This coming Monday will be exactly 2 years since starting the P90X workout program. I first heard about the workout DVDs from a friend and later discovered that they were quite popular on late night infomercials. I decided to try it out and quickly realized that this was the real deal. This program is intense and requires serious motivation. Each workout lasts between 50 and 80 minutes and there are 12 different workouts. If you follow any of the 3 workout schedules, you will be working out 6 days a week for 13 weeks.
As the popularity of P90X continues to grow, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the workout from curious friends and family. People always ask me if I follow the nutrition plan (I don’t) or which workout I think is the hardest. Of course I also get a bunch of people asking if they should start the program. Many of my friends have tried it, and a few have completed it at least once. I’ve been meaning to write about it for the past year, so this seems like the perfect way to celebrate!
My Daily Workout
First, I have a confession. I do not follow any of the workout schedules. As many of you know, I am an avid mountain biker and the thought of spending 6 nights a week in front of my TV didn’t sit well. For about 10 months out of the year, I substitute a good mountain bike ride for 2-3 days of P90X. I try my hardest to work out 7 days a week. In the winter, this is a bit harder since the weather is not as nice and it gets dark early. I’d say that I’ve probably worked out at least 350 days this past year. I’m at the point now where I actually feel guilty if I have to skip a workout. This usually only happens if I’m traveling or somewhere where it’s just not possible to get a good workout in.
Since I don’t follow any of the recommended schedules, I keep my own schedule. I do at least 2 strength training P90X workouts each week. I rotate 4 of the P90X workouts: Chest & Back, Back & Biceps, Shoulders & Arms, Chest Shoulders & Triceps. Each of these workouts includes Ab Ripper X at the end, which is a quick 20 minute ab workout. I always do abs after the strength days. In between strength days, I try to get in a good cardio/leg workout. Usually this is a 10 mile mountain bike ride. If it’s raining and the trails are closed, I usually like to throw in the Plyometics workout. Fridays are generally my “open” day. Occasionally I will go for a bike ride if the weather is nice, but usually I like to do the Core Synergistics workout. On the weekends, I usually opt for 2 long bike rides or some other type of exercise. I’ve found that mixing a super fun workout like mountain biking in with my P90X workouts has been critical to staying with the program for so long.
I noticed myself progressing a lot during the first few months. I was getting much stronger and I was definitely noticing some muscle growth. However, I was always sore. Really sore. I spent the first few months using exercise bands for the strength workout. These are really good for when you are just starting out and don’t feel like spending a lot of money on dumbbells. They are also perfect for traveling. Eventually, I decided that the bands were not doing it for me anymore and I got a nice set of dumbbells. I think this brought me to the next level and I’m still seeing progression, albeit slower, with the strength workouts. If you are already pretty fit, I would suggest going straight for the dumbbells.
As a quick side note, I recently tried another workout called Bob Harper: Pure Burn Super Strength. This is a single, hour-long workout that somehow manages to hit everything. Every two weeks I try to fit this workout into my routine and it’s brutal. I’d venture to say that this is probably more difficult than any single P90X workout. So, if you have already done P90X and are looking for something new and challenging, check it out!
Exercise vs. Dieting
I mentioned that one of the questions I get a lot is about the P90X Nutrition plan. The program includes a fairly comprehensive guide for eating right. I’ve never been a big fan of structured diets, so I can’t say that I really know anything about this guide. I guess I have a problem with structured diets because they just don’t seem sustainable to me. I love eating and I do try to make healthy choices. However, I’ve discovered that I would much rather do a tough 1 hour workout each day and not have to worry about what I eat. If you’re always just worrying about what you eat and you never exercise, you’re missing many of the other benefits you get from exercise. Sure, it takes more time, but think of the physical and mental health benefits you get from a good workout. Counting calories can’t do that! Also, considering I spend a very large part of my day sitting in front of a computer, it’s really nice to be able to spend some time exercising.
Why not just go to the Gym?
During high school and college I used to spend a lot of time at the gym. Towards the end of college, I did not spend nearly as much time at the gym as I would have liked. If you have a good workout partner and enough time, the gym can be very good. However, if you don’t have a good workout partner… I find that I don’t push myself as hard when I’m alone at the gym. The P90X workout dude, Tony Horton, is an amazing motivator. The guy is nearly 50 years old and he’s ripped! I’m a lot more comfortable pushing myself to complete exhaustion when I’m at home.
Originally when I started the workout, my plan was to do P90X until I got bored or annoyed with it. At that point I would get a gym membership and continue where I left off. Well, it’s been 2 years so far and I’m still not sick of P90X. I’m a bit shocked, to be honest. I love the convenience of being able to come home from work and start working out immediately. I don’t need to change clothes, drive to the gym, wait for equipment, etc. I just push play on my Playstation and I’m good to go. I’m able to eliminate a lot of the extra time that is padded onto a normal gym workout since I can cut out travel and all of that other stuff.
Is P90X right for me?
This is the ultimate question. The P90X program is marketed towards people who are already “in pretty good shape”. This is a very intense workout and it’s not recommended for people who’ve spend the last few years sitting on the couch. Sure you’re welcome to try it out, but the likelihood of you finishing the program is much smaller. I was in decent shape when I started thanks to mountain biking. The first few weeks of P90X were seriously brutal.
Another major issue is the time commitment. You should plan on allocating 90 minutes every day. For many people, their schedule just can’t support this type of program. I’ve gotten into the habit of coming home every day after work and working out before dinner. This means that we don’t usually eat dinner until 7:30-8pm. Obviously if you have kids or a very demanding job, this probably wouldn’t work for you.
Motivation is another huge factor. Anyone who has completed the program will tell you that it takes a lot of willpower and self-motivation. You need to seriously want it if you are going to succeed. Since it’s a home workout, it can be very tempting to come home from work exhausted and opt for the couch instead of your workout. I’m a very driven person so I generally don’t have a problem with this. Usually once a week I won’t want to workout but I just force myself to push play and do it anyway.
Finally, everyone is different. P90X offers 3 different routines based on your fitness level. There’s a lean version with more cardio, the Classic version, and even a Double workout. Some people will love the program and complete it many times over. Others will hate it and might be looking for something totally different. I can safely say that I LOVE it and I’m hoping to knock out a few more years.
Sorry, no pics. ;)