By Denise Michelle Nix

Military personnel are trained to put others—their country, their comrades—first, before themselves. But to be strong and focused enough to carry out such a lofty mission requires a little attention to the self, too. Service members who use the P90X® Extreme Home Fitness program to get and stay in shape and healthy often say they wish such a program were available, or even required, by the military for its members.

"The military uses a workout program from, like, 30 years ago," says U.S. Army Private First Class Richard Beard, 25. "Physical fitness has progressed so much over the last few years. I think if we incorporated P90X into our workout, maybe there would be less injuries and more results."

Among the reasons P90X works is the Muscle Confusion technique, which service members say is vastly different than the regular military fitness training they receive now—if they receive any at all.

Sgt. Archie Russell, a Hawaii resident who's currently stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, has been in the U.S. Marine Corps for 7 years. He says he goes to the gym five times a week, does cardio workouts three times a week, and lifts weights twice a week, as part of his group. But it's only now, after adding P90X to the mix, that he's in the best shape of his life—even better than after the arduous training of boot camp.

"Our military training is very rigorous, but your body gets used to it after a while," Russell says. "P90X, on the other hand, keeps my body guessing on what it is about to receive. It's never the same. Once my body adapts to the workouts, I just change to push my body to the limit."

This result, he says, is a sore body, no matter what week of the program he's in. And the soreness is a good reminder that his body is being pushed, and he's getting results.

In 2005, the Associated Press reported that in addition to the war on terror and other threats to national security, military officials have a new concern on their minds: troops too fat to fight. While thousands of service people struggle to lose weight, thousands of potential recruits are being rejected for weighing too much.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Steve Rosen, 36, who works in Recruiting Command in Duluth, Minnesota, finds that one of the hardest parts of his job is finding qualified people to enlist. "I sit down with so many people who want to serve," he says. "Yet they cannot, due to being overweight."

According to statistics from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, about 58 percent of soldiers age 21 and over were overweight by federal standards in 2002. That same year, nearly 36 percent of soldiers 20 and under were overweight.

Like many active service members, Rosen is in charge of his own physical fitness. The training that traditional Army units receive is very different from P90X, he says. However, the two turn out to complement each other well.

The Army focuses on things like jumping, sprinting, and squatting to correspond to real-life combat situations. By adding P90X to this training, service people have to worry less about strain and injuries, since they can cut back on these repetitive tasks, and instead add diversity through workouts like Yoga X and Core Synergistics.

The U.S. Air Force's physical fitness test focuses largely on running, says Master Sgt. Kimberly McAuliffe, 30, who's stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. "However, there are so many people with knee and back issues who can't afford to run themselves out of commission, focusing on a well-rounded program like P90X will keep them in fighting shape," she says.

It's no secret that one major appeal of the military is the camaraderie service people share with each other. Living and working with the same group of people, day in and day out, often in tough, dangerous conditions, builds bonds of trust that last a lifetime. Many P90X users have found that extending those friendships into their workouts helps motivate them as they encourage each other, learn from each other, and share their successes with each other.

Rosen recently became a certified personal trainer and is starting a program in wellness coaching. He's signed up to become a Team Beachbody coach using the name "Sgt. Steve," and he keeps a blog and a Facebook page where he writes about his P90X journey and gives encouragement to his followers to stay on the fitness track.

For Sgt. Rosen, as for so many others, joining the military has been a formative journey. And he says he's been able to take the leadership skills and drive the Army has instilled in him and apply them to the P90X program in a way that really works for him. "Leading and inspiring others to fitness is something that is changing my life," he says.

M.Sgt. McAuliffe often tells her fellow airmen that they don't know what they're missing by just running in circles around the track, and invites them to join her in her P90X workouts. She says that her commander has taken her up on the offer a few times. And afterward, she's noticed, he's been so sore he wouldn't even talk to her!

Even while stationed in far-flung locales, many service people find that they can stay connected to others through online discussions about P90X, both on the Beachbody message boards and on other sites. They find that bonding with others is helpful, and a big key to staying motivated. Many P90X enthusiasts in the military, already born leaders, have become Coaches to inspire others.

M.Sgt. McAuliffe says she's used the boards every day for the past two years. "I love talking to other people who love P90X as much as I do, or might be on the fence about their commitment, because I can help them stay on the right track," she says.

She also believes that all military personnel would reap huge rewards if P90X were incorporated into their training.

"Now," she says, "we just have to wait for the brass to see the light."