What do Buns of Steel, seafood casserole and liver have to do with P90X™?
I have been approached by several friends and clients recently about P90X, an extreme 90-day home fitness program that is presented in a series of 12 DVDs. Initially, I was going to write about the pros and cons of this program. But then something happened at dinner a few nights ago that made me rethink how I wanted to approach this article.
Like most nights, our family sat down to eat dinner. I made a healthy shrimp and crabmeat seafood casserole, a tasty and healthy dish I hadn’t made for quite some time. My 8-year-old son commented as he usually does when he is presented with anything but chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, “I don’t like this.” He hadn’t even taken a bite. So, I countered with my standard response, “How do you know you don’t like it unless you try it.”
Hence, this is my dilemma with P90X. How can I write about something that I haven’t actually tried? Well, I can’t.
Here’s what we do know from numerous surveys and studies on exercise adherence. Approximately 50% of people who start an exercise program will quit within three to six months. That number will increase dramatically if the initial workouts are too intense. That’s why it is so important for people who transition from sedentary lifestyle into to a structured fitness program to do so by slowly increasing their intensity as their body and mind adapt to exercise. P90X is very intense.
There are also several other factors that affect exercise adherence and cause people to give up after just a few weeks or months. Past performance, unreasonable expectations, lack of patience and lack of accountability are four factors that I believe, as a personal trainer, are extremely important to consider.
If you have a history of starting and stopping exercise programs (especially home fitness programs that are recorded on VHS & DVD) in the past, chances are pretty high that you won’t follow through with another one. Sure, you’ll be all excited when it arrives in the mail. You’ll unwrap it, stick in the first DVD, blast through the program for a couple of days and then… BAM! Before you know it, you’ll be too tired, too busy, too sore, etc…
However, working out with a good, knowledgeable personal trainer or a workout buddy that can cheer you on and motivate you will greatly improve your chances of being able to stick with a program.
Think for a moment… have you ever seen someone overweight and unattractive demonstrating the latest exercise gadget or program? No? Me, either. Most of the people in the infomercials or print ads are hired models. Really! If you read the fine print, you’ll see mention of the actors and models. There is also usually something in the fine print that states, “Results may vary” or “Results not typical”. People often buy into these programs having unreasonable expectations about the time, effort and lifestyle change required to succeed.
There is a something called “self-efficacy”, which is defined as a subjective perception about one’s own ability to succeed in an exercise program. One of the six sources of self-efficacy is “vicarious experience”. You may have heard someone say that they “live vicariously” through someone else, such as their kids or a successful friend. Well, it’s the same with exercise; we see someone else similar to us experience success and we picture ourselves having that same success. We think, “Hey, they look like me and they got six-pack abs working out just fifteen minutes a day, three days a week for 90 days. I can do it, too.”
But again, the results and testimonials that these companies show you in their advertisements are not typical. There are so many other personal factors that affect results such as genetics, nutrition, stress, sleep, medications, support systems and more.
Lack of Patience
We are a society of instant gratification. We want everything now and will take the path of least resistance to get it. Just look at what computers and cell phones have done to our society. We used to have to wait for the evening news to find out what was happening in the world or our communities. Now we can get the news as it breaks via the Internet. And just a decade or so ago, whenever we needed to call someone while travelling, we would pull over and drop a dime or quarter in a pay phone to make a call. Now, we just hit speed-dial on our cell phones while driving.
People also lack patience when exercising. Shows like The Biggest Loser feature very obese people that lose anywhere from 10 to 25 pounds in one week. And again this goes back to what I mentioned about “vicarious experience”, we see someone else do it so we think, “I can do it, too.” And yes you can… in the right controlled setting with the same people and tools that are available to those contestants. But, you are at home with limited time and resources. You are not likely to even come close to having the same results in such a short period of time. Just losing one to two pounds a week is a huge success in the real world.
Improving your health takes time. And you don’t just go at it for 90 days and put away the DVDs. You are making a lifestyle change with the key term being “life”, not just 90 days. Unless you are in this for the long-haul, you WILL fall back to your old ways and may actually be in worse shape than you were before you started. It’s called “reversibility”.
Lack of Accountability
Accountability is huge! I don’t care how great of a motivators Richard Simmons, Suzanne Somers, Tony Little, Billy Banks, or Tony Horton are, they are no substitute for a live person that is right there to hold you accountable. Sure, they’ll cheer you on and tell you to “Go! Go! Go!” But when you don’t feel like continuing, you can simply press the “stop” button or just walk away.
A personal trainer or workout buddy does so much more than a talking head on a DVD. They will motivate you by telling you to go for one more rep. They’ll help correct your form to maximize results and help you minimize your risk of injury. They’ll “high five” you when you reach a new goal or complete a hard workout. They’ll call you and make you get your butt to the gym when you’re feeling lazy and uninspired. P90X can’t do that.
They’ll know your goals and your capabilities and limitations. If you need to complete 30 minutes of cardio, they’ll be there to make sure you complete it. By observing you, they can let you know if you are lifting too much or too little weight or using bad form.
If I’m your personal trainer, I’m going to try to get more out of you in a 30- or 60-minute workout than some person on a DVD. If you wimp out on me, you’re going to hear about it because I’m going to be in your face. When you rock your workout, I’m going to be your biggest cheering section. I will hold you accountable.
Be Real with Yourself
Going back to my scenario t the beginning of this article, I can’t fairly rate or review P90X from a quality or effectiveness standpoint. I can only tell you that I don’t eat anything made from liver because past experience with consuming cooked liver was not good. I’m just being real.
Likewise, you need to be real with yourself about what you like and don’t like or can and can’t do. I don’t have to try P90X to know if it works. I just have to know that I won’t succeed at engaging in such a program. It’s not because I can’t bust through the extreme workouts. I just know that have to be with real people who motivate me and hold me accountable. My past results will predict my future behavior in that I would be gung ho with P90X for a period of time and then the program will collect dust in my DVD cabinet for years to come.
I will also expect to see instant results in the 90 days that they promise to transform me. If I don’t, I will be angry and stressed out that I didn’t succeed. This stress will probably lead to binge eating and rapid weight gain.
Go For It
If you are determined, physically fit and don’t need another live, warm body to motivate you, go for it. Try P90X and make the time to succeed. P90X has gotten rave reviews from people I know who have stuck with it… for 90 days and longer. Even the people that haven’t succeeded say it’s a great program. Mike Marsh, one of my personal trainers and a fellow trainer at the gym where I train, is a proponent of P90X. Here is what Mike has to say…
“It is, in my opinion, one of the best fitness tools available, and here’s why… A person can start at any fitness level and the work outs will always be productive as the level of ability will continue to change and the body can do more work. The mixture of routines keeps it fresh. The exposure to different types of resistance and cardio work keeps the body guessing. Every workout has people doing different/modified versions of moves so it doesn’t leave a person behind that is incapable of a particular move. The routines change every 3 weeks, or so.”
My only caveat to what Mike has to say is that he is a fire fighter, former athlete and is physically fit. P90X is not recommended for people who are sedentary. But, I trust his opinion and product review.
On the flipside, my friend Nancy in North Carolina got results with P90X, but also sees its drawbacks . Here is her perspective.
“… I did see results. Here’s what I see as the drawbacks: (1) you must be able to be self-motivated and the reality is, if most of us were self-motivated long-term, we wouldn’t need a program to “fix” us. (2) You really have to be able to pace yourself. This requires knowing your body, knowing its limitations to prevent injury, while also knowing when you need to push yourself.”
As advertised, P90X is an intense home exercise program that can produce results, but only for those who are somewhat fit already and can maintain a heavy training schedule and avoid injury. The intensity and dedication required may be discouraging to those who are less fit or who don’t have the time to exercise 60-90 minutes per day. Individuals with any physical limitations or who have been sedentary should be encouraged to choose a more appropriate program.
If you do try P90X or any other fitness product du Jour, let me know how you progress and what results you see. I’d like to be able to share more information with my friends and clients in a future blog post.
Still, there’s no better way to meet your fitness goals than sitting down with a certified fitness professional who can gather your background information, health data, and goals. They can conduct fitness assessments and design a fun, challenging and rewarding program cosisting of workouts specific for your current level of fitness and abilities.
To Your Health!
Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.