Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #008 12/22/09 PUTTING THE X IN XMAS!

You must find ways to stay in the game.

Tony Horton

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Customizing P90X® for Skiing: How to Structure a Short Training Cycle

By Steve Edwards

Since I'm sitting here in a snowstorm, it seems like a good idea to address how to use P90X to get your body ready for snow sports before it's too late. If you recall the principles discussed 2 weeks ago (see "Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I" in the Related Article section below), you might think it's already too late. Luckily, Tony is a skier and he always designs programs with skiing in mind. This makes customizing P90X for skiing very simple.

Man Skiing

It's funny how we don't get ski questions until it's already snowing outside. In a perfect world, you'd begin your training for skiing as soon as the last season ended. This would give your body time to adapt and grow strong before it needed to engage in the rigors of the sport. But we don't live in a perfect world, so today we will look at how to structure a short training cycle.

Your foundation

Last time we covered your foundation and how effectively P90X develops it. No matter what your goals are, you first want to make sure your fitness base is sound enough for you to engage in more specific training. Skiing is a core- and leg-based sport, meaning that a customized program includes more targeted work on these areas. However, if you can't do all the movements in Legs & Back or fall over during Plyometrics, you need to continue building your base before you start to customize.

Remember that Tony is a skier. This means P90X is already good conditioning for skiing, and mastering the basic schedule is more important than customizing, even if you have a ski trip on the horizon. This is different than if you had, say, an upcoming triathlon. Endurance-based sports (or power-based sports) require a different strategy that we'll get to in another article. For skiing, your first goal is mastery of the classic P90X schedule.


All training programs are somehow based on periodization. If you don't know what that is, read "Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I" in the Related Article section below. Periodization involves you doing blocks of training designed around a goal before you move into the next block of training. The various blocks of a program lead toward a point where your body should peak. Below is an example using P90X.

Foundation phase (Power 90® or what you did pre-X) + block 1 + transition/recovery + block 2 + transition/recovery + block 3 + recovery = peak (final fit test)

A training cycle can be any length of time. P90X is 90 days, but you can effectively design a training cycle that lasts anywhere from 2 weeks to an entire year.

Tony Horton Exercising

The longer the cycle, the harder the individual blocks can be. The reason is that you only need to peak at the end of the given cycle. Therefore, it's okay to design your training to the point where you're in a state of almost total breakdown early in a program. Most people hobble around during the first couple blocks of P90X. During this period, you wouldn't want to ski (or do anything) at your highest level.

This means that short training cycles should be easier than longer ones. Excessive breakdown, like the kind you may have experienced the first couple of times you did Plyometrics, happens when you engage something called type IIb muscle fibers. These are fast twitch muscle fibers that your body has saved for emergencies. These fibers are essential for maximum power, but once you use them, they take a long time to heal, usually around 2 weeks. So you obviously wouldn't want to destroy them at the start of a 2-week training cycle.

This is why your foundation is so important. If you can't do P90X classic without getting sore, it won't help you to make this schedule harder, especially close to a ski trip. It would just result in further breakdown and have you hitting the slopes without a full contingent of your fast twitch muscles fibers, which are exactly what you'll need to land a jump or dart between trees at 30 mph. If you want to stay injury free, you won't want to hit the slopes in any state of breakdown.

Progressive overload

You always want progressive overload to occur in a training program (defined in "Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I"). This simply means that the program should build on itself over time.


Defined in "Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I," recovery promotes the healing of your fast twitch muscle fibers. When you recover toward a peak, it's to allow your body to build these muscle fibers up. Only high-level training engages fast twitch fibers, which is why recovery weeks skip heavy lifting and plyometrics and focus on aerobic conditioning, flexibility, and training your stabilizer muscles.

Putting it all together

The first thing you need to consider is how much time you have. The longer the better (you know, "plan ahead"). No matter what your training program is, it should target a specific date you want your body to be at its peak.

When you have a long period of time, you can structure your training toward your weakness. For example, if you don't have the leg strength to land a certain jump, you could build up the size and then the strength of your legs during the off-season. If you're already in the season, however, the muscular breakdown required to do this will inhibit your ability to ski well.

Short cycles should focus more on mastering sports-specific movements. To do this, you use what are called integration exercises. These are the opposite of the types of isolation movements that you do for sheer hypertrophy, or muscle growth. Integration movements target strength, speed, and neuromuscular coordination. P90X is loaded with integration movements.

For our example, given that it's December, let's use a 1-month time frame. This is a very short training cycle, but it's still enough time to fine-tune your body. Shoot, Rocky only had 3 weeks to train for Apollo Creed!

Tony Horton's One on One Plyo Legs

The next thing you do is decide which workouts are the most sports specific. For skiing, you obviously want Plyometrics and Legs & Back. Tony Horton's One on One Plyo Legs (Volume 1, Disc 1) is a unilateral (one leg at a time) workout that is outstanding for skiing. Yoga, too, is very ski specific, and it trains the stabilizer muscles that get worked overtime when you do a sport on an unstable surface like snow. You don't need much upper-body mass to ski, but you do need upper-body strength. Therefore, the standard weight-training routines should be dropped in favor of Core Synergistics. Again, we're looking for strength and balance moves together—integration. So the key elements of your program will be the legs workouts, core synergistics, and yoga.

Alpine skiing (Nordic skiing will be addressed during the endurance sports article) doesn't require any specific cardio training if your foundation is strong. It's what's called a power-endurance sport, meaning that your anaerobic system is taking the brunt of the abuse. You need a solid aerobic base to recharge your anaerobic system, but all of P90X's workouts address that aspect to some degree. Therefore, workouts like Kenpo X will be fillers and not an essential part of your training structure. This means that if something in the schedule is getting skipped, make sure it's your cardio workout.

Sample schedule

Here is a sample training cycle using P90X, designed for a ski trip that's 1 month away. This schedule is for someone who can do a given week of P90X classic without getting very sore. Note that this cycle has no training blocks. There simply isn't time.

Week 1

  • Day 1: Plyometrics
  • Day 2: Yoga X
  • Day 3: Core Synergistics
  • Day 4: Legs & Back
  • Day 5: Kenpo X
  • Day 6: Plyometrics
  • Day 7: Yoga X

Note: There is no "rest day" because of the time constraints of the program.

Week 2

  • Day 1: Core Synergistics
  • Day 2: Legs & Back
  • Day 3: Kenpo X
  • Day 4: Plyometrics
  • Day 5: Yoga X
  • Day 6: Core Synergistics
  • Day 7: Legs & Back

Week 3

  • Day 1: Kenpo X
  • Day 2: Plyometrics
  • Day 3: Yoga X
  • Day 4: Core Synergistics
  • Day 5: Legs & Back
  • Day 6: Yoga X
  • Day 7: Plyometrics

Note: The change at the end is for maximum breakdown during the last hard bit of the 1-month cycle. Now it's time to slow down before your trip. Hard training during your recovery will negatively affect your ability to perform well.

Week 4

  • Day 1: X Stretch
  • Day 2: Core Synergistics
  • Day 3: Kenpo X
  • Day 4: Cardio X
  • Day 5: Yoga X
  • Day 6: X Stretch
  • Day 7: X Stretch

During your trip, begin the day with some light yoga to warm you up for skiing. Ending each day with X Stretch or something similar will help you perform better the following day. Now rip it up and have fun!

Related Article
"Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, December 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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P90X in Africa

Beachbody® Coaches Brad and Alicia Crawford moved to Uganda to serve as missionaries. And they brought P90X along to share with fellow missionaries. Enjoy this inspirational story of how Brad and Alicia are making a difference on a global level.

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2nd Law of Exercise: Consistency

By Tony Horton

Improvement and change occur when you do things often. Stopping and starting all the time will kill any momentum you need to succeed. You must find ways to stay in the game. Done consistently, moderate forms of exercise provide far better results than the occasional full-body pummeling. A lifestyle that includes doing multiple forms of exercise 5 to 6 days a week guarantees results.

Tony Horton

There are certain things that rise to the surface when it comes to staying consistent. One of them is staying motivated. How does anyone sustain anything without motivation? You bought one of my programs because you're committed to making huge changes in your life. Being consistent is critical. But being consistent and staying motivated can be difficult at times. It's easy to create reasons not to do P90X or Power 90, especially when you're feeling weak and puny, and my jokes aren't funny anymore. We travel, get sick, get tired, and often get discouraged. We work too hard, we under-sleep, and we get stressed out. So what do we do about it? It can be overwhelming. What about the people who don't quit? Who are they? Are they super android robots from a galaxy far, far away? What the hell makes them so special? Why are these robot people consistent and others aren't? The answer is that successful, consistent, and motivated folk have tricks . . . Aha! They have found a way to do it anyway.

Here's my list of tricks that will help you stay motivated and consistent.

  1. Stop beating yourself up if you can't sustain and/or maintain your "perfect" plan. It's okay to miss a workout once in a while. It doesn't mean that your process has gone to hell in a handcart. It doesn't mean you have to start over. Life happens. Priorities shift. So what? Big deal. Just start up where you left off. If you're doing Power 90 or P90X®, just add the missed days to the end of the program. I decree the burden lifted! Of course, you must recognize the difference between a missed workout or two and a missed week or two. If you miss 2 weeks of exercise, it will take at least that long to get back to where you left off. If you miss one workout once in a while, you lose nothing. The extra day off can even do the body good.

  2. Don't freak out if you don't see results in the first 45 days. "What?! No results in the first month and a half?!" See, I knew you'd freak out. The reality is that we all have different starting points. The 90 in Power 90 and P90X stands for 90 days, not 90 minutes. Some folks will see results the first week—bastards! Others will have to wait a little longer, based on age, body weight, how out of shape they are when they start the program, flexibility, balance, athletic background, etc.—this is normal. The variety of workouts in P90X and Power 90 purposely plays into your strengths and weaknesses. Both programs were created to have a 30- to 50-day "adaptive phase." This phase is shorter for some and longer for others. Be patient. Your body will adapt, and you will be amazed at how you look and feel.

Tony H.

Related Articles
"1st Law of Exercise: Variety"
"Strength Training: More than Just Getting Ripped"
"The 3 Rules of Intensity"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, December 28th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Recipe: Thin Mint Treat

Thin Mint Treat

Want a chocolaty, minty treat this holiday season without getting a Santa-like figure? Try this yummy Shakeology® recipe straight from the Beachbody kitchen. You'll satisfy your sweet tooth without ending up on the naughty list!

1 scoop chocolate Shakeology
1-1/2 cups cold water
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup ice (or to taste)

Blend till frothy and enjoy!

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
152 17 g 3 g 17.5 g 1 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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