Back to the Body: The final word

Thursday, March 8th. The 16th day of Lent.

I think I’ll wrap up the Back to the Body series tonight. I’ve learned a few lessons over the last 10 months. Here they are. At the end I’ll offer some practical suggestions to anyone who is thinking about starting P90X.

It’s interesting to me that my spiritual journey has come to involve a more contemplative, exercise-oriented practice as opposed to a more cerebral, theological approach. And now I’ve also begun to pay attention to my body in other ways. Maybe it’s something that happens when you turn 50.

1. There is no going back.

If you are unhappy with your physical condition, the way you are eating and living right now is what got you to this place. If you go back to your old ways after a 3 month fitness program, you’ll lose all you gained in the same amount of time, if not sooner. An intense exercise program like P90X is only valuable if you see it as a jump-start to a new way of living. Continue reading

Back to the Body part 5

Wednesday, March 7th. The 15th day of Lent.

I apologize for the length of this. But I started this thing, so I guess I’ll try and finish it.

It took me four months to get through P90X the first time. It’s supposed to be 3 months but I had a number of nagging injuries and a couple of weeks when I was out of town. A warning for people over 40: this is an intense program, so Tony Horton isn’t kidding when he says to be careful. My tendency was to push hard and just deal with the injuries. I didn’t want any excuse to slack off because I would have. Look, you’re going to be sore every day during this program. I just ignored most of the small pains. But if I pulled a muscle or tweaked a joint and felt I needed rest, I would stay on the diet, take a few days off to recover, and then pick up where I left off as soon as I could.

What did P90X do for me?

I have photos but showing them would be creepy. So let me give you some before and after numbers. Look, this is going to sound a bit braggadocious, but I’m offering this as encourgement to anyone who is wondering what can be done in 3 or 4 months. When I was wondering whether or not to try P90X, this is exactly the kind of stuff I wanted to know from someone I trusted. Does it work? Continue reading

Back to the Body part 4

Tuesday, March 7th. The 14th day of Lent.

You know Plyometrics is going to be bad before you even get started. During the warmup, Tony says they tried to hire some “hotshots” for this video, but they couldn’t handle it. So the people working out with him are from the first P90X class. You probably won’t notice until Tony points it out, but one of the guys has a prosthetic leg. Tony mocks you with this. “Eric is performing today on one leg. So I don’t wanna hear no excuses from any of you!”

“Yeah, well I was thinking of turning off the video, Tony, but I guess if ERIC is doing it with one leg…”

But the real frightening part is when the warmup is pushing you hard. One part of the warmup is 90 seconds of lunges. You know what a lunge is? Take a step forward, only put your foot about twice as far forward as you normally would. Then sink down until your knee is bent at a 90 degree angle. Then stand up and repeat with the other leg. Do this over and over for 90 seconds. The first day my thighs were BURNING. Then Tony said, “Now this is just the warmup. If you’re having trouble with the lunge sequence, this might be too much for you.”

Let me break the suspense. Plyometrics IS going to be too much for you the first time. And the second time. And the third time. It’s actually going to be too much for you for a long, long time. Just get used to that. Continue reading

Back to the Body part 3

Monday, March 5th. The 13th day of Lent.

In May of 2010 I began to exercise and eat in a more healthy way. After 5 months, I started to write about my journey in a series I called “Back to the Body.” I wrote part one in September and didn’t write part two until 6 weeks had passed. And then I lost all interest in writing about this. Not because I stopped exercising, but because I couldn’t spare the writing time. All my writing was going into more serious matters, essays and my regular Pilgrim Post for Laity Lodge.

But now I am ready to continue the story…

P90X began for me on the first Monday morning of May, 2011. I had my equipment, my DVD workouts, and my diet planned. Jeanene was going to be beginning the P90X Lean program at the same time, which differs somewhat from the P90X Classic.

The first workout is called “Chest and Back.”

I knew it was going to be awful. I didn’t think it was going to be ridiculous. The first excercise was pushups. How many? Until you can’t do any more. Having done pushups a few days earlier in the “qualification trial,” I could only do 6. I followed this with 6 on my knees. Next was pull-ups. How many? As many as you can. I couldn’t do even one pull-up at the time. I was 5’8″ and weighed almost 200 pounds. There would be no real pull-ups for many months. I got a chair and used one leg to help me. I did 10. Continue reading

Back to the body part 2

Read part one here.

In some ways, my journey back to the body began in my early 40s, when doctrinal Christianity started to lose its meaning for me. There’s only so much energy you can put into polishing your theology. While other people still seemed interested in arguing over the finer points of doctrine, I got bored with that. With that boredom came the realization that my Christianity was mostly a cerebral thing. Desperate to find meaning in the faith that had been so important to me, I turned to more monastic practices of ritual prayer, silence, and meditation. I started making rosaries and chanting. I started sitting in the woods behind our church and listening. Anything I could do to get my body involved in the practice of my faith. I found that cerebral faith exercises, like obsessive theology polishing, tend to lead me toward doubt and despair. But body practices tend to calm me down and bring me joy.

Then I met an episcopal priest who used to play college baseball. I had the crazy idea that we should get together and play catch once a week while talking about the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday. I loved it. Unfortunately he moved away and I never found a suitable replacement. I was desperate enough that I bought a box of baseballs and went to the middle school diamond where I threw them from second base into the backstop behind home plate. Then I’d run around the bases and do it all over again.  Continue reading

Back to the body

Not many people know this about me, but when I was young I was very athletic and active. I was a hyperactive boy; I ran more than I walked, fidgeted more than I sat still, and talked pretty much non-stop. If I had grown up in this generation I probably would have been heavily medicated. Instead I played sports. A LOT of sports. I began playing Little League baseball and Pee Wee football in second grade and continued both with great passion until I graduated from high school. My senior year I was the varsity quarterback and played shortstop and right field for the baseball team. I ran the 400 and 800 meters on the track squad just for fun.

I was a jock. That’s what we were called. I made good grades. School wasn’t hard for me, but I didn’t care about anything intellectual. I kept my grades up because it made my parents happy and let me be eligible for football and baseball. I didn’t learn much in high school because I didn’t care about ideas or truth. I had a girlfriend and I had sports. Nothing else mattered that much to me. I read voraciously but innocently. I read because I thought books were more fun than movies. I didn’t know that reading could lead to intellectual discoveries, and I wouldn’t have cared if I had known. At eighteen I was a springy, energetic, happy-go-lucky ball of energy. Continue reading