Sunday, February 12, 2012

Room For Improvement: the Wisdom of Tony Horton

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a great interview/article by Kevin Helliker on fitness guru Tony Horton.  The online version comes with a 4-minute video.  Together they give you a good sense of the man we P90X users know and love.  The P90X workouts (X for “extreme”) are designed for people who are already in decent shape and want to advance to the next level.The series consists of 12 tough, briskly paced workouts based on a variety of different types of exercise such as weight lifting, plyometrics, martial arts, and yoga. 

One of the reasons why the program has been such a success is that Tony Horton is fun to watch; in each workout he wears at least five different hats.  He’s leading a group of three or four very fit young men and women in the studio and commenting on what they are doing.  He’s teaching the exercises to us, the viewers, while encouraging us to “Do your best – forget the rest.”  He’s delivering a steady stream of stand-up-like patter: jokes, impressions (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forrest Gump), and silly faces.  He’s directing the cameramen (“You got that, Jer?”).  At the same time, he’s doing most of the exercises along with everyone else.  Once in a while he gets too many balls in the air and you can catch a trace of the speech impediment he worked to overcome.

Tony’s performance in these workouts is impressive and the workouts are effective but the essence of P90X is a certain attitude toward exercise.  Here are some of the high points:
  • Fitness is not a goal but an ongoing process.  The idea is to find an exercise that’s too hard, work on it until it becomes easy, then find something even harder.
  •  Everyone has physical limitations and parts of their body they wish were different.   One of the workouts actually features a guy with a prosthetic limb.  Tony talks frequently about his own weaknesses, like the knee shattered in a skiing accident.  Sometimes these become grist for the comic’s mill, as when he tells the cameraman, “Focus on my little calves!”
  • Each individual will find some moves easier than others - the strong, muscular men in the class are not as good at stretching and Tony himself has trouble with balances - but the point is to keep trying so that you improve.

Ultimately, P90X seeks to produce not only a buff physique but an understanding, appreciation, and acceptance by each participant of what his or her own body will do, a wonderful gift from Tony Horton.

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