1. Arts & Entertainment

What is P90X? It stands for Power 90 Extreme — and it's a favorite fitness routine used by Paul Ryan

Published Sep. 21, 2012


Arnel Banawa liked to party. The 41-year-old Tampa man drank too much and lived on junk food. The words "health" and "fitness" were not in his vocabulary.

Then one day an old friend saw him at a party. "She started poking me in the belly," he said. "That's when I realized that I had a beer gut. I knew I had to do something."

Banawa's brother had told him about a home exercise routine designed to help somebody like him get back in shape in just 90 days.

"It took me six months to get my head around it," he said. "But once I got started and made the commitment, I was hooked."

Like many devotees of the Power 90 Extreme, or P90X program, Banawa saw dramatic results.

"It was amazing," said Banawa, who quit his job working in nightclubs to become a full-time trainer. "It really became a way of life."

Sales of the fitness videos, which have been around for more than a decade, really took off in August when Republican running mate Paul Ryan announced that P90X was his favorite exercise routine.

"Our site got a big bump in traffic," said John Congdon, president of Beachbody LLC, the company that sells P90X and a variety of other exercise programs. "A lot of people were just kicking the tires, wanting to know more about it, but we did see an increase in sales."

Ryan leads a group of congressional fitness fanatics in a daily P90X routine.

"They get results," said Tony Horton, the program's creator and lead trainer. "The beauty of it is you can do it anywhere."

Muscle confusion

Unlike many exercise programs, where participants do the same routine over and over, P90X mixes it up.

"You never plateau," Horton said. "It is always changing . . . you never get bored. The routine never gets stale."

Cross training, as it is sometimes called, keeps your muscles from developing "memory" that allows them to slide into rituals. They are constantly challenged, or "confused," which forces them to get leaner, harder and stronger.

Each P90X workout kit comes with 12 DVDs, each a different workout. One is devoted to chest and back exercises. Another is for "plyometrics," defined as an "explosive jumping cardio routine proven to dramatically improve athletic performance.'' The final one is "Ab Ripper X'' and you can imagine what that one is all about.

The action is fast-paced — even water breaks are tightly timed — and beginners shouldn't expect to power through without a few breathers.

"I tell people that they shouldn't be afraid to hit the pause button," Horton said. "It is not a contest. Go at your own pace."

The workouts also include stretching, yoga, a taste of the martial arts and exercises that target specific areas of the body, i.e., the "ab ripper."

Banawa, who started his daily routine in 2010, lost about 25 pounds doing P90X — and losing his old eating and drinking ways.

"Once you get into it, you realize that in order to get the best results, you need to focus on diet," he said. "And if there is one thing that I have learned from all this, it is that good nutrition is 80 percent of any exercise program."

Beachbody, P90X's parent company, also sells dietary supplements such as drink powders and snack bars. The DVD set comes with a nutrition booklet, so participants can follow a food plan tested by the company's trainers and nutritionists.

The lifestyle

Horton has traveled to Washington, D.C., several times in recent years to train with Ryan and his colleagues in the gym of the House of Representatives.

"I think the reason it's so appealing to busy people like Congressman Ryan is that they can do it on their own schedule," Horton said. "All you need is a TV and DVD player."

In addition to the basic $120 DVD set, some of the exercises also require a basic pullup bar, a padded mat and some light weights or exercise bands. The "ultimate'' program, which includes the gear, will set you back around $330.

But the exercises are varied enough that in a pinch, you can do it just about anywhere, without any equipment, and still get a vigorous workout in.

Most workouts run 45 minutes to an hour. Hard-core enthusiasts sometimes double up on routines. Once you are done with the 90-day program, you can take a week off and then start over.

"You can make it as hard or as easy as you want," Horton said. "Just pace yourself and listen to your body."

As with any exercise program, consult your doctor before you begin, especially if you're over 40, overweight or have any medical issues. Then, once you start, proceed with caution and common sense so you don't over-train, injure yourself and give up before you really get going.

The P90X creator would not reveal who is more fit, Republicans or Democrats.

"Can't go there," he said. "Exercise is a bipartisan affair."

Terry Tomalin can be reached at


  1. Greek-American musician Demetri Kousathanas, band leader of Demetri and the Islanders, plays the Bouzouki at the 2014 Hernando County Greek Festival, sponsored by the Chris the Savior Greek Orthodox Church. This year's festival will be Jan. 25, held on the church's new grounds on Spring Hill Drive in Spring Hill. [JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Times (2014)]
    Things to do in Pasco and Hernando counties
  2. Kumquats that are yet to be harvested in the groves at Kumquat Growers, Inc. in Dade City. The local agriculture business provides fruit for the annual Kumquat Festival to be held Jan. 25 in downtown Dade City. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
    After years of crop decline, there will be more fresh fruit at this year’s annual Kumquat Festival.
  3. The crowd lining Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa celebrates during the annual Gasparilla Parade of Pirates in 2019. [Times (2019)]
    Gasparilla Pirate Fest and Martin Luther King Jr. Day parades lead this week’s bill of worthwhile events.
  4. In this June 23, 2019 file photo, DaBaby performs "Sugar" at the BET Awards, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. [CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP]
    The hugely hyped rapper will take the stage in Clearwater in March.
  5. A beer is pictured in the outdoor games area of Park & Rec on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Towers of Channelside condo association has filed a lawsuit against the bar, as residents complain about noise.
  6. Sharon Langley, the author of "A Ride to Remember." [Courtesy of Sharon Langley]
    An educator writes a children’s book about a historic moment in her own life.
  7. Yacht StarShip, a dining and water taxi company, has added the Lost Pearl pirate ship to its fleet just in time for Gasparilla. [Yacht StarShip]
    After years entertaining tourists in Virginia Beach, the Lost Pearl is settling into its new Tampa Bay home.
  8. Pirate beads reading "Gasparilla" for sale at a store in Tampa in 2006. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Who should own ‘Gasparilla’? Is it the krewe behind the parade? A beauty pageant? Or the people?
  9. Photographer Griff Davis captured the first meeting of Vice President Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King, Jr. and their wives, Patricia Nixon and Coretta Scott King, on Independence Day in Accra, Ghana on March 7, 1957. [Courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs & Archives]
    A famed photographer captured Martin Luther King Jr. and Nixon in a conversation that was incendiary at the time.
  10. Brad Paisley performs during the CMA Music Festival at LP Field in 2014 in Nashville.
    Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum and Thomas Rhett round out Live Nation’s all-in-one ticket deal.