In this 30-day review of P90X®, I'll be covering what life was like for that critical first 30 days, pictures of my personal progress, and tips on how to BRING IT during the next 30 days to really crank out the results!
The P90X workout program is divided up into 3 distinct phases, each with a separate workout schedule, nutrient breakdown, and goals. The first 30 days, called Phase I, was all about working hard, eating right, and getting your body used to frequent, intense exercise. Phase II, which is the 2nd 30-day period is the time to really bring on the intensity now that your body is used to the lifestyle. Phase III is when you apply what you have learned in one final 30-day extreme push to shed body fat, build endurance, and sculpt your muscles.
The P90X Lifestyle
It has been said many times that creating successful habits is the hardest part - often even harder than actually doing the tasks. Getting into the habit of eating right and exercising consistently is critical during the P90X program if you really want to see results.
Like any other success habit, it all boils down to managing your expectations, and then proper planning that will allow you to execute the nutritional and exercise tasks that create both visible and measurable results. If you buy P90X and just throw it up on a shelf without a plan of action for living the P90X lifestyle, you'll be setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.
Everyone knows that you have to eat right if you want to be physically fit, and P90X comes with a full nutrition plan that outlines everything that you need to know. However, knowledge is not power - applied knowledge is power. When it comes to eating right, that means things like:
Planning your meals and snacks in advance
Reading labels to make sure you are getting enough quality nutrients, while minimizing your intake of sugar, salt, and saturated fats
Controlling your portions so that you get enough calories without going overboard
Eating not only 5 or 6 small meals per day, but planning the nutrient content of those meals so that your exercise lifestyle is fueled properly, and that you get proper recovery nutrients after your workouts
All of that information is covered in the nutrition guide that comes with P90X, and plenty of options are given so that you can fit proper nutrition into your lifestyle. Managing your expectations about what and when to eat is the critical factor, though. If you aren't mentally prepared, you will falter and make some bad decisions.
Getting in your daily workouts is exactly the same - you can't just leave it to chance. The only way that you will consistently stick to your exercise schedule is to plan it in advance. Mark off your exercise time in your head or on your calendar, and dedicate that time to exercising - no matter what. If you fail to do that, your life will get in the way and you will end up missing some workouts.
With the exception of Yoga X, which is 90 minutes long, all of the P90X workouts are 60 minutes or less - and that includes the warm up and the cool down. The Ab Ripper X workout is added on at the end of the primary workout 3 nights per week, and it is 16 minutes long, so you are looking at a maximum of 76 minutes per workout. You need to schedule that much time in your day at least 6 days per week. Day 7 is an optional (and recommended) rest day.
The easiest way to stick to your exercise schedule is to workout at approximately the same time every day. With all of the factors in my own life, 8:15pm was the best time for me to do my workouts, and by scheduling that time every single day, it was very rare that anything got in the way. When something did come up, it was handled by simply pushing the workout time up or back slightly in order to compensate - skipping the workout was not an option.
My 30-day P90X results
In short, I am ecstatic with where P90X has taken my level of physical fitness in just 30 days. Am I totally buffed out yet and ready to start a career as an underwear model? Hardly. However, the results that I have seen so far have shown me what is possible, and with 60 days still to go in the program, it is clear that I will definitely attain my goals from both a visible standpoint as well as a measurable standpoint by the end of the program.
My total weight loss during the first 30 days was 6 lbs, putting me at the same weight I was when I was 21 (I'm 38 now), and I also lost 2% of my body fat, now measured at 14%. Considering that I started P90X at only 16%, a 2% loss is fully 1/8 of my total body fat. Not bad for only 30 days of work!
In addition, one of the critical things to remember with P90X is that you put on a lot of muscle mass during Phase I and Phase II, and muscle weighs a lot more than body fat. For that reason, the number on the scale is not nearly as important as the body fat measurement, or the measurements of how many inches are lost.
See the Tips for Phase II of P90X section below for my take on how to enhance and speed up results during the 2nd phase of P90X, which I started on June 1st.
In each of these 4 pictures, the picture on the left was taken on May 1st, and the picture on the right was taken on May 31st. Under each picture is text that tells you what to look for in order to compare the Day 1 pictures with the Day 30 results.
In this picture, it is clear that my abdominal area is sucking inward and you can already see where my six-pack will soon be revealed with the center line just above my belly button.
In this picture the progress on my back is awesome! There is much more muscle visible than I have ever seen before, and you can also see where the body fat has started melting away to reveal the muscle underneath.
In this picture the thing to note is that my stomach is visibly smaller than it was. I didn't actually take my measurements on this day, but that has to be at least one full inch lost from the front of my stomach.
I love this picture because this is a totally relaxed pose. Even without flexing my muscles, you can still see how much more pronounced my shoulder blades are due to the body fat on my back melting away.
Overall, I see a lot of great results, but each ounce of body fat lost makes me want to lose even more, so I put together the following section on how to crank up the "results machine" during Phase II!
Tips for Phase II of P90X
As with all self improvement efforts, an "after action review" is a wonderful idea, and I have gone back over the past 30 days, analyzed what worked and what didn't, and put together the following list of ways to get the most out of the 2nd 30-day period of P90X.
Add in some additional cardio
I have been very dedicated to only doing the workouts that the P90X user guide tells you to do. I want to give people a realistic overview of the effectiveness of the program, so I did not do any additional exercise during Phase I.
During Phase II you are allowed to add up to 4 cardiovascular workouts into your program, and it is recommended that you do them at the opposite time of day from your P90X workouts. I workout at night, so I will be doing my cardio in the morning, before I eat breakfast. That is the optimal time to burn body fat (even if you're not doing P90X), so I am going to add in between 2 and 4 early morning cardiovascular workouts each week.
Be sure that you don't overdo it on the cardio if you decide to go this route, however. The P90X workouts are plenty extreme, and if you try to do cardio 6 or 7 days per week, you'll end up over-training or getting hurt.
For me it means that I'll have to get up about an hour earlier on each of those days, but as I stated above, it's all about managing expectations. I recommend that you get into the mental as well as the physical side of it if you decide to add in some additional cardio.
A SLIGHT decrease in calories
Nowhere in the P90X nutrition guide does it say that you should starve yourself, and I agree with that 100%. You need to fuel not just your workouts, but the recovery from your workouts as well.
I was pretty strict about my diet during Phase I for 6 days of the week, and one day (Saturday), I would loosen up just a bit. I am still going to do that, because I believe in balance (and you should, too!), however, I am going to drop my caloric intake by maybe 5% or 10% overall. That only equates to approximately 200 calories per day, so it is manageable, and still leaves me plenty of calories for my workouts.
Between adding in some additional cardio and dropping the calories a bit, the body fat will really be melting off. If you want to take your P90X results to the next level, being faithful to your nutrition plan is as important as being faithful to your daily workouts.
Cranking up the intensity
By the end of Phase I, your body is used to being beat up by the intense P90X workouts. It has adapted to both an extreme exercise lifestyle, as well as to recovering from that lifestyle. If you worked out hard during Phase I, and you ate properly in order to support recovery, then your body is now primed and ready to go, so BRING IT even more during the second 30-day period.
Here are 7 tips that will cover how to crank up your intensity during each 7-day period of Phase II:
Day 1 - Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps - You only do one round of each exercise during this workout, so don't hold anything back. On everysingleexercise give it 100%, take a breath, and then do some more repetitions!
Day 2 - Plyometrics - This workout burns calories - plain and simple. Don't eat a bunch of carbs before this workout because you don't need them. This workout will keep you in your Target Heart Rate zone for burning body fat during the entire session, so back off on the carbs which will force your body to instead burn body fat for fuel.
Day 3 - Back & Biceps - I haven't done this workout yet, but I can tell you from the back and bicep exercises during Phase I that using proper weights and resistance is the difference between a mediocre workout and one that leaves your muscles begging for mercy. Don't be a wuss on the weights that you use, and keep picture perfect form throughout every exercise.
Day 4 - Yoga X - By this point you should be getting pretty good at Yoga. Hold perfect form during every pose (NOT an easy task!), and keep your thighs parallel to the ground during every moving Asana. A 2-inch drop in how low your thigh is will make a huge difference in how much you get out of the Yoga workout, and how strong your legs get as well.
Day 5 - Legs & Back - This is the same leg and back workout that you did during Phase I, so you've got no excuses for not bringing the intensity during this workout. Use perfect form, and don't be afraid to hold some heavier weights. Your legs can take it, so don't baby them.
Day 6 - Kenpo X - In this post I talked about how to take up the intensity of Kenpo X. In a nutshell, wear ankle weights and/or weighted gloves. Simply put: If you make your body heavier, you'll burn more calories, and you'll get more out of the workout.
Day 7- Rest or X Stretch - REST! You can do the X Stretch workout if you want to, but whether you do or you don't, the key is to take a day off. People who think that they need to almost kill themselves during their workout programs are the same people who get hurt. Enjoy this well-deserved day off, but then get your P90X cap back on for the following day when you'll be back to bringing it hard during the Chest, Shoulder, and Tricep workout.