Tuesday, January 20, 2009

P90X Rules For Success

OK, it’s nearly three weeks into the New Year and some of the resolutions may have already gone by the wayside. If doing the P90X program was one of your resolutions I hope you are still going strong with it. Based on some of the messages I have seen posted on various Internet boards there are a few points that need to be driven home if you want to be successful. I’ll call them my P90X Rules for Success:

1. Know that you are not smarter than Tony Horton (at least when it comes to fitness).

Tony and BeachBody spent over a million dollars developing P90X. They conducted test groups and consulted with nutrition and fitness experts during the development process. They learned what works and what doesn’t work. So when you get it in your head that you can modify the program or deviate from the workout or nutrition schedule and still have great success, you are being egotistical. Look, if you knew more than Tony about this stuff you wouldn’t need P90X. You wouldn’t be overweight and/or out of shape. So you hate Yoga? Do it anyway. You think you eat healthy food, follow the nutrition guide anyway and measure your portions.

2. Follow the Nutrition Guidelines.

What you eat, and how much, accounts for 80% of your body composition. Don’t think you can have that piece of cake and you’ll just do a bit more cardio. Not all calories are created equal. That piece of cake is going to have an impact on your insulin production and blood sugar levels for several hours at least. No one is perfect but the more you cheat the more you adversely impact your results. Also don't think "I eat healthy, I don't need to follow the nutrition guide". You need to eat the right number of calories and the right percentages of protein, carbs, and fat. Following this rule alone will account for the majority of your success with P90X.

3. Don't overdo it.

With exercise, after a certain point, less is more. Don’t plan to do Plyometrics three times a week, or add an hour of running on each of your strength training days to “boost your calorie burn”. P90X is an intensive program (the X stands for Extreme). Give your body a chance to recover between the workouts. We live in a microwave society and want instant results. But our bodies don’t respond well when too much stress is placed on them. 90 days is a short period of time and you’ll get great results if you just follow the program.

4. Lift heavy weights!

This applies to the women as well. You are not going to “bulk up” if you lift heavy. Big muscles require testosterone and men have 40 to 60 times more testosterone than women. I promise, you won’t end up looking like Starla in Napoleon Dynamite. Even most men can’t build really big muscles (think Arnold) because we just don’t have the genetics to do so. That said, everyone will get better results if they lift a weight heavy enough to only be able to do 8-10 reps with good form. Yes Tony says do 12-15 reps if you don’t want size, but remember the videos where made about six years ago and a lot has been learned since then. BeachBody’s newest program Chalean Extreme has everyone lifting heavy weights. It is the best way to change your body shape.

5. Have a good recovery drink after a strenuous workout.

Chocolate milk in and of itself is not an adequate substitute for the P90X Results and Recovery Drink. Yes it has the same ratio of carbs to protein and it has Vitamin D, but that’s about it. A good recovery drink will have lots of vitamins and minerals as well as L-Aginine (promotes production of human growth hormone) and L-Glutamine (blocks cortisol and promotes muscle growth). It also contains a small amount of creatine (helps to supply energy to muscle and nerve cells). A protein shake is not a recovery drink either. They serve completely different purposes. Now you don’t need a recovery drink after every workout. You should only have one after your strength training workouts and Plyometrics. If you’ve really “brought it” during KenpoX you can have one then as well. Make sure you take it as soon as possible after your workout is complete (typically after Ab Ripper X). If you are trying to lose body fat you can reduce the serving to one scoop. This will save you money and calories and give you most of the benefits of the full serving. You can still get great results on the P90X program without buying the P90X Results and Recovery drink, but you need to have some sort of recovery drink.

6. Stay off the scale.

Put the scale away for the next 90 days. I mean it. The scale only tells part of the story and can be very misleading. During the next 90 days you are going to be burning fat, building muscle, retaining water, shedding water, and all of these things will lead to yo-yoing numbers on the scale. It is virtually impossible to gain (or lose) five pounds of fat in two days, but the scale will tell you that you are five pounds heavier or lighter. A better measure of progress is how your clothes are fitting. You can also take measurements with a tape measure and check your body fat percentage using calipers. But really you should only do this once every 30 days. You can (and should) take pictures every 30 days. They will definitely tell a different story to what you see in the mirror every day.

7. Avoid processed food.

The food you eat doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to eat well. Yes it will cost more than the processed junk you have been buying, but you don’t have to eat steak or salmon every night. The menu plan in the nutrition guide is there to show you what you should be eating. Try some of the recipes but know that most people follow the portion plan. A good rule of thumb is to shop the periphery of your grocery store and stay out of the middle aisles (that’s where most of the processed junk resides).

8. If you want success you have to plan.

Plan your menus a week in advance (or at least three days). Get to the store and get the items you need, especially snacks. Don’t wait until you are hungry or temptation will win out and you’ll reach for the junk. You also need to plan your workouts. This part isn’t that hard since the P90X calendar tells you what to do on which days. But you need to set the time of day that you are going to do your workout and then NOTHING should take precedence. (OK, I know life happens, but the season premier of American Idol or Lost does not constitute an overriding emergency).

9. Don't miss workouts.

Travel for work or vacation is no excuse for not working out. If you have a laptop most likely it can play DVDs. Get some resistance bands (the B-Line bands are the best) and a door attachment so you can do pull downs in place of pull ups. Better yet order the Power Up Chin-UP from www.lifelineusa.com (tip they sell the B-Line bands as well). These handles fit over any door and allow you to do pull ups anywhere you go. They weigh a grand total of one pound. If you have room in your suitcase you can put in a yoga mat and block. Otherwise just use a hotel towel.

10. Do not substitute or skip workouts you don't like.

No you can’t substitute one or more workouts for another. Well actually you can. I mean it’s your program; you can do whatever you want. But you’ll really be compromising your results. CardioX is not a substitute for YogaX (even though it has a few yoga moves). Tony considers Yoga the fountain of youth and the most important workout in the P90X program. It provides strength and flexibility and it identifies your weak spots. The first time you do YogaX you are going to wonder what in the world is going on. It’s hard! Keep trying; you’ll get better at it. It may not become your favorite workout, but then again it might.

11. Be kind to yourself.

No one is perfect. You are going to make mistakes and bad choices during the 90 days of the program. Don't let a slip up derail you from the program. Resolve to do better and move on. While a round of P90X lasts 90 days hopefully you are making a lifetime change and you will continue to eat a healthy diet and exercise 5 to 6 days a week for the rest of your life.


  1. Awesome suggestions! Going to link this page to a friends/family!

  2. What about using a protein shake that has l-glutamine and l-arginine and creatine mixed with 12oz milk, 1tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup mixed berries, and 1/4 cup oats?

  3. Richard, you'd be fine.

    As for the article, chocolate milk IS fine PWO. Just add your own L-Glutamine and/or creatine to it. It may not be AS affective, but the difference is minimal or at least large enough to spend more money on the RF. Plus, we can all agree chocolate milk tastes better than the RF (even if the RF does taste good to some people)

  4. Thanks for this article -- helps to keep me focused on what I need to be doing.