90 Days vs. a Lifetime

I’ve been asked several times about what I think of programs like P90X® (including some readers of the inerTRAIN blog). So I decided to put together my review of it.

The P90X fitness program is a sound workout program because it includes high-intensity interval training, full body resistance work, endurance development, and mobility. P90X promises a beach-ready body: defined upper body, ripped abs, and reduced body fat. For many people, it delivers on each.

If you’re interested in building muscular endurance (not necessarily raw strength), or if you’re a former athlete with a good amount of muscle underneath a couple years’ worth of flab, P90X might be right for you.

If you want a butt-kicking workout that leaves you panting and heaving and sore all over the next day, P90X will provide it—you’ll certainly be able to do more push-ups and pull-ups by the end of the program. As long as you get stronger, fitter, healthier, and better-looking by following the program, then do it.

While I admire the program, I think there are some limitations. First, a fitness program should be life-long, not just 90 days. Therefore, the biggest problem is sustainability…if you’re looking for a quick two- or three-month program, then go ahead; but, if you want something more long-term, then the program will probably need alteration.

As it’s actually practiced, I think P90X is probably too much for a lifelong program. To the company’s credit, P90X isn’t advertised as such. It’s billed as a crash program designed to get you lean in 90 days (which it does well). A consistent physical fitness program is important for people of all ages. Honestly, do you expect to be repeating the cycles over an hour a day, six days a week into your twilight years?

I harp on avoiding overtraining all the time. Next to inadequate or nonexistent training, overtraining is the biggest issue plaguing most trainees. If you don’t give your body enough downtime to recuperate, you’ll find it very difficult to make consistent improvement. P90X prescribes near-daily high-intensity training, which is tough for almost everyone. Certain individuals, however, relish the workload and even thrive on it. Some people can bounce back from a day’s workout and be ready to demolish their body all over again the next day.

The 6-days-a-week workout schedule has its place in a training regimen, but it can easily lead to overtraining—especially if you go at it 100%—and will lead to diminishing returns for many trainees. With regards to P90X, I would like you to read Natural Health & Weight Loss and The Primal Blueprint from my recommended reading list (See our ”6 Fundamental Fitness Titles” blog post).

If you are looking for a longer term training solution, you might consider a personal trainer. There are innumerable benefits to an individualized, comprehensive, full-body fitness program that focuses on achieving your own personal fitness goals by utilizing total-body brief workouts without skimping on intensity. Your trainer will help you get results without the massive time commitment and with customized workouts tailored to your own goals and personal circumstances.

Best of all, you’ll be able to follow this program for life, under any circumstance fortune throws at you. You get injured? You’ll have a real trainer that can design your workout with workarounds. Growing older? Your trainer can simply scale things down. Out of town and away from equipment? Your trainer will give you exercises that only use your bodyweight. Your trainer will ensure that your workout schedule is put together so that you get plenty of rest, coupled with plenty of intensity, for the best results with no overtraining.

I greatly admire P90X, and they’ve produced some excellent athletes. If you try it out and it’s working for you, keep at it! I just think that a lot of people could benefit from a slightly different approach—a fitness program geared toward sustainability, functionality, and overall health—with a personal touch.