Sunday, November 8, 2009

P90X Review: Round 1 Wrap-Up

Now that I've completed a full round of P90X, I feel qualified (albeit just barely) to offer up some observations to those of you who haven't tried it yet.

Tony's a Total Douchebag, But P90X Works.

Granted, Tony Horton is an acquired taste. Douchebags are, after all, not known for their deliciousness. Nonetheless, he deserves a lot of credit for developing an incredibly effective home fitness program.

In just three months, I've gone from totally jelly-like to almost not jelly-like at all. My eating habits have dramatically improved, and I'm sleeping more and better (albeit mostly because I'm now exhausted from waking up at an ungodly hour to exercise). I'm able to crank out more pull-ups and push-ups than ever before. Pre-P90X, balance and flexibility were utterly foreign concepts to me, but now, I can rest my forehead on my knees while performing seated straight-leg hamstring stretches, and I can maintain moderately difficult yoga poses without toppling over. Physically, I'm in the best shape of my life (up to this point, anyway).

More after the jump...

Still, P90X Has Its Limitations, So Adjust Your Expectations Accordingly.

Although P90X can certainly deliver fantastic results, the system isn't perfect, and it isn't for everyone.

The program is built with very specific goals: It's meant to help you enhance your overall fitness by building muscle endurance, functional strength, balance and flexibility. P90X isn't designed to produce significant gains in muscle mass; if that's what you want, you're better off with a powerlifting program. P90X offers resistance-based circuit training -- something that will certainly get you in shape, but won't necessarily lead to Schwarzenegger-like pecs.

It's also not specifically intended for weight loss. As the P90X Nutrition Plan explicitly states, "P90X is not built around a daily 'calorie deficit' for weight loss ... P90X is not a fast-track weight loss solution like other programs [and] not designed for weight loss per se. It's designed to increase human performance and improve overall body composition." Still, plenty of folks (who apparently don't bother reading the P90X materials) continue to miss the point and complain that they're not losing weight on P90X.

Additionally, those of you who are looking for a hardcore cardio workout won't find it in P90X. Plyo is a great, heart-pumping workout, but Cardio X is uninspiring and Kenpo X is super fucking lame. I'm not saying that P90X won't improve your cardiovascular health, but if that's what you're after, I suggest checking out Insanity instead.

Lastly, as I've mentioned before, if you're starting off with a not-insignificant amount of body fat, or if you have absolutely zero experience with exercise, don't go into P90X thinking it's going to transform you into Brad Pitt in "Fight Club." (Not in the first round, anyway.) It'll work you hard, and you'll be better for it, but most people with 30% body fat on Day 1 aren't going to be down to a ripped 7% on Day 90.

P90X Is Easy To Start, But Difficult To Finish.

It's not surprising that P90X is one of the best-selling home fitness DVD programs in the United States. It promises to get you in terrific shape with minimal equipment in just 90 days. And it's ridiculously easy to get started. After buying the DVDs (which are relatively cheap, considering the content), you just need a pull-up bar, a mat, and either a set of cheap resistance bands or some dumbbells. Take the fit test, set your alarm clock, and exercise for 90 days.

Anyone can get through a 90-day program, right?

Wrong. Many people who post about their P90X workouts on blogs or message boards disappear after a month or so of the program, and I have to assume that a lot of them have abandoned P90X entirely. I can't blame them. Life presents plenty of obstacles: People get injured or sick, family matters pop up, work gets crazy. And P90X isn't exactly a walk in the park. It forces you to listen to the same stale punchlines from Tony day after day after day until you start looking for a screwdriver to jam in your ears. It kicks your ass each and every day (except for those Kenpo X days, which are just a waste of time). And while 90 days doesn't sound like much, there are times I felt like they would never fucking end.

So how do you get through a full round of P90X?

Besides staying healthy, you have to be committed enough to devote over 100 hours to intense exercise and to stick to a new (and to many people, incredibly restrictive) diet. Self-discipline is critical.

For me, the key was to find ways to stay excited and interested in the process. This blog is one manifestation of my attempts to stay motivated. I knew that if I held myself accountable to posting every single day, my obsessive personality would also force me to keep exercising. Plus, by digging up as much information as I could about Tony and his "kids," I kept myself engaged in all things P90X. After a while, it wasn't just about working out; it was also about keeping you fuckers entertained. (I sincerely hope I did.)

It certainly also helps to have a strong support system. Throughout my 90 days of P90X, my wife, M, has also been exercising daily (she's doing ChaLEAN Extreme), so we're both cooking and eating like health nuts -- and flexing our newfound muscles in front of the mirror. I love exercising with her every morning; we push and encourage each other, and make faces at the TV screen whenever Tony busts out another ridiculously horrible joke. I imagine it'd be a lot harder to get through P90X if your friends and family aren't supportive, or -- even worse -- if they intentionally or unintentionally try to sabotage your efforts to get in shape by stocking the fridge with unhealthy foods and complaining about the time you're devoting to P90X instead of the family.

Lastly, you need inspiration. Mine is a photo of myself, circa 1995. In it, I'm huge. My pants look like sausage casings. I'm stuffed inside an extra-large button-down shirt that strains to cover my bulging midsection, and my puffy hands are clutching a can of beer. I was in college at the time, and I should have been at my healthiest. Instead, I was at my fitness nadir: I was sluggish, tired, wheezy, and insecure. The photo sits in front of the TV in the garage, where I can't help but see it every morning before I start my workout. I got through P90X in large part because I never want to be that guy again.