Problems. Last night I played basketball with some friends and I suffered a minor strain to my wrist. I still plan to continue with the p90x program, but I think I may have to skip any exercises that directly involve placing pressure on my wrist (e.g., pull and push ups).

Luckily the exercises I did today did not directly involve my wrist. They were primarily plyometric with the majority of them being squats of some kind or another. I liked this particular program. It was quite a lot of cardio (close to an hour) but I thought that the exercises were fun, easy to do, and reasonably challenging. By the end I was gassed, and rightfully so, as the head guy (still don’t know his name) called this “the mother of all p90x workouts”, a point which he reiterated many times, once by just saying “the mother…” in a very low, creepy voice.

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Sleep: I probably got 6.5 – 7 hours last night. Not ideal, but better than the previous night

Supplements: 2 fish oil capsules, 1 multivitamin

Food:

  • Breakfast: 2 egg omelet with a slice of 2% cheese, 3 slices of ham, peppers, onions, and a splash of hot sauce for good measure. Medium banana on the side.
  • Snack: two pieces of wheat toast with natural peanut butter, dr. pepper diet
  • Lunch: Ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich with dijon mustard, protein shake
  • Snack: No snack
  • Dinner: Home-made sesame chicken (non-breaded) with red pepper, sugar snap peas, pineapple, and a side of brown rice.
  • Snack: I’m going out tonight so I might have something small at the bar (not too bad though!)

Activities: No extra-curricular activities today.

I sprained my wrist playing basketball last night. It’s kind of amazing, I was an avid ice and roller hockey player in my youth, I’ve been downhill skiing since just after I could stand, and I regularly play sports and engage in exercise that likely increases my chances of obtaining such an injury. Despite all this, I have never had a sprained wrist.

I was at a loss for what to do. And just one short day after embarking on my p90x-periment I was concerned that it might be over before I really got started. How long would this take to heal? What could I do to make sure I got my range of motion back and that it isn’t one of those injuries that nags me for many years to come? Once again, the internet was there to inform me and comfort me. Below I will summarize my findings from many internet sources and below that I will provide you with some of the links to those sources so you can check them out yourself.

It seems the time-tested method of treating a wrist sprain is the R.I.C.E. method. I know, I know, the first time I saw it I thought it was some new-age method using a compress of dry wild grain rice (of course, the site I found this on didn’t use periods to indicate that it was an acronym). Here’s each letter explained:

  • Rest: rest the wrist 24-48 hours immediately after the injury. This means avoiding any activity that directly causes pain to the injury. Unfortunately — as I am finding — with a sprained wrist this includes most every activity, especially if you hurt the wrist of your dominant hand. It’s also made me realize that I am incredibly right-hand dominant.
  • Ice: ice the injury every 3-4 hours for 10-15 minutes at a time (no more than 20 minutes). Don’t put the ice pack directly on the skin. Instead place a towel over it first or do it through an ace bandage. Sources contradict each other on how long to engage in this, but I think will just do it until most of the pain and swelling go away.
  • Compress: compress the injury by placing it in a stint or using an ace bandage. Both of these are readily available at your local drug store and at most grocery stores as well. Being that my mother works in health care and that I have sprained my ankle in the past, I happened to have one on hand already.
  • Elevate: elevate the injury above your heart as often and for as long as possible. There may be some internal bleeding going on at the site of the injury and this helps to keep undue blood from flowing to the spot of the injury. You should also try to elevate it when you are sleeping by propping it up with a pillow.

Unfortunately I found much less consensus on how long it typically takes for an injury like this to heal. This is perhaps not surprising as every sprain is different and every person will treat it differently. Some estimates were in the 10  day range (optimistic) up to the 2-4 week range (I hope, pessimistic). I guess this will teach me not to get overly emotional and try to do too much in recreational sporting events.

I forgot to mention this before, but I also saw a suggestion in Men’s health that is pertinent. They suggested putting equal parts water and rubbing alcohol in a zip-top bag and dropping it in the freezer for an easy-to-use ice pack. I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds like a good idea. That is, provided you use a good bag 😉

Links:

I’ve been a little more concerned with sleep lately than I usually am. My girlfriend and I have had some trouble recently because we both appear to have separate resting body temps (she runs hot, I run cold). To remedy this, I decided to do a little research.

My first inclination was that my bedroom might not be the appropriate temperature. I live in a basement with some shoddy construction and the winter makes it a very difficult place to heat effectively. Therefore, it’s quite possible that I am either over- or under-heating the room. Turns out, ambient air temperature can significantly affect sleep quality. Unfortunately, it appears to be difficult to determine the “best” temperature for good sleep:

Recommending a specific range is difficult…because what is comfortable for one person isn’t for another… While a typical recommendation is to keep the room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, Heller advises setting the temperature at a comfortable level, whatever that means to the sleeper.

Looks like I will shoot for 65 degrees and adjust up from there. A couple more suggestions are worth noting. For instance, keeping the room like a cave (i.e., cool, quiet, and dark), wearing socks, and avoiding memory foam pillows. I’ll try all of these and report back.

Suggestions abound. Some appear to be reasonable, some not. Given that my day job is as a behavioral researcher I am a fan of only varying one thing at a time and seeing how it affects the outcome. My suggestion for anyone looking to improve their sleep (or any other behavior) would be the following:

  1. Do as much research on the topic as you can. First off this will help you determine which suggestions are merely guesses and which are facts. I would then attempt to order the suggestions based on two things: how consensually agreed upon they are by experts and how relevant they are to that particular individual. You may find that some of the suggestions are near laws, but that for you the individual they do not apply. Use your best discretion.
  2. Once you have your ordered list, commit to following each suggestion on the list sequentially one at a time for a period of at least a week or more. Stick to it religiously (within reason) and record your thoughts and feelings on whether it works. If you vary too many things at once, you never know which behaviors are instrumental and which are extraneous.
  3. Now that you know which suggestions work for you stick to them. Experts disagree on how long you have to stick to a behavior before it becomes habitual or automatic. This is likely a function of how hard a behavior is to learn and how hard it is to implement. In general though, most people recognize the point at which the behavior feels “normal” or “routine.”

I hope this helps. I might even take my own advice and embark on my own controlled experimental test of factors that improve my sleep…

Last night I couldn’t sleep. I tried to go to bed early (reasonably early anyway) and ended up waking up at 12:30am. I was restless and drifting in an out of sleep for a good three hours. When the alarm rang at 6:30am I avoided hitting snooze altogether, instead opting to re-set it alarm for 8:30am.  I did manage to get up at 8:30am, leaving me just enough time to complete my workouts and hustle to class.

Here we go. Today was the first day of the program. It involved a chest/back workout and an abs workout.

Thoughts:

The videos so far

The main dude is pretty nice and seems like he genuinely likes working out and wants you to succeed, all good things. Predictably all the people in the video are more ripped and toned than anyone I’ve ever seen and they can knock out reps like you wouldn’t believe. The main dude stresses that it is important you have a rep goal in mind when you do each exercise. For instance, he says “how many pull-ups are you going to do?” Thinking back on my fit test, I say to myself “I can probably do 2.” But then I realize he isn’t talking to me, he’s talking to Sven (or whatever the background guy’s name is). Sven looks like he has spent his entire life bare-chested, hoisting cows and throwing small children in some small villa situated in Switzerland, and not to my surprise he shouts out some ridiculous number like “30!” Holy crap. To make it worse, the only female of the group — a badass, golden-haired German workhorse with the most impressive 8 pack I have ever seen — shouts “25!” Wow, hear that? That sound was the last shred of my masculinity floating away on a river of energy drinks and sweat. Would it kill these exercise-peddlers to include a few normal people, even just in the beginning stages so I won’t feel so pathetic? To his credit, the main dude does try assuage any feelings of inferiority reminding you to “do your best and forget the rest” and by claiming that the individuals in the background were once just like you (they apparently “just finished” the p90x program, how fortuitous!) but I ain’t buying it. I’m hoping this program helps me get in better shape, but I have no delusions about emerging in three months as an Adonis.

Ah well, can’t quit now, I’m in it for the long haul. I have a few more comments on the videos in general, but I think I will withhold them until I have seen more of the videos.

Chest/Back Workout

The chest and back workout involves lots of push-ups and pull-ups. It just reinforced for me what I already implicitly knew and had found some evidence for in the fit test; my chest and back are severely out-of-balance. On the first round (it is a circuit exercise routine) I probably averaged 1.5 pull-ups across three styles (wide grip, reverse grip, etc.) and 15 push-ups (standard, military, wide, etc.). On the second round the ratio was about the same. I’ve always had a big chest (genes) and my shoulders have always been “crossed-up.” Hopefully this workout helps address these weaknesses.

Abs Workout

This one was a killer. It involved around 11 exercises (though it could be more or less, I was a little delirious afterward) at somewhere between 25-40 reps. I thought I had a decent core — it doesn’t show through in the pictures, I have what you might call stealth abs — but this workout showed me I have a long way to go. I think the video said there are something like 339 reps in the workout and I probably was only able to do half of that.

The after-burn

I feel a little sore. My shoulder is a little tender and my abs and lower back ache a little bit. That’s it though (other than some pain in my right hamstring which probably has nothing to do with the workout and everything to do with my run yesterday). I imagine that I will probably feel a lot more soreness tomorrow…

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Details on my habits and diet for the day:

Sleep: If I am being generous, I got 5-6 hours last night

Supplements: I had 2 fish oil capsules and one multivitamin with breakfast, drank a protein shake (1 scoop whey, 5 grams creatine, 16 oz H20) immediately following the abs exercise

Food:

  • Breakfast: one medium banana, two whole wheat pieces of toast (dry)
  • Snack: handful of raw almonds, string cheese, diet dr. pepper (can’t quit it)
  • Lunch: leftover chopchae (from a friend, not a restaurant, still greasy though), apple
  • Snack: Chocolate Chip cookie and Chai Latte (Shame! What can I do? A friend was in crisis…)
  • Dinner: leftover chicken marsala and red skinned mashed potatoes (again, made at home from men’s health recipe)
  • Snack: dr. pepper, toast

Activities: two low-intensity volleyball games, 1 high intensity basketball game

Here are the “before” shots suggested by the p90x program (just so folks don’t accuse me of doctoring the shots later).:

The beginning of the p90x program requires that you set some baseline statistics to help you fully realise your results at day 90. The results of my fit test are below:

  • Body Fat %*: 17.66%
  • Weight: 205 lbs
  • Chest: 42 inches
  • Waist: 35.5 inches
  • Hips: 41 inches
  • Right Thigh (mid thigh): 23.5 inches
  • Left Thigh (mid thigh): 23.5 inches
  • Right Arm (flexed): 14 inches
  • Left Arm (flexed): 14 inches
  • Resting Heart Rate: 72 bpm
  • Pull-ups: 2
  • Vertical Leap: 15 inches
  • Push-ups: 27
  • Toe Touch: +2 inches (two inches past the toe)
  • Wall Squat: 2:06 min
  • Bicep Curls: 15 reps of 25 lbs
  • In and Outs: 26
  • Heart Rate Maximizer: 70 bpm, 57 bpm, 50 bpm, 50 bpm, 50 bpm

That’s it! “Before” photos soon to come.

*This number is calculated using the navy circumference formula, not skin calipers. I believe the “healthy” percentage is 10-18% for men.

I’ve challenged myself to complete the p90x fitness program. As you might expect, the p90x is one of those gimmicky late-night informercial specials that claims to get you “buff” and “beach-ready” in what seems like an incredibly short amount of time (in this case 90 days). I’ve never really given any of these things a second thought, but I happen to know a few people who have had success with this particular training regimen so I thought I would also give it my best shot.

A few quick words about myself. I was overweight most of my life. After my first year of college I was approximately 265lbs. Even at my height (6’3″) that is considerably overweight. I changed my eating habits off and on through college. Though this caused my weight to fluctuate, I was still mostly overweight at the time of graduation (238lbs).

During my first year of graduate school a sudden rush of motivation hit me and I began to not only eat right but also to exercise like a crazy person. Over the course of a semester I went from 238lbs to 172lbs. Comments went from “you look great” to “I’m worried about you.” I felt great, but looked pretty sick. I cut back on some of my cardio work and started to lift weights in an attempt to increase my lean muscle mass. Three years later I am sitting here weighing in at around 200lbs. It’s a weight I have kept for the past two years and I am comfortable with it.

Though I am rather active and now at a healthy weight, I have never looked “toned.” I was attracted to the p90x system because it seems to promise just this result. Therefore, I am not as concerned with my weight during this program as I am with seeing marked improvements in my muscle tone. I also would like to see improvements in my flexibility and my speed (I’m running a half-marathon in May and will probably compete in my second Men’s Health Urbanathlon in October).

Finally, I will be posting my fit test results and pictures soon, but I thought it might also be helpful to post a few things about my eating and lifestyle habits as well. That way you can put any results you see from this experiment in context. I am a 26 year old male. I don’t smoke or drink (never even a puff or a drop). I take multi-vitamins and fish oil supplements each day. I try to eat three small to moderate meals a day and three snacks. For the most part I think I eat healthy. I like to cook and bake so that helps me avoid too many fast food meals, but I am social and eat out normally 1-3 meals a week. I also have a wicked sweet tooth — mostly for gummy fruit flavored candy (mike and ikes, swedish fish, sour patch kids) — that I often indulge. I currently lift weights 2-3 days a week and run 3 days a week (2 moderate length runs, 1 long run).

Exceptions to the p90x playbook. I will not be following the p90x system exactly as intended. Here are the exceptions:

  1. I will follow my own diet plan (not the p90x plan). I have no idea of my style of eating is similar to that suggested by the program but it seems to work for me and I am sticking with it. If I find later that I need to eat a little more to match the energy I am burning I will do so.
  2. I will not be supplementing with the p90x supplements. Aside from my normal supplements of fish oil and vitamins I will be adding a protein shake (1 scoop whey powder, 5 grams creatine, 16oz H20) to the end of each workout, that’s it. I don’t want to give GNC any more of my money.
  3. I will use the resources that I have to complete the program (free weights, chin-up bar, etc.). I will not buy any new equipment (e.g., yoga block, resistance bands).

I recognize that not doing these things let’s p90x off-the-hook and I am okay with that. So I will make it official: I relinquish p90x from all responsibility and I will not hold them accountable for anything that happens during this experiment. Stay tuned for pictures and fit test results.