I've been reading the literature for the P90X workout program and learning what they want you to do before you begin working with the DVDs.
There's a basic fitness level test that they want you to take and pass before you start the program. It's nothing outlandish, 3 pull-ups for men, 1 for women, 15 push-ups for men, 3 regular or 15 from the knees for women, etc. There are other tests for strength, flexibility and the like.
It also gives you a place to write down your results so you can chart your progress from before you start the workout routines and then again after 90 days is over.
They also want you to take a photographs of yourself once before you start, again at 30 days, 60 days and finally after 90 days when you've completed the program. You're supposed to take a front view, shirt off picture (or with a sports bra on if you're a woman) with your hands on your hips, another with your arms raised to the side and curled in bicep flexes, two back shots just like the front views and one picture with a side view.
Don't worry I'll spare you posting them here, at least for now.
That got me thinking about how hard that can be, taking body shots of yourself especially when you feel like you're out of shape. I consider myself to be in decent shape and the idea still makes me a little uncomfortable.
That may sound odd to friends of mine who have known me to be, well, not exactly body shy but there's just something especially nerve wracking about having photos taken specifically for evaluation purposes.
However, I've come to realize taking those dreaded "before" photos is a damned good idea and I won't make the mistake again of skipping this step.
I believe I've mentioned on here before that although for much of my life I was the tall lean type, there was a period of time in my mid/late 30s that I started getting heavy and I really put on quite a few pounds. While I never got to the point that one might think of me as a fat guy, I did get quite a gut, pronounced love handles and soft, flabby arms .
Back then I was relatively new to Seattle. I was living with my girlfriend of the time, I had a few work friends but aside from that I didn't have a very large social circle. Even the couple local folks I knew from before I moved to Seattle I had very limited contact with for a couple years. I didn't even travel back home to visit old friends and family for the first couple years I was in Seattle.
Time went by and I managed to shed those excess pounds. My old girlfriend and I have long since parted, I left that job ages ago and have lost contact with just about everyone I knew from there.
It wasn't until after I started getting myself in shape that I started going out more, being more social and I began to meet the people that have become the wonderful circle of friends I now have. I've also since began traveling back east at least once a year to visit old friends.
The point of this long-winded piece of personal history is that when I tell friends I have now that I used to be heavy or at the very least, heavier, I sometimes get remarks to the effect of that's hard for me to picture, if not outright smirks of disbelief.
Last summer a couple of old friends came through Seattle to visit and the two of them went out to dinner with my girlfriend and me. Unprompted by me one of them pointed out to my girlfriend “you wouldn't know this to look at him now but Patrick got got fat there for a while”. The look on my girl's face, I could swear, was a look of Really? I always thought you were full of shit about that.
Of course I would never have to worry about any of these looks of disbelief if I only had some photographs of myself from back then.
There are a few different things that finally woke me up and got me motivated to change my diet and live a more active lifestyle. One that stands out very clearly in my mind is a snapshot my old girlfriend took of me back then. I was sitting on the couch watching TV and believe and I wasn't aware she was taking the picture at the time.
I remember when I first saw that photo, it was almost like I couldn't believe that was me; my stomach was hanging well over where my belt would've been, my arms looked bigger than they ever had before but not in a good way and my face looked puffy. However the thing that really struck me most about that photograph was that I just looked unhealthy.
Seeing myself look like that was startling and depressing.
It was quite a few years later when I went to go searching for photographic evidence of how heavy I had gotten, that I realized that I had no photographs of me from then. Even the photo I just described above I seem to have misplaced somewhere along the line. I swear I did not consciously get rid of that picture but some part of me obviously didn't want it around.
While I didn't have the interest in photography back then than I do now, I've always enjoyed taking pictures and I have photographs from just about every era of my life. During the time that I put on that extra weight though I apparently also put my camera in a drawer and forgot about it for while because I was taking no pictures back then. Again, I never consciously thought to myself that I wanted to avoid having my picture taken because I was out of shape. I think it must have just been some sort of an internal vanity self-preservation instinct that kept me from breaking out my camera.
Whatever it was, it's clear to me now that during that time I didn't want to be social, I dressed to hide my form and I clearly did not want to have my picture taken. I didn't even take pictures when I was joined a gym to mark my starting point. That was probably because I didn't have faith in myself that I stick to my plan and get myself in shape.
It's a shame because now I would really like to have photos of myself from back then. Certainly it might be a good thing to show on this blog. An image of how I looked at 35 compared to how I look at 45 might add a little bit of credibility to what I have to say.
For myself I wish I had pre-fitness pictures just to remind myself where I've been and what I can accomplish when I make the right choices.
So yes, before I start this P90X thing I'm going to take those photos. Even if I don't show them to anyone else, I'll have them for myself as either mementos of what I accomplished or reminders that I need to try harder next time.
None of us like the idea of being the “Before” picture but that is after all part of the process of becoming the “After”.