Tag Archives: Tony Horton

human rights essay

A refrain in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” has Judy Garland singing wistfully: “Why, oh why can’t I?”

It is something that I hear in my own head (minus the singing) when I confront self-image issues related to my workouts.

For the past 14 years, I have been a dedicated exerciser, working out an average of four to five times a week.

It has taken all forms: Cardio, running, weight-lifting, circuit training, and for the past seven years, a devotion to the various P90X workouts led by Tony Horton.

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But it seems no matter how much dedication and drive I invest in my exercise, I cannot get the body I’m looking for.

So, why oh why can’t I have a broad chest?

Ripped abs?

Biceps the size of my thighs?

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When I look at celebrities like Hugh Jackman, who plays Wolverine in the X-Men series, or Daniel Craig, who is currently playing James Bond, or Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper,” I am immediately plunged into a vat of molten envy that, when it cools, hardens around my brain.

I mean, look at those guys!

They are in incredible shape.

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It’s not like I have not put in the time and commitment to getting fit, so why oh why can’t I look like them?

Well, there might be the fact that they have professional trainers who put these actors through their paces for grueling hours a day whereas my exercise routine is a DIY system at home for 30 to 45 minutes.

And they likely have gourmet-cooked, high-protein, nutrient-rich meals prepared for them around the clock, with snacks properly proportioned served to them by personal chefs.

Me? I eat as cleanly as I can but I am a slave to cookies and prone to indulging in sugary snacks when I’m anxious.

Nonetheless, I fight the nagging internal voice that says I am not pushing myself hard enough.

See that woman in the exercise video? She’s doing more push-ups than you, you panty-waist wuss!

As a working stiff who has a family and a job, there is only so much time and energy I can dedicate to exercising before I overtrain and risk getting hurt or burning myself out.

It was not until I heard Tony Horton’s first law of fitness that I started to gain some acceptance for my limitations.

“Do your best and forget the rest,” he says.

In other words, show up and do what you can on any given day.

That could be four push-ups or 40, or a multiple of that if you’ve really got something in the tank that day.

But you’ve got to chase away those mental couldas and shouldas that get in the way.

This is the time of year when we’re all looking to start the slate clean: A new year, a new you, right?

Before you start worrying about fixing your body, think about getting your mind right first.

So in 2016, I’m going to change my tune and find a new anthem.

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Celebrating 14 Years of My ‘Exercise Sobriety’

Today marks my birthday but more important than that, it is year 14 of my “exercise sobriety.”

At About Men Radio, we’ve touched on health, fitness, exercise and eating right in any number of podcasts and blog posts.

Pedro and I talked about our exercise routines and eating right in podcasts here and here.

And I discussed my training for the Warrior Dash extreme race. (Unfortunately my work schedule kept me from competing but there is always next year!)

I also recounted my excitement about meeting and working out with exercise guru and man crush Tony Horton and explained how it’s never too late to burn off the goo.

Getting the right amount of rest, eating as close to healthy as you can and exercising take on a whole new level of importance when you reach, ahem, a certain age.

I know I’ve told this story before, but I want to repeat here today, partly to reinforce the lesson to myself after 14 years, but also to tell my brethren (and sistren) that it is NEVER too late to get started.

I was 37, woefully out of shape, stressed to the max and eating like a maniac.

My routine was a doughnut and coffee at 3 p.m., which would send my sugar levels spiking and then crashing, taking my energy levels with it.

Late nights featured chocolate dipped in peanut butter with a Kahlua-and-milk chaser, topped off with maybe five or six hours of sleep each night.

Rinse and repeat.

My fiancée at the time bought me a pair of push-up bars, a VHS exercise tape and a sit-up bar. They sat off in the corner for many, many months.

She never nagged me or even said a word about the equipment but I knew they were there.

My epiphany came after a dinner of three (or was it four?) slices of pizza followed by truly yummy Italian pastries from one of the local bakeries.

I am still not sure what happened, but something clicked (or snapped) and on my 37th birthday, I popped in the boot camp exercise VHS tape.

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I had to quit after about 15 minutes.

I was winded and frustrated that I could not keep up. But I tried it the next day. And the next and the next and the next.

By the end of the week, I was getting through the entire 30-minute video.

Over time, I began biking, lifting weights, running and doing other forms of cardio. I dropped 40 pounds, about half of which, over time, I’ve put back on.

But that does not discourage me.

For about the last seven years, I’ve been doing P90x workouts with my man Tony Horton. He’s a good coach and I find him inspiring.

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Do I fall short of my goals? Hell yes. Am I ready to grace the cover of “Men’s Health” magazine? Hell no!

But I’m averaging four to five days a week of exercise, and I keep just showing up and that’s more than half the battle.

If you’re looking to make changes in your life, start with small steps.

You will be amazed at the strides you will make.

Take it from someone who’s been there.

If I can do it, so can you.

Drop me a line at amr@aboutmenradio.com and tell me about how you’re coping. We can swap ideas and give a little support to each other.

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Battle of the Bulge: The Struggle to Eat Right and Exercise

Every man has had a battle of the bulge.

No, not THAT bulge, you perv! Get your mind outta the gutter!

I’m talking about the bulge ABOVE your belt.

The spare tire.

The love handles.

The beer gut.

Whatever you call it, by the time a guy reaches middle age, his metabolism isn’t what it used to be.

Take me, for instance.

I watch what my teenage son eats at home and I am positively aghast at what he inhales. And when his older brother was home, his butt was constantly sticking out of the fridge, his muffled voice crying out that there was nothing to eat.

But then I recall what I used to eat and drink when I was a teenager.

Back in the day, it was nothing for me to chug almost an entire 64-ounce bottle of Coke.

My food pyramid looked more like a pie chart, with the emphasis on “pie.”

Pizza. McDonald’s. Hot dogs. Fudge brownies.

And Friendly’s ice cream. Those Reese’s peanut butter cup sundaes that come in a goblet big enough to fit both of your fists? Oh yeah, that was my go-to dessert when I was in college.

Through my early to mid-20s, I was able to keep my weight fairly under control. But then came kids, long hours at a stressful job, home ownership and more stress.

Doughnuts and coffee at 3 p.m. followed by peanut butter and chocolate with a Kahlúa-and-milk chaser at midnight did little for my health or waistline.

And here’s the thing: Deep down, I knew I was doing destructive things to my body. I felt it in my bones (literally), my clothes and my energy.

By 2001, I was around 220 pounds and feeling every last ounce of it. I was getting winded going up the stairs.

I buckled down and on my 37th birthday, I put on a 30-minute exercise video. I got through 10 minutes of it and – as Roseanne-Roseannadanna used to say on “Saturday Night Live” – “I thought I was gonna die!”

Fast-forward, and next month I’ll mark my 14th year of my “exercise sobriety.”

I work out an average of four to five times a week. I’m doing P90X and Tony Horton workouts, lifting weights and doing a variety of cardio and other exercises.

Pedro is a similar success story. He’s literally half the man he once was, having lost about 130 pounds. He looks great and dresses like a boss!

In this episode of About Men Radio, Pedro and I discuss our struggles with our weight, what our stress eating habits are like and how we modified our lifestyle to live better.

None of this is easy but it’s to point out that Pedro and I are just like you — dads, husbands and worker-bees with a thousand different push-me-pull-me stresses in our lives.

Share with us stories of your struggles, setbacks and successes at amr@aboutmenshow.com

If we can do it, so can you.

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17 at Heart, Older in Other Places

It first happened about 14 months before I turned 50.

I went to a Dunkin’ Donuts, ordered my customary hot medium coffee and expected to pay about $2. I handed over two singles but when the cashier rang it up, I got back a handful of change.

I was surprised but chalked it up at the moment to the price fluctuations you sometimes see among different franchises and the fact that I was not paying close attention.

And then I looked at the receipt.

And there it was: A 10 percent “senior” discount.

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I was flummoxed.

How dare they let me pay less! I want to pay full freight, damnit!

To hell with saving money! My ego needed saving!

It is not that I am vain about my looks (mostly, I really am not) it’s just that mentally I have the maturity of a 12-year-old.

The Three Stooges.

Making fart noises with my mouth.

Trying to get your friend to splooge soda through the nose with a well-timed joke as he’s drinking.

These things are the art forms that I adore.

Tony Horton, my exercise hero (think of him as this generation’s version of Jack LaLanne) addresses this often in his various exercise DVDs:

“Aging is for people who do not know better.”
“Aging is for idiots.”
“I’m 55 and hello! I feel like 12.”

This might sound Peter Pan-like (sing it with me: “I Won’t Grow Up!“), but on the occasion of one of my buddies turning 17, we got together at his place and took a semi-solemn vow to remain 17 forever.

Granted, this was *cough cough* 33 years ago and happened amid the imbibing of beer and some very strongly mixed Tom Collins drinks.

That image of us, crowded in the hallway of Silvio’s apartment, drinks raised, has stayed with me.

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When I asked him about it recently, he wrote back:

“BTW, how did that pledge work out for us <<he asks as both knees pop, his neck creaks and typing this caused a shooting pain from his fingertip to his eyeball>>??? Oh you mean 17 at heart. Owww!”

Well, he has a point.

I guess I prefer to believe that we have no choice about growing older but that growing up is optional.

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About Exercise: Never Too Old To Bring It

I am no celebrity worshipper, but I have to confess I was nervous about meeting exercise guru Tony Horton.

For my 50th birthday, my bride got me (among other gifts) tickets for this year’s Central PA Health & Fitness Expo at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

The centerpiece of the event was a meet-and-greet with Tony (he of the P90X workout fame), a chance to hear him as a keynote speaker, and, best of all, to participate in a workout he was leading.

So here I am on line with dozens of others, waiting to meet Tony, shake hands, chat and get an autograph and a photo.

Chris_TonyThe closest I’ve ever come to a brush with celebrity was in 1978, when I met then-New York City Mayor Edward Koch and got his autograph. Though Koch was the leader of the greatest city in the world, he did not sell nearly five million pieces of exercise DVDs closing in on nearly $1 billion in sales.

That distinction would belong to Tony Horton, who I was getting closer to meeting as the line progressed.

He could not have been more warm, gracious and funny. A total mensch.

I told him what an inspiration he was (he’s 56 BTW and totally shredded) and at one point I put a hand over his and told him I was sorry about his dad’s recent death.

His composure changed visibly. You could see he was truly touched by the sympathy. He called his dad’s death a “goofy,” unexpected loss and said he should have had 10 more years in him.

He was totally genuine. Not an ounce of phony. He was super generous with his time.

Then came his keynote speech, the highlights of which were: “Do your best and forget the rest.”

My favorite advice? Don’t feel 100 percent? Go and work out anyway.

“Go in there and stink it up” by giving only 20, 30 or 40 percent. But just do it.

He spoke enthusiastically and passionately about exercise, about overcoming his own obstacles in life (a grade C student with a speech impediment who in his early adult years was $60,000 in debt).

And then came the workout. I never smiled so much busting my hump as I did this day. I was joined by 130 others who jumped, grunted, burpeed, ran and push-upped our way through the 40-minute routine.

Tony roamed the room, coaching people, encouraging them and correcting their form.

At one point during the warm-up, he pointed at me and winked as if to say: “Yeah, you got it!”

The capstone came at the end of the workout.

I turned to this guy next to me (in his early 30s, I would guess) and I told him how he had absolutely crushed the exercises.

He looked at me and said: “Can I ask how old you are, sir?”

I told him I turn 50 in a couple of weeks.

He shook my hand firmly and said: “Every move, you just were killing it!”

Yes!!!!! Bring it!

Never Too Late to Feel The Burn or Get Rid of That Goo

Over the years, each generation has had exercise gurus who put their stamp on an era:

Jack LaLanne. Jane Fonda. Richard Simmons.

For me, it’s Tony Horton. He is the face of an intense workout program known as P90X. (I am pretty sure, after having done these rigorous routines myself, that the “P” in P90X stands for “Phuck! This is hard!”)

I was not always a fan of fitness. In fact, up until 13 years ago, I think you would classify me as…what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah: A slug.

As a kid, I was at various times what euphemistically was described as “chunky” and would wear jeans sized “husky.”

Later in my teens and early 20s, I thinned out. But once I hit my late 20s and especially as I got into my 30s, well, it was the Battle of the Bulge, and the bulge won.

Then 9/11 happened. I fell into a deep depression following the attacks and my eating went out of control.

A little more than a month later, I decided that I would begin to work out.

 

What motivated me? The thought of all those first responders who lost their lives and the question of, God forbid I ever found myself in a life-and-death emergency, what kind of shape would I be in? Would I be a help or hindrance to any rescue operation?

So on my 37th birthday, I popped a 30-minute “Boot Camp” workout videotape into the VCR.

Winded and sweaty, I had to stop after 15 minutes.

I tried again the next day, and the day after that, until I was able to get through the whole routine. What came next were biking, running, weight lifting and the overall loss of 40 pounds.

About six years ago, I took up the Tony Horton P90X series and related workouts from Beachbody.com, like P90, P90X3, Insanity and Asylum.

These workouts are never easy and I struggle with many of the moves. And no, I don’t have six-pack abs or rippling muscles. When it comes to getting ripped, I’m just happy to no longer be ripping my pants.

What 13 years of “exercise sobriety” has brought me is a chance to blow off steam and to challenge myself. For instance, in the course of one P90X workout, I’ve been able to do 200 push-ups of various sorts.

It’s not about transforming myself into a cover model for “Men’s Health.” If I were more rigorous about what I eat and spent even more time exercising, I’d be happy to sport such a look.

But that’s not the point. It’s about confronting the struggle to be physically healthy every day for the rest of my life.

In celebration of my commitment and my upcoming 50thbirthday, my wife has treated me to the “Central Pa. Health Fitness Expo,” featuring a meet-and-greet with Horton, who will be the keynote speaker.

And, oh yeah, it includes a one-hour workout with the man himself. The workout promises to be — to quote one of many memorable Horton quips — “like swimming, only wetter.”

I might suck wind compared to some of my fellow participants who are stronger, thinner, younger, etc. But it’s not going to stop me from going all in (and risking making a fool of myself!)

All I can say is: Bring it!

AMR 04: Do You Even Lift, Bro?

It’s a very simple equation: If you want to stay in shape you need to eat less and be more active. This week the About Men Posse discuss what motivates them to exercise…and what doesn’t.

Will You Still Need Me? Will You Still Feed me?!?!

Two of the world’s great philosophers have weighed in about getting old.

“Aging is for people who don’t know any better.” — Exercise guru Tony Horton, creator of the P90X workouts

“Getting old sucks. I don’t recommend it.” — My old man

I am rapidly moving toward being a man of a certain age *cough cough* (or should that be *wheeze wheeze*?). That is to say, I am turning 50 in a few months.

Certainly millions of other men have crossed this threshold before me and millions more will after. But there’s something mystical and captivating about 50.

For one thing, at this stage of half a century, you are forced to slow down.

The conversation I sometimes have with my body goes like this: “What do you mean my knee is giving me trouble?” “What the hell? My bedtime is now 10 p.m.?” And, standing in the bathroom at 2 a.m.: “Why is it taking me so damn long to start peeing?”

And with slowing down, comes reflection. I look back at my mistakes (mostly) and then I look forward and start saying: Gee, what DO I want to be when (if) I grow up?

That’s the thing: There is your biological/chronological age and then there’s your emotional age. And in the case of the latter, I’m 17.

I’m 17 and in the hallway at my friend Silvio’s house, celebrating his birthday with my chums, raising glasses of Tom Collins (long before I embraced the virtues of vodka-and-tonics) and pledging to each other that, like Peter Pan, we would never grow up. We promised to never, ever abandon the essence of our 17-year-old selves.

Mission accomplished.

I still celebrate burping with the gusto of a teen, guffaw at stupid jokes and recite random pieces of dialogue from “Airplane!” as if it was from a Shakespearean play.

Still, it’s hard to keep up that kind of frozen-in-Neverland fantasy when you face an uncertain economic future because of the challenges of your career, the certainty that your kids will soon be leaving your daily protective care and the crapshoot of what your health will be like in your even-more advanced years.

And if that dose of reality were not enough, there are these recurring questions: What is my next act? Have I peaked? Is there anything left for me to wring from my professional career or is it all one slow slide from here?

I was recently looking at a CNN.com slide show of celebrities who this year are turning 50. Among them, Russell Crowe. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Does that put me in good company? Do I look younger than Russell Crowe? Does he look older than 50?

True story: I recently visited my old high school for a Career Day presentation. I ran into a classmate who I had not seen since we graduated in 1982. As I looked into his face, I was like: Holy smokes! His hair is white and he’s got these creases in his face. Boy HAS he aged! I suddenly started to feel very smug and better about myself. Until….Wait just a minute here! He’s MY age!

This is the kind of crap that goes through your mind as a man. How do I stack up compared to my peers? How do I stack up against my own benchmarks of success?

Comics have an expression that speaks to the challenge of slaying an audience with your performance vs. bombing on stage: Dying is easy, killing is harder.

In a similar way, I don’t fear my mortality. Dying is easy.

It’s the living between now and my mortality that, dear 50, is a lot harder.