A Positive Spin

I like the taste of a cold can of Diet Coke. Really cold. Straight out of the fridge cold. Or out of a really good vending machine. I like soda crackers. I don't know what it is - they're such a simple little food. But I can eat the damn things a sleeve at a time and not even notice it. I'm pretty sure they're not supposed to be eaten that way. Maybe they should start marketing them as a snack food?

I like the cold and snow, because it means people don't mill around in front of the restaurant behind my house. I can't believe I forgot this in my post on civility, but there's little I find more annoying than the people who plant themselves in large groups smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. Amazingly, when it's cold out, they manage to find other places to wait for their tables, or to smoke. I like this.

I like when someone sings a piece at karaoke, and does a better job of it than the original artist. I'm sitting at karaoke as I write this, and this woman just rocked "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes. I'm not a Stripes fan at all, and don't particularly like the song, but it was fantastic - she had her own interpretation of it, with a bit of flair. It was a joy to listen to.

Conversely, I take a bit of perverse pleasure when someone gets up clearly thinking they're god's gift to music, and just shits the bed. But I'm just mean that way...

I like the taste of a Krispy Kreme donut, original glazed, fresh off the conveyor belt, while you're waiting in line to place your order. The donut itself is amazing enough, but the fact that they're giving it to you for free - well, it's like the bartender comping you the first shot of the night, or the drug dealer giving you the first hit to get you hooked.

I like Twitter. Yes, obvious to those who know me, but it's really true. First off, it forced me to imagine from the group up how I consume information. Second, the 140-character online world brought a wealth of interesting people into my 'real' world. Most importantly, though, is the range of amazing sports writing to which I've been exposed - some new, some who I'd only read infrequently in the past. Local writers like Bruce Arthur, who's turning out some of the most intelligent coverage of the Canadian sports scene I've seen in years. Ex-pats like Jonah Keri, who I used to read when he was at Baseball Prospectus, but who I'd drifted away from over the last couple of years. The incredible Joe Posnanski, who's unquestionably the best writer of this generation using sports as a lens. Seriously, while I love Joe the most when he's writing about baseball - or about life as informed by baseball - but I'd read 3000 words by him on bullfighting, or cricket, or tiddlywinks. Anything. Joe is the late-'50s Montreal Canadiens. He's Coltrane. He's Kristin Chenoweth in "Wicked". He's Elle Macpherson. He's "The Rabbit of Seville".

That same woman, by the way, just crushed some Sam Cooke. Versatile - that's solid.

I like Brian Burke. Look, it's easy, even fashionable, to crap on him for the free agent signings that didn't work out - Komisarek and Lebda foremost among them. Ripping the Kessel trade is low-hanging fruit, and equally lazy. But for the first time in I can't remember how long, I honestly believe that the Leafs' GM is doing everything within his abilities to improve the team. That every loss is a punch to the gut, just like for the team's most loyal fans. That other than his family, nothing is more important in his life than doing what's necessary to bring Toronto a Stanley Cup, and not just at the corner of Front & Yonge.

I like Alex Anthopoulos. Dude's a ninja. Sure, the Jose Bautista contract worries me, but it's not my money - actually, that's not true. With the amount Rogers gets from us for cable, internet, home phone, cell phones, Jays tickets - well, I figure I'm responsible for just a little less than 1/10th of one percent of his salary this year. But if this is a mistake, it's his first one as far as I'm concerned. Pretty good batting average.

I like Mini-Wheats. They're sweet. They're crunchy. They're really everything you could want from a breakfast cereal. Or an evening snack.

The point of all this? I often get accused of being too serious, of not having enough fun in life. I just wanted to take a bit of time and space to describe just a few of the things that bring happiness to my life. There are many more, which is another thing I like. What do you like?

On Civility

There's a world that I miss. It's a world where men took off their hats when they came indoors.

A world where men got up to give their seat on the bus or subway to a pregnant woman.

A world where people held doors open for each other, instead of letting them swing back into their faces.

A world where people understood that the point of headphones and earphones was so that only they had to listen to their music.

A world where people kept to the right, so that there was room on the sidewalk for everyone.

A world where people paid attention to where they were going.

A world people said "excuse me" when they bumped into you.

A world where people paid attention to street signs, like the ones that say 'no parking' or 'no stopping'.

A world where people understood the concept of standing in line.

A world where people didn't wear jeans to the theatre. Or running shoes. Or hoodies. Or jeans. Did I mention jeans?

A world where people made original music, or at least remade the entire song.

A world where people cancelled reservations that they weren't going to keep.

A world where we didn't have Real Housewives and the Shore. Where the rich people on TV were just actors playing rich people. Where the stupid people on TV were just actors playing stupid people... or politicians.

I'm not imagining this, right? That world existed? Where people treated each other with kindness, and respect, and civility? Where shooting to match the lowest common denominator wasn't the preferred route in life. This wasn't just something that I saw on TV or in the movies?

Regardless, I miss that world.

Make Suspensions Mean Something

There's a much longer post kicking around in my head - actually, it's taking shape in my Moleskine, which is also its own separate post someday. The other post is about the whole mess in the Islanders/Penguins game on Friday night, and it's basically taking shape around the idea that Trevor Gillies is a moron. Because I like to start with an indisputable fact, and work out from there... In the meantime, the NHL has announced tonight the suspensions resulting from that game. On the whole, not a bad job. Eric Godard's 10 games was prescribed, so it can't really be argued. I'll say, though, that I'd take that suspension every day if I were him and twice on Sundays, if it meant having my goalie's back. I wish the 4 games that Matt Martin got was more - 6 or 7 felt more appropriate. I can't argue with 9 games for Trevor Gillies - I'm actually surprised it's that long, but he deserves every game of it and more because, as I mentioned above, he's a moron. Nice $100,000 hit to Charles Wang's pocket, which is just fine. Only thing that surprises me is the lack of any kind of discipline for Isles coach Jack Capuano.

But my purpose here is to throw an idea out for your consideration. It doesn't feel like it ought to be a new idea, but I'm quite sure I've never heard or read it anywhere. So here goes...

NHL teams dress 18 skaters and 2 goalies for every game. When a player gets suspended, they still dress 18 skaters and 2 goalies - they just grab a body out of the press box or, assuming they haven't completely buggered their cap management, call a guy up from the minors.

But how about this? How about, instead of just losing the suspended player, they lose the spot on the active roster? In other words, for the next 4 games while Matt Martin and Trevor Gillies are suspended, the Islanders would only be allowed to dress 16 skaters and 2 goalies. For the other five games of Gillies' suspension, they could only dress 17 skaters and 2 goalies.

Think Trevor Gillies is going to think twice before charging a guy with elbow high if he knows that the guy next to him in the dressing room is going to have to double-shift for half the month? More importantly, think Jack Capuano is going to think twice about putting Trevor Gillies into his lineup to begin with is that's the potential result?

The only way we're going to get this crap out of the game - the ONLY way - is peer pressure. So let's use the supplementary discipline system to put some pressure on those peers, so that they'll put the necessary pressure onto their jackass teammates.

This Weekend is Mother's Day for Me

For better and for worse, I am the man that I am today because of my mother. I don't say that lightly, for my father played no small part in my upbringing and I'd like to hope that I've been somewhat responsible for what/who I am too.

But it's quite simple - there is a single, defining event in my life and it has had a hand in shaping everything that's come since (I guess that's why they call it a defining event, no?).

On July 22, 1975, my mother lost her fight with breast cancer. She was just 35 years old. I was 6.

Growing up without my mother is why I know how to cook, and clean, and do laundry - my older sister and I pitched in on the chores at a very early age, to help take some of the load off my dad. From everything I've been told, my mother is the root of my musical talent - she won awards in local music competitions. As a child, I learned to be polite, quiet, respectful of my elders; really, I learned to be a mini-adult, because it made everything just that much easier.

On the other hand, growing up without my mother is also probably why I got married the day after I turned 22. It's certainly why it took me two failed marriages and until my mid-thirties (and my current fiancée) to finally get it right with a relationship. It's why I've never said "I love you" to the important people in my life nearly often enough, and why I've never said it at all to some of them. A psychoanalyst would probably tell me that growing up without my mother is why I don't have any interest in having children of my own, although I'd argue I have plenty other good reasons for that.

Anyway, not having a mother and never really getting to know her, Mother's Day has never held any real meaning for me. However, about 6 1/2 years ago, I came across something that did have some meaning - a roundabout way I could connect with my mother. In September 2004, I took part in the second annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer. For those of you who aren't familiar with this event, it was a two day, 60 kilometre walk throughout the streets of Toronto, with a minimum fundraising requirement of $2,000. It was, to say the least, a life-changing experience. The weekend itself was a flood of emotions - the people I met, the stories I heard, exhaustion and exhilaration all mixed up together in one package. I raised a boatload of money for a great cause and met some people who'll be in my life for a long, long time.

It was such a great experience that I came back in 2005 and did it all over again. And then once more in 2007, although circumstances (also known as a blister covering the entire pad of my foot) stopped me from getting the job done after the first day.

I haven't been back to walk since, for a lot of reasons. The event's now known as The Weekend to End Women's Cancers (one of the reasons, in fact) and this year's edition wrapped up a couple of hours ago. But even if I've soured on taking part myself, it doesn't stop me from being in awe of everyone who does and wanting to get out and support them in the effort. Yesterday morning, I found a nice quiet side street in the Avenue and Lawrence area not too far from home, parked the car, and stationed myself on the sidewalk at about the 19 km mark in front of a row of townhouses. From 10:30 until just after 3:00, I stood there and clapped my hands red for every single one of the 4,623 walkers on the route (okay, I maybe missed the first half-dozen or so while I was getting parked). Young and old, women and men, large groups or lone walkers, pregnant, knees braced, walking poles - they all came by.

Yesterday was my chance to say thanks to a large group of people - today, there are a few in particular who I'd like to make sure know how much I appreciate their sacrifice:

  • Thanks to Deneen Cole-Ashbury - a friend from my first year, and an absolute road-warrior for this cause. This was her 7th year doing the Toronto event, and her 16th event overall - yes, she's travelled to other cities to walk long distances, and each one of those had the same $2,000 fundraising minimum. Do the math...
  • Thanks to Erin Truax - fellow CIBCer back for her second year
  • Thanks to Jai Cole - friend from what seems like a lifetime ago, queen of the sweeper vehicles - and her daughter Stephanie
  • Thanks to Greg Barry - motorcycle crew man extraordinaire
  • Thanks to Ngaio Potts - castmate from this spring's production of The Producers
  • Thanks to Meri Rawling-Taylor - one-time boss, now co-worker and friend
  • Thanks to Ana Mae Soquena - our intrepid, ball-of-energy assistant at work
  • Thanks to everyone else from Team CIBC - the ones I know/have met (Sonia, Victor, Leslie, Maureen, Colette, and Martha) and all of the dozens others I don't/haven't
  • Thanks to Dee Brun and Lisa - two ladies with long-familiar Twitter handles who I was just twintroduced to last night

To everyone who walked or crewed - but to all of you above especially - thanks for registering, for training, for walking/crewing... thanks for the sore muscles and the blisters... thanks for taking the weekend away from your partners, your children, your pets... thanks for raising almost 11 million dollars this weekend.

Mostly, thanks for doing everything you can to try to create a world where little boys become men because they have their mothers around, not because they don't.

My P90X Journey - Day 57: The Home Stretch Begins

Today, we move into phase 3 of the P90X program. All of the workouts are ones that we've seen before, but the combination switches every week from here on out. This week is a repeat of the combination from weeks 1 through 3. My strategy tonight? Bring the pain. On all the lifts and flys where I was using 12 pound weights before, use 15s this time and try to not drop by too many reps. On the chin-ups and pull-ups where I was using 70 lbs before, use 80 this time. On all of the push-up variations where I'd been staying on my knees so that I could actually get in a decent number of repetitions, do them all from my toes, even if it meant that I could only do 1.

And it all worked. It wasn't even as big of a change as I would have expected. I mean, the second time through the set of exercises was really hard, but I pushed through it all. I was even able to bang out push-ups - more than I expected I would.

On the downside, I apparently lost my sit-up muscles during this last recovery week. Very annoying...

My P90X Journey - Day 52: Marlee Matlin Likes Me! (or The Power of Celebrity)

It's been an odd day in my P90X blog world... I made two commitments to myself when I decided to blog about the P90X workouts. First of all, I wouldn't blog about the blog. I see that quite often, but it just seems a little too self-referential - a little too meta, as the cool kids say. Second, I'd try to keep the blogging focused on P90X - the workouts, and their physical, mental, and emotional effect. I could see a day where I might want to spin off into talking about hockey, or baseball, or lousy drivers, but I wanted to hold back on that until at least day 91.

I broke that second commitment a couple of days ago with the radio station post. I just couldn't help myself - I actually emailed a slightly different version of that to the station originally, but it didn't get the desired effect. Then I remembered that I had a platform. Okay, it's not big enough to be a platform, per se, but you get the point. Hence, the radio station post. Off topic, but it seemed to interest people enough that a decent number of you clicked through to read it.

Today, I'm going to break the first commitment. I'm about to get meta on y'all.

As you may know, I'm on Twitter (@sboulton, if you're also there and looking to give a follow). I have a rather varied roster of people that I follow - sports writers, athletes, tech bloggers, interesting people who I've met around town, and the odd celebrity or two. One of the celebrities I follow is Marlee Matlin - she's a great actress (loved her in The West Wing) and she has a very interesting perspective on activism.

Today, Marlee Matlin tweeted that she was "Making a Change". When I clicked through on the link that she provided, I saw that she's registered herself as a BeachBody coach - BeachBody.com are the folks who offer the range of fitness products that includes P90X - and that she's challenged herself to a fitness regimen. She's currently doing Power 90, and she plans to start P90X on August 1st.

I thought that was pretty interesting, including that she was brave enough to post her "before" picture on her coach page. So, I sent her a tweet to say attaboy, that it's a fantastic program, and that I was going through my own P90X journey. It's the type of tweet that I've sent out to other celebrities before - "hey, liked you in that movie", that sort of thing. I generally figure that it goes out into the ether without making any impact.

I could not have been more wrong...

Much to my surprise, Marlee Matlin retweeted my tweet to her. If you're not familiar with how Twitter works, a retweet is when you read a tweet by someone who you're following, and then you turn around and send it out so that all the people who are following you can see it too. Reading stuff that's retweeted by the people you follow is how you often find new people to follow - if someone's interesting to them, they might also be interesting to you.

Now, Marlee Matlin has more than 46,000 people following her tweets. She's also in another 2,700-odd twitter lists, plus she turns up in aggregator streams on websites for magazines like People and Entertainment Weekly. In other words, lots of people see her tweets.

This blog, on the other hand, is usually seen by very few people. If I get a dozen people reading the average post, it's a good day. In fact, the last two days, I'd set new highs for myself in terms of page views. "Highs" is a relative term - yesterday topped out at 54, and the day before that at 40. In other words, I don't exactly have a broad reach.

Today, this blog had 219 page views, and that number is still growing as I'm writing this...

Suffice to say, Marlee Matlin is an 800-pound gorilla and I, I am the tick riding along perched on the back of the gorilla's neck. Pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things but, for one day at least, it's been a fun ride.

Oh, yeah - about the P90X for today. It was kenpo day and, thankfully, I did not feel like an uncoordinated clod throughout it like I did during week 7. Another nice hard workout - sweated up a river - that felt really good. Tomorrow, I have my first massage appointment in about a month-and-a-half - ahhhh - followed by the chiropractor. And then, it's a stretch day. I'm a happy boy.

My P90X Journey - Day 50: Evangelism

The gospel is spreading. It started as just two friends from The Producers, Erin, and me. Slowly, ever so slowly, more people have been sucked into the P90X web:

  • Erin's brother James was first - he's been with us since the beginning
  • Two people from my team at work were interested in all or part of it, and one of them had day 2 today
  • Another cast mate is going to give it a go
  • One of my oldest friends is taking a look

Pretty much every time that we're down in the gym, someone or another remarks on how hard the workout looks, or asks about what we're doing. Tonight, as James was out front for a smoke before we headed down for yoga, he ran into one of the other guys from the building who's often in the gym when we are. He's already ridiculously fit - works out like an animal - but asked what we were doing tonight and if he could try it out. So, tonight we had a yoga buddy.

Good yoga workout tonight. I'm still not sure what's going to happen on day 91, or day 92, but I can see this being something that I come back to from time to time. Being able to hold a position better than the time before, or being able to hold a position for the first time, is extremely satisfying. And needless to say, it's an incredibly intense routine.

An Open Letter to Morning Drive-Time Radio

Dear local radio station whose name shall be withheld to protect the less-than-innocent, I couldn't call in this morning because I was driving to work, but I was listening to your discussion about Mel Gibson and his taped comments that have been leaked. I had two thoughts that I wanted to share with you.

First, while it's true that the nature of his comments (and his previous actions) tells us a lot about Mel Gibson as a man, that was supposed to be a private conversation between a husband and a wife (or are they just dating?). It's none of anyone's business except theirs. It may have even been recorded illegally - unlike in Canada, as far as I'm aware it's illegal in most U.S. states for anyone other than law enforcement to record someone without their knowledge and consent. Beyond the fact that it's salacious, which equals controversy and ratings, why should we care?

Second, and most importantly, it struck me that you followed up your discussion about Mel Gibson's hateful comments by playing right afterward the song "Love the Way You Lie" by Rihanna and Eminem. Among Eminen's lyrics are this gem - "If she ever tries to f***ing leave again, I'mma tie her to the bed and set the house on fire.". I think it was Shakespeare that first wrote those words, wasn't it?

I'm assuming there's not really a link between the music you play and the topics you discuss on your morning show, so I'm guessing that you weren't trying to be ironic. So, I can only say that it takes a special kind of hypocrisy to demonize hurtful speech and domestic violence one second and then turn around and glorify it the next. It's particularly disappointing when the two artists recording the song with those lyrics each have their own histories with tumultuous or violent relationships, whether perpetrator or victim.

Don't get me wrong. I know that you're in the entertainment business and that it's ultimately about ratings. You're going to play songs that people want to hear, whether it's "Love the Way You Lie", or Pitbull's "Hotel Room", with all its bragging about infidelity and sex without respect for the other person.

But your station does a lot of great work, whether through the causes you support or shows like the one you did a while back for teens to call in and ask questions about sex. You had an opportunity here to have a similar impact with regard to the issue of domestic violence, which is enormously important and occurs with alarming frequency among your demographic. I just think it's really unfortunate that you didn't take advantage of that opportunity - that, in fact, you decided to use it as the jumping-off point for sophomoric song parodies and unoriginal insults. It's even more unfortunate that we don't live in a world where you'd be able to have your playlist reflect the values you otherwise try to model for your listeners.

Hmm, I'm starting to sound like my father here.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I'm not sure I will be for much longer...

My P90X Journey - Day 49: Hey Jackie... Phhttt...

...Yeah, I said phhttt. No, I didn't get the workout in on Saturday night when we got home. Yes, I should have done it in the morning before we came to the party. Yes, that means that I'm down to P86X now. Still, phhttt. Good hard kenpo workout yesterday, but it wasn't particularly satisfying. Felt really uncoordinated through the whole thing, like I was doing everything with my left hand.

Today's stretch routine was much better. I'm still really happy with how much more flexible I'm getting, particularly laterally.

And so we hit the end of week 7, rolling over to another recovery week starting tomorrow. A little more weight loss (20 pounds total this year), which means the BMI comes a little closer to getting out of the overweight range. A little more of a drop in body fat percentage. Everything confirming what I'd been feeling - this is still working. Perhaps not as quickly or as consistently as I'd like, but it's still working. And in 11 days, more photos.

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My P90X Journey - Day 45: Momentum

Plyometrics yesterday? Um, hard. Not disheartening hard, but hard enough that I couldn't get through as much as I'd have wanted to of each exercise. Knees are the problem these days, and for the last couple of weeks for that matter. Actually, probably not the knees themselves - I'd wager that it's likely the IT bands, which have been a problem for me for years. But when your knees, or IT bands, hurt, it makes it tough to get down into a decent squat. It makes it uncomfortable to do a lot of movements that involve leaving your feet, which is really what plyo is all about.

Plus, it's freaking hot right now. Sucks the life right out of you, and a perfect breeding ground for an exercise-induced asthma flare-up.

Today's back/biceps/abs? Much, much better. The good type of hard. More reps of almost everything. More situps than Tuesday, instead of sliding back to not being able to do any like two weeks ago. 15 mason twists, almost halfway to what's in the program.

I am tired, but satisfied.

Now, let's see how well I can manage the life/workout balance this weekend. Dad's in town Friday night for the Jays game, which means I probably won't be able to get to the scheduled yoga. Pick it up on Monday's rest day instead?

My P90X Journey - Day 43: I Didn't Even Tick it With My Back Leg

I don't know if it was the three days off. I don't know if it was the act of putting pen to paper, as it were. Maybe it was a little of both, or maybe it was neither. Whatever the cause, I'm over the hurdle. I kicked the gym's ass today (I won't say that I kicked P90X's ass, because I don't need that kind of karma). Chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs - I rocked them all. Topped my personal best on pretty much every exercise in the routine. Doubled my best on a couple of them. 10 complete wide-leg situps, over a personal best of 4 and not being able to do any more often than not. 10 mason twists, when I'd never been able to do a single one properly before.

To be fair, the last of those did almost bring about my 2nd P90X vomiting episode. Only almost, thankfully...

This was a good day.

My P90X Journey - Day 42: Ennui... or Plateau?

Day 42? Yes, it's been about a week-and-a-half since I last posted an update. I just haven't had either the energy or the focus to put pen to paper... er, fingers to keyboard. Hence, the post title. P90X is hard. I know, this isn't news at this point, but it's really hard. After a long day at work, it's really easy to come home and want to slack off. When events are happening that capture your attention, it's really easy to focus on them and put off your workout for another time. Except this is an every day commitment, so there really isn't another time.

As a result, things have been choppy lately. Two weekends ago was the city exploding into conflict and violence and, I have to admit, it grabbed me with both hands and wouldn't let go. We were glued to the television coverage. Day 33 became 'let's make today the rest day, and then do today's workout tomorrow and tomorrow's workout on Monday, when we're supposed to have the rest day'. Which is all well and good, except that it's become apparent to me that there's a reason why the schedule is set up the way it is. Body parts are worked in a particular order. The routine has peaks and valleys, a rhythm with which you just shouldn't mess.

Why not? Because P90X is hard, and it gets even harder when you start shuffling the schedule. When you do kenpo, and then you follow it right up again with chest/shoulders/triceps/abs, and then plyometrics, and then... well, you need that day in between to give your body a break. And when you don't get that, it gets harder. When it's harder, and you're already pre-disposed to be hard on yourself like I am, then it becomes frustrating. Frustration becomes annoyance. Annoyance becomes poor focus and poor form. Poor form makes it harder. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

This weekend, it was Ribfest - large servings of protein, hot weather, bright sun, and allergies out in full force. And the problems repeated - not really ever home on Saturday to get the workout in, so day 40 became the rest day, and Sunday and today were to be Saturday and Sunday's workouts. But the heat/sun/allergy combo knocked me on my ass by the time we got home yesterday, and left me pretty wobbly through most of the day today, which meant that those two days of workouts just didn't happen. Best laid plans and all that, but P90X suddenly becomes P88X for me.

So, tomorrow is day 43, the beginning of week 7 - it's the last week of getting in the really hard work before the 'recovery week', the last chance to go after some significant gains before moving into the home stretch of this program. It's gut check time - I need to treat day 43 just like it's day 1. I need to get past whatever this block is, whether physical or mental, and get back to work.

My P90X Journey - Day 32: 30-Day Progress Report (with Photos!)

Further update on Wednesday's massive plyo session - yes, Dave, you're getting name-checked in here yet again. My knees and ankles are still absolutely wrecked, and I still don't regret it for a second. That being said, I wouldn't object to not hurting anymore, either. Fantastic yoga session today. I mean, seriously fantastic. Nice hard work that had me dripping with sweat only 10 minutes in. Other than the really advanced movement poses, I was able to get into everything. Reached past my toes on the double-leg hamstring stretch. For the first time today, I even managed to get into the crane position, and hold it for 3 seconds. I was more than a little amazed.

Now that we're past the 30-day mark (and now that we've been able to find the cord that connects the camera to the computer), it's probably time to check in with the first official P90X progress report. Through the first 30 days:

  • down 6 pounds, from 191 to 185 - actually 18 pounds in total since mid-January
  • down almost 4 points in body fat percentage, from 25.8% to 22.1%
  • down more than a pant size - from wearing 38s, I'm back into my size 34 jeans, which I haven't been able to wear in more than 4 years, when I was still at half-marathon weight. Also back into most of those fantastic dress clothes that I had for work back then, and not too far off on the rest

And yes, we do have day 0 and day 30 photos for comparison purposes. Day 0 on the left and day 30 on the right, although I sure hope that's obvious (good lord, I can't believe I'm going to do this)...

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To say that I'm pleased with the results would be an understatement. I can't wait to see what day 60 will bring!

My P90X Journey - Day 31: Pain is Just Weakness Leaving Your Body

So, yeah - that whole sit-up euphoria from Tuesday? Pretty short-lived. We've apparently returned to our regularly-scheduled programming, where the cumulative effect of the workouts means that I'm unable to complete the exercises that involve getting upright from a prone position. Such as, well, sit-ups. That's okay, though. The renewed sense of failure just serves to take my mind off the intense discomfort that's the legacy of yesterday's plyowwwww session. Actually, that's unfair. My soreness is partly of my own making. On a usual Thursday, I'd have been at work, walking around every once in a while, keeping the joints loose, and remembering to stretch. Unfortunately, because we're living in a police state right now here in Toronto, I was working from home today, which means that I was ass-first in my desk chair from the moment I got up this morning until practically right before we went down to do today's workout. The few times that I did get up and move around, it was slowly, and my knees creaked and barked with every step.

Yeah, there is literally no part of my body that doesn't hurt as a result of yesterday's plyo, plus there are parts - like my left forearm - that still hurt from Tuesday's workout too. I'm talking shoulders, arms, back, abs, thighs, knees... even my ankles hurt after yesterday. Thanks, Dave. Thanks a lot. By the way, the title from today's post was provided by Dave as well, from a note he left on my Facebook wall earlier today. I've never heard that quote before, nor do I know the source - apologies if it's original, Dave - but I really liked the sentiment.

Anyway, today was a new back and biceps workout, along with the AbRipper. Hard, but felt really good. With the sore left forearm, every set of curls was an enormous challenge, and extremely satisfying to complete. And while the sit-up portion of the AbRipper was a failure, other parts are coming along nicely. Each time, I've able to do more and more reps of more and more of the exercises. Which is a very nice feeling.

Big day tomorrow. Another day of working from home. The ultra-long yoga session, where I hope I'll be able to avoid last week's sweat problems because I'm really looking forward to getting a good bend and stretch in. And then, a little picture-in-picture sports action, with the NHL draft and Doc's first start against the Jays both getting underway at the same time. Ooh, Erin's going to hate that last part...

My P90X Journey - Day 30: Where We're Joined by a Guest Tyrant... Um, Trainer

Oh my god, I am tired. Deep to the bone, drop where I'm sitting, tired. Point of fact, I was so tired that I got only that one sentence down on the screen last night before I couldn't even form coherent thoughts anymore.

Yes, day 30 was plyo day. Now, plyo day is hard enough, but this was no ordinary plyo day. Allow me to explain...

See, I've mentioned before that I'm not on this journey alone - it's a group effort. It started with Jackie and Ngaio from the musical I did earlier this year, and my fiance Erin and her brother James are doing it as well. We all started at the same time on the Tuesday after the Victoria Day long weekend. The idea was that we'd do our own stuff and support each other online, but that we'd also get together every once in a while to do a group workout when it was time for something like plyometrics.

It took us a while to get our schedules together, but last night was our first group workout. As an added benefit, Jackie's friend Dave is a personal trainer and P90X survivor... er, graduate, and she arranged for him to come by and put us through our paces. However, this was not Tony Horton's standard P90X plyo. Dave had his own personal torture he wanted to put us through.

Well, as I said, oh my god. I have never worked out harder in my life. Sweated through my shirt, sweated through my shorts, all but water-logged my shoes. After 30 days, I finally popped my P90X puking cherry. Don't get me wrong - it's not like I wanted it to happen, but I am a little surprised it took so long. Just a mean, hard, awful, cruel plyo workout. Didn't do as well as I would have liked, but I'm frankly just happy that I survived. And if I had the money, I'd be hiring Dave to do it all over again every week. Yes, I'm ill, but you knew that already, right?

My P90X Journey - Day 29: We Now Return You to Your Regularly-Scheduled Programming

Sorry for that interruption earlier - suffice it to say that I was a little bit excited about today's workout... Wait a minute - day 29? You may be asking what happened to days 25 through 28? What happened to checking the progress at the end of week 4? Well, they're really just a casualty of that whole balancing exercise and life thing I've talked about earlier. The exercise wasn't a casualty, but the blogging about it was. So, let's see if we can't catch you up, shall we?

  • Day 25 was X Stretch, which is just a fantastic stretching routine. In fact, this day - this particular day - may well have been my favourite day out of the entire program so far. I'm really happy with the flexibility I've developed. In a figure-four stretch, I can actually get down and reach my heels. In a straight-leg stretch, I can grab my toes. I don't think I've ever been this flexible.
  • Day 26 was Core Synergistics for the second time in the week, and I can quite comfortably say that I dislike this particular routine the most among all of them. It's just hard in a much different way than any of the others; it has a lot of parts to it that are just not natural movements.
  • Days 27 and 28 were essentially a waste. Day 27 was supposed to be Yoga X and Day 28 a rest/stretch day. Due to a social commitment and a general lack of energy, we decided to flip them around - take the rest on Sunday and do the yoga on Monday. Best laid plans, and all that. Let me tell you, when trying to do high-intensity yoga, sweat is your enemy. I don't know what the heck was going on, but my hands and feet were both sweating like a teenage boy on prom night. I seriously don't know how the hot yoga folks do it. When your hands are sliding forward, and your feet are sliding backward, it's just a little difficult to hold a textbook downward dog. I mean, you only have to go into that position 30 or 40 times during the workout. So yoga only lasted about 10 minutes before we threw in the towel - no point in getting hurt.
  • By the way, about that social commitment - if you're in the Toronto area, and you ever get a chance to check out a burlesque group called Les Coquettes, it's money well-spent. They did a fantastic show at Revival on Sunday night - some of the most creative dance I've seen in a long time, an amazing aerialist, and attitude up the wazoo. Fun and funny. Not for the kiddies, needless to say...
  • No change in weight for week 4, which is about what I expected. Recovery week, and all that.

And now we're back up to date. Day 29, the beginning of week 5, and the turnover to a new set of weekly routines. Today, we had chest, shoulders, and triceps, plus our old friend AbRipperX. Apparently, there are new and different ways of doing pushups that we hadn't yet explored during weeks 1 through 3. I confess that I found this rather surprising... and extremely hard. This was not a pleasant day in the gym, with absolutely no sense of satisfaction. Until...

It seems that taking the week off from the AbRipper X program allows you to come at it again with a renewed purpose. For example, did I mention that I'm now able to do a sit-up? Yeah, I know, it was a different post, but you're reading them all - I know you are. Yes, all of a sudden, I'm able to get up for a complete sit-up. Four of them even! I mean, it takes a solid 5 seconds to get all the way up, and I need to compose myself again and re-clench for 10 seconds afterward. But still - four sit-ups!

And then I got back upstairs afterward and, when I looked in the mirror, there they were - abs. Two chunks of abdominal muscle, one on each side of my belly button, as if out of nowhere. I'm serious - they weren't there yesterday. They weren't even there this morning. It's just weird.

Tomorrow (well, today at this point) - big day. Day 30. The first official checkpoint. New photos. Will I feel like sharing? We'll just have to see...

My P90X Journey - Days 22 to 24: Taking Fallen Soldiers off the Battlefield is Called "Recovery" Too

I'm not sure what's harder - the P90X, or keeping a regular blog about it. Day 22 - Yoga - So, we're in week 4 now. They call this 'recovery week', I assume the idea being that you get to take a break from all the ab work and all the heavy resistance work and focus more on cardio and flexibility. Which is nice, I suppose, except the week includes yoga and kenpo, both of which we've done before and neither of which are exactly easy.

Something different about yoga this time around, though. Not easier, exactly, but I guess there's just enough extra flexibility now that the stuff I can do, I can actually do, and do some of it pretty well. I still can't do the stuff I can't do. And the stuff that I can kind of do, I can kind of do it a little better. So, that's all good, right?

Wow, that was some tortured writing...

Day 23 - Core Synergistics - Ooh, our first new routine since day 7. Yeah, nothing remotely easy about this one either. Pushups with the hands out of alignment and the feet stacked on top of each other? Walking pushups? Rolling bananas? Alternating supermans and bananas? WTF? Recovering my breath maybe, and only barely. This week is not at all as advertised.

Day 24 - Kenpo - Ah, my old friend. Welcome back. I know it's only been 5 days, but I've missed you so. We get along so well, with all your punching and blocking and kicking. Just sheer raw, naked aggression, sweat and muscles rippling, breath heavy...

Whoa... when did this turn into a Harlequin romance? Yikes...

BTW, on a completely non-P90X-related note, I saw some discussion floating around today about whether or not Eric Lindros should be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame when the new class is announced on Tuesday. Let me state, for the record, unequivocally, no, he should not be. Not in this or any other lifetime. There is nothing in his career that remotely suggests he's deserving of this honour, and I defy anyone to convince me otherwise.

I may yet have more to say about this, but for now, NO.

My P90X Journey - Days 18 to 21: Finding the Work(out)/Life Balance

I've now been faced for the second time with what will probably be the hardest challenge in this program - how to strike a balance between a workout program that needs you to devote 1.5 to 2 hours a day to it and trying to just live your life. As important as it is to get your exercise in, how do you manage that when you're faced with work or social commitments? And when you're trying to write a daily blog chronicling your experience with the exercise program, how do you find time for that too? It's a conundrum... So, to catch up on what I've missed so far:

Day 18 (Friday) - Yoga - Hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate it. It's hard and I hate it. That is all.

Day 19 (Saturday) - Back/Legs/Abs - I love legs day. After four days of failure with pushups, and plyometrics, and situps, and yoga, having a day where I can be almost completely successful is such an important boost for my confidence. Now, that being said, doing a legs-based workout and following it up by sitting through weekend traffic to St. Catharines? Not such a good idea, and a perfect example of the workout conflicting with life's other obligations.

Sorry, but before I forget, just one more comment about day 18 and yoga. I hate it.

Day 20 (Sunday) - Kenpo... nope, rest day - And the weekend's other example of the conflict. Late, late night in St. Catharines, the typical uncomfortable motel bed, long time in the car on the drive back home through weekend traffic, plus a trip to the mall on the way back. By the time we got home, there was absolutely no chance that we'd be able to get enough energy together to do the kenpo workout. But what to do? I haven't missed a day of this program yet and I don't want to. Missing a day is the first step on the road to not sticking with it, to not following through, to having this be yet another fitness failure. Maybe I could switch things up? Monday is supposed to be the rest or stretch day - what about if we just flipped them? Take the rest today and do the kenpo workout on Monday? Is it really a good idea to mess with the routine like that? Yeah, I don't care really - I'm beat like a dusty rug in the backyard on a summer's day.

And now we're caught up to today. It's day 21, the rest/stretch day turned kenpo workout. By the time I get home from work, my energy level is back up, nothing hurts, and I'm excited about spending an hour punching and kicking the air. This was a good session, with the sweat flying and the heart pumping. And even now, four hours later, there is still nothing hurting on my body. This is unusual. It's particularly unusual to find that after two days folded up in the car and a night on a motel bed, my back doesn't hurt. I mean, not even a little. Is it possible that this whole exercise thing has actual health benefits? Is that the way it's supposed to work? Is it really so simple that all I need to do to stop my back from being a pain in the back is to take some slices off my gut and loosen up my hamstrings?

Being day 21 and the end of week 3, it's also time to track the progress. Body fat percentage is down again. The scale shows another pound gone for the week - 6 pounds in 3 weeks of P90X and 18 pounds total so far in 2010 - which means that the BMI is down again too.

This is working. It's actually working. And, I'm surviving...

My P90X Journey - Day 17: Narrated by Jim Perry with Soundtrack by Dream Warriors

Definition. My definition. I look today and I see definition. There are biceps. There are triceps. There are deltoids. The three of them together form this nice little triangle from the side view. When I flex, there are peaks on both the top and the bottom of the arm. This is unfamiliar to me.

There are abs. Abs - plural. I can feel them. I mean, they're buried under several layers of adipose tissue, but they're there. When I'm doing the AbRipper, and I reach to the places where it hurts, I can feel actual muscles underneath there. Ab muscles. This is extremely unfamiliar to me.

Shoulder presses? Good. Curls? Good. Full set of in and outs. Full set of forward bicycles. Full set - FULL SET - of froggy crunches, when I couldn't do more than a couple two days ago. Lots of ab raises. Getting up to my toe on the leg climbs.

This was a very good day. This was the type of day that makes it easy to stay with it, easy to shake off the soreness and the tightness in the back of my leg.

Of course, I still haven't been able to do a full sit-up. It's not all wine and roses...