As a recent graduate of Tony Horton's P90x program, I discovered a stamina and a motivation within myself that I always suspected had been there but hadn't been given the opportunity to surface. The results I achieved were dramatic and my outlook on fitness has been completely changed. This was a FANTASTIC program that really fast tracks your physical and mental wellbeing, however there were a number of things I discovered along the way that I wish I had known from the outset. For instance, in my heart of hearts, I was hoping for Tony Horton's abs by the end of 90 days...unfortunately for my wife, this didn't happen. In order to manage your expectations, I provide my Top 5 list of things I wish I had known prior to starting P90x.
1. How Will You Measure Your Success - the Numbers that Will and Won't Change
As part of the pre-program check-in, you are asked to take a number of personal measurements including weight, resting pulse, blood pressure, size of different parts of your body, jump height, etc. My primary motivation for doing P90x was to drop 20 pounds. What I didn't appreciate was that muscle would replace the fat, therefore dropping 20 pounds while building muscle could be a meaningless goal depending on your starting weight. If you set your sights on other numbers, you will be completely blown away. In particular, you can expect to see big moves in the following numbers:
- Resting Heart Rate - I went from mid 60's to high 40's;
- Number of Push Ups - I tripled my original output;
- Blood Pressure - both systolic and diastolic moved down considerably;
- Waist size - I dropped 3 inches but put inches on my upper body.
If I was just focussed on my weight, then dropping 9 pounds over 3 months would seem like a total disappointment (and for the first few weeks of P90x, it was a huge demotivator that almost let me quit).
2. Diet is as Important as Exercise
At the beginning, I was eating well but did not necessarily follow the recommended recipe guide. This turned out to be a regret and something that I would definitely change if I could go back in time. I had a legitimate excuse (meal preparation with a family is not conducive to planning my own menu), however in the grand scheme, you will only get out of this program what you put into it. In other words, the program works if you execute it EXACTLY as specified. If you are disciplined enough to complete the mental and physical elements of P90x, then do yourself a HUGE favour and stick to the meal plan. The recipes are varied and oftentimes very simple to make.
You will hear Horton promoting his recovery drink on several of the videos. I did not order the P90x version, but rather a more generic version that I bought at my local health food store. I don't think there is a big difference with the type of recovery drink that you take, but the point is that you are taking something to help reenergize your system at the end of each workout.
Another thing that I found is that I drank a ton of water while on the program. This was a good thing. If I could do it all over again, I would also give up alcohol for the duration.
3. Don't Expect to be able to do All the Moves...even after 90 days
Being naturally competitive, I was always pushing myself to match the output of Horton and crew. This lasted until week 2. If you are able to keep pace with some of the more grueling workouts, then you are in better shape than most of the planet. If on the other hand, you take up P90x to try and improve your overall level of fitness, then should abandon the notion that you are failing if you can't do 5 chin-ups by week 8. I am now able to look back and am proud of my accomplishment, however there were times when I would fast-forward through certain exercises (Yoga-X and Dreya rolls got fast forwarded the most!).
One thing I wish I did differently was the Ab-Ripper-X routine. For the first 3 weeks, I gave myself the excuse that this was all new to me, therefore I could pass on Ab-Ripper and pick it up in Week 5. When we got to Week 5, the intensity was cranked up, so I would let myself get away with only doing it once a week. If you don't at least attempt it 3x per week from the beginning, you are doing yourself a big disservice. The point here is that you need to attempt the exercises being shown, take breaks if you need to, and don't beat yourself up if you can't do it all perfectly.
4. Horton's humour doesn't get old
I am almost embarrassed to admit this, but after spending between 60 and 90 minutes with Tony Horton over the past 3 months, his jokes have become like a guilty pleasure. At the beginning of the program, I thought his jokes were weak but mildly amusing. By Week 12, I was looking forward to some of his more memorable lines. "German Potato Soup" makes me laugh, however "Like a pterodactyl backing out of trouble...caw" kills me. Check out this video of his more memorable lines:
You will also find yourself having a strange one-sided relationship with the cast. Dom (the jumper from the Plyometric video) really makes me angry with his leaping arrogance. Tony Lattimore from Kenpo-X is a former marine and seems like a great guy to have as a buddy. There is a list floating around the internet ranking the cast in order of likeability - it is worth getting your hands on if you are doing the program (see bibilography for the link).
5. Have a post-P90x routine lined up WELL IN ADVANCE
When I finished the program, I intended to find something else to continue with my fitness. At the end, I felt I deserved a little break...that was 2 months ago!
I have now ordered the shortened 10 minute Trainer program but am already feeling my level of fitness slipping. If I could do it all over again, I would have had a backup plan arranged well in advance of finishing the program. For graduates, repeating the program, training for another endurance event (half marathon, triathlon, etc), getting a gym membership, joining a boot camp or doing another Beachbody program are all great alternatives.
If you have any further suggestions, please leave them in the comments box below. I would really like to hear from you. In the meantime, enjoy this video of outtakes from Tony Horton.