Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Advice About Doing P90X

(My before and after photos from the first two times through P90X)

I am writing this because I am such an amazing example of what P90X can do for you.


I am writing this because I have had almost 10 people ask me for advice about doing P90X since I started 8 months ago.

I honestly do not mind taking the time to type out an individual answer each time someone asks, because I really do have a passion for seeing people take control of their health through diet and exercise.

But I thought it might be helpful to put together a post that includes my most common advice and summary of my experiences, so I can more quickly answer people by pointing them to this link.

My online P90X coach has encouraged me to online coach too, and someday I might feel knowledgeable and experienced enough and have enough spare time to do so. In the meantime, I just want to encourage whoever I can for free.


My advice about P90X? Do it. Or don't do it. But do something.

If you are not completely convinced that your current diet and exercise routine are giving you more energy, better moods and longer life... then change them.

I honestly do not know the percentage of people who have tried P90X and quit after a week or two, but I know it is fairly high. I know a handful myself.

Who cares. Who cares that you quit. Do something else. Plan to try it again. Or plan to do something else, to whatever comfort and energy level you can do right now.

Maybe it is walking for 15 minutes a day. Do that. You will feel better just from that, if you do not have an exercise routine. And that will give you more energy and then you can walk for 30 minutes a day!

We are meant to move. We only have so many years in this life to move. We already have 8 hours a night completely immobile. Why add another 6 hours glued to the couch watching terrible TV shows?!?! Move!

And eat good food. Our bodies are amazing machines that run incredibly well on good food. And stutter and stall and run sluggishly and poorly on poor fuel.

We have spent thousands of years eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains in moderation. Lack of modern convenience, supply and standard of living decided that for us.

Yes, lack of medical advances meant some had shorter life spans (plus wars. And bears. Bears were EVERYWHERE), but people felt better and moved around more.

Now most of us in the Western world, rich or "poor", have the convenience, money, time and outlets to eat terrible and not move.

We get up in the box of our bedroom, climb into the box of our car, sit in the box of our cubicle, back to the automobile box, sit motionless in the box of our living-room and then back to the box of our bedroom to start it all over again.

So many of us don't experience or appreciate life or the beauty of the world and outdoors in general, because it it so cheap and easy to get junk food from drive-thru windows and numb our heads with 6 hours a day of TV and Internet while plastered to the sofa.

And we wonder why we're still bored and feel terrible.

If you want to feel better, look better, do more and live longer, you only have to do two things:

1) Eat better
2) Move more

OK. Enough motivational screeching. Now for P90X specific advice.

The 3 biggest things I would suggest from my experience with the program and the degree of success I have had is this:

1) Work up to it for a month or two by moving more and eating better in general, even if it is just small and incremental improvements and changes

2) BUY IT. Do not ask for copies or pirate it. I honestly believe it was a big part of the reason I did so well with it and even finished it at all (two and a half times through now). I considered it an investment and one that I would either capitalize on or squander and lose my $120 on if I stopped doing it.

3) Decide. Commit. Succeed. That is their slogan and it is honestly true about succeeding at P90X and pretty much anything else in life. I already had this attitude from the start, but it is hard to say it better than this.

Now to expand on these 3 things a little more.

- As for working up to it, I started walking every day. My doctor suggested I try a gluten free diet a year earlier for a chronic pain condition and it helped, shed a few pounds and gave me more energy.

Even if you are not allergic to gluten, many of us eat too much bread and pasta. Again, for thousands of years we ran better on more fruits, vegetables and then in more moderation, lean meats and whole grains. Start watching what you eat, because if your diet is horrible when you try to start P90X, switching to theirs will help, but also be a shock to the system. Eat less, eat better. You need that energy to do any fitness program.

- Not much to expand upon the topic of buying it except, again, you should not look at it as some little thing you are going to try. You need to change your mindset as it being a part of an investment that you will keep pouring more time and money into from now on.

- Decide. Commit. Succeed. Worth repeating. I remember a few people warned me it might be too hard or I spent money on something I would not finish. I joke about it a couple times in my blog posts along the way. But the truth is I KNEW I was going to finish it before I typed my credit card number into the webpage.

I had spent years wanting to work on diet and exercise, but could not because of health problems and all the medicine I was on. When I finally got off all the pain medicine, I was in more pain but had a little more energy.

And that is when I started to CHANGE MY MIND. You can choose to think and do whatever you want to do. I chose to change my diet and exercise to get more energy, help my pain condition with natural, non-prescription means and invest in my long-term health.

The last one was huge to me. With experiences of friends and family and black and white statistics, it became clear I was going to sabotage my future chances of being mobile and somewhat healthy as I got older, if I did not start moving more and eating better.

Dramatically increased chances of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and pain, just to name some of the big ones, were in store for me if I did not start eating better and exercising.

So I basically made a vow, if you will, to finish it no matter what. I made a promise to myself to make it all the way through and not miss one single day, unless it was physically impossible to not miss it.

The first time through P90X, I worked a whole week with an injury to my knee and another whole week with an injury to my lower back. I was in terrible pain, but I still did the hour to hour and a half workout every day, six days a week, just being careful to not make the injuries worse. And they healed up. The yoga even helped the lower back pain more than once.

I really injured my shoulder recently (not at P90X) and am still doing P90X every day. I hurt it much worse than the other two injuries which healed up, because it is still hurting now 2 months later. But I am again just being careful to not hurt it worse and it is very slowly getting a little better.

The first time through P90X, I worked out while burning up with a fever and congested with a bad cold. I had to do this again a couple weeks ago.

This is because I have the willpower of superman!


It is because I remind myself that I will still feel better if I keep moving and eating right, than if I do not.

And I made the promise to myself to keep doing it no matter what. I refused to miss a workout, unless it was impossible, because I knew if I started making and giving in to "big and good" excuses, I would soon after be giving in to "small and bad" excuses.

I also knew I had spent DECADES not eating particularly well and not being very active. When you spend a whole lifetime doing it wrong, you really have to work hard to reprogram yourself. But you can!

And that is the key to succeeding at improving your diet and exercise. Plan on it being for the rest of your life - eating food that is good for you and moving more.

If you are always just looking for a quick and easy fix to lose some pounds, instead of making a lifestyle change, you set yourself up to quit and fail. Don't do that.

Finally, some specific advice about doing the workouts on P90X (or any other one you might choose).

- I said it already, but do NOT keep eating terribly, thinking you can have your cake, eat it too and not get fat from it.

If you do not eat better foods, you will not have the energy to workout well and your success will be very limited, if at all.

The P90X program has a great book on nutrition to retrain and educate yourself. Even if you choose to not follow it verbatim, read it and start to learn about what is good and what is not.

But it's not rocket surgery.

Even the nebulous food pyramid of old has been replaced with an unbelievably easy to remember "plate".

For example, at dinner fill up half the plate with vegetables, then a quarter of the plate with whole grains and the final remaining quarter of the plate with lean meat.

Start eating better for at least a couple weeks leading up to any fitness program, especially one as challenging as P90X.

- Take it easy at first. Pace yourself. I not only threw up on the first day, I had to stop the DVD on the second day, because I was seeing stars and falling over.

And that was despite the fact that I was already walking every day, running a little, lifting some weights and eating better for a couple months beforehand.

But I honestly believe ANYONE can do P90X, if they pace themselves. Especially the first week, so you can gauge exactly how much it takes to make it all the through the entire 60, 80 or 90 minute workout.

They recommend a heart monitor. I do too. Get one of those watches. I often still push it too hard and the BPM helps me know I need to back off.

If you cannot afford a heart rate monitor at first, check your rate on the aerobic workout days with a regular watch. Feel your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to get your Beats Per Minute (BPM).

Here is a good link to look at how to calculate your target zones:

How to use your heart rate monitor

Also, consider investing in a body fat scale. The first 2 months in, I did not lose one single pound, but my body fat dropped dramatically, as I was doing lots of aerobics and weights.

Muscle weighs more than fat and I was burning a lot of fat and adding muscle at the same time, for the first few months.

It is not just about losing pounds. It is about losing body fat and gaining lean muscle. This will boost your metabolism, give you more energy and make you healthier.

- And finally... just push play. Every day. Some days you will feel like working out. Some days you will not. Workout on both types of days, regardless. You'll be glad you did.

We do not have control over a lot of things in this world, including how much money we make, who we work with or drive next to or even who we have to be related to!

But almost every single one of us, especially in first world countries, have complete and total control over how much we move our butt and how much and what kind of things we stuff into our gaping maws every day.

If you set your mind to move more and eat better, you can then graduate up to moving a lot and eating as well as possible.

You will feel better, look better and probably live longer. And you will also realize that you have a lot of power to do almost anything you set your mind to do.

It is very empowering to make even small changes in your diet and exercise. You not only begin to realize you can do what you set your mind to, but you are then empowered to make even more changes.

You do not have to start off at a "full sprint" of change. Just take a step. And then another. And keep walking. Move.

I hope this encourages people to do just that. If you have any questions, please contact me and I would love to try my best to give you information, advice or encouragement.

Day 1 - 192 lbs, 26% body fat
Day 180 - 168 lbs, 14% body fat