Tony Horton was in our ski town this season, teaching a 3-day version of his viral fitness video, P90X. I’m told that the popular, make-you-a-model workout program will improve everything from my skiing to my parallel parking. Talk with the enthusiastic Tony Horton, and he’ll convince you too that everyday you don’t do P90X, you’re getting weaker and dumber.
On his first night at Big Sky Resort, Tony wasn’t his usual fired-up self. Dressed in denim and down, he was relaxed, making small talk with an interested crowd in the hotel lobby. This was a man who had athletically influenced millions worldwide, a man who could probably do pushups on his eyelashes. But on this night, he was like most guys I knew, poised with a ski-bum swagger, unaffected by the gaggle of flirting girls.
My friend Katie was in the crowd and shook his hand to say she was taking the class. Shorty following the handshake, Mr. Horton, completely unprompted, showed her his impeccable abs. This led me to one conclusion. This man was a dork. Nor was I impressed. No way I was taking his class. I didn’t work out to show off, and I wasn’t about to take lessons from a showboat.
I have never been to a formal exercise class, and certainly not the kind that consists of pulsating music and a muscular instructor with a stopwatch. That’s for girls and vain men. I’d rather get my exercise skiing, biking, or arm wrestling after a 6-pack.
But I suppose that’s what you do when you’re Tony Horton. You lift your shirt and market your product. Maybe that’s why he is successful. He is a living advertisement of the perfect physique. Follow his lessons, and you too can look like him.
Surely though, working out means more than looking good. What about feeling good, being strong, living healthy? Maybe it’s meant for some, or all of those things. I would have thought that a professional worker-outer like Tony Horton had a more comprehensive perspective on the topic. It seemed inappropriate that night to shake his hand, pull him aside, and ask, “Mr Horton, may we discuss superficiality?” I realized that if I really wanted to know his opinion, I had only one choice. I would have to take his class.
Maybe this would be a good thing though. Considering that I’d learn in 3 days what his DVD taught in 90, I felt like he was already improving my efficiency. So I signed up.
The class was nearly full, mostly with women. I lined up in the front row like the class nerd. We started with a light warm-up, jumping up and down, shaking out the fingers, rolling the shoulders. We jogged in place, reached for the sky, did jumping jacks, twisted the hips and kept hopping like children who had to pee. I started to sweat, but the workout hadn’t officially begun.
“OK, ready?” he asked, as if someone would actually raise their hand and say no. Then like a drummer clicking the sticks, he counted down and shouted out instructions. We dove into circuit training, starting with one-legged Burpees to pushups, then–still on one foot–jumping as high as we could. We switched legs, repeated, lunged, repeated, ran in place, repeated.
Every exercise was timed, and our muscled maestro spoke incessantly with relentless enthusiasm.
I wasn’t moving fast enough. “Match my feet,” he said to me, then he ran in place with jackrabbit frenzy. I ran faster until he approved and after he moved to someone else, I slowed again and he kept talking fast.
“For any of you struggling, remember that you are far better off than all those people eating eggs benedict right now.”
“10 more seconds.”
“Blood is flowing, you are improving your sex life, you are making aging easier. Who wants to be in pain when they get older and who wants better sex?”
He referenced Jack Lalanne, the grandfather of fitness who lived until he was 96. “Guess where the ‘Jumping Jack’ came from?” And like the original fitness superhero, Tony stressed the importance of diet. Eat items with one ingredient. “How many ingredients are in an apple? One. Apple. Eat more of those.”
My exhaustion was wringing me out in a way that made me soak up his advice more easily. In taking over our bodies, he was taking over our minds.
“You are releasing endorphins that will automatically make you a happier person. You don’t need drugs to make you happy or feel less pain. Euphoria and pain-relief are within your own body.”
“Now drop into plank and hang out there.”
“Happiness supports brain grown. When we exercise, we are also releasing a protein that increases our memory capacity. A strong body makes us happier people which actually makes us smarter.”
His message continued. Exercise defeats stress. It fights disease and increases confidence. Exercise is the foundation of all success. I was about to vomit, and yet I was able to swallow everything he was feeding.
“There are 7 days in week. If you only work out only 3 of those days, you’re better off throwing yourself down a flight of stairs or smoking crack.” Our bodies need to move more than not.
Along with preaching the value of consistency, he continued to hammer his message. “Add variety to your workouts, always increase intensity, set goals, be accountable.”
We held plank position, then he added intensity. “Now raise your right arm, lift your left leg.”
The audience was hurting. When the stopwatch beeped zero, everyone collapsed. And while he wore us down, he had an ability to build us up with encouragement.
“Don’t exercise to look good,” he insisted. “Your ego is not enough to sustain exercise.” When you make that perfect body, you have no where else to go. “Exercise to live a better life.” To live this better life, we just need to use our bodies.
I figured the girl beside me was trying to tighten up her buns. The ripped guy beside her was finding his happy place. As I continued sweating and keeping down the puke, I realized that we were all giving it our best, regardless of motive. This was where I would disagree with the fitness guru. It doesn’t matter to me our purpose to get off the couch. If we go to a fitness class for a beach body or to improve our UFC fighter skills, the end result is the same: a healthier, stronger, and happier person.
After those sweaty session of pain and learning, I had a new opinion of Tony Horton. He knew all the right reasons to workout. I was so satisfied from taking his class, I even bought his video. I expect it too will improve my life, especially when I can show my abs to a crowd of girls.