P90X and the Military – Part I

Sunday, September 19, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Denise Michelle Nix

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Steve Rosen was sitting on his couch in Duluth, Minnesota, late one night last summer. Lethargic, overweight, his belly full of Guinness®, he aimlessly clicked through the flickering channels until he found his attention being transfixed by trainer Tony Horton. The likeable and motivating voice, face, and body of the P90X® Extreme Home Fitness training system guru seemed to be talking right to the 36-year-old St. Louis man.

Rosen had seen the infomercial many times before. This time, he made up his mind.

"I woke up my wife and told her excitedly, 'We are going to get P90X!'" he recalls. "At that time of night, she was hardly as enthusiastic as I was."

Rosen felt he was ready to take charge of his life: "I was tired of being overweight. I was tired of being out of shape. I was tired of having no energy. I was tired of being lazy. I looked and felt lousy."

For many service members, boot camp, basic training, and the military's physical fitness requirements are just not enough to get and maintain the body they want. Being stationed in barren deserts and tiny towns (often in foreign lands) gives troops interested in health and fitness an even greater challenge, because temperamental climates, poor nutritional choices, and lack of free time can make getting and staying in shape seem as difficult to plan and carry out as an elaborate battle maneuver.

Many military men and women have found P90X to be just the fitness and nutritional program their bodies have been craving. While geared for those who want intense training, P90X does more than just sculpt muscles—it gives those who want change, challenge, and control exactly what they need.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kimberly McAuliffe, a 30-year-old from Tiffin, Ohio, currently stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, returned after a break from active duty to a full-time reservist position in 2006. During her time off, she quit smoking and renewed a love affair with food that left her with unwanted pounds, made all the more obvious by an unforgiving flight suit.

Just after New Year's Day 2008, McAuliffe began P90X—and never looked back. "Thanks to the program, I am in the best fighting shape of my life," she says.

McAuliffe and others agree that there are some hurdles to doing P90X while in the military, especially when it comes to equipment and to following the nutritional guidelines. But creativity and dedication can go a long way toward accomplishing P90X goals.

During 2 weeks at an Air Force base in South Korea, McAuliffe found the seafood-heavy local cuisine a turnoff, so she spent most of her mealtimes eating less healthy options on the base. That, along with a 14-hour, fast-paced workday, threatened to derail her. "It's hard to stay on target in these types of conditions, but it can be done!" she says. "Scheduling is sometimes a headache, but if you're committed, you make it work."

Because the heart of P90X's Muscle Confusion™ technique is to mix it up, service people—who, by nature, seem to strive for excitement, adventure, and change—find that this program provides them with a variety of challenges, which helps them overcome the boredom that can arise from doing the same workout routine every day.

Interestingly, certain P90X workouts make more of an impression on military personnel than on civilians. Take yoga, for example. In recent years, the Eastern practice of contorted poses and long stretches has gained popularity among the general population, but many hardened soldiers still thought yoga was too "soft" to provide them with much of a physical challenge. But after a 90-minute round of Yoga X, even the most fit and strong service people admitted being surprised—and used the unexpected challenge in a productive way.

"I struggle on doing the Yoga X, but who doesn't?" says U.S. Marine Corp. Sgt. Archie Russell, a 26-year-old from Pearl City, Hawaii, who is currently stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. "I overcome it by just pushing through and forgetting about the pain."

"I feel really engaged and everything is sore the next day," adds U.S. Navy Intelligence Specialist First Class Michael Whitmytre, a 27-year-old from San Diego currently serving in Iraq.

U.S. Army Private First Class Cadet Richard Beard, 25, of Acton, Massachusetts, says he loves Yoga X because it's so hard, and he hates not accomplishing his goals. "To overcome it, I get mean and tough. I hate getting beat, and because of it, I push harder," says Beard, who's stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

Another workout that's popular among military users of P90X is Core Synergistics, a total-body workout that really strengthens the body's core, and Ab Ripper X, a quick yet effective workout that helps build the much-desired six-pack.

"I love the Ab Ripper X because I love feeling the burn, and it's working wonders on my abs," says U.S. Army Lt. Tiffany Bujak, 24, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Convenience is a huge benefit of P90X for troops who are constantly on the move. A little space and a DVD player easily become a take-along gym. And most bases offer just about every piece of gear needed for successful workouts, some of which, like yoga blocks, yoga mats, and chin-up bars, participants find especially important to the program, whereas with others, they find they can get a little creative—like swapping compact B-Lines Resistance Bands for weights.

"Using what is required for the program makes it a lot easier to work out, rather than looking for another way to do the different exercises," adds Sgt. Russell.

"I've never traveled anywhere without my bands—they've been to Korea, Germany, France, and all over the continental U.S.," says Sgt. McAuliffe. "I might forget my toothbrush, but I have never forgotten my DVDs and bands."

While Tony Horton isn't a drill sergeant, McAuliffe and others say his approach and encouragement definitely help them succeed. "Tony is also an amazing motivator—he doesn't make you feel bad if you're struggling," McAuliffe said. "But he instead encourages you to keep pushing forward. To me, that is the key to keeping someone motivated to stay on track, even if they presently struggle."