Round 11, P90X3: Days 46 – 58. Third Third.


dice-3-mdYesterday to started the third third of this round of P90X3. Although I’m in decent shape, and recently completed a 4 day backpacking trip in the Tetons, I found the Decelerator routine to be difficult. This is not altogether surprising because I did take a few weeks off to accommodate business travel and vacation. When I started again, it was in the easier recovery week. This was fine, because I needed recovery after the backpacking. But my hiatus was definitely felt yesterday, particularly in the upper body, as I was asked to do the various pull ups which are peppered throughout the routine.

Tennis season has started again. Doubles on Saturday resulted in a hot, humid, three set loss. It wasn’t physical, though. It was inconsistent play. This is also not surprising since I haven’t been playing. But it is disappointing, nevertheless. I also signed up for the fall singles tennis league. As always, my goal is to complete the season without injury and respectable results. As I recall, this third block complemented tennis well. Hopefully, my memory is accurate.

 

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Salzburg & Salzkammergut Silver Anniversary 2014


St. Gilgen

St. Gilgen

At the end of July, Eileen and I took a week to visit the Salzkammergut region of Austria to celebrate our 25th wedding Anniversary.

We’d been to Austria before, on our honeymoon. And Salzburg was a brief stop on our hurried itinerary. So, now 25 years later, we went back to spend more time enjoying this beautiful city and its environs.

We established our base in the pretty lakeside resort town of St. Gilgen. We stayed at the Hotel Kendler, right in the middle of town. The hotel has been there for a good while, referenced in local documents as far back as 1420. Here’s what we did:

Day 1, July 26th:
We landed in Munich early in the day, but not so early that we didn’t get to miss the experience of heavy congestion on the Autobahn to Austria. It was typical Autobahn driving. One minute, you’re going 160 kmph, the next you’re stopped. So, all in all, the average speed was maybe 45 mph. We arrived in St. Gilgen around noon, checked in to our hotel and sat down for lunch and a cold beer. The weather forecast for the week ahead was mixed with rain throughout, on and off, as is common in the mountains. But it was clear this afternoon, so after lunch, we headed up the cable car from town up Zwölferhorn Mountain. The views from the top were stunning, panoramic vistas of mountains and the turquoise mountain lakes of the region. Plus, Austria always has the civilizing benefit of the Alpine huts, which offer food and beer to further enhance the experience.

View down to St. Gilgen, Wolfgangsee and Mondsee.

View down to St. Gilgen, Wolfgangsee and Mondsee.

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View down to St. Gilgen.

View down to St. Gilgen.

After touring Zwölferhorn, we cabled back down to town and enjoyed dinner (and some schnaps) at Wirt am Gries. I recommend it.

Day 2, July 27th:
Our second day had us driving a portion of the Austrian Romantic Road (our route, shown in Google maps). We began our day driving east, along the Wolfgangsee towards Strobl. From Strobl, we turned south and drove up to the Postalm via the Postalmstraße (a toll road). The Postalmstraße winds its way through a beautiful, high-mountain pasture alive with cows, wildflowers, alms, huts and other Austrian essentials. Be careful of those cows, though: they can kill.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA x IMG_0255 x IMG_0259From the Postalm, we continued south and east to Gosau, which lies below the majestic Dachstein. In Gosau, we visited the Vorderer Gosausee and hiked around a bit until a sudden downpour abbreviated our tour. The weather only dampened our clothes, not our spirits. we sought refuge, lunch and beer at Gasthof Gosausee, located directly on the lake shore. I enjoyed the fresh trout; Eileen had the goulash.

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See the Dachstein? No? Unfortunately, it was obscured by low clouds.

See the Dachstein? No? Unfortunately, it was obscured by low clouds.

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Day 3, July 28th:
The next day, we visited the 7,000 year-old town of Hallstatt, with lunch in Obertraun. After lunch, we rode the Dachsteinbahn Cable Car up Krippenstein (2,100 m) to enjoy the alpine landscape and views down to Hallstatt.
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Ossuary in Hallstatt.

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View from Krippenstein to Lake Hallstatt.

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This double rainbow in Obertraun welcomed us when we came down from Krippenstein.

Day 4, July 29th:
For our Anniversary, we enjoyed the romantic city of Salzburg. We had dinner back in St. Gilgen at the Hotel Gasthof zur Post.
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Mirabellplatz and Festung Hohensalzburg

Mirabellplatz and Festung Hohensalzburg

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View from Petersfriedhof

View from Petersfriedhof

Salzburger Dom

Salzburger Dom

Day 5, July 30th:
On our final full day the weather forecast called for rain. I had hoped to take Eileen for the scenic drive up the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, but the week’s weather had terrible conditions in that high mountain region. So, instead, we–like thousands of others–opted to visit Eisriesenwelt.

Eisriesenwelt, dubbed as the world’s largest ice cave, is situated high in the cliffs of the Hochkogel mountain overlooking the town of Werfen. To access the cave, you must drive up a long, narrow winding road, wherapon you are greeted by an ultra-modern visitor center built of steel and glass. At the visitor center, you purchase your ticket for the 3 minute cable car ride (the steepest cable car incline in Austria) high up the mountain. Next you exit the cable car and hike up and additional 20-30 minutes to reach the maul of the huge cave. Once in the cave entrance, while queuing up for the tour, the visitor learns that the tour is a 1.5 km, 700 step stair climb up and then back down and out of the cave. It’s an impressive lattice of steel built in that cave so hoi polli can view what was once only available to ice climbers with the technical capability to explore this unlit space with only an ice axe and alpine climbing gear. It’s a wonderful tour of a world alien to most life experience and I recommend it.

But something has been bothering me ever since that experience and I just have to get it off my chest.

While in the visitor center, purchasing our tickets, we needed to visit the restroom facilities. And it was there, in those quarters, that a vexing issue confronted me head-on.

For it was there, in those modern, clean restroom facilities that we encountered the so-called Italian toilet. I’ve linked to a photo of an Italian toilet in the event that you, gentle reader, have not had the opportunity to experience this expression of cultural diversity.

This Italian toilet struck me as incongruous with the surrounding state-of the art facilities, the roads blasted out of the mountain, the forged steel of the cable cars and those steps in the cave. All bending nature to man’s will solely for the pursuit of happiness. Yet, here in the restroom, I was staring in the face of medieval toilet technology.

Now before you all knee-jerk and call me intolerant of other people’s opinions about the best way to relieve oneself, I would suggest to you all that 95% of US Citizens lack the physical prowess to achieve the necessary, unassisted squat position to effect the desired outcome without falling into a pool of one’s own waste.

What’s been bothering me, in particular, is the underlying philosophy that led to the result of that toilet juxtaposed with all that technology. What, exactly, is the nature of the flaw in the thought process that brought that toilet there? And what is the statement that is being made?

Anyway, back to the pictures.

Eileen, approaching the cave.

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Awaiting our tour just inside the cave.

Awaiting our tour just inside the cave.

On exiting the cave tour, we were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected sunshine.

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Festung Hohenwerfen

Festung Hohenwerfen

View down to Werfen.

View down to Werfen.

Festung Hohenwerfen

Festung Hohenwerfen

We arrived back to St. Gilgen just as the sun was setting. It was our final night in Austria.

St. Gilgen

St. Gilgen

One final note. I purchased some excellent Williams pear schnaps at this fine establishment in St. Gilgen. I think it’s fair to say that this is probably the only store in the entire world that sells both schnaps and shoes. Thus, it merits a picture:
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Day 6, July 31st:
Not really a vacation day per se. It involved the foggy early morning drive out of the Salzburg Lake District to the autobahn and on to the Munich airport. All in all, a wonderful trip full of beautiful sights, great food and beer and lasting memories.

Looking forward to these next 25 years together!

Here’s a video of the trip:
(along with some wonderful, regional volksmusik beginning at 3:20)

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Round 11, P90X3: Day 45, Half Way.


One-halfOne week ago I finally recovered from my lingering cold. And, I must say the difference is quite stark. Working out and playing tennis were like I had been given a shot of pure energy. Suddenly, I have vim again. This re-gained health demonstrated itself with better results in the workouts and with wins on the singles court.

I just finished the summer singles tennis season. When I signed up to play, I wasn’t sure how I would do, coming back from my tennis elbow injury that side-lined me for almost a full year. Plus, I hadn’t played summer singles since 2006. Even though that was pre-P90X Albert, I was materially younger back then. Well, the results are in. I started out losing my first two matches with some pretty uninspired play. It was clear I had lost something of the competitive will to win. But then I did start winning, even when sick. And as the cold relented, my physical performance only improved, much to the dismay of my opponents. I wound up winning all but those first two matches, even beating the previously undefeated winner of my division. This left me feeling pretty good. Better, the elbow held up throughout the season.

So, now I’m at the half-way point of this round. It’s gonna wind up extending way past 90 days because I have travel in my future and a glorious backpacking trip scheduled for the Teton Crest Trail. That’s OK, though. It’s why I work out in the first place.

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Round 11, P90X3: Sick ‘n Tired.


Cherokee Falls, Cloudland Canyon Ste Park, GA

Cherokee Falls, Cloudland Canyon Ste Park, GA

Ugh. It’s Day 37. Into the second week of Block 2. It should be fun and challenging and rewarding because it’s the block where we get to express our masculinity and lift weights. Only it’s none of that. Because for the past couple of weeks I’ve been sick with a persistent, lingering head cold, congestive, swollen lymph node thing that is sapping me of energy.

I know I caught it on an airplane while traveling with the great unwashed masses.

I started out, as I always do, attempting to muscle through it. I continued working out and playing tennis matches. But the workouts started getting pretty compromised with poor performance and the tennis–I won the matches–well, it was difficult to muster the energy. So I took a week off of X3 and didn’t schedule any matches for that same week. I just started up again exercising yesterday, but I’m still annoyingly weak. Errrr. It’s JULY! Why am I sick?

It reminds me of that saying: “It’s better to be rich and healthy than to be poor and sick.”

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Round 11, P90X3: Three Weeks In


tennisballnetToday I finished the third week of this round of P90X3.

Following my brief between round break, I found that first week especially challenging. Lots of the old aches and pains returned with full expression. But as the days and weeks progressed, I’ve been feeling stronger again, with little achiness from day to day. Pull ups and push ups, in particular,  are returning to my standard level of competence.

Coupled with these routines, I’ve tossed my hat into the summer singles league here. So far, I’ve completed two matches. Unfortunately, I lost them both. The first match was total domination by my opponent. I have no doubt he will be moved up to a higher level after this season. My second match was yesterday. It was a three hour, three set match in 85-93 degree heat. My younger opponent would not go away. Believe me, I moved him all over the court. Winning a point required decisive winners. I hit them, sure. But not enough. the three hour slog was a huge physical effort. Though, in the end, super saturated, sweat-soaked, pruney skin was there true challenge. I managed to get through it without getting any blisters. But I can’t say my jammed, bruised toes are happier for the effort. It’s always disheartening to lose (especially a three set investment), but I was satisfied with my movement and stamina.

I play tennis because it’s fun, right?

On to a well-earned recovery week.

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Round 11, P90X3: Day 1


startIt’s my birthday. So today I gave myself the gift to starting another round of P90X3. It’s been two weeks since I finished my last 90+ day effort and it is always completely humbling to start again.

Even though it’s only a 30 minute routine, I almost threw up about half way through it. At this point, it’s almost as if the stopping is more of a shock to the system than the ongoing, daily exercising. But the stopping has it’s own benefits, I’m sure. I just didn’t feel them today. I worked hard for those 30 minutes as an affirmation of life. I can say that my pull ups were certainly stronger than when I started P90X3 earlier this year, so I feel I’ve got a good baseline to play with.

I also signed up to play singles tennis. That’s right. Singles tennis in the summer heat. I haven’t played singles in the summer since 2006. Two things will be tested. 1) my arm, now hopefully back from my year long hiatus due to tennis elbow and 2) my ability to deal with the heat. In the past, I tended to outlast my opponents with my refusal to wilt in the heat. I’m older now, but arguably fitter. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out.

I started this blog back in 2011 as a tool to help trick me into staying the course with keeping fit. Now, however, the actual working out has become a habit and the blog no longer serves that purpose for me. So, I expect my posts will be fewer and more tied to the things that the routines enable me to enjoy, as opposed to the minutiae of the routines themselves. But since it’s my blog, I of course, reserve the right to post about anything I want, whenever I want. So, you’ve been warned!

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Needles, Arches & Snakes


Crew picture at Delicate Arch

Crew picture at Delicate Arch

A couple of weeks ago, we again found the opportunity between semesters to enjoy a family vacation.

Once again, our destination was the great State of Utah. We enjoy short backpacking excursions and day hikes. In early/mid May, many of the most desirable areas in the United States to enjoy such pursuits still lay under a blanket of snow. This is not the case in Utah, where May typically is the driest month and offers up warm sunny days and cool nights. Perfect hiking weather.

The last time we visited, we spent our time in the environs of Escalante. This time, we set out to explore deeper into the country that is contained within the boundaries of Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.

Canyonlands National Park is huge. It is separated into distinct districts by the mighty Green and Colorado Rivers. Much of the Park is accessible only on foot or via Jeep trails. Our venture took us into the Needles District for a two-night backpacking trip and camp in Chesler Park. After the backpacking, we vacationed in a more civilized manner, driving through the region, taking on day hikes and retiring to a nice condo we rented just south of Moab.

The entire trip is chronicled here in this 20 minute video.

We flew from Atlanta direct to Salt Lake City, got our four wheel drive rental car and drove to REI to get a fuel canister for our backpacking stove. From there, we drove the 4 hours or so to Moab.

The next morning , we got an early start and drove south to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Along the way, we stopped at Newspaper Rock, a well preserved rock panel featuring a large collection of petroglyphs.

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Newspaper Rock. Note, how–even in pre-history–there was a liberal slant to the media.

After snapping a few pictures, we proceeded into the Visitor Center of the Park were we picked up the backcountry permit I had reserved and marked our map to record the latest information for reliable water sources. Our camp in Chesler Park is a dry camp–no water in the area. The nearest spring was about 2 miles away (a 4 mile round trip), so we each packed in a fair amount of water: 6 liters each. This added considerable to our pack weight. One liter of water weighs 2.204 pounds. So each of us was carrying 13 + pounds of water, exclusive of our tent, sleeping bags, food, clothing and so forth.

Click to expand

Click to expand

Yes, you need a backcountry permit to enjoy camping in the area. As is typically the case, the limited campsites are fulled up fast, so you need to plan accordingly. You also need to pack out your own waste. And I don’t just mean your garbage. You can purchase wag bags at the Visitor Center. Although there were no bears in the area we camped, we opted to use our bear canister because there are plenty of critters that can defeat a bear bag.

From the Visitor Center, we drove up the dirt road to the Elephant Hill Trailhead, to begin our trek.

From the very start, the views in the Needles district, with the La Sal Mountains in the background, did not disappoint.

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IMG_9721As we approached Chesler Park, the Needles revealed themselves.

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Approaching camp

Approaching camp

Chesler Park views from camp.

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That first evening, while relaxing at our campsite, minding our own business, we we visited by a rattlesnake.

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Daniel was sitting in that chair when it appeared. Eileen was lying on a mat on the ground. Needless to say, they both quickly gave the snake a wide berth. After Daniel took these pictures, the snake was deftly removed with the aide of my hiking sticks. But for the rest of our time at camp we kept vigilant for poisonous interlopers.

The next morning, after breakfast, we set out to hike the Joint Trail. The Joint Trail is a really cool crack in the rock with narrow passage. It’s good fun. The Joint Trail portion of the video above can be seen here.

En route to the Joint Trail.

Recording the Joint Trail video.

Recording the Joint Trail video.

After the Joint Trail, we headed back to camp for lunch.

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After lunch, Daniel and I headed out on a 6 mile round trip hike to Druid Arch and to refill our water supply.

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Druid Arch

Later that evening, while exploring the canyons around our camp, we encountered this beautiful four foot long (non-venomous) Gopher (aka Bull) snake.

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Click on picture to see the snake moving!

Everything gets hung to avoid getting gnawed at.

Everything gets hung to avoid getting gnawed at.

The following morning, we broke camp and set our back to the Elephant Hill trailhead and our car.

Morning light in Chesler Park

Morning light in Chesler Park

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Last look down to Chesler Park.

Last look down to Chesler Park.

Down into Elephant Canyon.

Down into Elephant Canyon.

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Approaching Elephant Hill trailhead.

Approaching Elephant Hill trailhead.

Back in Moab, we celebrated our return to civilization by defiling our bodies with greasy food and good beer.

The next day, we headed up to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. Just before the entrance, we turned into Dead Horse Point State Park to take in the Colorado River overlook.

Colorado River bend overlook

Colorado River bend overlook

Potash mine and La Sal Mountains

Potash mine and La Sal Mountains

After seeing the Colorado from above, we headed over to the National Park visitor center to get the status of the Shafer Trail. The Shafer Trail is a winding dirt road that drops down from the canyon rim, with many twists and turns, reaching the bottom after about four miles. Browsing around the internet, the Shafer Trail is variously described as either the most harrowing experience of one’s life or as no big deal. From my experience, I would classify it as fun/engaging. In any event, you would never want to do this in the rain or snow when the road is wet, icy, or muddy. Hence , the stop at the Visitor Center to get the latest intel on the Road status.

Once we wound our way to the bottom of the Shafer Trail, we turned onto Potash Road (which is part dirt and part paved) back to Moab. Before Moab, we stopped and hiked to the highly recommended Corona Arch (3 miles, RT). We also checked out petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks as we neared town.

The Corona Arch is now fairly well known due to a YouTube video that went viral in 2012.

We had no such ambitions. We only sought to enjoy the majesty of the arch.

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Colorado River along Potash Road

Colorado River along Potash Road

For our final day, we ventured into Arches National Park to hike to Delicate Arch (3 miles, RT) and then tour some of the various arches in the Park.

At the very beginning of the trail, there’s an opportunity to view some petroglyphs.

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Double Arch

Double Arch

Utah is such a great place to be. We always enjoy our time there. I need to start planning for our return trip!

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Round 10, P90X3, Days 82 – 90: Another Ending. Or Beginning?


As in: "Put a fork in it, I'm done."

As in: “Put a fork in it, I’m done.”

With the completion of the Dynamix routine last week, I successfully closed out this latest 90 day workout chapter of my life.

With vacations and business travel breaks, it took me 105 days to complete the P90X3 program.

More importantly, I completed P90X3 without any injury. I think this is a testament to the overall quality of the routines, and the “whole body” approach to fitness they employ.

I found each and every aspect of the program to be beneficial. My only real quibble was that Yoga, at 30 minutes, was too short. Yet, I’ll admit, there were busy days where I appreciated the brevity of the routine.

I don’t feel compelled to recount each exercise routine. There’s plenty of that already out there. But I will say this. Having completed multiple rounds of P90X, P90X2, Insanity and associated hybrids, I’ve certainly improved my fitness. However, from time to time the relentless demands and duration of these programs contributed to various overuse injuries that temporally set me back.

Now, with P90X3, I feel I’ve hit the sweet spot. For where I am right now, I have proven it to be an excellent maintenance program. It has enough cardio that I can play tennis without losing my wind. It has enough weights and pull ups to remind my muscles that they are still needed. It has enough core, stability and agility work to benefit backpacking, hiking, tennis and other recreational pursuits. And it balances everything with ample opportunities to increase flexibility with yoga, pilates, dynamix and so forth.

We just got back from a week long vacation in Utah, backpacking and hiking in some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in the world. It’s such a pleasure to be able to do this without the need for painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. To have the confidence of each step, the ability to stand in tree pose with a 50 pound backpack on. It’s a joy to improve at the things I love.

As for weight, I started and ended the program at exactly 155 pounds. This is good. I was concerned I would gain weight, working out only 30 minutes each day, instead of 60 minutes. That turned out not to be the case, and those shorter routines left more gas in my tank so I wasn’t exhausted for the remainder of the day. Another welcome change.

So what’s next? When I was about halfway through P90X3, I was considering focusing on weight lifting with Beachbody’s “Body Beast” program. I was thinking I needed more. But as X3 went on, I came to the conclusion that it was just enough. I also, frankly, don’t feel like going through the demands of consuming massive calories to gain mass. So, I’m going to take a break for a couple of weeks, do some Tai Chi, and then start another 90 days of P90X3.

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Round 10, P90X3, Days 74 – 81: Desire


head-graphene-speed-proThe Spring ALTA doubles tennis season ended this past weekend with mixed results. The good news is my elbow performed well throughout the season with only minor stiffness subsequent to play. The bad news remains my lack of ability to play consistently. Throughout the season, I’ve enjoyed days where I felt in full control of the ball. On other days, it was pretty bad.

But I never encountered any fitness issues. My movement was good and I never tired over the course of the matches. P90X3 has been great for building leg and core strength and improved my overall agility. And I played through an entire season without injury. So I’m sold on X3 as a great maintenance program for the long haul that leaves enough gas in the tank for extra activity such as tennis.

Playing without pain, even at my mediocre level, has me again thinking of getting back to singles play. I had hoped to re-start this past spring, but my elbow still wasn’t 100% at the beginning of the season, so I decided to wait and see how doubles went. Now, I’m thinking of playing in the summer singles league. The only hesitation I have is that, here in Atlanta, it gets pretty darn hot in the summer. But it might be interesting to see how I perform, physically, in that extreme heat. I haven’t decided yet. So, I’ll have to leave you all hanging for the time being.

Today was my last go at Triometrics for this round of X3. I have to say that this is one of my favorite workouts. All those squats and plyo jumps have really improved my legs. Since I have noticed this benefit, I always try to give it my best effort. And since I intend to use those legs on several hikes this summer, it’s just a good investment of my time.

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Round 10, P90X3, Days 64 – 73: Chugging Along


little_engineI’ve been slogging through the past week in my congested haze, looking forward to the day when the pollen count will drop below 4,000.

Sometimes it’s difficult to do these routines when having trouble breathing. Other times, the demands of the workouts actually help, temporally, my ability to process oxygen.

Yesterday, I had a chance to do The Challenge workout for the last time of this 90 day effort. It’s a very simple routine of just pull ups and push ups, again and again and again. But I enjoy it and the Challenge of trying to do the same number of pull ups and push ups with each iteration. Since yesterday was my last go at the Challenge, I upped the pull ups to 10 and kept the push ups at 25. This I was able to do; although, near the end, the 10 pull ups were not consecutive. More like 7 + 3 = 10.

10 + 25 were good numbers. I didn’t leave anything on the table when I was done.

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