Why I Failed at P90X

To get ready for my backcountry trek last October, I trained like a mad man. (No. Not by drinking scotch at 11 AM and smoking all day like a Jon Hamm Mad Man). I rowed. I hiked. I ran. I lifted. I sprinted. I squatted. I lunged. And, I’ll be damned, I got in good enough shape to nearly get killed.

In the course of nursing my post-adventure aches and pains (and long after), however, I ended up losing much of what I had gained in the way of fitness. (Or put another way, I had gained what I lost in the way of weight!) So, earlier this year, I decided to back in that kind of shape. The strong kind. The fit kind. The kind where I’m in shape and not simply “on a diet” or some silly thing. The kind where my clothes don’t just fit, but they look good! Instead of going back to what was tried and true – running, rowing, squatting, lifting and so on – I decided to try something new. I got caught up in the hype and decided to try P90X.

For any that don’t know about P90X, it’s an incredibly successful home workout program that uses “muscle confusion” to give you awesome results. In short, do this program for 90 days and you’ll have a whole new body. If you believe the promotional materials, depending on your goals, after using P90X for a mere three months, you’ll either be buffer than you’ve ever dreamed, or a lean, mean fighting machine! Easy, right?

I lasted two weeks.

Not only did I fail to complete the full 90-day program, just trying it got me in worse shape than I was in before I started. Instead of just doing what I know works, I got discouraged and went backwards. Instead of just doing what I like, I decided to do what “everyone else was doing,” and ended up two steps back instead of three steps forward.

The reasons for my failure are simple really. I don’t like working out to videos. Pretty much hate it. I also don’t like working out with other people. And though I was doing P90X by myself in my small workout room, there were other people in the videos (which, we’ve established…I hate). I think I also failed at P90X because I was so intensely focused on the results that the workouts weren’t at all enjoyable. And, as I’ve recently written, when we get too focused on the destination, it can be hard to enjoy the journey.

Working out is an incredibly, meditative and creative time for me. I get in a zone that I can’t and don’t find anywhere else in my life. Most of my best ideas come while I’m running and/or rowing. And ALL of my completely zany, off-the-wall, you-must-be-crazy-what-are-you-smoking ideas happen during this time. I almost never even listen to music while I run, row or sprint. Just me. In my own world.

So, why the hell would I even try P90X? I know what I like. Not only that, I know what works! I know how to get in shape and enjoy doing it. Why didn’t I just go back to my favorite trails? Why didn’t I just hit the intervals on the rowing machine that I so enjoy? Mostly…because I’m an idiot. I mean I KNOW that I hate working out to videos, but I still did it. Is there any other answer as truthful as “I’m an idiot?”

Seems to me this is something we do in our own lives quite a bit. I know I do it in mine beyond this fitness “hiccup.” Sometimes we get caught up in trends, or promises of the “next big thing” (as I perhaps did with P90X). Sometimes we just get bored with our routines and instead of making tweaks, we go for wholesale changes. Sometimes we just need a spark so we decide to try something totally outrageous. We can get caught up in promises of the “Best XYZ, you’ve never thought of!” Off we go to try it while sacrificing what we might know already works.

None of this is particularly bad. But, we need to remember to have an internal conversation about our simple truths: What do we like? What is going to help us succeed? I lost sight of one of my fundamental truths when it came to starting up the fitness machine again. It’s simple. It’s silly. But, the fact that I hate videos set me back. I should have paid attention to that.

Running and rowing genuinely make me happy. Not only do I feel good after the workout, but also I genuinely like doing it. And isn’t that how we should make all kinds of decisions in our life? Will doing X, Y or Z make us happy? Will it make us feel good? Or do any one of these things include going against a personal fundamental core belief (see: I hate working out to videos!). If we try to take on something that requires us to test a core belief, the chances of succeeding are probably slim.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t try new things! I’m all for stepping outside our comfort zones and challenging ourselves to do something different and scary. That’s what my trek was all about. That was the challenge I gave my friend, “Please take me out of my comfort zone.” The difference, I think, is that I knew my hike was going to make me happy (near death experiences and all). I wasn’t doing something that I knew I was going to dislike/hate just for the sake of the experience.

The (end-of-the-episode Brady Bunch-like) lesson in all of this for me is that we need to listen to our happiness. Our core. Our truths. I failed at my P90X effort because I didn’t protect the very things I know that I enjoy. I love running, rowing, etc. I stopped doing them for P90X. I ignored personal truths. P90X never had a chance. I ended up feeling like I failed. Worse, still, I put myself in the position to fail. (Thus the early statement about being an idiot!) I sacrificed happiness and success for…what?

So, I went back to the trails. I went back to the rowing machine. The squats and sprints and lunges. You know those mandatory warnings the lawyers make the marketers post, “Please consult your doctor before starting, blah, blah, blah…” Seems to me that before we even do that… we need to consult with ourselves.

(P.S. I’m still flying pretty high from my birthday bonanza. So, again, thank you, thank you, thank you…)

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