My biggest challenge to getting fit has always been just overcoming the pure boredom I experience when doing normal workouts. I have never liked the gym, weights are heavy, running is lame, and the people in workout videos make me feel stupid. That is probably why cycling was my key to success. Still, it’s hard to dispute the millions of before and after images of people that spend 90 days doing this crazy P90X workout and end up looking like a whole new person (or half a new person depending on your viewpoint). Whenever someone talks about a “workout” that involves watching a video, I can’t help but think about the legend himself, Richard Simmons. Growing up, Simmons’ curly afro and short shorts represented all I knew about fitness. Eventually, as I got into shape, I realized that to really hit the goal I had set for myself, I would need to try something new. I did the gym thing, but by myself I didn’t really know what would work best, which is why I reluctantly decided to try my luck at P90X.
P90X was actually created by a company called Beachbody and a fitness master (and host of all the videos) Tony Horton. Before we go any further, Beachbody is apparently an organization with a selling structure similar to Avon or Mary Kay. That is to say, they offer plans for people who love the stuff they sell to sell their products for them in return for small commissions… I am not, nor will I ever be a Beachbody rep. I find that particular business model (however successful it may be) to be pretty despicable and to create an atmosphere of selling through bullying. I’m not a fan at all. It’s almost comical, in fact, to use the hashtag #P90X on twitter and see how many people immediately try to start selling you things. I digress…
P90X is meant to be a combination of a variety of types of workouts and is essentially meant to shock your body into shape over 90 days. There is crazy stuff like plyometrics or jump training, weight training, cardio, and even a hardcore version of yoga. The videos have you working out 6 days a week and do require a few special (albeit low cost) pieces of equipment to really do it. Over the course of 90 days, even half-assing it (despite Tony’s pleas to “try your best and forget the rest”), you will be worked harder than you probably ever have.
Like any good workout plan, the videos guide you through exercises that focus specifically on different parts of your body. You don’t ever want to just work out your arms or shoulders every day, for example, so the following the plan helps guide you appropriately so that you maximize your body’s natural ability to create muscle and repair itself. I am lucky enough to have a small gym at my work and as such was able to begin the plan with a couple of work friends of varying degrees of fitness. The total workouts each day take about an hour to complete, not including showering off, which made things difficult. Plan your schedule appropriately so that you have a good 90 minutes a day to focus on the workouts. If all else fails, I recommend you at least follow the videos for 45 minutes each to really get a great workout.
I’m not going to focus on the specific workouts themselves, but more on the experience. The first thing we figured out in the very first week is that if you aren’t already in shape a little, this is not a good workout for you. P90X is seriously extreme, and going into it completely out of shape can result in you hurting yourself, or if nothing else, puking a few times a week. Yes, puking…it happens (EXTREME *said in a mocking tone*).
One thing that I was quite surprised about was the tone and content of the videos itself. Tony Horton is actually a rather amusing coach. Remember that I was entering into this expecting to see something like those infomercials about Sweat’n to the Oldies, so I was surprised to find the guidance to feel much more real. Tony does not push you too hard, but he does truly encourage you to give it your best. The truth is, even if you can’t go a full hour, like Tim Ferris says in The 4-hour Body, working to your threshold is all you need to really focus on to see results. If you can only do 2 push-ups, or even just 1, then that is all you can do. Even though I mocked the phrase earlier, there is truth to the mantra of “do your best and forget the rest”: I can tell you that across the board over the course of just 1 week we saw improvements in our ability to complete the exercises. There is nothing more satisfying than actually seeing a result like that in such a short time.
Tony does a great job of offering words of encouragement. He is cheesy about some of his comments, but in a way that makes you laugh and feel OK about what you are doing. He makes fun of the people in the room working out with him, and offers great tips and bits of knowledge on healthy living the whole time. When you complete the workouts you don’t feel like all you have done is point out how inferior you are to the people in the videos following along, you actually feel pretty proud. By the end of the 13-week program, if you have done your best, you will see results. I felt good about completing the program and would say that if you are looking to mix things up, or just test yourself, this is a good program to do it with. Beachbody does offer some nutritional advice that is meant to go along with the workout to really maximize your results, but I didn’t bite that bait so I can offer no feedback outside of my previous post on eating healthy. Keep in mind that even if you do 100% of the workout and don’t skip a beat, but go eat some wings, chips, and a 6 pack of your favorite craft beer afterwards, your results will likely be nonexistent.
P90X offers a challenge and an experience that I think anyone who is interested in fitness would appreciate. Remember to keep track of your progress. The results are what will keep you going on the days when you think you might puke. Don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up the first or second week. Push yourself past your limits a bit and the results will show up. Lastly, beware of the Beachbody salespeople!