Archive for the ‘P90X’ Category

Adventures in Cooking

I’ve never been a good cook. I’ll go so far that I’m even working my way up to becoming a decent cook, but good? Not me. Realistically there are about a dozen or so non-crockpot meals that I can make reliably. I’ve come a long way from first grade where, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my reply was “chef.” 

Yup. I’m definitely shattering 6 year old me’s dreams.

That being said, I have been cooking more since I started P90X. The program has a nutrition guide and even a meal plan, but I opted to try to stick to the recommended ratios of protein, carbs, veggies, dairy, fruit, snacks, etc. The details would bore you, but suffice it to say, when it came to hitting my allotted proteins for the day, I was in trouble.

Enter breakfast.

Eggs and pork/turkey/meat have protein, as you might imagine. If I get up and cook myself an egg or two and have some bacon or ham or Scrapple then I head to work with 1/3 to 1/2 of my daily protein checked off my list. Lunch is often leftovers or a sammich, though my killer tuna salad (one of my 12 reliable meals) often comes with me too.

Dinner has become its own thing though. Maggie typically makes dinner, but I’ll usually make dinner about once a week. Maggie has been out of town in Colorado doing Figaro with Emerald City Opera and being awesome for the last 3 weeks, so I’m left to fend for myself. As you can imagine, I cycled through my usual meals pretty quickly.

And so I began to try new things. Sometimes I was successful. Sometimes I failed pretty spectacularly. What I feel is important is that I am trying. I made a fantastic chicken fried rice dinner once upon a time and I have yet to replicate that success (it always comes out soggy or slimy). Last week it was again slimy. I tried an omelette and turned it into a pile of scrambled eggs and grilled veggies with hot sauce on top. Recently, however, I have had two decent successes.

Yesterday I made this:


Grilled Tilapia and Peas over rice

I grilled the tilapia with some dill, garlic salt, and lemon juice alongside sauteed onions, capers, and sundried tomatoes. It came out really good. Maggie and I have done fish a number of different ways, but I’m pretty proud of this one.

Today, however was a trial. I set out to make General Tso’s Chicken since it is one of my favorite Chinese dishes and I have gobs of chicken in the house at the moment. We had the orange sauce in the pantry already, so I needed to pick up a few things for the recipe. No sweat.

There are grilled versions of this dish, but I wanted to be more authentic to the dish, so I opted to fry it. I have almost no experience frying foods, so this was going to be fun. First thing’s first though, I needed to make a marinade for the chicken. Easy, right? One egg white, some soy sauce, a little cornstarch… What could go wrong?

I went through 5 eggs, made the mistake of trying to substitute cornmeal for cornstarch (eventually figured out you can sub flour for it), and stepped on the cat (I was preoccupied and he was underfoot. I apologized and pet his head after I washed off all the chicken-y bits. We’re cool again). Two other mistakes during this process: 1) broke the yolk on one egg when trying to get the white out, and 2) added my wet ingredients to my dry and got mush (yeah, I got a big “told you so” from Alton Brown on that one).

Then came the pans. I put my garlic and ridiculously hot dried red peppers from the Mexican aisle at ShopRite (note to self: hubris is often painful and hot peppers are advertised as hot because they are, in fact, hot) in a pan and promptly burned them up. Take 2, lowered the temp to aerate them and everything was fine. I heated the oil for the now sticky marinated chicken and put them in one by one. I expected the oil to pop. I’m not a complete novice and I have worked in fast food, so I know that heated cooking oil gets a little jumpy. Apparently I had either too much oil or too high heat, because this stuff went crazy. I put the little splash guard thingy on there (and used it as a shield for the rest of the frying) and turned the heat down and it calmed.

From there it was smooth sailing. Dry the chicken, add to the aerated veggies and sauce, mix, put on top of rice and broccoli, and enjoy.


General Tso’s Chicken

And so, despite my setbacks and failures, I am eating actual food that doesn’t come from a box or a takeout menu. It’s healthier for me and it gets me my protein and veggies so I have enough energy to kick butt at P90X.

I’m looking for more ideas and recipes. Hit me up with links or recipes you enjoy that fall into the “novice to proficient” difficulty range. After all, the more I learn to cook, the less frequently I have to eat pasta and manwich and tuna salad (though, like I said, I make a killer tuna salad).


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When I thought about doing P90X a few months ago I wanted to write out the routines on a calendar so I could cross them off as I completed them. Basic behavior modification. I asked my wife to pick up a calendar for me and when she asked what I wanted on it I told her “whatever is fine.” And so I have an “Extraordinary Chickens” calendar upon which I track my progress.

It now has 7 X’s on it 🙂

I made it through the first week of P90X and did pretty well. I’m still getting used to eating differently. I generally eat lots of carbs and not enough protein in any given week. I’m good with veggies and fruit though (thanks to my wife). In order to really have enough energy to do this program I need more protein. I don’t do any of the supplements or drinks. For one, they’re expensive, and for two, I’m not trying to build myself up to be this awesome bodybuilder or anything. Yes, I know I’m missing out and my body is probably missing out, but I take my multivitamin and now a glucosamine supplement (recommended by a friend since I’m having knee trouble this week). My nutrition and vitamin intake are in the spirit of the program and for now that is good enough for me.

My biggest hurdles so far in the program are yoga and abs. Abs are just plain brutal. I’m doing 12-15 reps for each exercise (instead of the 25) and it’s all I can do for now. As for yoga, I’m just not all that flexible and I have a belly, which gets in the way and has more than once caused me to fall over. Plyo isn’t the monster I thought it was. I can mostly keep up and I try to push myself a bit more each time. I’m getting better at pull ups and, honestly, I’m doing mostly adjusted versions of many of the exercises at the moment to get some benefit and learn the routines. It does me no good to do 3/4 a pull up without a chair when I can do 5-10 with a chair (and I always try to do at least one without the chair each time). That’s my best right now and I’m not sad about it.

Kempo X is probably my new favorite thing. I enjoyed the punches and kicks when I did P90 back in the day and this is a high pace version of that. I’m still learning form, but I can keep up intensity, which is something I can’t do on any of the other programs.

In other news, Fantasy Football starts up soon. I’ve tinkered around a bit this weekend and plan to read up on the guys this year during the week. I’m hoping to find enough people (read: people I know) to start my own league this year. I’m sure I can cobble together 7-9 people to make it happen. Updates on that progress later.

I finish my internship in <1 month. After that I will be finishing my dissertation and hopefully finding a job. I’m applying to a lot of places this weekend and next week. I hate not having a plan and feeling like I have little control over what happens to Maggie and the cats and me for the next 3-4 months. All I know is that by the end of the year I will be graduated. There’s also a small chance that we’ll all be homeless. Now accepting donations.

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I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to start P90X. I went grocery shopping yesterday with protein in mind and I’ve completed the fit test (mark off that goal). I took my measurements, redid the fit test, and took before pics. The data is below. I’ll be keeping track of my progress on the P90 Series Progress Tab above. There is a subpage (scroll to the bottom) with my before and after pics.

My goal for this is to do my best. I know I can’t keep up with them on the video. I’m doing a lot of modified exercises with less weight and fewer reps. That is my best right now. I’ll add weight/reps and swap over to non-modified exercises as I am able. This is going to test me in so many ways. Physically of course. Mentally I will be fighting during the exercises to push through. But also commitment. I am notorious for procrastinating and letting one misstep completely throw me off. The pain and soreness I’ve managed over the last 90 days with running and the last couple of weeks with auditioning these routines. It is keeping up the momentum and recognizing that if I miss a day it is not the end of the world. My life will be changing a lot in the next 90 days (as you read in my last post). I managed to find time to run during my roadtrip, even resorting to running laps at a rest stop in one case, but P90X is a much more significant time commitment. I know it is not going to run smoothly given how up in the air my life is at the moment. All I can do is be flexible and do my best.

Before I post my measurements/stats, I would like to say thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way. My wife of course for her weekly praise (and for listening to me complain about being sore). My friends Jo and John for sharing their experience with P90X and advice on modifying exercises and nutrition. Thanks also to my friend Bethney and my aunt Suzanne for their support and advice for running. To all of my Facebook friends for their likes and support along the way, to all of my Fitocracy friends for their continued support, encouragement, and props; and to the handful of people who follow my blog.

Everyone starts somewhere.

P90X Day 0 (7/29/12):

  • Weight = 204.0 lbs
  • Body Fat = 27.3%
  • Waist = 43 in
  • Hips = 39 in
  • Neck = 16.0 in
  • Chest = 43.0 in
  • Thighs =23.0 in
  • Calves = 16.5 in
  • Bicep = 13.75 in (L)
  • Bicep = 14.0 in (R)

Fit Test Day 0 (7/29/12)

  • Pull ups = 3/4 (10 assisted)
  • Vertical Leap = 5 inches
  • Pushups = 30 (on knees)
  • Toe Touch = 6 inches from toes
  • Wall Squat = 90 seconds
  • Bicep Curls = 10 reps x 20 lbs
  • In and Outs = 25
  • Jumping Jacks = 2 minutes

And to wrap things up, I have another 7 word phrase to get me through P90X.

Michael Pollan has his food rules: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

I adopted this for running: Run far, not too fast, rest occasionally

For P90X, I propose the following: Push yourself, not too far, eat healthy

Please feel free to comment with encouragement or advice below!

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A lot is going to happen in my life in the next 90 days. I will complete my internship year at Coatesville. I will be extremely close, if not finished with my dissertation. I will almost be graduated with my PsyD. Maggie and I will be packing to move or have already moved to…somewhere. I will tackle P90X.

Internship has been a great experience overall. I have grown so much this year and learned a lot about myself professionally. Admittedly I was slow to adapt to the program and had to relearn a couple of things, but my professional confidence continues to grow and I feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of many veterans.

My dissertation is stressing me out. I need 4 more participants and I am working to find them wherever I can. If you are yourself or know a gay male college student in the Philly area who might be interested in participating in my research on the coming out process, send me an email (jschwenker@spalding.edu) for details. Once I have the last 4 I can pull all my data together, analyze it, write it up, and get on defending to my committee. I’m ready to move this process along since my proposal was accepted by ISTSS for discussion at the 2012 conference in Los Angeles. Yay!!!

I’m not sure what our future holds. Everything is once again up in the air (or perhaps it has always been there). We’re currently stuck in PA paying really high rent while I scour the nation for a job or post doc that will take me ABD. Looking forward to a time when I can count on just a little bit more stability.

Finally, I have decided to tackle P90X. After 2 years of consideration and a lot of procrastination, I will begin the program next week. I’ve been auditioning the workouts the past couple of weeks, doing one to the best of my ability and taking a day or 2 off to recover. They’re difficult. No question. And I don’t think I would have made it through Plyo without having spent the last 90 days running and building up my stamina and leg strength. Plyo was rough, but I think the real challenges for me are going to be Abs, pull ups, and yoga.

I plan to approach this the same way that I did my running and, to borrow a phrase from Tony Horton, “do my best and forget the rest.” My goal is to complete the program. Do each routine from start to finish. Do all of the exercises. There are some exercises where I can keep up with Tony and the gang. There are others where I absolutely cannot, and that’s fine. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to do 25 of each type of crunch, but I am sure I can manage 10 and work my way up. The same goes for other exercises. I can do more than half of what they’re doing and work toward matching for the moment.

I plan on tracking my progress here for each of the phases (tracking my measurements anyway and maybe a few pics). I will be tracking my daily progress on Fitocracy now that I’ve managed to translate the P90X exercises into Fitocracy’s language. I have my calendar marked and my worksheets printed. I take my initial measurements tomorrow (Sunday) morning and I start fresh on Monday after work. All that is left is to do the work and stay focused, which applies to more than just my exercise.

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I completed my goal today of running 30+ minutes a day for 90 consecutive days. It has done exactly what I expected it to do: make fitness a priority. I had to change lots of behaviors in order for this to work and I kept it going even on days when I felt I couldn’t. Regardless of how the numbers come out, that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

As part of making running and exercise a habit, I had to first claim about an hour a day for those purposes. When I sleep for (ideally) 8 hours and work for 8 hours and drive for ~1 hour, that leaves me with ~7 hours to fill. Many things compete for those hours including work and school responsibilities, chores, leisure, additional travel, hygiene, and food. It was also very hard for me to get started on a workout when I don’t begin immediately upon returning home from work. I don’t have the discipline to do a workout before work, so after work was good. When it comes down to it, there was no excuse as long as I planned accordingly.

Stretching is also important. I have a brief routine now, but when I began I didn’t stretch enough and later I did a lot of extraneous stretching that took up more time (which I later converted into actual workouts by adding weights). Now I have about 6 standard stretches that I do before and after a run that take up about 5 minutes of time.

I met with some setbacks as well. Due to the nature of this goal, I left myself no off days. I augmented my running with time on the elliptical so that I could “run” without the footstrike. This helped me battle shinsplints and rest up between actual runs. As shinsplints got worse, I used the elliptical more. This was mixed blessing because I can run faster and longer on this machine, which gives me a false sense of accomplishment. Still, there’s something to be said for the confidence I got–false or otherwise.

The community on Fitocracy has been wonderfully supportive. Getting props and encouragement from people who are also working on fitness and running was very helpful. I learned a lot about stretching, running, barefoot running, training, resting, etc. It was also very humbling knowing that my personal best on any given day is someone else’s warmup.

I’m also very happy about the support I received from friends/family on Facebook. My RunKeeper app updates to FB automatically, so people see my progress each day and comment there as well. Between Fitocracy and Facebook, that’s about as close as I’ve gotten to having a running buddy, though I’m sure one day I’ll share the road with a dog 🙂

I started this goal to make fitness a weekly part of my life. Research shows that doing an activity daily for 90 days helps to change your behavior and instill a new habit or routine. Most exercise programs capitalize on this and Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous encourage attending 90 meetings in 90 days when first beginning to maintain sobriety. Now that I’ve completed this goal, it is time to consider my next goal(s).

I have yet to complete a trufax 5K or 10K. Those are definitely on my list. I also want to complete P90X, but I have a ways to go for that. I plan to take a week off to rest my legs before I do anything. During that week I’ll give some thought to what I’d like to do next. Once my legs are better and I can get 2-3 good runs in at a consistent 30 minutes without too much injury (still working on form) I’ll sign up and do my first 5K.

As for P90X, I need to meet the minimum requirements before I begin. I’ve finished P90 and done several weeks of P90M, but that was over 2 years ago. I plan to push myself with the Ab Ripper routines and do an amalgamation of P90 and P90M exercises over the course of 1-2 months to work my way up to the P90X minimum on the fit test (see below). I’m still out of shape, but I’m better off than I was 90 days ago 🙂

So, for now, rest and recuperation. Starting in about a week I will alternate running with general workouts at our local gym to build up strength with the goal of passing the P90X fit test. From there, I’ll start P90X for reals and run as often as time (and my body) allows.

I’ll take any/all advice and well wishing in the comments section (for the half dozen of you who read my blog). I’m excited about completing my goal, but I’m also excited about starting a new one.


Running total from 90 day goal:

231.46 miles | 49:20 h:m | 13:15 avg pace | 35,829 calories | 12.0 lbs lost

Past measurements from P90/P90M exercise (circa 5/31/10)

  • Weight = 207 lbs
  • Waist = 39.5 in
  • Neck = 16 in
  • Thighs = 24 in
  • Biceps = 14.5 in
Current measurements (7/7/12):
  • Weight = 200.0 lbs
  • Body Fat = 26.4%
  • Waist = 38.5 in
  • Belly = 45.0 in
  • Hips = 42.0 in
  • Neck = 16.0 in
  • Chest = 43.0 in
  • Thighs =21.0 in
  • Calves = 16.0 in
  • Biceps = 13.75 in

P90X Fit Test goals:

  • Pull ups = 3
  • Push ups = 15
  • Wall Squat = 1 minute
  • Bicep Curls = 10 reps x 20 lbs
  • In and Outs = 25
  • Jumping Jacks (heart rate) = 90 sec @ steady; 30 sec @ sprint
  • Vertical leap = 5 inches 
  • Toe touch = 6 inches from toes 

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Out of Shape

Well, I can’t really say that I’m out of shape–I’m a nice round shape actually. But I’m going to do something about it starting this week. I have several toys to help me with this. Here’s the plan.

1. I got me some apps. I got a fitness tracker app for keeping track of my P90 progress and a Couch to 10k (C210k) app. Both are ~90 days, 12-13 weeks. The former will prolly help me more with P90X once I get fit enough to pass the introductory test (it’s sad, really). I say that because the exercises are already programmed in (for the most part) but the exercises I’m gonna be doing (from P90M) are prolly not programmed in, so I’ll have do do that myself.

2. I got me some new kicks. Vibrams are apparently really hard to come by. If you find the ones you want in your size, buy them. You’re prolly not gonna find them in your color though. The guys at the running stores (plural) I visited said the manufacturers are way behind on production due to the ridiculous demand. The Komodos (see below) are only sold in stores, not online. Also, they didn’t have my color 😦 Still, I wore them for a little while today and they felt great. I don’t think they’ll work very well as all-day-long shoes, but for 1-2 hours they’ll be fine. Everyone said to take them a bit slow when you first start out exercising with them so your feet can adjust. I can attest to that after walking on them for several hours. Still, I like how sensitive my feet are to the ground while wearing them. I walked across cobblestone and could feel the subtle differences in each stone.

Man I have hairy legs.

3. I got me a running partner. Sort of. John wants to run, even though no one will be chasing him, and he thinks the C210k might just do the trick. I see it as running for noobs. It takes the guesswork out of trying to get into running and challenges you quickly. Plus, the app I have is both idiot proof and allows me to listen to my iPhone/Pod. Also, come on. Couch to 10k. It is an exercise program that has the word “couch” in it. I can’t think of a more clear starting point. Anyway, running with a buddy is a bit more motivating, but even without a buddy, I got lots of books on tape. Dresden Files FTW. I’m on book 3 of 12 and book 13 comes out in July. I got some catching up to do (fyi, I am rereading them).

So here’s the plan. Pretty simple. I’m gonna do the P90M program, which is a step up from the P90 program I finished months ago, without the cardio. This program is very unorganized (the other P90 programs have excel files to track progress for crying out loud) and I had to track down a recommended schedule. The result is that I’m going to alternate Sculpt 5-6, Upper Middle Lower, Core Cardio, and (stab me) Plyometrics so as to challenge myself like the other programs do (3 weeks heavy, 1 week light, last month hell). I’ll do three of these videos each week alternating days with C210k. I’m thinking MWF weight training and TThSa C210K.

I am currently 225lbs. Yup, you read that right. When I finished this up last time I was 204lbs. Backsliding with a deficit of 21lbs. For shame. I can do 3/4 of a pull up (the P90X intro expects men to be able to do at least 3) and my pushups fail around 20 or so. I have no idea about my other measurements or my heart rate. I don’t feel the need to get bogged down in details until I’m actually doing P90X.

Tomorrow starts the suck. Be prepared for updates with me whining about how much I ache. It’s gonna happen.

EDIT: Wow. I must have been in a mood. I wrote “I got” a lot in this post. Whatever. I’m excited and a bit silly. No judging.

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I am well on my way to collecting data for my dissertation. I have acquired IRB approval at Spalding and I’m awaiting approval at 4 other universities. Funny, the one in North Carolina is much more on their game than the local ones in Louisville. I have printed all of the documents I need and will be stuffing packets this week. I also need to purchase a couple of things, including a locking document box (which are harder to find than you might think) and an external hard drive (multipurpose since I need to back up my compy anyway). Other than that, I need to track down participants and get to it.

Friday is Match Day. I will know then where I will be for internship (or if I need to freak out a whole bunch). I’ll be glad to have an answer either way. I’m tired of waiting. I’m growing impatient for my future. I’d like to be able to say with some certainty where I will be in a year.

I have started to consider my health again. This time last year (give or take a month) I began exploring P90 and doing Sparkpeople. I’ve left the latter in the dust, but I have strong intentions to restart the former. I am 225 lbs–the heaviest I’ve ever been. Internship interviewing and all of the stress from these past few months have led to more stress eating and a tendency to want to sit and veg at the end of the day. I turn 29 in 10 days and I’d like to be healthier on for my 30th birthday than I will be on my 29th. Part of that means eating healthier and part of that means exercising regularly. I plan to jump start this process sometime in the next couple of weeks by kicking my own ass with P90X. I also intend to begin paying more attention to what I consume. Portion size is a problem as is eating when I’m not really hungry. I plan to reduce the number of times I eat fast food and how frequently I eat greasy/fried foods in general. I hardly ever drink soda anymore and I have been increasing my water intake, so I do have something to show for myself. I’d like to get back down to between 165 lbs and 175 lbs. Online BMI calculators are telling me 160-176 for a medium frame and 129-169 (BMI 19-25) for my ideal body weight. Honestly, once I’m down past 200 I’ll be happy.

Let’s see, what else? I get to visit Maggie in a couple weeks for a couple weeks. My spring break and hers bunch up against each other, so it’ll make for a nice mid semester vacation. It won’t be all play though. I will be gathering data for my dissertation at her school while I’m there. I should be visiting her from around the 7th to the 19th of March. Really looking forward to it, I must say.

That’s all for now.

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