What I’ve learned about fitness and nutrition over the past few years

I’ve been on my fitness quest for about four years now. I went in with with an open mind, wanting to find out as much as I could, experiment on myself, see what works and what doesn’t.

Here are a few of the things I think I know, subject to change as I learn more:

  • It’s more about what you eat than what you do. You can lose a lot of weight by eating properly. Without exercise, though, you will lose muscle along with the fat. You have to work out to build that muscle. Still, if your only goal is to lose weight, know that how you eat is responsible for about 80% of how your body looks.
  • Carbs are not evil, but sugar is, and grains are not far behind. Fruits, vegetables, those are carbs. Eat ’em up. Anything with added sugar in it, though, is just asking for trouble. Then if you add grains, wow, you are really packing a caloric punch. By removing sweets from your diet, you can much more easily find your way to healthy eating habits. Not only that, but when you get used to eating less sugar, naturally sweet foods like fruits will taste sweeter to you.
  • P90X is a great way to dive into a fitness-oriented lifestyle. It got me motivated, took me from a terrible diet to a pretty good one, and from walking/pushups/crunches to real, structured workouts. The main thing P90X did was show me that even people over-40 can get into shape. I’d just about given up, but now I am in the best shape of my adult life.
  • Insanity is a great way to continue that fitness-oriented lifestyle. I lost some of the muscle I’d built with P90X when I went through Insanity, but did I really need all that muscle? The only part I regret is that I lost a lot of pullup (back) strength, so when I am doing a round of Insanity, I add pullups. Insanity doesn’t focus enough on the back muscles and I think the body needs that balance. I add yoga, too, just because I like starting the day with yoga.
  • Insanity: The Asylum is just too much. Maybe I feel that way because I don’t have enough space to do all the moves conveniently, but….
  • You have to warm up first, no matter what it is you are going to do. Unless you are going for a walk, which is not really a workout, you gotta warm up. I have hurt myself doing impromptu pullups. True story.
  • Insanity is good for my knees! I was shocked by this. Before I started P90X, my knees were okay, presenting minor problems when I tried to run, but they didn’t pain me much. A couple months into P90X, my left knee started bothering me. Not enough to make me stop, and the pain was not there when I exercised, but it was there from time to time. The pain was bothersome enough that I mentioned it to my doctor. He took a look and told me I had arthritis in that knee. I continued on with my P90X and One-On-One workouts. I didn’t start Insanity, because I figured if my knee was bad now, Insanity would put it over the top, right? So I put Insanity off for a few months. Then I took some time off to just do yoga and walking, give my body a rest, and my knee pain subsided considerably. When I went back to working out, it came back. At that point I said to myself, “If the pain can go away, then come back, that probably means it can go away again, so I’m going to go ahead and dive into Insanity.” After I started Insanity, my knee pain gradually diminished and has now disappeared. So … I stay away from Tony Horton (P90X) leg routines and stick with Shaun T (Insanity) ones.
  • Yoga is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is so all-around fitness-increasing, affecting breathing, balance, and strength. Your whole body is engaged in yoga moves. It inspires discipline. And, you know what? It ain’t for pussies. Yoga is hard. Don’t skip it. In fact, I added more.
  • I much prefer body weight or band resistance training to working out with weights. Weight training is cool and I know it helps build strength and balance, but it’s a hassle. I guess that’s another reason to really like Insanity. I am not about building too much muscle, preferring a lean look, so it’s all good.
  • If you can perform a fitness routine completely without breaks the first time through, it’s not a very useful fitness routine. You need something that challenges you. Any of the aerobic workouts in P90X and Insanity definitely qualify as useful, by that definition. Plus, here’s the thing, take, for example, the P90X Plyometrics routine. Man, that is a monster. I was stopping the DVD for extra breaks a lot when I first started it. Then not so much. Then, on the day I was able to get all the way through it without stopping, I had such a feeling of accomplishment. Rightly so! As for Insanity, I still have not got all the way through any of those routines. Close. But not quite. But I will.
  • With that in mind, accept the fact that Insanity is (almost) impossible.  I say “almost” because, I suppose, anything is possible. For Insanity, unlike for P90X, I say take breaks without pausing the DVD, but don’t dog it. Get back in as soon as possible.
  • You can build great abs without doing any crunches. That is a fact, and Shaun T (Insanity) knows how to do that. Insanity is great for abs.

I’m sure I’ve learned more than that, but those are a few good lessons that came to mind pretty quickly.