Although I once thought I would never be interested in a commercial workout program, I’ve decided to start P90X. The weight that I put on last year still remains, and I’m going to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (500 miles), and would really rather not be recognizable as an American by my weight alone. In addition, my running suffered this year due to an injury I sustained last year, so I had an additional motive to get into shape with something other than simply running. The testimonials of Insanity and P90X won me over, and I became eager to learn more.
Initially, I leaned more toward Shaun T.’s Insanity program. The program takes two months, and the results are comparable to P90X‘s, which takes three months. Also, no equipment is required at all for Insanity, while P90X requires dumbbells or resistance bands, and a chin-up bar. Insanity’s workout DVDs are usually shorter than P90X’s, and never go over an hour.
Once my copy of Insanity arrived in the mail, I was quickly discouraged. The program is heavy—very heavy—on plyometrics (fitness code for jumping). Jumping for forty minutes is all well and good, but I had some reservations:
- Metatarsalgia. I broke a toe about six months ago in a race. Ever since then, my third metatarsal has been finicky. I took a doctor’s advice to avoid putting weight on it for a few weeks, but the punishing jumps of Insanity seem like a recipe for immediate re-injury.
- Downstairs neighbor. I know I wouldn’t appreciate it if I had an overweight neighbor jumping up-and-down above me for the better part of an hour the first thing in the morning.
- 117-year-old floorboards.
I decided to look deeper into P90X, and chose to do it instead. What persuaded me?
- Greater variety. Plyometrics is but one of twelve different workouts, which run the gamut from strength training to power yoga to karate.
- Customizability. Whereas Insanity seemed like a one-size-fits-all-jump-around-with-Shaun approach, P90X not only has great variety of workouts, but three different versions of the entire workout plan as well: a “classic” version, a “doubles” version for elite athletes, and a “lean” version with greater emphasis on cardio. Any phase can be extended up to two weeks if you feel necessary, and yes, you can skip Plyo if you need to.
- Emphasis on safety. Tony Horton repeatedly urges the participants to recognize and respect their limits in the interest of safety. Not hearing any such caution from Shaun T; somehow, I get the feeling that Shaun T. isn’t expecting anyone in his program to be much older than he is. Tony Horton, on the other hand, is actually two years older than I am.
- Nutrition. Whereas the nutrition plan in Insanity is treated almost as an afterthought, the nutrition plan in P90X is a fully-developed, essential part of the program. It’s made clear that you are not doing P90X if you are not following the nutrition plan. A nice touch is that the plan changes as the program progresses. The first month is a fairly low-carb, Paleo-ish diet, which becomes increasingly carb-ful as the body adjusts to the amount of exercise and begins to build endurance, which sounds great to a runner like me.
- Workouts are not longer than Insanity. Although some of the P90X DVDs last 75 minutes, much of the time is spent in explanation and demonstration. Once you learn the exercises in a specific workout, it’s not necessary to do them with the DVD; you can simply refer to your log to do them at your own pace, unlike Insanity.
Yesterday I took the “Fit Test” for P90X, to see just how badly out-of-shape I’d become. The results for most of the tests were disappointing—I can’t do a single pull-up, I can only do ten bicep curls with 10 lbs, etc. But I excelled on the abdominal exercise, bringing my knees to my chest 176 times, when the baseline was just 25. In other words, I’ve got fantastic abs! You just can’t see them!
Tonight, I’m doing the first P90X workout.