5 Secrets to Living Longer and Stronger From P90X Creator Tony Horton
A new study just came out that showed lifting weights, aerobic activity and strength training can help us live longer and avoid heart disease and cancers like prostate, lung, colorectal and ovarian cancer. Meanwhile, another group of scientific studies indicates that eating a vegetarian, vegan or mostly plant-based diet can also help us fight off diseases like heart disease and certain cancers. If those two facts combined are not enough to get you to spandex up and start to work on your planks, we're not sure what is. Well, Tony Horton, trainer and inventor of the P90X method, is here to tell you exactly why and how being fit and plant-based helped save his life, and it can do the same for you, too.
“Older adults who participated in weight lifting exercise had significantly lower mortality before and after factoring in aerobic exercise participation, and importantly, those who did both types of exercise had the lowest risk,” writes the recent study's lead author Jessica Gorzelitz, PhD, a researcher in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute, and assistant professor of health promotion at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Tony Horton Wants You to Workout Like Your Life Depends On It
When you talk to Tony Horton, the trainer and fitness guru who invented P90X, you can't help but feel the urgency of his message and want to show up at his house for one of his famous gut-busting boot camp-style, creative, fun yet punishing strength sessions. In other words, he makes you want to work out – as if your life depends on it. It just may, he tells us.
Horton has trained famous people and regular folk alike, from President Obama and Michele, who famously would do his workouts in the White House gym early in the morning when they lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as millions of other people who have bought P90X and followed Horton on small screens as he motivated them to give it their all, every day.
Tony Horton has never sold a diet plan, but if he did it would go something like this: Eat plant foods and plant-based protein, and stay away from garbage foods that won't pay you back. He has now fully recovered from a debilitating heart attack and disease that nearly robbed him or his health and ability to get out of a chair.
Tony Horton wants you to show up for fitness like it's your job. That means making time to work out (aerobic, strength, or both) five days a week, by appointment. "What would happen if you only showed up to work three days a week, or you only slept three days a week, or ate three days a week," he asks rhetorically. His point being: It wouldn't work out too well.
Most people fail to make a daily fitness appointment, and that's one of the keys to being consistent, Horton adds. "I make a plan to work out seven days a week and if I miss one or two I still end up doing it five times," he says. If you only plan to fit in fitness every other day you may not even get in three workouts, he tells The Beet. Horton loves to make big, splashy statements about the importance of fitness in his life and yours, like:
If you don't work out "You might as well throw yourself down a flight of stairs –since you're inviting aches, pains, and ultimately tempting fate"
. His approach: Use it or lose it. If you really want to know what Horton said about fitness; You either work out or you die.
Tony Horton’s Illness Motivated Him to Get Fitter and Healthier
Horton should know a thing or two about brushes with the mortal beyond. Horton survived a debilitating bout with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which left him weak, 25 pounds down on a lean frame to begin with, and unable to get out of his chair to attack his usual daily workout routines.
Horton, for anyone who missed the P90X craze that swept the nation, was the creator of the planet's most popular boot camp style workout, the one people made appointments for, including Michelle Obama, who was known to invite staffers to join in at the White House Gym. Horton also spent two decades as a Beachbody coach and ambassador, and ultimately became one of the leading lights for fitness in the US.
Now he is fitter than ever, at 63, and building his own brand of workouts, supplements, and content streams under the brand Power Life by Tony Horton. He went vegan two months ago to recover from his "wrecked" body and continues to put on lean body mass, which he attributes to a strict diet and supplements (his own of course). But more than anything else, Horton wants to help people reach their personal best, without excuses for age, life stage, or other potential reasons to give up trying.
Horton Shares His Daily Routine
Horton rebuilt his strength and body, through a vegan diet of healthy whole foods that included sugar-free, corn-free, wheat-free, soy,-free and of course no dairy or meat. He paired this plant-based anti-inflammatory diet with workouts and a daily work ethic that would leave most people half his age feeling tired. He balances all this working out with a recovery routine of Epsom salt baths, foam rolling, and his Theragun.
On the mental and emotional side of the equation, he "lets the pendulum swing back" to a calm state, with the help of a mental health practice that now prioritizes the "other" important discipline: Appreciating life, wife, and spending time together. "You gotta let the pendulum swing back the other way," from the intensity and a "go-go-go," mentality that he now believes may have contributed to his body shutting down and getting sick.
Now Horton has a new company, Power Life, and is not exactly taking it slow, but doing things his way. Along with his daily Ninja-course workouts in his backyard with friends and associates, he spends time promoting his latest creation, a pre-biotic, probiotic formula to "fill in the gaps" in nutrition, called Foundation Four. It delivers organic greens, fiber, and magnesium and helps him with digestive issues that sprung up from his illness, including the indelicately named condition known as leaky gut.
"Your intestines are not just a long hose but it has a spongy barrier that is supposed to absorb nutrients all the way along and allow them to make their way into the body. But in the case of leaky gut, it's like the poop gets out and that causes all sorts of problems, including inflammation," he tells us. Now, by drinking this probiotic, prebiotic powder twice a day, he's solved his digestive problems.
At 63, Horton now says he is in the best shape of his life and his recent Instagram feed appears to confirm it. "Maybe I'm no longer the fastest runner, but I'm certainly stronger and leaner," he says, as he proudly shares posts of a body built of plant-based proteins and healthy greens, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and no dairy or meat at all for the past two years.
"I'm proud of the fact that I am fitter now, considering what it took to come back and build my muscle back up after losing 25 pounds that I didn't need or intend to lose." He said he recently gained a little more weight, all muscle mass, by staying consistent and working out to feel better, and eating to be healthy, not to impress anyone else (which is a trap, according to the Horton school of motivation). Here are his tips for staying consistent in your life, getting back in shape after the world shut down, and making a fitness habit stick.
Tony's 5 tips to make fitness a habit and get in the best shape of your life
There are five elements to my daily routine that allows me to be consistent for decades. You look at a lot of people and it's hit or miss or a fad, dealing with covid weight.
During the pandemic people fell into one of five categories, Horton says:
"A friend told me that during the pandemic, there are Hunks, Drunks, Chunks, Monks, and Punks," Horton tells us. What that means:
- Hunks were people who saw nothing change. They were even more diligent and worked harder. They took this time to be productive and get into even better shape.
- Drunks decided to anesthetize themselves with alcohol.
- Chunks did the same thing but with food.
- Monks decided to not go anywhere, were seriously quarantined full-on, followed all instructions, and didn't go anywhere.
- Punks didn't listen to what the scientists said and were COVID deniers.
Whichever you were, he said, it's high time to get back into action and commit to a healthy habit.
Tony's five tips to make fitness a habit and get in the best shape of your life
1. Have a Purpose.
if you're getting back in the game, know what are you doing it for. So if you want to look good in a dress or so friends say nice things about you, then you'll probably get fit for a while, but likely end up right back where you were six months ago. "The average person is exercising for all the wrong reasons. Aesthetic reasons, egos, comparison to the past or your younger self, and other people's compliments... all that usually ends up not working in the long run.
My purpose is to feel better today. I move today so I feel better today. If I meditate today, then I feel better today. The past is history and the future is a mystery. I want to be present today, improve my life, and show up. My purpose is to live a healthy lifestyle. I tell people: Train today to make today better. Then: Repeat. When you exercise, your brain produces dopamine and norepinephrine. That's what helps you feel better and focus, be present.
I do it to be happy and to be able to physically do things I wouldn't be able to do if I didn't take care of myself. Exercise is your body and brain's ability to do more and achieve more and expand your world. I want to go biking in France, or heliskiing, and without exercise, your world gets smaller and smaller and that becomes a chronic, curmudgeonly disorder.
It's kind of a bummer that around 65 you get to retire, but you can't still do all the things you could do in your 30s and 40s or even your 50s if you aren't fit. So you sit around and play backgammon and then sit and watch the news and get in a bad mood. But I have met hundreds of people who have started exercising later in life and ended up doing so much more as they get older. They don't sit around. And getting in the best shape of their life.
2. Make a Plan.
Tell yourself: Monday I'll go for my walk, Tues I'm doing my shoulders and arms workout, Wednesday, it's cardio, Thursday, I'll go ride my bike. Friday, legs and lower body. Then longer sessions on the weekend. Your plan has to be at least 22 days a month, if you want to look good, be strong, and work on improving your mental and emotional state. If that's the goal, you have to do it five times a week, period.
You know what time you're going to get up, and what time you're going to bed and what time you are going to eat dinner, and go to work–so you should know what time you're going to exercise! When you plan it, it's part of your routine and daily cycle. You don't schedule other things on top of it. You arrange your plans around it! I schedule my workouts seven days a week and if I don't get in every single one I still get in five. If I scheduled five then more likely I'm going to get in three, and that's not enough.
If you are not doing it at least four times a week, then you might as well not do it. Throw yourself down a flight of stairs. The idea here is that we want to thrive. Not just survive. Try showing up at work just three times a week or sleeping just three times a week or eating three times a week. How would that go?
3. Be Accountable.
I am not that self-motivated. I invite five people to do my Ninja workout several times a week. As I plan, I know what I am going to do, and I invite other people to my backyard where we have two Ninja courses, and that keeps me accountable. If you live in Minnesota and in the middle of winter you can go to your basement and it's 45 degrees and dark down there, and you can do your yoga and then they get the kids to school, anyone who can do that all by themselves, day after day? Those people deserve a silver star. I need other people to get motivated to do it.
When you know when you are going to do it with someone then that makes you accountable to them, and then you'll do it for the rest of your life. You'll show up for others, so show up for yourself.
If you still just don't want to do it? Then go be overweight and die young. That's the decision you're making. Yes, this is tough love, but you need tough love involved here. Because the honest truth is it matters. There is a great song by the Godfathers that goes: Birth, School, Work, Death... I may sound curmudgeonly but I am between the work part and the death part. At my age of 63, I don't think I have been fitter. Because I workout.
4. Food Matters.
I eat really carefully. And I recommend supplementation. Ask yourself: What are you putting in your mouth and what kind of supplements are you taking? I started Power Life because I couldn't find stuff that worked for me. I need superfoods with ingredients that didn't cause a rash. I take my supplement every day.
I tried ashwagandha and grape seed extract, maca root, and a lot of things out there, but I couldn't find something with the right combination for me. I had Ramsay Hunt Syndrome four years ago and got wrecked and lost 25 pounds.
The protein powder has HMB [β-Hydroxy-β-Methylbutyrate] which works with amino acids and helps build muscle mass and growth along with strength training. A lot of it is work ethic. I use this, along with exercise, and then recover, by either foam rolling and going into the cold plunge or using a Theragun. If not getting enough sleep or stress, your cortisol is going to go through the roof, so it all has to work together: Food, exercise, recovery, and lowering stress.
Ask yourself: What if I got off the alcohol and refined sugar? And what if I got more fiber, and ate a whole-food, plant-based diet? I don't know anyone who is an athlete, either college or pro who isn't taking something to help them gill the gaps in their diet. I don't care if you are keto or paleo or vegan... you need something. I am not pious about the diet thing. I just think people should eat single-ingredient foods.
I've been all-vegan for the past two and a half months and now it's working. Between the vegan diet and supplements, I've gained five pounds and experienced no inflammation. Before, I had should inflammation and back pain and was sore in my ankles. But is the vegan diet helping bring down all those inflamed joints? Yes! But I also take Epsom Salt baths and get into my infrared sauna and do all those basic recovery things.
My diet now is: No wheat, no corn, no soy, no dairy, and I'm all vegan. You can be vegan and have none of those things. Most people would not put this much effort into their diet, but I want to feel good and have more energy. Jack LaLanne [who ate mostly vegetarian other than fish] lived to be 96 when both his parents had died young.
Look at your health profile, It's either genetic, environmental, or behavioral. A lot of science tells us now: that I can control the outcome if I change the environment and my behavior. My parents didn't live as long as their parents. I think that has to do with behavioral choices. I am going to try to live to be 109. I think it's fun to get out there and compete with people half my age. 2 Ninja courses on my property and I love to get out and do all that which is fun.
I don't drink. I have had no alcohol in about 30 years. I didn't like drinking. I felt like crap. I am very sensitive to alcohol and weed and medications in general. My body responds aggressively to all that stuff. I didn't like it and was not a good drinker. I drink Pellegrino water and tea.
5. Adopt a Mindfulness Mindset.
Mindfulness is part of a category, or mindset, but not the same thing. Mindfulness can be anything from walking your dog or meditating with a candlelit. It's doing something to let the pendulum swing the other way for a moment. You may say I am going off alcohol and going vegan, but you don't have a shot at being completely healthy unless you practice mindfulness.
Doctors said I would never get better when I was sick. Mindfulness was the only is the only way to deal with the pain. Sometimes it's five minutes or longer, or sometimes you can do it while you're in the car. It's up to you but you need to find a way to calm your brain.
I recommend James Nestor's book Breath. Or Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Full Catosrophic Living. You read these books and realize this is something I wasn't doing at all. Most people's mindfulness is a poor night of sleep. Mindfulness and mindset. How do you talk to yourself? What is your way of talking to yourself? Are you being too passive or not advocating for yourself? Ask for what you need. If you are not practicing this mindset, then you are not taking care of yourself.
The Buddhists have been doing this for four thousand years. Then, if you get burnt out you will get sick. I was eating alright, and exercising, and I still got sick. So now I let myself have that mindfulness and let the pendulum swing back the other way.
Ask: What do you need now? To move toward a solution. You may need to start to go in the direction of what you want. With relationships, with kids, and everything. You need to ask what you need. Sit down with your spouse. Face each other and say: What do you need now? I do it all the time. It's called interviewing your spouse. Try it! Interview them. Even after 25 years of being married, you will learn something.
What's my job? I ask my wife. She says: To make my life awesome ... And I say Damn straight, woman! I get more out of helping her than a new pair of shoes. She does it too. That's the key to it.
Tony Horton's latest lesson to his followers, four years after his illness, may not be how to get flatter abs or lose weight. It's: Be present. You're only here once.
Bottom Line: To Be Your Strongest and Healthiest, Workout Daily Says Tony Horton
A new study tells us that daily strength and aerobic workouts help you live longer. Tony Horton, the founder of P90X, is living proof of the power of daily fitness and a plant-based diet. He survived a life-threatening illness and now wants to help others be their strongest and healthiest too.
For more great expert advice about how to eat and work out to achieve your goals, check out The Beet's Fitness & Wellbeing articles.
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