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Adventures in P90X: Part 1

by Bryan Stealey

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Some of you may remember last year when Kim Chamberlin, a good friend of Virtual Trainers, embarked on the courageous journey of tackling the P90X program. Kim was nice enough to volunteer to try the complete program and let us follow her as she blogged about her results. Things started out well for Kim, but as with most people on the program, the demands placed on her time ended up being too high and she ultimately stopped doing the program and as they say, "That was that."

Since Kim failed to complete the program, I have been sitting back patiently waiting on someone else to step up and volunteer to be my guinee pig so-to-speak and let me once again tag along for the ride and help answer some questions about the P90X program.

  1. Is P90X right for the MX athlete?
  2. Is the program sustainable for the average person?
  3. Is the program sustainable for the super busy (as is the case of our volunteer)?
  4. Is the program good for weight loss?
  5. How much discipline does it take to follow a program of this magnitude 6 days per week for 13-weeks?
  6. Can the program really be done at home?

So, you might be wondering, who in their right mind would be willing to volunteer and allow us to follow every aspect of their training, reveal their fitness test, show us a few before and after pics, and basically put them self under the microscope for all to see? Well, that was simple. I asked my boss, Bryan Stealey, the president of Racer X! Why would he volunteer to do be put under the microscope and expose himself to such scrutiny? Honestly, I'm not sure and I didn't want to to push my luck by questioning his motives but he explains his reasons below.

Basically the way this is going to work is, Bryan will do the P90X program and write occasional Blogs here on VT as he progresses through the program. Bryan is not doing this to improve his motocross skills or even to get in better shape for moto. He is doing this for personal reasons, as he describes below. I am experienced with P90X and will be doing all of the workouts along the way to provide feedback on the effectiveness of P90X as it relates to motocross. I will be able to provide insight on how a rider might incorporate bits and pieces of P90X into their current program or use the entire program as an effective training tool to get ready to moto. - Virtual Trainer


Bryan, before Power 90 and after. He was already pretty fit going into P90X. Will it be the program that helps him reach his goal of being the fittest of his life at 40? We'll see!

When I turned 39 in July, I was soft. (See the 'before' photo.) I’d been a fair-weather runner (literally) for a number of years, but I took too many days off, and it was starting to show for the first time in my life. My age was finally starting to catch up to me. That’s when I made the firm commitment to be in the best shape of my life when I turn 40. I just had to figure out how to do it.

A buddy of mine had the full P90X kit and said I could use it, but after doing a bit of research, I didn’t feel like I was really ready for it. It’s not the individual workouts I was afraid of – I just didn’t feel mentally prepared to commit to six of those workouts per week, for 13 weeks. I know a lot more people who have failed to complete P90X than who have succeeded, and I didn’t want to be another of the failures.

In my research, I learned about the lesser-known predecessor to P90X, Power 90, which is also made by Beachbody and also features the now-famous Tony Horton. It also required a 90-day commitment, six days a week, but with somewhat tamer and shorter workouts. It seemed like a better fit for me, and I thought it would bode much better for my long-term chances of success. I bought the program and dove in, giving it everything I had.

It was the right decision for me. I had to work hard to get through Power 90, and I saw significant results by the end. I’d lost 7 pounds, dropped a couple of percentages of body fat, and was much stronger. And just as importantly, I also got into the habit of working out hard just about every day. After completing the program and taking a recovery week, I decided to tackle P90X.

When Tim found out I was doing P90X, he asked me to do a series of reviews of it for this website. There have been a couple of other attempts to complete the program for VT, but they didn’t get through it all. I will. Full disclosure: I’m absolute crap on a dirt bike (and am not trying to get faster), so I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the gig. But Tim said he’d chime in with his fitness expertise, so here I am. Hopefully my thoughts on the program prove helpful to some of you, whether you’re trying to get fit for racing or just for life in general.

First off, some measurements and fit test results from before I started P90X. You can check out the fit test protocol here.

My measurements from Day 1:
Chest 38.5
Left Arm 13.5
Right Arm 13.75
Waist 34"
Hips 37"
Left Thigh 21.5"
Right Thigh 21.75"
Weight 175 lbs
Height 6'1"
Percent Body Fat Begin - 17.9%
Current - 16.2%
Fit test results, just before Day 1:
Pull-ups 6
Vertical Leap 16"
Push-ups 40
Toe Touch 3.75" beyond toes
Wall Squat 74 seconds
Bicep Curls 15 reps at 22 pounds
In & Outs 40 reps
Resting Heart Rate 44 bpm
Immediately after 60 seconds of jumping jacks 148 bpm
After 1 minute of rest 99 bpm
After 2 minutes of rest 75 bpm
After 3 minutes of rest 74 bpm
After 4 minutes of rest 62 bpm

I’ll repeat the fit test when I finish the program, and I’ll post my results.

If you’re unfamiliar with P90X, you can get the basic details of the 12 separate workouts here. Which brings me to one major improvement of P90X over Power 90 – variety. Whereas Power 90 only has a couple of workouts and gets quite repetitive, P90X has a bunch. It’s all part of what Tony Horton calls “muscle confusion” – by constantly changing you workouts around, your muscle growth is less likely to plateau. I’ll have to take his word on that, but it definitely keeps you from getting bored.

I’m currently on Day 21 of the program, with no missed days, and so far I absolutely love it. During the first week, I took it relatively easy, as I wanted to get used to the workouts without getting hurt right out of the gate. I picked it up significantly during the second week, and I gave week 3 everything I have. In the first three weeks, you only do the first six workouts, plus Ab Ripper X. Here’s how I rank them, from most difficult to least difficult, at least at this stage in the game:

  • Plyometrics. This is jump training, and man, it’s hard. You basically jump around for an hour. Lots of leg work, and lots of sweat. The best thing about it is, there’s no Ab Ripper X workout on Plyo day. (See #2.) To keep the impact on my joints to a minimum, and because I work out on a hardwood flooring, I jump on a yoga mat. I think I’m going to get some interlocking foam floor tiles though, like these, because my mat moves around and bunches up too much. I also have a new pair of Fox Racing Photon LS cross-training shoes that I wear, and they definitely help keep the impact down. If you didn’t know Fox makes trainers, check them out.
  • Ab Ripper. I’m terrible at this. Apparently I have a really weak core, so I definitely need this workout, but it’s no fun. Not only is it strenuous, but some of the moves are technically difficult to do as well. I haven’t come close to doing all 349 reps in this workout yet, but I’ll get there sooner or later. Hopefully sooner. This workout is done three times a week, as a supplement to other workouts. It’s about 15 minutes long and takes total workout time on Ab Ripper X nights to about an hour and 15 minutes. My tailbone tends to hurt after this workout, so I need the foam floor tiles for this too.
  • Legs and Back. Can you tell I don’t like leg workouts much? This workout pretty much goes legs-legs-pullups, legs-legs-pullups, from beginning to end. I love pull-ups, but my legs are jelly by the time this one is done. The worst of all the exercises? One-legged wall squats. They can rot in hell as far as I’m concerned.
  • Chest and Back. This is probably my favorite workout, but it’s tough. Tons of pushups and pullups, and you go until failure on just about every set. Oh, and a note on my pull-up bar. I got this one from Amazon.com, which attaches to your doorframe with ease. The only problem is, your doorframe needs to have trim around it on the back side, so the bar’s back-rest has something to sit on. The doorway I wanted to use for pull-ups has no trim, so I just bought a piece of unfinished pine trim and screwed it into the top of the door frame. You could hang an elephant from it. It looks kind of ugly, but it works, and I have an understanding wife. I also use pushup stands. I get much better range of motion with them, and while the total number of pushups that I can do is lower than without them, I’m getting a much better workout.
  • Shoulders and Arms. Lots of curling, shoulder presses, and other free-weight exercises on this night. You can use resistance bands, and there are a couple of exercises where I do, but I mostly stick to dumbbells. It would be very helpful to have a set of adjustable dumbbells, so I’m considering getting some. There’s always someone working out with Tony who uses bands and shows you how to do it properly for each exercise.
  • Yoga. A lot of people skip this workout, but I’m not one of them. I really dreaded it coming into P90X, mostly because of its duration: a 90-minute workout is just hard to fit in. I purposely started P90X on a day that would get me to Yoga on a weekend, so I’d have more time to make it happen. After my first Yoga session, I was hooked. It’s definitely difficult, and there are some poses that are so technically difficult that I don’t know that I’ll be able to do them right by Day 90. But for the most part, I’m surprised at how much I love Yoga X. It’s awesome for flexibility and core strength, both of which I’m focusing on improving. I’ve done three sessions of Yogo so far, and after all three I’ve felt pretty much spectacular. Oh, and yoga blocks are really helpful, especially if you’re not already super flexible. I couldn’t do some of the poses right without them.
  • Kenpo. This is the martial-arts inspired workout, and it consists mostly of punching, kicking, blocking, and combinations of all three. Because I was previously a runner, my cardio fitness is pretty good, so I don’t struggle too much with this one. I certainly try to push myself beyond my limits, but it’s just not as punishing to me as the other workouts. Last night, I went hard on Kenpo, though, and I'm feeling it today. I think I'm just going to have to focus on really pushing myself through this workout.

Week 4 will be a “recovery” week, and I’ll get to another of the workouts during that time: Core Synergistics. I’ll post my thoughts on that one later.

There’s also an eating plan attached to P90X, and Beachbody strongly encourages people to stick to it. It’s a little complicated for my tastes, so I’ve created an adapted version that works better for me. I basically shoot for 2400 calories a day, with 50% coming from carbs, 30% from protein, and 20% for fat. I’d planned on going 40-40-20, but Tim talked me into upping my carbs. I use caloriecount.com and its accompanying app to log my food, and it keeps track of where I am as I strive for this nutritional breakdown. If I’m low on protein for the day, when I have an evening snack, I make sure to grab something that’ll get me closer to my target. This approach works really well for me. In the 21 days I’ve being doing P90X so far, I’ve dropped 5 pounds. I’m down to 170 pounds and 16.4% body fat. I’d like to get to 13% body fat by the time I get through P90X. I don’t care what my weight ends up being, but I’d guess I’ll be somewhere around 172 by the time I’m finished.

Speaking of food, the only meat I eat is fish, and not much of that, so getting enough protein can be a challenge for me. A huge part of the solution has been Monster Milk, made by Cytosport, the same folks who make Muscle Milk. With one bottle I can add 45 grams of protein, so I have one just about every day. I also use Cytomax Sports Performance Drink for most of my workouts. Follow the links to see the nutritional makeup of both products. I’m used to eating a healthy diet, and I never eat fast food or crappy processed food, so the nutrition part has been no problem for me.

While preparing to start P90X, I stumbled onto this P90X spreadsheet, and it’s amazing. It’s so thorough and easy to use, and it makes keeping track of P90X progress so much easier. If you’re thinking of trying out the program, grab this spreadsheet.

Before I sign off, I want to make a brief comment about what I don’t really like about P90X. I’m not a fan of the way it’s sold. The whole over-the-top infomercial thing rubs me the wrong way, and it’s got some kind of multi-level and/or affiliate marketing thing going on that I’m definitely not interested in. If you want to be a “Beachbody coach,” have at, but I’m sure as hell not going to try to sell the program to my friends. You also won't see me jumping around and crossing my arms into a big X and screaming "Bring it!" It's just not my thing.

Are any of you currently doing P90X? Have you already completed it? Have you tried and failed? Thinking about doing it in the future? Have questions? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time….

About the Author: Bryan Stealey is the president of Filter Publications, publishers of Racer X Illustrated and Racer X Online. He’s been with the company for more than 15 years, and when he’s not working, he’s either spending time with his family, working out, reading, or riding his Triumph Bonneville.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    kris December 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    I just started P90X2 and it involves a lot of core exercises using stability and medicine balls. It's definitely a great program for an mx rider especially it you don't have a trainer and you don't know what you should be doing. In my opinion, concentrating on your core and performing exercises that create inbalances will help you become a better mx rider. So far I like P90X2 over P90X.

  2. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey December 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    What are some of the things that you like better, Kris? And P90X2 is only 5 days a week, right?

  3. Gravatar
    kris December 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    @Bryan Stealey
    Yes the program is 5 days or you can do some stretching on the off days. I take the day off. So far I like that the workouts are a little shorter, the workouts involve engaging your core more than the first, there's no cardio workouts(but that doesn't mean your heart won't be pounding from your chest), P90X2 utilizes a new training technique call post-activation-potentiation and the yoga workout is much shorter and gets right to the point. Go check out the website and view the workouts.

  4. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey December 20, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I figured the yoga workout would be shorter, as its length in the P90X program is one of the most common complaints. Otherwise, looks like the workouts are about the same length as in the original. How does the new Ab Ripper 2X compare to the first?

  5. Gravatar
    Otto Nebel December 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I have been mixing p90x with some cross fit workouts during the week and in two months i am up 7lbs and down to 11.1% body fat. I was fit to begin with, but have had a hard time gaining weight with all the cardio I normally do. At 41 years old I would say that the program is well rounded. I race motocross, but am an avid bmx racxer..

  6. Gravatar
    Tim December 20, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Completely followed the P90x program religiously for 6-9months a few years ago and the results are what are depicted on the infomercials. I was definitely the leanest and most "ripped" that I have ever been in my life. From a moto standpoint though, I really think it absolutely killed me. All summer long I struggled with severe arm pump. Actually, I would not even consider it so much arm pump as full body pump. I am no kinesiologist, but I think a program like that teaches your muscles to "pump-up" as fast as possible so the look cool. That just does not work in endurance sports like MX. I am not knocking the program, as it really does get you in great shape, just not great "riding" shape (from my experience). Actually, I am thinking of trying it again but with my own tweaks to keep riding in mind. I.e. incorporating significantly more cardio/running/jogging and focusing on the more reps and lighter weight method of lifting to build muscle endurance rather than bulk and the "ripped" appearance.

  7. Gravatar
    Ron Schuitema December 21, 2011 at 4:49 am

    I have been through P90x 3 times. in the last year, when I started I weighed 275 lbs, current weight 185
    when I raced this year I never got tired, or had arm pump no matter what the moto was like. Even after falling and picking up the bike etc. Best advice I can give anyone starting P90x.... find a friend to do it with and make fun of Tony's apparent lack of knowledge about which is his right and which is his left.
    the guy is a riot.

  8. Gravatar
    Ron Schuitema December 21, 2011 at 4:52 am

    To Tim and anyone else,
    for moto and for cycling I must say that I have done all high rep low weights on the program.. tony says 8-10 for mass, 12-15 for lean. I lighten it up enough to get in 20 fast ones (with good form) in the same amount of time.

  9. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey December 21, 2011 at 10:00 am

    @Otto: Dang, 11.1%? Do you eat a carefully controlled diet to keep your body fat that low, or is it all from exercise?

  10. Gravatar
    Wayne December 22, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I completed P90X about 5 weeks ago. I actually started the program after the Doctor cleared me from a broken collar bone surgery I had in May. It was a great way to get back in shape. I'm 39 and my total body fitness is close to the best if not the best ever. I noticed that it helped a great deal with moto. It made it easier and allowed me to stay out on the track longer. I think the increase in leg strength actually helped w/ not getting arm pump. I did make some slight modifications to the program to fit my shedule or fit my likes. That is one of the beauties of P90X. It is modifiable. I followed the weight training to a T, but I changed up the cardio aspect. I never did the Kenpo or Cardio X. I did a 5K run or 40 minutes of interval training on an eliptical machine on the Kenpo day and occasionally on the Yoga day. It was hard for me to fit the Yoga in on a tight scheduled work day, so at times I would substitute. The Yoga is money, though. I always did the Plyo as prescribed. It was a butt kicker, but I loved it. I've never pushed myself so hard without having a guy dressed in camouflage yelling at me. I didn't take measurement before I started, but I could tell that I leaned up. I also gained about 5 lbs. I'm planning on going through the program again in February.

  11. Gravatar
    Kris December 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Bryan, I missed the ab ripper x2 in my first time thru the first week. Sometimes I have to cut the workouts short to fit them into my day. Like yourself, I have never been able to complete all the reps in ab ripper x. I'll let you know how x2 ab ripper compares to the first one. I'll be doing it tomorrow or Saturday depending on if I want to take a rest day tomorrow.

  12. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey December 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

    That's awesome, Wayne. I was thinking that all of the leg work would be a big help on the track, and would allow your arms to relax a bit more. Good luck with Round 2!

  13. Gravatar
    Keith Demele December 23, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Glad to see you tackle P90X Bryan, and thanks for having him come on and write, Tim...I hear of great results often but never from someone I know of, it will be good to see...I've done the program before, I lost 20# in phase 1 alone the first time I did it.."I hate it...but I love it!" Truth be told, I let myself go over the last 2 years, and I start P90X2 on the 2nd with the rest of the crazed New year resolution folks, cant wait to see your progress! Once you make it into phase 2, your set from there..."Take in the fact that you just did that"

  14. Gravatar
    Otto Nebel December 23, 2011 at 11:20 am

    @Bryan Stealey Carefully controlled diet during the racing season. I tend to eat a lot of proteins and I stay off of dairy the best I can. During the off season I sway from the diet, but not too much to confuse my metabolism. I very rarely get above 15% and I have never been below 10%. It's not something i monitor that close and it tends to be my natural percentage based on what I am asking my body to do.

  15. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey December 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for the comment, Keith -- it's good to see you over here. When you say you lost 20 pounds in Phase 1 -- do you mean in the first 30 days, or do you mean by the time you completed your first run at the program?

    Good luck with P90X2! For now, I'm just focusing on getting through this current challenge, but thoughts of continuing on to P90X2 are definitely hanging out in the shadows.

    Love the Tony quotes. Like Ron said, that guy's nuts. I really like him.

  16. Gravatar
    Keith Demele December 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Tony is a Mad man...I am 23, he is 53...It's almost embarrassing!

    Yes Bryan, I meant I lost that much in the first 30 days...using Tim Ferris' slow-carb diet...Although I realize now that is not the ideal diet, this next time I will be doing the Fat Shredder, basically 25 carbs/25 fat/50 protein, hopefully it will give me enough energy to last through the plyo workout...It will be interesting to see what results I get this time through...realize my BMI is MUCH higher than yours...

    I'd also like to ask you about supplements, are you taking any?...When I am on the program I usually take an Animal Pak multi vitamin, glucosamine, L-glutamine, as well as my fave protein powder (Isopure)...

    I don't believe there is a huge difference with P90X or P90X2, keep going for it man!

  17. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey December 25, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Keith, I drink a bottle or ready-to-drink Monster Milk pretty much every day, and I have two scoops of Cytomax Performance Drink with most workouts. If i see that I'm missing key vitamins from my diet on a day, I take a multi-vitamin, but I usually get what I need from my diet.

  18. Gravatar
    Colton Raber January 07, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Hey Bryan,
    I was wondering what you overall thoughts on the P90X Program were? I race motocross in the B Class right know. I am currently in Personal Training for Motocross but it just isn't giving me the overall results i am looking for. I am gaining a lot of strength but ive not lost any fat.

  19. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer January 07, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Hold tight, Colton. Byran is getting ready to post more on his adventures in P90X soon.

  20. Gravatar
    Colton Raber January 10, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Thanks for the update Tim! I will check back soon

  21. Gravatar
    Bryan Stealey January 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Colton, I've submitted my next update to Tim, and I addressed your question in depth in it. I think it's going up on Sunday. Thanks for the comments!

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