07.25.12: My Experience with P90X

Short version: I like it.

Longer version: I like it, with a couple of reservations.

Unabridged version: I got the P90X system for my husband for Christmas.  His schedule can be wonky, he travels a lot, and he often tucks workouts in wherever and however he can.  I doubted that he would go through the program as prescribed – and I was right – but I thought that between the two of us, we’d get some use out of it.

He’s cherry-picked from the workouts, and I did the program for about 4 weeks.  I chose not to pursue the full 90 days for a couple of reasons, but my overall feelings about the system are still positive.

I like Tony Horton as a host/guide/leader.  He’s in stellar shape, but he’s still got a “normal guy” aura.  His chatter and patter are not particularly grating (at least not to my ears; to each his own), and he strikes an appropriate balance between encouraging and challenging.  The DVDs do a good job of making you feel like you’re in the room with Tony and his helper-exercisers.  They also do a good job of not making you feel like a gigantic moron, sweating and falling all over yourself in your rec room, and of motivating without having the benefit of personal contact.

I generally like the variety of the workouts.  The system focuses on the concept of “muscle confusion,” which means that you’re changing things up constantly, not allowing your muscles to adapt or to get too comfortable.  That’s cool, and it works, and I’m on board with the concept – but more practically and importantly, sticking with a workout often hinges on whether you’re bored, and boredom is less of a problem with P90X than with other, similar at-home programs.

I generally like the workouts themselves.  Good variations are demonstrated for beginners, or for different equipment.  I liked the kickboxing the best – once I got the hang of it.  The first couple of times I tried that one, I swear to God I grew three extra feet and two extra arms, and I didn’t know what to do with any of them.  Whoo-ee, I was pissed off.

P90X offers options for programs, which are different combinations of the 12 workout DVDs.  I went with “P90X Lean,” which focuses on cardio.  It’s like the AAA version of the full P90X: not quite the big leagues, but still plenty challenging.  Lean was a better choice for me, as I was essentially coming straight from the couch.  That said, I took the “Are You Ready For P90X” pre-test, a series of exercises intended to make sure you have enough baseline fitness for the program, and I met or exceeded all of the marks, even coming from the couch.  All of the marks except for the pull-ups, and I’m not going to lose sleep over those.

I did see results from the program, and I was pleased.  Why didn’t I stick with it beyond the first four weeks?

I got several big freelance writing jobs back to back (to back to back).  I was leaving the house at 6:30 in the morning, and I often got home after 6 in the evening.  On a Yoga day, I’d have had to get up at 3:45, do Yoga from 4 until 5:30, and then shower up and eat and hit the road.  Not.  Bloody.  Likely.  Alternatively, I could have done Yoga from 9 until 10:30 pm, and then gone to bed.  Also not.  Bloody.  Likely.

So I had a break from the program, and when my head got above water, I decided I would be happier and more focused if I had a more tangible goal: training for a 10K.  I can still use the P90X workouts for cross-training days, and later I may decide to set a goal to do the entire 90 days.  For now, for me, pounding the pavement is more rewarding.

The program doesn’t provide flexibility for situations like mine, or for sick days.  What’s the best way to swap workouts if a Yoga day falls on a long workday?  What if you miss a couple – do you pick up where you left off, or repeat the last one you did before you keep going?  One could answer these questions instinctively (I am a certified personal trainer (expired), after all), and it honestly probably doesn’t matter much.  Just do something, as long as you’re doing something.  But because the program hammers on strict adherence, it can feel somewhat unrealistic and unforgiving.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had 90 predictable days in a row in a long, long time.  I control what I can, when I can – and I need to be able to adapt accordingly.  P90X doesn’t feel real-world in that aspect.

I freely admit that I didn’t consult the extensive online resources that P90X supports and recommends.  When I had questions, I found it cumbersome to sift through message boards to find the answers, and I wasn’t convinced that the folks providing the “answers” were qualified.  A lot of the responses on the boards seemed to bemoan that the same questions were being asked over and over again … naturally, I didn’t feel welcome to jump in.  So P90X may have helpful strategies to cope with Life, but I didn’t find them.

I wish that there were more than one Yoga workout.  The Lean program has 2 days a week of Yoga, and I love me some Yoga, but I quickly tired of the 90-minute Yoga X, and even began to dread it a little, which is the death knell of a solo workout program.  If you’re working out with a trainer, in a group setting, or with a buddy, you may dread a workout or two (or all of them, if you worked with me, ha!), but you’re more likely to get off your duffer and go anyway because you’ve got other people to support you, or to jab you with sticks and make you do it.  When you’re by yourself in the basement, persistent dread can really derail you.

I also had concerns about a couple of the poses in Yoga X.  When I was firing on all my cylinders, I did Yoga several times a week – for years.  Even then I couldn’t do The Crow.  I worry about a first-timer trying that pose, and some others in the routine, like the Plough, without supervision.  Even though you’re warned not to do more than you can or should, and even though you’re reminded to take it easy, don’t turn your head in this pose, et cetera – it still makes me nervous.

I don’t love the eating plan, which is an equal partner with the workouts.  When 50% of your caloric intake comes from protein, that’s a hell of a lot of protein.  As I’ve said elsewhere in these pages (and will likely say again and again), a body needs more of other things.

So there you have it.  I found P90X to be a useful tool in the health and fitness arsenal.  Whatever physical activity you choose to pursue, keep an open mind, and stay focused.  Today is Square One, my friends.  Do something about it!

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