Adventures in P90X: Part 1
by Bryan Stealey
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.
- Is P90X right for the MX athlete?
- Is the program sustainable for the average person?
- Is the program sustainable for the super busy (as is the case of our volunteer)?
- Is the program good for weight loss?
- How much discipline does it take to follow a program of this magnitude 6 days per week for 13-weeks?
- 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:|
|Percent Body Fat||Begin - 17.9%
|Current - 16.2%|
|Fit test results, just before Day 1:|
|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.