P90X / New workout will get you in shape -- if you can survive the first phase

Mar 1 2010 - 6:43pm

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(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)  Mary Moore does the P90X workout video at her home in Willard.
(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)  Mary Moore does the P90X workout video at her home in Willard.
(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)  Mary Moore does the P90X workout video at her home in Willard.
(MATTHEW HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)  Mary Moore does the P90X workout video at her home in Willard.

Some locals have found a set of at-home workout DVDs that get you in great shape -- if you can make it through them without injuring yourself.

"It's intense. I have to be careful because I kept getting injured," said 50-year-old Kitty Purcell of Layton, who has been doing the P90X program with her husband and son. "But you see results."

P90X is a 90-day program that mixes strength training, pliometrics, martial arts, yoga and stretching into DVD workouts for each day of the week. The workouts are laced with pushups, pullups and traditional exercises done in nontraditional ways.

The set of DVDS, along with a nutrition plan, is available through infomercials or at www.beachbody.com for three payments of $39.95.

At the Web site, P90X creator Tony Horton says the system works because of what he calls muscle confusion.

"The more you confuse the muscle, the harder your body has to work to keep it up; the more variety you put into your workout, the better and faster your results will be," according to the program's guidebook. "... By presenting so many complex and challenging movements, P90X forces you to continually adapt, ensuring new muscle growth and strength gains."

Myron Davis, professor of health promotions at Weber State University, says variety in a workout is not a new concept, but it is a good one that P90X does well. "Muscle confusion" is misleading, though, according to Davis.

"Muscles don't get confused," Davis said. "He's trying to put a new twist on things, but varying your exercise has been around for a long time. You need to vary the intensity and change the modality of your exercise. The body is sophisticated and loves homeostasis. You can get in a rut.

"Avoid this by variety. You can do this with everything, and especially in exercise. Variety keeps the muscle fibers activated."

Wimps need not apply

Horton says the program is for men who can do 15 pushups and 10 20-pound bicep curls, and for women who can do three pushups and 20 8-pound bicep curls. Men and women should be able to reach 6 inches from the floor, do two minutes of jumping jacks, hold a wall squat for one minute, and do 25 in-and-out abdominal curls.

"There are many fitness alternatives if you have any physical or health condition or are prone to injuries, but P90X is not one of them," the guidebook says. "The user assumes all risk of injury in the use of this program."

Locals who've used the program say they have learned to be careful.

Purcell, who has worked out for years, said she got minor injuries when she started the program.

"I've never been able to do it all. They must be monsters that can do it. It frustrates me that I work so hard and I still can't do it," she said.

Cory Palmer of West Haven pulled a hamstring his first week of the program.

"My caution is to start out light," he said, "I jumped into it in and hit it pretty hard the first week. I had to take a two-week break and start over. You don't realize how much you're working your muscles. Take it slow in the first phase."

Getting results

Purcell said she has lost weight and notices a difference in the way her body feels: "I feel more toned. My husband says he can feel the difference when he does it. He says 'I feel so good today.' "

Palmer said he tried to avoid weight loss but did lose four pounds and two pants sizes during the 90 days. He said his softball and soccer games improved, and he has gained muscle mass, strength and flexibility.

"Before starting the program, I could barely touch my toes. Now I can flat-palm the floor. Three weeks after starting, I started hitting home runs again. I haven't done that for 12 years," the 39-year-old said.

Mary Moore of Willard has observed the biggest difference in her abs.

"I love it," she said. "It kicks my trash every time I do it. It's like a military workout. I sweat more on P90X than running two miles on the treadmill. It works really good. In one hour, you get an awesome workout."

The diet

The P90X guidebook cautions: "Without the nutrition you'll get fit, but you probably won't look it." But Moore, Purcell and Palmer each said they weren't able to stick to Horton's recommended nutrition plan.

The 90-day plan has three phases. In the first phase, 50 percent of calories come from protein, 30 percent from carbohydrates and 20 percent from fat. In the second phase, both carbs and protein are 40 percent of the diet, and in the third phase, protein falls to 20 percent with carbohydrates at 60 percent. Fat stays at 20 percent in phase one and two.

Followers can choose from a list of acceptable food choices or follow Horton's menu. Some fast-food choices are acceptable once or twice a week, but sweets and fatty foods are not an option during the 90 days.

Purcell followed the plan for a month, but thought it was too rigid and time-consuming.

"We were gung-ho when we first started," said Purcell. "My personality is that when I feel really restricted, I binge. It was a lot of cooking. It was a ton of work when we did really well. I had to cook three meals a day for three people. It was expensive and a lot of meat. It was stressful to make all of this food. I still use some of the menu and learned to like to cook on the George Foreman grill."

Horton also recommends a recovery drink after each workout. He sells it at his Web site for $43.95 for a 30-day supply.

Mike Olpin, professor of health promotions at Weber State University, said he is not a fan of programs that require you to keep buying supplements: "I never go for supplements. They are never necessary or helpful. Eat your fruits vegetables and whole grains and a little protein."

Davis said that supplements or protein shakes can be useful when you aren't eating well on your own, but he doesn't think Horton's supplements are better than others on the market.

Other concerns

Davis said his main problem with the program is Horton himself.

"I think he's got a lot of good things. The problem is, I couldn't stand him," Davis said. He also has concerns with the pliometrics workout having too much bounding for the average person.

Palmer said he had a hard time finding the time to do the workouts because they often took him an hour and a half five days a week.

"With a 10 being a certified personal trainer that's changing the program based on your needs, this program is a seven," Davis said, "The video assumes you're part of the herd, and that's not the case. If a personal trainer is not an option, it's a good alternative. If you are extremely sore the next day, you went too far. If you have joint pain, something is wrong with the program or the way you are doing it."

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