P90X: Muscle-producing or pain-inducing?

While most of my friends went to sunny and tropical places for Spring Break, I retreated to my basement to sweat it out and try the exercise DVD series P90X. My parents recently purchased the set to get in shape for their tropical vacation (to which I am not invited) and I thought to myself, “If they can do it, I can do it.”

DAY 1 – Yoga X

I had high expectations for this video, as I am in Yoga I this semester. The video is a daunting 90 minutes, broken up a 45 minute “power yoga” section and 45 minutes of balance poses and stretching. The first section, the power yoga, kicked my BUTT. I think the fatal blow was the combination of vinyasa and push-ups between each pose. The flows were also repeated many times, so what didn’t seem difficult at first made my muscles shake after doing it for the sixth or seventh time. My only critique of the video, though minor, was that we were not in savasana, or corpse pose, for long enough. Normally in yoga, this pose is five to ten minutes long depending on how long the practice has been in order to quiet the body and recuperate a bit. In this video, we spend only one short minute checking in with our bodies. Despite my original dislike of this aspect, I understand the primary purpose of this video is to be a physical practice and not necessarily a “true” yoga practice that includes the mind and spirit, so I suppose it serves well for the purpose it was made for. I just really wanted to lie down for longer at the end.

As a yoga newbie, my mom admitted to both loving and loathing this video.

“I had only gone to one yoga class before,” said Carolyn Schaff, Jackson resident (a.k.a. my mom). “It was boring and I got in trouble for talking. P90X helped me realize how effective yoga can be—it’s a killer!”

DAY 2 – Cardio X and Ab Ripper X

Both of these workouts were less than half an hour so I did them on the same day. The Cardio X DVD was not as intense as the cardio workout that goes along with the Insanity workout (which I have done previously), but it did get my heart rate up considerably. The Insanity DVD also involved a lot more angry yelling, so I’d say it was an upgrade to not feel quasi-terror while doing the video. There was a nice variation of yoga, kickboxing, plyometrics and something called “Squat X-Press,” although there was perhaps a bit too much yoga for my liking in a cardio workout. The Ab Ripper X workout was phenomenal. The instructor, Tony, was great about giving different options to the viewer for varying levels of fitness. Also, calling it Ab Ripper X? Totally accurate. My abs felt entirely ripped…apart.

DAY 3 – Core Synergistics

This may have been my favorite DVD of the set because it was such a complete, full-body workout. Every muscle in my body felt attended to, even ones that I didn’t even know I had. My mom sympathized with this, saying that doing this DVD helped her find muscles she wasn’t even aware that she possessed. There were multiple exercises with push-ups, an area I’d like to improve on (aka I can barely do ten on a good day), so it was nice that the instructor again gave alterations for each varying level of fitness. Because, boy, did I need them.

DAY 5 – Legs and Back

This day wasn’t very cardio intensive but where it lacked in getting my heart rate up it surely made up for in muscle burning. Leg exercises were broken up by chin-ups and pull-ups in this DVD, so when one section of my body was burning to the point where I thought I could go no longer, I was given a short break to focus on another part of my body.

Brandon Allwood, Williamstown, Vt., senior, was my workout buddy on this day. As a first time P90X user, he was reluctant to join me but was eventually won over by Tony’s encouraging attitude.

“He was really understanding,” said Allwood. “He was great about telling people, ‘Hey, if you can’t do it this time, just do better next time.’ I liked that.”

For those who couldn’t quite get there this time for pull-ups and chin-ups, the instructor gave alternatives with the resistance band. A goal of mine is being able to do actual, real chin-ups with relative ease so it was inspiring seeing other women on the video performing them. On the flip side, it was pretty demoralizing to see Mr. Instructor Man Tony doing pull-ups with his arms farther apart than was previously thought to be humanly possible. But hey, you can’t have it all.


This arm workout was set up for four or five rounds. Within each round, there were three exercises: one for shoulders, one for biceps and one for triceps. The set up was clear to follow and gave me a direction from which to expect things. There were also short 30-45 second breaks between the rounds to do ballistic stretching to keep the arms loose, and I sometimes did squats or other leg exercises instead of stretching to get more of a full-body workout. One of the background men switched out his weights mid-workout for lighter ones, encouraged by Tony, so it was nice to know that my ten-pound-turned-8-pound-turned-5-pound weights were A-O-kay in his eyes because hey, form is more important than ego. Though mine was a bit bruised.


Kenpo X is P90X’s kickboxing DVD and I had a blast with it. It was a great mix of punches, kicks, blocks, and sequences of the three that even I, a beginner at kickboxing, was able to pick up. I got in a great cardio and strength training session all in one, with the added bonus of getting to pretend I was punching every annoying person ever right in the face. Multiple times. When I asked my dad what his favorite of the DVD’s was, he karate-chopped the air and told me that it was this one.

“It’s a good cardio workout,” said Steve Schaff, Jackson resident and my good ol’ dad. “As long as you BRING IT, it makes you feel stronger.”

Overall, I actually do feel fitter after a week of doing the DVDs. I can only imagine how much more fit I’d become if I were to stick to the routine for the full 90 days, which is quite possibly the greatest challenge the series provides. I found the videos to cater to a variety of fitness levels, making them doable for all ranges of health. I give this series full marks as an exercise regimen and, more importantly, I give my parents full marks for being old(ish) and still being able to kick its ass.

Photo courtesy of the United States Navy, Wikimedia Commons

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