P90X is, as the full name suggests, extreeeeemmmeee. You work out at home 6-7 times a week for 60-90 minutes with a different set of exercises each day of the week and a new set of routines every 4 weeks. In other words, it would require significant effort to not get fit (assuming you finish). Through a combination of peer pressure (folks at my office can get pretty serious about tests of will) and a desire for a worthy health challenge, I am ten days into the 90 day program.
I’ll talk a little bit about my experience so far, but first I’d like to clarify that this is primarily a personal challenge. Getting ripped, if you will, is not an explicit goal, but I admit that it’s a part of the equation. I’m not convinced that I’ll end up with a sculpted physique, but I’m damn curious. Will I feel better? Will people look at me differently? TBD, but I’m focusing on finishing over the next 80 days.
The details of the program are freely available online, but I’ll cover some basics before I focus on how I’m managing to complete a 60-90 minute workout, consume enough of the right calories, and still spend time doing the things I love on a daily basis. I should note, this isn’t a review as I’m only 10% of the way done.
The workouts are definitely intense, but they stagger weight training with cardio. For example, here’s the first phase:
Day 1: Chest & Back (lots of pull-ups and pushups)
Day 2: Plyometrics (high-impact, jumping)
Day 3: Arms & Shoulders
Day 4: Yoga (a mix of balance and power)
Day 5: Legs & Back (more pull-ups, various lifting)
Day 6: Kenpo (kickboxing)
Day 7: Rest (You can stretch, but you’ll want to chill)
In addition to this, you do a 15 minute ab routine on days 1, 3, and 5. You can expect to be sore all over your body, all the time.
In order to continue going out a few nights a week, I decided to do all of my workouts in the morning. I am not a morning person, so this was a concern for me. I prepared by going to the gym in the mornings twice a week throughout March and trying to go to bed by midnight. I guess it helped because I’ve been able to get up without much trouble at 6:45 every morning. My Tuesdays are a bit tight as I finish yoga at 8:30 and have to leave the house by 9, but it works.
The next decision was when to schedule my off-day. I decided on Friday for three reasons.
- I don’t have a lot of weekend travel planned over the next month, so it made sense to take advantage of both weekend days.
- Since I thought I’d have trouble waking up, I wanted to give myself a break at the end of the week.
- All of the jumping on day 2 will likely piss off my downstairs neighbors, so I’d like to do it on the weekend. And since day 1 requires the pull-up bar, which only fits on my bedroom door, I thought I’d keep from annoying my wife with a lot of (WORKOUT) grunting for one more morning.
Another bonus is that you go to work on Monday having completed half of your workouts. It’s nice to go into the week with a sense of accomplishment.
Since you’re doing this at home and probably don’t have a home gym, you’ll need to buy some supplies. Here’s what I got and what I didn’t.
Universal Power-Pak 445 Adjustable Dumbbells: You can either use weights or resistance bands, but I wanted something I was familiar with and would prove useful with any exercise system. I first bought a much cheaper set of dumbbells, but they weren’t going to work with P90X. You change exercises often and I didn’t want to extend an already long routine. The most popular set are the Bowflex SelectTech. They’re built slightly better and offer 2.5 pound increments up to 25 pounds (we have a pair hanging around the office), but they’re $100 more expensive and those improvements aren’t worth it.
Black Mountain Pull-up Bar: There are a lot of choices for these, but this product seemed to have the best value to quality ratio. Do note that you need a pull-up bar for a number of exercises and they don’t fit in every doorway. This unit claims it’ll work in a doorway 24-36” wide, but I had trouble with all of my doorways under 32”. Give this one a shot, but the resistance bands might be the way to go if you don’t have a good spot.
Clif Builder’s Bar and Muscle Milk: Never in my life did I think I’d buy a product named Muscle Milk, but it turns out this program demands it. The first few days, I ate roughly the same as before, but had peanut butter or eggs in the morning. P90X recommends you buy their expensive recovery drink, and now I understand why — you’re pretty weak if you don’t get some energy immediately after these workouts. Instead, I have a serving of Muscle Milk (it’s cheaper than P90X’s mix) for protein and an orange+banana or Emergen-C for vitamins and sugar. I feel a lot better throughout the day. And, while it seems like a lot, you’ll end up eating a protein bar every day in the beginning. I’ve tried a few brands and the Clif product is the tastiest. You’re basically eating a candy bar. It’s awesome.
This hard-boiled egg recipe: It’s nice to be able to grab a couple of these and some fruit for breakfast when you don’t have much time in the morning.
A yoga mat and blocks: We had extra around the house, but you’ll need the blocks if you can barely touch your knees on a hamstring stretch (Hi) and the mat if you’re bony (Hi again) and don’t want to bother your neighbors too much.
I skipped the pushup stands and heart rate monitor. So far, it’s been fine.
There is a pretty intense diet plan to go along with the exercise, but I’m mostly skipping it. Instead, I’m roughly following their ratios for each of the three phases. I’ve also found that I’m craving healthier foods anyway. I don’t know if it’s psychosomatic, but I’ll take it.
But is it enjoyable?
The short answer is yes. The variety of workouts are good (for your muscles too, apparently) and I find Tony, the creator and host, really likable. I’ve always been a treadmill and machines guy. I used a trainer once, but he wasn’t too pushy. So, I was worried the leader would be a steroid monster or suburban jazzerciser, but Tony is entertaining without being annoying, while pushing you just the right amount.
Now, if you don’t work out at all, you probably shouldn’t start with this cold. They have some minimums (a PDF of their fit test) and you should be able to get pretty close to each of these. If it’s any help, I was running about a 9’15” mile and benching 80 pounds before I started. I’m pretty gassed at the end of every workout, but I can keep up.
For some, doing the workouts at home could make it harder. You have a couch and a computer and a TV and an everything calling your name. For me, it’s proven easier. Since I’ve been working out in the morning prior to starting, not having to travel 10 minutes each way is a bonus. Another benefit is being half awake when I start — I’m less likely to get distracted. Most importantly, I feel energized when I start the day (now that I have my diet mostly in order). It’s made the suffering easier to swallow.
I’ll finish up with some quick thoughts.
You will be really fucking sore. Apparently it gets better after a few weeks. I’ll let you know. Aleve is your friend.
It helps to do this with someone else (not in the same space, but on the same schedule). Whether it’s motivation or competition, it makes it easier.
You’d think doing a workout almost everyday would be hard, but it’s easier to get into a routine. I haven’t been tempted to skip yet.
While I was nervous I’d hurt myself or chicken out, I’m feeling confident. The next 80 days don’t seem quite as daunting as the full 90 did on day 1.
Like most blog posts, this was written for me as much as it was for you. Let me know if you have any questions.