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Showing posts with label Article. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Article. Show all posts

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Tablet Wars


Many people believe that the iPhone is winning the Smart phone race, and that Android devices are fast gaining second. But as yet, neither is very suited to the corporate market; they are both hard to secure and manage en masse. Now the tablet wars are heating up. The iPad2 has been on the market for a few months, the BlackBerry Playbook and Motorola Xoom device have both just hit the market, and there is a variety of Android-based devices to choose from. In this week's Tech Talk we will do a head-to-head comparison between 4 tablet devices. So let's put the VPad, Playbook, iPad2 and Xoom through the paces and see what comes up on top.

As can be seen from the chart, there are a number of differences between the 4 devices, from OS, to Screen size, resolution, inputs and outputs. In fact the only the only things these four devices have in common is that they were each 32GB size, each supports Wi-Fi connectivity and each is a tablet device. So I will give a brief overview of each device - its pros and cons.

Viewsonic - View Pad 10
To be honest, this was the least favourite of the four devices tested. It is very heavy. Both operating systems seem clunky on the device. The battery life was less than projected even with minimal applications running. The only real saving grace for this device is the dual boot so that you can have Windows 7 professional on the device and secure it in a corporate environment. The touch keyboard on the Win7 side was very unruly, and not much better on the Android side. It has the lowest resolution camera and no video recording capability. All in all, not a bad paper weight but not worth much else.

Motorola - Xoom
This device is in the middle of the pack, it is fairly new to the market and with some OS updates it might move up. There seems to be no shortage of these devices, unlike iPad2 which are hard to lay your hands on, or the Playbook which is selling really well. Not a bad device to work on. It only has one rear facing camera, and can output to 720p display. Decent functionality - it is just up against good competition.

Apple - iPad2
The second generation device from Apple has a lot going for it. A huge app store, great popularity and by far the largest market share. But there are some drawbacks. First, it is very heavy compared to the Xoom and Playbook. Second, it is hard to secure and manage, especially in a corporate environment. This device has two cameras both front and back facing, and can record video at 720p. For the most part, it is a device to play on. It is great for that but based on the price point not ideal, especially for work.

RIM - Playbook
The drawback of this device currently is that it has a much smaller selection of apps in app world than the iPad2. The big plusses - it is much faster, than any of the competition, it is more responsive. It can output natively to 1080p and can also do 3D content output. It also can record 1080P video, the only one with this specification in the group. Once the application market heats up, it will be hard to beat. This device has both front and rear facing cameras. Both are pretty decent. Most of the marketing around the playbook has been to the end user, the consumer, not corporate market. It can be secured but still has a long way to go. It currently cannot be managed and administered through a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) but rumours indicate that is not far away.

I am fortunate in working full time in IT in a technology company. Because of that I get to play with a lot of different devices and models of laptops and desktops. Having had the chance to configure and play on each of the four devices above, I have come to the conclusion that if I had but one for personal use I would go with the Playbook; if I were to have a second one in the house I would go with an iPad2. Yet in the end, most of it comes down to personal preference. I encourage you to try different devices either in store or from someone you know who has one. Don't just follow the media hype. Find the device that will do what you want to do best, and go with that. Those are my opinions and advice coming to you from the server room!

(First published in Imprint as 'Tech Talk: Choosing your weapon in the tablet wars' 2011-06-17.)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Mac Vs PC an IT Guy's Perspective

Mac Vs PC an IT Guy's Perspective

Are you a Mac or are you a PC? Those commercials from Apple seem to have polarized this question and issue even more. If you believe the commercials, if you prefer Macs, you're young, hip and cool. If you prefer PCs, you're older, (middle aged), and a nerd. I recently heard a story about an IT guy wearing a Windows 7 T-shirt and someone ran up to him in the street and yelled in his face, "I'm a Mac, PCs suck." And then he took off. Apple users do seem to be a little more militant or fanatical about their preference. What I hope to do in this article is look at the argument of Mac Vs PC from an IT perspective, supporting both the hardware and users in a corporate and personal environment.

A reader might be inclined to ask what my credentials are to talk about this topic. I currently hold 30 computer certifications, a mix of Apple, Microsoft and CompTIA designations. I have 5 years corporate experience supporting environments with upwards of 10,000 computer clients and users. I also privately support some small businesses, not-for-profits and individual clients. Last fall I was asked to take over support of Macs at work and got my first MacBook Pro. I have configured and set up about a dozen MacBook Pros, Mac Pros and Mac Minis in an active directory domain environment, about another 20 for use for product testing, development and proof of concept use, and have configured another handful for personal use. I have been building PCs doing sales and service and support since the late 80's when a student at Queen's University.

I will be examining the question of Mac VS PC from a few different angles:
1. Ease of set up
2. Ease of use
3. Hardware comparisons
4. OS upgrades
5. Ease of repair
6. Hardware upgrades
7. Cost comparisons
8. An overall comparison
So join me as we embark on this quest to answer the question of Mac VS PC.

I must admit, a Mac right out of the box is easy to set up and use. There seems to be fewer issues with drivers or compatibility even to generic peripherals. On the other hand, Windows 7 seems to be very compatible, though sometimes you need to install generic drivers and update the drivers once you're installed and logged in. Ease of set up with current hardware is a pretty close call, but with a slight edge going to Mac.

Ease of use is a very tricky question to tackle. I know numerous people who have bought Macs for home use, and constantly get frustrated because they are so different from Windows. A few do everything they can to tweek the OSX environment to be as close to Windows as possible, using such add-ons as Total Finder, FUSE NTFS, and more. Others take the time to learn OSX and work back and forth between OSX and Windows. Others give up and install Bootcamp, or a virtual machine using such software packages as Parallels or VMWare Fusion to run a Windows machine on top of OSX. But to the native Mac user switching to Windows it is just as frustrating. Having run both side- by-side for the last 8 months, there are things I like and appreciate in OSX. The mouse on the MacBook Pro, and scroll functionality on it or the Magic Mouse is amazing. Getting comfortable with Command+Q to close programs, I now do this every day or so in my Windows environment. As far as ease of use, it will come down, to some extent, to personal choice, adaptability and preference. Mac wins this but at a cost - adding the add-ons or VM costs more money.

The biggest surprise I have encountered since beginning to support Macs is the hardware comparison. Macs seem to be a generation or two behind PCs. Most people I ask about this state that it is because Mac OSX is a flavour of Linux and requires fewer resources. The problem with it is that when it comes time to upgrade you have fewer options, especially since OSX does a hardware check and will not let you upgrade beyond a certain point forcing you to purchase new hardware. PCs are nice and for the most part so generic you can build whatever you want and/or need. You can spend big bucks and get cutting-edge and hold onto it for years or spend less and still have a good system or upgrade later. PC wins this round hands down.

OS upgrades for Mac users can become very frustrating. Apple seems to block older hardware that will support the OS. I know some guys who create Hackintosh media, OSX Disks that will install on any hardware, Dell, IBM … and if a retail version of OSX fails, the hardware check prevents install of the new version of OSX and won't install, then these older Macs can be upgrade with these hacked versions of the OS. The nice thing is you can do an in-place upgrade that seems to work very well when supported. This has never really worked well in a Windows environment and in fact discouraged. With that being the case, Apple wins this battle.

Ease of repair for both hardware and software is a big question. Many Mac users will say you seldom need to repair the hardware or the OS. I have encountered numerous situations where either or both have been needed.

Macs are harder to take apart and do repairs on. Both MacBook Pros and MacPros take more effort and skill to upgrade. Windows-based laptops and desktops, for the most part, are very componentized and easy to physically upgrade. And when you do want to upgrade a Mac you have to buy official support Mac hardware which always costs more than comparable PC hardware. A second problem is that Macs often require the original OS disks from purchase, in order to reset FaileVault or Master password, to reinstall the OS and more. These disks are machine and generation specific. Recently at work we had 2 MacBook Pro 17" laptops bought less than 3 months apart. One user lost his OS disk, and the disks from the other could not be used to rebuild the machine and a replacement set needed to be ordered. With either Dell or IBMs I have been able to use almost any system disk that came with a system to repair any other system; in fact I only keep one per OS and use it across models and platforms. A recent example to upgrade a MacBook pro top 8GB DDR ram was more than twice the cost of upgrading a Dell laptop to the same speed 8GB ram. Again PC takes this round.

Cost comparisons - there is really no comparison. Macs cost more - if you need to run a VM of Windows also, a lot more. You end up paying more for the Mac out of the box, pay for the VM software, pay for the licence for Windows, and pay for any applications installed on each platform. I currently have Adobe Acrobat Pro Installed on both OSX and my Windows 7 VM because some applications cannot pick up the cross platform PDF printer. Macs cost more to buy, more to support and more to upgrade.

Conclusions: I love both OSX and Windows. I am a PC but I am a PC that is learning Macs to support them. I would never pay the extra money to own one personally but enjoy learning and working on them. Macs, and to be honest, almost any Apple product to some extent, is just a status symbol. A few weeks ago I walked through a Starbucks and 90% of the computers present were Macs. I then went to the Second Cup down the street and only one computer was a Mac and about a dozen were PCs. Is there anything you can do on a Mac that you can't do on a PC? Not really, with the right hardware or software. So the decision comes down to the size of your wallet and personal preference. I like running my Mac with Windows 7 running in Unity mode via VMWare Fusion, see screen shot. I can do anything in either OS, but it was an awful lot more money to get it set up. If I had won a Mac a year ago I would have sold it and built 2 PCs. Today I would keep it. But no matter what your preference don't be obnoxious about it. Now admittedly, I did not touch upon other flavours of Linux or Unix in this piece, which here at UWaterloo might seem a little strange. We can have that discussion next time.

(Graphic by Ian Renato Cutajar.)
(First published in Imprint 2011-06-02 as 'Mac VS PC'.)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Kobo VS Kindle

Kobo VS Kindle

Head to head, what is the best device for reading eBooks, the Kobo or the Kindle? Looking at comfort, support, ease of use and overall, what device is the victor? I have been reading eBooks since the late 90's and using the old Microsoft reader .lit format and various Palms and Sony Clie as designated eReaders. But the last of my Clie's died a few years back and I was in the market for a designated eReader. So I have put both the Kobo and Kindle through the paces and will share with you the good, the bad and the ugly of both devices and as they go toe to toe round after round, we will see who comes out champ.

In order to write this article I have now read over 30 books on the Kobo and have read 6 on the Kindle. I used two different Kindles - 3 books each on a Kindle 2 and Kindle 3, but have limited comments to the Kindle 3 unless specifically mentioning the Kindle DX. I get Digital review copies from NetGalley and synced the same books with both Kindles and with the Kobo to do some direct side-by-side comparison.

The first thing I looked at was comfort. How was it to hold the device? Weight, feel, and other factors were considered. The Kobo is 26gs lighter than the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi 3G model. Now that might not seem like a lot of weight, but it is more than a tenth of the weight of the Kobo and reading continuously it does make a difference. Second is comfort to hold and use. The Kobo can be held with one hand and pages turned very easily. This cannot be said for the Kindle. Also the Kobo has a quilted, padded rubber back, which is very comfortable to hold and use. The Kindle on the other hand has an aluminum front and a plastic back with a wide gap around the seam. I found this often caught the skin, especially while trying to read one-handed. The Kindle 3 uses the new micro USB jack and it is not noticeable at all. The Kobo still uses a mini USB and it is a little knobby and needs to be avoided when holding the device. Less important to some, but the Kindle only comes in white or graphite; the Kobo comes in porcelain, onyx, metallic silver and pearlized lilac. But overall comfort goes to Kobo.

Next let's examine ease of eBook Library management. Both devices can sync wirelessly with their proprietary book stores. Both can sync with Adobe digital editions. You can use third party software to connect to both and convert and sync DRM free eBooks in an appropriate format, such as Calibre eBook Management software. But the biggest advantage goes to Kobo for its use with local libraries. I have checked numerous local libraries, specifically the Kitchener Public Library and the Kingston Public Library, and both will allow borrowing eBooks to your Kobo but not to your Kindle. Both of those libraries and many more in Canada use Overdrive for its eLending, and they support almost any device except the Kindle. Both support Magazine and Newspaper subscriptions to an equal extent. Capacity is another concern. The Kobo comes with 1GB internal memory and about 900mb available for content, and the Kindle comes with 4GB internal memory and about 3GB available for content. But the Kobo has an SD Card reader and can support up to a 32GB expanded memory. I currently have 179 books on my Kobo and still have almost 800MB free space. I also tested with an 8GB micro SD card and moved the library to it with no discernable performance issues. For management of eBooks and device syncing, the round goes to the Kobo again.

Finally, let's look directly at use of the device. The Kindle OS is much more responsive and page turns or menu selection is much faster. Also, on the Kindle you have the option of rotating the text and having a wider screen to read on. The Kobo OS is a little more user friendly - the menu selection, sorting options and navigation are more intuitive and straight forward. I have a feeling the Kobo response time will improve with OS updates or the next generation or hardware. Both devices have a wide range of font selection and repaginates books in response to your selection. What I like about the Kobo is that it tells you what page out of total pages. The Kindle tells you page in section out of total sections. So that round would be a tie.

As life becomes more and more digital, the need to know what devices to use becomes paramount, as otherwise we spend time and money on something only to switch and learn a new system in a short time. As the proliferation of eBooks is continually expanding and many first-run books now simultaneously release as physical books and eBooks, and the eBook is often cheaper, the decision to use an eReader as a primary form of literary entertainment becomes more important. But in reality there are numerous devices that can be used for reading eBooks - the iPad, a BlackBerry and even the BlackBerry Playbook comes preloaded with the Kobo app, the Nook, the Sony reader and more. At my last count there were over 20 eBook formats and over 50 different eReaders and various models released since 2007 alone.

Shortly after Kobo entered the market, Amazon dropped the price of the Kindle. And Amazon dropped its price again after Barnes and Noble dropped the price of the Nook Book Reader. Recently Kobo announced a price drop to $129CDN.

Also to be considered, Amazon does have a Kindle DX which is a larger screen, thinner body. It is used at some schools now as a sole textbook. If you were going to be annotating texts, making notes or using it as a technical manual, the Kindle DX of Kindle would most likely be the way to go. If you are using the device primarily for leisure reading, or fiction, then I would state go with the Kobo. Kobo is also owned in majority by Canadian shareholders, and just dropped the prince to $129. Yet with all that being said, best bang for your buck and comfort to read, the Kobo wins with a KO over the Kindle.

(Top graphic from PD Gillismith, bottom graphic by Ian Renato Cutajar.)
(First published in Imprint 2011-05-06 as 'Kobo versus Kindle: an e-reader rumble'.)

Note: Last year I wrote a review of the Kobo just before it hit the Market, you can read it here.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Fitness Options for the Student Lifestyle

Want to be in better shape, feel the need to de-stress? If so, in this article we will look at the pros and cons of three fitness programs from Beachbody.com and how they can work with your student lifestyle. This article is a follow-up and continuation of my four-part series on my personal lifestyle change using P90X. We will examine 3 different programs from Beachbody and how they can be used to continue P90X or on their own to help bring a greater level of fitness to your life. We will be examining One on One with Tony Horton, P90X+ and the 10 Minute Trainer. As a disclaimer, I have not done the full program for these series but I have done each of the workout videos at least once.

All three of these programs are hosted by International fitness sensation Tony Horton. Last year at one
point, P90X and 10 Minute Trainer were both in the 50 top-selling infomercial products; currently P90X is number 1 after 6 years on the market according to industry tracker IMS (Infomercial Monitoring System). Tony has, over the last 20 years, established himself as one of the premier personal training experts. He has worked with such stars as Tom Petty, Billy Idol, Sean Connery, Annie Lennox, Jason Scheff, Rob Lowe and many others. He is a little quirky and a little verbose but his workouts get the job done. The workouts are hard enough that you can get great results, but enjoyable enough that you keep hitting play. At the writing of this, I have hit play over 100 days in a row and worked out with Tony through his DVDs.
One on One With Tony Horton
This is a fantastic series that can be purchased in two different
ways. It can either be a subscription service and you get billed and receive a new video each month in the mail, or you can just buy specific workouts that appeal to your personal taste. They started the year Tony Horton turned 50. The advantage of the subscription service is they send out freebies and gifts from time to time such as bonus workouts, a special holiday workout, a jump rope and more. The cost is about the same at about $20 each. The workouts in this series so far are:
To find out more about this series or other workouts in the collection follow the links below. I have created a random workout generator that uses 1 on 1's and P90X if your interested.
Volume 1, Disk 1: Plyo Legs
Volume 1, Disk 2: Power 90® Road Warrior
Volume 1, Disk 3: Killer Abs

Volume 1, Disk 4: Just Arms
Volume 1, Disk 5: 30-15: The Upper-Body Massacre
Volume 1, Disk 6: Fountain of Youth
Volume 1, Disk 7: Super Cardio

Volume 1, Disk 8: Mammoth UML
Volume 1, Disk 9: Bun Shaper
Volume 1, Disk 10: Medicine Ball Core Cardio
Volume 1, Disk 11: Recovery 4 Results

Volume 1, Disk 12: Diamond Delts
Volume 1, Bonus Disk - Holiday Workout
Volume 2, Bonus Disk - Pay It Forward
Volume 2, Disk 1: Cardio Intervals
Volume 2, Disk 2: Core Ball Sandwich
Volume 2, Disk 3: Patience "Hummingbird"
Volume 2, Disk 4: 10-Minute Crusher Pack

Volume 2, Disk 5: Butt and Belly (I Dare You)
Volume 2, Disk 6: Back and BellyVolume 2, Disk 7: On One Leg
Volume 2, Disk 8: Iso Abs
Volume 2, Disk 9: Cardio Confusion - Mason's Choice
Volume 2, Disk 10: 100/30/20
Volume 2, Disk 11: On One Leg 4 legs
Volume 2, Disk 12: Upper Body Balance

Volume 3, Disk 1: Chest, Back & Balls
Volume 3, Disk 2: ARX2 (Ab-Ripper X 2)
Volume 3, Disk 3: Shoulders and Arms MC2
Volume 3, Disk 4: Base and Back
Volume 3, Disk 5: MC2
Volume 3, Disk 6: Plyocide
Volume 3, Disk 7: Stretch And Recovery
Volume 3, Disk 8: V Sculpt
Volume 3, Disk 9: Core Synergistics MC2
Volume 3, Disk 10: UBX
Volume 3, Disk 11: PAP
Volume 3, Disk 12: Total Body X


The advantage of this series is you can buy just a few to start and add to your collection over time, or join the subscription service and get a new one each month for less than I spend on coffee in a week. These are heart intense workouts - just Tony in his home gym or on the road, doing the workouts he does to stay in shape. My favorites are Just Arms and Diamond Delts. These advanced workouts are for those already in shape and some require more equipment than P90X. But they are worth it. Most of the workouts come in between 40 and 60 minutes. They are filmed with 2 still cameras and 1 camera man following Tony through his routine and interacting with him. They are a lot of fun and full of new exercises or variati ons from other exercises in Tony's cannon.
P90X+
To be honest, I
was very disappointed in this series. Having graduated from P90X I thought this would be a great way to take it to the next level. It adds 5 more workouts to your collection and they become the core, and the original 12 workouts from P90X supplement this regime. The new workouts are Interval X Plus, Kenpo Cardio Plus, Upper Plus, Total Body Plus, and Abs Core Plus. The problem is you absolutely ne ed a chin-up bar for some of these workouts and for a few exercises you need Beachbody's specific chin-up bar. Nowhere on the product website does it have any information stating this. If you did P90X using exercise bands, you're out of luck or need to figure out the modifications yourself. The other disappointing thing about this series is this: in the original P90X Tony works out with 3 other people in each video and most people are in 2 of the 12 videos. For P90X+ it is the same 2 people for each of the five video s. Where are Pam, Dreya, Joe, or some of the others? My final criticism is the feel of the videos. They feel like infomercials; you are constantly being sold the Tony Horton Power Stands, the Chin-up bar, Bowflex Select Tech dumbbells (which Tony uses and raves about in this series but in his home gym on the One on Ones he uses traditional dumbbe lls), and then the supplements. However these are good workouts. Th ey are intense and do take P90X up a notch, but I really think a better continuation of P90X could have been done, by using more workout partners, by offering modifications like in the original P90X and by being less sales oriented.

10 Minute Trainer
After doing P90X th
ese videos seemed a little cheesy, but after doing each of them I have an even greater respect for Tony Horton. He packs a lot of punch into 10 minutes. These videos can either be done alone or stacked. I have met some people online who do one in the morning and one in the evening. If you use the warm-up on the videos you are looking at under 15 minutes. If you do your own you can cut it down a little. Yes you can achieve results in just 10 minutes of hard exercise a day. You basically do 10 exercises for a full minute; most of the exercises are selected to work multiple muscles at a time. The Abs program crushed me my first time through.
When you buy the kit it comes with an exercise band and a door attachment so you have everything you need. It also comes with workout cards so you can do the workouts on the go without the videos, rapid results guide, 10-minute meals and more. I have met people in the teambeachbody.com forums and chats who have lo st up to 60lbs using this program and the nutrition guide that comes with it. For the extremely busy student this might be a great choice, especially if you cannot squeeze 60 to 90 minutes from your day for P90X. All in all it is a good workout series but not my cup of tea. The other really nice feature is, on Tony's blog every so often, he posts up the exercises to create a new 10 Minute workout.

Tony has created numerous 90 day boot camps that can be done in your home. He is acclaimed as a fitness expert and based on the stars and athletes who have used his programs he is definitely a success. But what matters most is that you make a choice to live a healthier lifestyle, learn to make better choices and start moving with one of the workouts outlined above. It will help give you a start at a lifetime of learning to be healthier and to get fit.

Tony Horton Timeline:
1998 Great Body Guaranteed (with Debbie Siebers)
2001 Power 90 (P90)
2002 Power Half Hour
2003 Tony and the Folks! (with Judi Williams)
2003 Tony and the Kids! (with Judi Williams)
2004 Ho' Ala ke Kino - Awaken the Body
2004 P90X
2005 Power 90 Masters Series
2007 P90X+
2008 10 Minuite Trainer :
2008 Tony Horton - One on One Volume 1
2009 Tony Horton - One on One Volume 2
2010 One on One Volume 3 The Making of P90X MC2

(First Published in Imprint 2009-11-13 as 'Fitness Options for the Student Lifestyle'.)


P90X Articles in order Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options.
(Disclaimer: I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)
Other Fitness Articles:Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out
Health & Fitness Book Reviews:The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer
Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen

Friday, 30 October 2009

The 90 Days of P90X is really just the beginning.

Upon reaching the end of a journey, or achieving a goal, we often realize it is not in fact the end but really just the first step in a new journey. I started feeling that part way through P90X. At some point late in phase II or early in phase III, I stopped counting down the days until my 90 days were done and started counting up a number of completed days of being more active and living a healthier lifestyle. That was a big mindset change and I am not sure specifically when it happened but it was a very importa nt shift.
P90X is an amazing program. If you follow Beachbody's motto: "Decide, Commit, Succeed", it is possible to start a transformation that can last the rest of your life. My transformation surprised me; in the last 13 weeks I have worked out 90 days straight. I achieved 11 of 13 goals for the fitness test and I have reached 9 of 14 goals on the fitness level (see chart). But what the chart doesn't show is the body transformation. I lost 56lbs of bod y fat, gained 23lbs of lean muscle mass and lost 33lbs on the scale. I went from a 46 inch pants to a 38 being loose, and from a 3XL shirt to a L. I have succeeded in establishing working out each day as a habit in my life. As well I have started creating patterns of healthier food choices.

There have also been some unexpected benefits and changes. First m y asthma seems to have drastically improved. I have used my inhaler only once in the last 60 days. Also for the last few years I had been having problems with heartburn at night and sometimes it would trigger a coughing attack and I would have to get up, sip some warm liquid, use my inhaler and sleep propped up. That has completely clear ed up. Finally, as I gained weight over the last few years I started snoring - the more weight I gained the worse it got, bothering my wife and sometimes waking myself up. That has completely cleared up also. Those things combined were unexpected benefits contributing both to greater health for myself, and as for the snoring, for my wife also. That combined with how much better I feel, the fact that I have more energy, and I am sleeping better and the sleep is much more restful and restorative, makes this journey well worth the effort.

After the first 4 or 5 workouts I did not want to miss any days. Hitting play was hard a few times when I did not get to begin my workout until 9 or 10 pm because of life, but I managed to do it every day. The hardest part for me was the nutrition. My biggest temptation was pizza - almost every week I wanted pizza. My problem was, in the past, I would often eat all or most of a pizza in a single sitting. I was able to avoid this temptation for most of the 90 days; I did have 1 medium slice part way through and one of my first meals after finishing was pizza, but I limited myself to a reasonable portion. It was also hard to give up pop and carbonated energy drinks. I went the full 90 days without either. I have started drinking a lot more water, and find myself choosing green, red or herbal teas. I still have my one coffee a day at work each morning. I am not prepared to give that one up yet. I also avoided alcohol for all but Thanksgiving Day. Speaking of Thanksgiving, that weekend was a blow-off. Only about half of my meals would have been P90X approved, but I had great times with friends and family.
For a number of years now I have written a journal, often answering the following questions from Crusade a Babylon 5 spin off Science-Fiction TV Show. Each episode began with these questions:

Who are you?
What do you want?
Where are you going?
Who do you serve?
Who do you trust?

In part they have become my own personal driving questions. At the beginning of each term I would journal and answer each question. Those questions were also guided by daily goals, which were:

1. To get enough sleep.
2. To eat right & exercise daily.
3. To refuse to be a perfectionist.
4. To carefully control finances.
5. To ask for help when needed.
6. To pray and read the Bible daily.
7. To not pressure self into planning my entire life today.

I can say that in the last 7 years I had lost discipline in all areas of my life. My personal dream or personal mission statement would be: "To learn to live life to the full, while finding balance between body, mind and spiritual development." What doing P90X has helped me to do is achieve discipline in the physical area of my life, but that discipline has been carrying over into the other two areas of my life.

Since I started this journey I have known about 15 people who have also now started it. So far only 2 are still following the plan. I have also encountered about 20 people who ask about my weight loss, and when I say I am doing P90X they have said that they started it, but did not make it out of the first week, or first month. Many have said they wish they had the commitment to start again and see it through. One even said they would have to find the disks. In order not to be in that category I have accountability - the two men I email after each workout to say it was completed, and the Beachbody online community. The forms and online chats have been very motivational.

Yet as this 90 day, 13 week journey ends where do I go from here? First, for the next few weeks I will be experimenting with some other workouts from Beachbody. I will be trying the workouts from Tony Horton's One on One. Also 10 Minute Trainer and P90X+. I have also borrowed some kettlebells from a friend and am going to try some weight routines for them. My goal now is to decide on another plan and do another 90-day challenge, to maybe reach some of those long-term fitness goals. What program that will be is yet undetermined but I will be starting on November 9th. All I know for sure is I will continue to push play, and work out every day, and try each day to improve my food choices. Therefore the journey continues or begins again.
(First Published in Imprint 2009-10-30.)
(Graphic's courtesy Peter N. Trinh.)
P90X Articles in order Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options.

(Disclaimer: I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)

Other Fitness Articles:
Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out

Health & Fitness Book Reviews:
The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer

Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Gear To Bring it For P90X

What gear do you need to do the workouts for P90X from Beachbody? I am frequently being asked about what equipment it takes to do the fitness program that I have been on now for nearly 3 months. Between the articles I have written, and friends, family, fellow students and co-workers asking me questions about my weight loss, I decided to write this article comparing three equipment lists: the recommended equipment, with what I think is the minimum equipment, and then finish with my gear that I have been using. I hope that this piece will help answer some of those frequent questions and emails and about my fitness journey.

Recommended Equipment:
Chin-Up Bar or Exercise Bands with mount.
Dumbells or Exercise Bands
Heart Rate Monitor
Exercise Mat Mat
Exercise Block Blocks

Body Fat Tester
Powerstands or Pushup Stands
DVD Player

This list is pretty self explanatory, and Beachbody does sell versions of all of this equipment. I have only bought one piece of equipment from them and it was excellent, worth every penny.

Minimum Required Equipment:
Chin-Up Bar or Exercise Bands with mount.
Dumbells or Exercis
e Bands
Exercise Block


DVD Player This is the bare bones list. You could get by without the exercise block if you are already pretty flexible or improvise one from something around the house. Every video, every exercise can be done with the exercise bands, so if you don't have a chin-up bar or dumbbells, you can do eve
ry exercise band with just exercise bands. A while back I was travelling with work and did all my workouts while on the road with my bands and playing the DVDs on my laptop. I dropped the heart rate monitor because even though they can be purchased for around $40, on a student budget that is a little pricy. You can tell if you are working hard; you might not know if you are exactly in your cardio zone but close enough. I do have one, but only because it was given to me a few years ago, and I really only use it for the fitness tests.

My Gear:
Exercise Bands with
mount.
Power Block Dumbells
Heart Rate Monitor
Exercise Mat
Exercise Block
Powerstands
DVD Player
I use the exercise bands for all the pull-ups and chin-ups. I use my Powerblocks for all weight exercises; the set I have goes from 2.5lbs to 90lbs a side. I made a mistake and bought the cheapest exercise mat I could find. I regret it. I am already planning on upgrading to a much better one this fall. After phase I of P90X I bought the Powerstands from Beachbody. They are fantastic. My pushups have
better form and greater reps. I have done a few of the workouts with just bands while on the road. The B-Line resistance bands sold by Beachbody look great but I went to a physiotherapist here in town, at Kinetex Rehab on Columbia, and paid about a buck a foot. I would recommend 7 feet, and tie a loop in the ends for handles. The DVDs are $120 on the Beachbody site, and about the same price here in Canada at Wal-Mart or Zellers. But I know a number of people who bought them and gave up; you can probably find a set cheaper to fit the student budget. I do most of the workouts in my den, and have done all of them there. Normally I do Plyometrics,  X and Kenpo X in the living room because of the carpet for extra cushion. But I have done a few of them in a small hotel rom. You can adapt all of these for even the smallest dorm room.

The final tool I use is not equipment but it is equipping, and that is the forms and message boards on teambeachbody.com. There are specific message boards for different start dates, a dedicated Canadian contingent - even a group dedicated to IT junkies. I have posted pretty regularly to 4 specific forms and used some of the advice and support from them to help me get the results I am seeing.

Hopefully that will answer many of the questions from students out there about what you need to have to do these workouts and start making lifestyle changes to get healthier and in better shape. Yet in the end it doesn't really matter what equipment you have if you're not using it, so if you decide to give P90X a try remember what Tony Horton the host of the video says: 'Do your best and forget the rest'. And keep pushing play on the videos and work out every day.

(First Published in Imprint 2009-10-09 as "Gear to Rock the P90X: On the road to a healthier lifestyle".)
P90X Articles in order Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options.
(Disclaimer: I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)

Other Fitness Articles:Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out
Health & Fitness Book Reviews:The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer
Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen

Friday, 2 October 2009

The fitness journey of a 40 year old undergrad - A Review of P90X Phase II

In this second article on a fitness journey, I will be reviewing Phase II of P90X, discussing difficulties and setbacks, and highlighting the overall benefits of the program or healthy lifestyle changes in general. After achieving great results in Phase I, I had some setbacks and encountered difficulties in Phase II right away. The first day of Phase II while I was wrestling with my son, my daughter decided to come to his aid, she dove onto my back as I was lying outstretched on the floor, and landed just below my shoulder blade with both knees. She bruised some ribs and the bruise was visible on the surface for days. It is still bothering me today. However I decided to follow two of Tony Horton's Mantras "Do your best and forget the rest!" and "Modify, Modify and Modify." I continued to push play every day and managed to workout each of the 28 days of Phase II.

Phase II is very similar to Phase I in that the first 3 weeks you do the same workouts and then have a recovery week. Because I began on a Monday my workouts Monday through Sunday for Phase I were: Chest & Back & Ab Ripper X, Plyometrics, Shoulder & Arms & Ab Ripper X, X, leg & Back and Ab Ripper X, Kempo X and X-Stretch or rest. For Phase II The Monday and Wednesday workouts change to Chest & Shoulders & Triceps & Ab Ripper X for Mondays and for Wednesdays Back & Biceps & Ab Ripper X. Then both recovery weeks are  X on Monday and Saturday, Core Syne rgistics on Tuesday and Friday, Kenpo X on Wednesday, X Stretch on Thursday and optional on Sunday. For me personally I find it easier to work out every day. I find if I take a day off, it can easily become two or five or 10. So I always do the stretch routine on Sundays just to get a workout in. In this Phase I had to modify Ab Ripper X. Instead of attempting 25 reps of 11 different exercises, I had to drop out 4 exercises because the starting position was too painful on the ribs. What I did do was focus on adding reps or improving form on the rest of the exercises. By the end of the 3rd workout week I had 25 reps in 9 of the eleven exercises and had started and was up to 8 reps for the last 2. The important thing was I pushed play on the videos each day; I worked through the pain and through a cold in week two. Some days with the cold combined with the ribs, I did not want to workout. What has kept me going was seeing the changes thus far, remembering my long term goals and being accountable to two other guys for working out.
I started P90X with two other guys - my brother in Kingston, and a buddy who is a Grad from UW. Neither of them made it past week 1. But each day after working out I email them and report my workout and some comments, such as the fact that I puked the first time I did core synergistics, or I still suck at stretching , or upped reps or weight on every exercise. That accountability really helped me to push play when I was under the weather. It is a great motivational factor. The other thin g I am finding is the further I get into the program, the more results I see, and the better I feel as I am focusing more on the nutrition side. I find myself reading labels and comparing nutritional information even on protein bars. I find I am less and less willing to cheat and physically feel it more when I do. We went out for dinner with family for my daughter's third birthday. I had about 8 or 10 french fries. It was the first fried food I had had since starting. Later that night I felt terrible. My workout was compromised because of the junk fuel in the system. I could not believe the difference it made. To really achieve optimum results you need to clean up the nutrition as well as exercising more. Now we'll look at Phase II results.
My results in Phase II were better than expected. I did not do any measurements other than the scale during the four weeks. For full results see chart with complete details and comparisons with day 0 and day 28. However in summary, I have gone from 34.7% body fat to 14.2 in 56 days. My resting heart rate has dropped by 11 beats per mi nute. I have reached 10 of 13 goals for the fitness test and 8 of 14 for measurements. I have also dropped from 244lbs to 218lbs in just 56 days. Phase 3 will end on October 25th. The next piece in this series will run the week after that.
The important thing I learned this month was to keep at it; even if I slowed down, to keep exercising daily and keep making wise nutritional choices.
I am feeling better, sleeping better and find my overall quality of life has improved. Those are expected results; what I did not expect was for people to notice as much, and make as many comments. I have about a half dozen friends who picked up the program with plans to start it. I have now worked out 56 days in a row. I am starting to plan ahead for what to do after the program is over. When I started, it was a countdown - a certain number of days left in my 90 day program. I am now counting up 56 days of working out in a row, of being healthy and active the rest of my life.
(Graphic's courtesy Peter N. Trinh.)
(First published in Imprint 2009-09-25 as 'A Fitness Journey: 40 years old and an undergrad".)P90X Articles in order Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options.
(Disclaimer: I am asked frequently if I am a Beachbody Coach, no I am not, I am just some one who has used their products, P90X, 1on1 with Tony Horton and more and liked them and achieved good results. I am not paid by Beachbody or any of their affiliates. You can see my full disclaimer here.)
Other Fitness Articles:Fall 2011 Programs
Workout program March 2012
My Gear February 2012
Fitness My Retrospective

TRX Articles:
TRX an Introduction
TRX Force

TRX Force Tactical
TRX Essential Flexibility

My P90X Series:
Phase I, Phase II, Gear, Phase III, Fitness Options, P90X at 120 Days Out
Health & Fitness Book Reviews:The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation - Mark Sisson
The Ten Commandments Of Lifting Weights - Jared Zimmerer
Toadally Primal Smoothies - Todd Dosenberry
Caveman Resurection - Jeff Pickett
40 Days to Optimal Health - Dr. Scott Morris
Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon
The Primal Blueprint - Mark Sisson
The New Rules of Lifting - Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove
Bench Press by: Sven Lindqvist
Sly Moves by: Sylvester Stallone
Fit for Eternal Life: A Christian Approach to Working Out, Eating Right, and Building the Virtues of Fitness in Your Soul by: Dr. Kevin Vost
Body for Life 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strenght by: Bill Phillips
Lose Fat Not Faith by Jeremy R. Likeness
Living The Good Life: Your Guide to Health and Success by: David Patchell-Evans
Dump your Trainer by: Ashley Marriott and Marc L. Paulsen