I’ve been battling excess weight all my life.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been straddling the depressing line between overweight and obese. It’s been the greatest challenge of my life in some ways.
I finally conquered that challenge, or came close to it, with a very popular program called P90X. Even though there’s still plenty more work to do, I finally feel like I’m no longer on the verge of obesity.
Five days ago, I became a “graduate” of the program as we apparently call ourselves after the 90 days. When I started I weighed 208 pounds, had no abdominal muscles to speak of, and very little defined muscle.
Now I weigh 180 pounds, have a ton of defined upper body muscle, and a strong sheet of abdominal muscles beneath the remaining inch or so of body fat I still need to burn away.
Workout programs like P90X that begin with infomercials and turn popular sometimes get a bad rap for supposedly being money-grubbing scams. I can’t speak for other programs out there or other people, but this one was incredibly effective for me. It’s led by a compassionate, motivating, and well-known personal trainer named Tony Horton. The effectiveness of P90X hasn’t been studied in any published research that we could find, and results will of course vary among individuals. And it’s notable that both high-intensity exercise and rapid weight loss carry some risks.
Here’s how I did it.
Exercise is the focus of the program, but you’ll never get results without doing the P90x nutrition program, too. The diet has multiple phases you can choose to follow at any time based on your personal needs. Most people start with Phase 1, which is very low in carbohydrates. Then, they move onto the other phases.
The phases all have the same calorie count (based on your current body) but different distributions of food types. In Phase 1 you concentrate on fat burning, so it offers the least carbohydrates. When you feel ready, you can move onto other phases to give you the energy to move through your workouts at a high level.
I stayed in Phase 1 the whole time because I had so much fat to burn, which is an option that clearly works but isn’t for everybody. There’s variety and flexibility here. Making whole foods a larger component of your meals is healthy for anyone, but consult a doctor or licensed dietitian before making drastic changes to your diet.
There are three iterations of P90X by the parent company Beachbody: Classic, P90X2, and P90X3.
I did P90X classic, and the exercise regimen was intense.
You get a DVD for each workout led by Tony Horton himself. The workouts are six days a week in three different phases, and every day you do something different.
As Horton says over and over, the P90X program is all about muscle confusion. Here’s what the makers of the program say about this principle:
“P90X uses targeted training phases so your body keeps adapting and growing. You’ll never ‘plateau’ — which means your body will never get used to the routines, making improvements slow down or even stop.
- Short training cycles constantly challenge your muscles with variety and intensity.
- P90X maximizes fat burning and muscle sculpting in different ways every day.
- No plateau effect means each phase of P90X is as effective as the first.”
For example, if you started P90X, your first week would look like this:
Day 1: Chest and Back, Ab Ripper X (an intense, 16-minute abdominal workout)
Day 2: Plyometrics (jump training, cardio, crazy hard)
Day 3: Shoulders and arms (The “glamour” muscles), Ab Ripper X
Day 4: Yoga (90 minutes of the toughest yoga you’ve ever done)
Day 5: Legs and Back, Ab Ripper X
Day 6: Kenpo X (A karate-inspired cardio routine)
I would not recommend this to everyone. If you’re looking for a short workout to squeeze into your daily routine, this isn’t it. P90X workouts are long and hard. You’re looking at a commitment of about an hour-and-a-half every day to get in the best shape of your life. You’re also going to be really sore the first couple weeks.
There’s also a lot of repetition. You’re doing the same workout DVDs over and over, listening to Tony tell the same jokes over and over. I enjoyed that familiarity, but you might not.
It’s also potentially quite expensive. Low-carb diets like this one that stress whole foods rather than processed goods can get pricey at times. You also probably want to get yourself some dumbbells and resistance bands, along with a yoga mat. Combine that with $US120 you pay for the program itself, and the price soars a bit. However, those of us who need to lose that weight are usually willing to pay a lot of money and spend a lot of time exercising in exchange for a guaranteed result.
As Tony says in Day 1’s DVD, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your body.”
Before doing P90X, I went to the gym every day for six years, rocked that elliptical, and sprinkled in some dieting. I never found success like the success I’ve found with this program. Head to toe I’m as physically fit as I’ve ever been in my life. My core is strong so I’m less likely to get hurt out in the world, I have less risk of obesity-related diseases, and I look a lot better in a tank top.
The question for me now, of course, is what’s next? I’m definitely changing up my diet and eating more carbs to spoil myself just a bit for my hard work. But I’m already making plans to do P90X again. It becomes a lifestyle, and when something works that well, it’s hard to resist.
I’ll be doing some things differently when I start the program again in three weeks. First, I’m going to do P90X3. The latest version of the program touts 30-minute workouts, which are much more manageable for someone with a schedule as demanding as mine is. (The shorter workouts are probably still a beast, though!)
I’m also not going to do a super low carb diet this time. I’ll probably do a more flexible version of a later nutrition phase where carbs are still low but balance out more with protein levels. If I lost 30 more pounds, I’d be scary looking. This round is all about performance and burning the remaining fat away.
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