor, put a TV up on the wall for streaming or DVD workouts, and got a big garage fan. We already had a set of adjustable weight Bowflex dumbbells. I was able to find lots of CrossFit-esque workouts online that we could do at home, and Beachbody Live provided all of our favorite workouts and a lot of newer ones, too.

We had all that in place when COVID hit, gyms closed and everyone was quarantining. We were set, with all kinds of workout possibilities in place. Over the past year, we’ve added jump ropes, some elastic bands, a couple of kettlebells, some med balls and an inflatable stability ball.

And we got our Peloton back, too. My wife saw one a few years ago and we ordered one so she could do some spinning bike workouts at home. We had lent it to our kids last year, but they stopped using it, so we brought it back home and I gave it a try. I like having this option for a non-impact cardio option a few times a week.

I am currently working through Beachbody’s P90X2 workouts with Tony Horton. Plain old pushups and pullups and situps get new life with seemingly infinite variations, even balancing on med balls and stability balls. I never get injured doing body weight exercises, so this is definitely my speed as I close in on my sixty-fourth birthday.

So our main philosophy right now is to keep on moving. Do something each day to work on strength, flexibility, mobility or endurance. I’m pretty much a first-thing-in-the-morning workout kind of guy, while my wife likes the afternoon hours.

Having written three entries about fitness and two about running, I realize we’ve spent a lot of time exercising in one form or another. It’s part of the fabric of our lives. When we start doing more camping, we’ll have to figure out the best way to do this on the road. Our journey will continue.

Posted in Stories

My fitness journey continues

We moved to Florida in June of 1996. The sunshine state is a very different place to pursue ongoing fitness. You can go out for a run, a walk or a bike ride just about 365 days a year. Once in a while a severe thunderstorm or hurricane might break up your routine. But not very often.

We purchased a couple of bicycles when we arrived and made good use of them for rides of various distances. I continued to run three to five miles three or four times a week. We took the dogs for lots of walks, too.

We spent our first seven months in a rental while we waited for our house to be built. We discovered Alpha Fitness, a gym within walking distance of our home. I started going there three times a week, mostly doing upper body barbell and dumbbell exercises. My legs got plenty of activity from running and biking.

Our new home was on the other side of town, about five miles away. When you’re traveling that distance, there seem to be more reasons not to go and workout. But then Alpha Fitness moved to a location exactly halfway between our house and where I worked. I passed by every day and it was so easy to stop in there on the way to work, at lunch time (only a mile away) or on the way home in the evening. With a decent locker room, I could easily clean up on my way somewhere else. I went there three times a week for several years.

I split my workouts between upper and lower body and added quite a bit of strength. For a while I followed a 5×5 routine to build strength. Five sets of five reps each, rotating between back squats, dead lifts and bench press. You start light and add five pounds each time. I also included a few sets on some of the machines for legs and arms. I actually got up to a 310 lb. dead lift, a 200 lb. bench press and 275 back squat. Not too bad for being 5 foot ten inches and about 165 pounds.

After reaching those weights, I got a little tired of doing that and there was a change in management, so I dropped that membership in favor of doing some exercise routines at home.

I think it was the summer of 2009 that we purchased our first Beachbody workout DVDs, Insanity. You think you are in good shape till Shaun T. takes you through what you think is the workout but is actually just the ten minute warmup! But we stuck with it and found that it really increased our cardiovascular fitness. I still did a little running on the off days of the workout schedule.

After completing Insanity, I got the next two in that series, Insanity: Asylum and Insanity: Asylum 2. These workout DVDs had you working with an agility ladder on the ground, a jumprope, dumbbells and a pull-up bar. I got one of those pull-up bars that hangs from a door frame, but never liked it very much. I was also never able to do many pull-ups. All the plank work really helped my shoulders get stronger.

Some friends of ours had the P90X DVDs and weren’t using them. We borrowed them and for me, this was definitely next level. These workouts involve a lot of pull-ups, push-ups and power jumps. They were tough and they were long, usually around an hour. The yoga workout was ninety minutes. It was the first time I had ever done yoga. I never did that particular workout very often, since it took so much time. But by sticking with it, I worked my way up to ten pull-ups and thirty pushups.

We’ve incorporated so many of Shaun T’s phrases into our conversations. “Why do I do the things I do? ’cause I wanna look good!” “Dig deeper.” “Come on, y’all, let’s goooo!” “I’m smiling because I love it!” “This is bananas, yo” “It’s not a coffee break people”

P90X wasn’t my wife’s cup of tea, but she continues to do Insanity workouts. She also checked out some alternative classes at Thriv Fitness, the reincarnation of Alpha Fitness. She liked the TRX workouts, the spin bike classes and the hot yoga, too. She got me to try them, too, and the variety and challenge was good for us. I also worked my way through P90X3, which are all thirty-minute workouts (even the yoga). I think we also tried a twenty-five minute variation of Insanity, a boxing type workout with Australian coaches, and something called Piyo, a mashup of Pilates and yoga led by Chalene Johnson.

Variety is definitely the name of the game when you are working out at home. Plus, discipline. the upside is, you improve each week, while your video workout buddies stay at the same level. It’s extremely satisfying to outdo them. I think the publishers of these workouts know that.

We cancelled out membership at Thriv when the owner’s verbal abuse got too much for us to take. It was a good move. A few months later, they taped an “Out of business” sign to the door leaving many members and employees in the lurch.

But that only gets us up to 2018. The journey isn’t over yet.

Posted in Stories

My fitness journey

So many folks read about my running experiences I thought I would continue with some stories about my personal fitness journey, too.

When I was young, fitness meant playing with your friends. We lived in a neighborhood with somewhere around fifteen boys my age. We played touch football and stickball in the street, where manhole covers, car fenders and fire hydrants served as the bases. The real fun was the baseball, touch football and basketball at the “ball field” about a half a mile down the street from our homes. It was just an open field where we played ball.

I had a 26 inch single speed Schwinn bike. My best friend had a ten speed Schwinn string ray bike. (Not many choices besides Schwinn back then.) We went on some pretty long rides around Delaware County in Pennsylvania, sometimes riding four hours or more.

I’m also old enough to have gone to school when you had physical education, or “gym” every day. We played kickball, dodgeball, touch football and a little basketball in the winter. In high school we added track and field, indoor soccer, wrestling, archery, some gymnastics and softball. Twice a year we would test for the Presidential Fitness Award. That was kind of a joke. I could run 600 yards, do some sit-ups, pushups and the shuttle run. But no one could do a pull up. Just like no one could climb the rope.

In my sophomore year, I tried out for the soccer team. A lot of other guys knew much more about soccer than me, so I didn’t get very far. In my junior year, I tried out for the tennis team. Me and some friends messed around with wooden rackets and thought we were pretty hot stuff. We weren’t. And I wasn’t anywhere close to being a high school tennis player.

When I got to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, I discovered some new fitness opportunities. There was a pretty nice weight room in the gymnasium. A few weeks into my freshman year, I went down there to lift some weights. I did a few upper and lower body exercises on the Universal, and then threw up on my way home. OK, that was not my style.

I did play a lot of intramural flag football, softball and street hockey in my college years. I was a decent receiver, catcher and goalie for the fraternity team. A was active, but never thought of myself as athletic. The college did have some sweet squash/racketball courts, and that was a great way to burn off some energy, too.

Once I graduated and started working and running, I decided I needed to work on my upper body strength. During long runs, my shoulders would ache, so I knew I had to do more than just run. i purchased a weight set at a local sporting goods store. It was a barbell, two dumbbell bars, and some plates that probably added up to 135 pounds if you put everything on the bar. I owned a trombone (a Bach Stradivarius trombone I bought in high school), and it had a rectangular case. So I used that case as my bench for bench presses. A little weight training helped balance out all the running I was doing.

I left my weights (and my trombone) behind when I went to seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. But the seminary, which had previously been the Concordia Senior College, had an amazing weight room in the gymnasium. Here, I learned how to use the Universal weights, and did a regular circuit two or three times a week.

When I got to my first church in Connecticut, I mostly ran, until we bought a bench and another set of free weights for our house. My wife and I both used those weights for various workouts, but nothing really serious.

At my second church, when we lived in West Des Moines, Iowa, there was a YMCA just up the road from us. Membership was cheap, so I would run a mile to the Y, do a Nautilus circuit (very much in vogue in the 1990’s) and run home. Convenient, cheap and a good workout, too.

We moved to Florida in 1996, and that’s when my fitness story really changes.