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Doing P90X and thinking about Paul Ryan

The DVD workout program is rough. But if a congressman and vice presidential nominee can do it, well ...

By Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times

September 1, 2012

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If I were assigned to interview Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in a "one question, and one question only" scenario, I'd ask him: "Do you do P90X Yoga?"

Perhaps this explains why I've never been assigned to cover the race for the White House. But I already know where Ryan stands on issues such as Medicare — that's been covered ad nauseam. I'd actually like more coverage, please, on how Ryan manages to stick to his diet-and-fitness regimen while campaigning for the White House.

Granted, I'm a proud member of the P90X cult. But I'm, um, also a P90X dropout. For those who have been living under a rock, P90X is a grueling, bare-knuckled retort to the Jane Fonda home workout VHS tapes ('member those?) of the 1980s. P90X-ers embark on a rigorous regimen packed with push-ups, pull-ups, squats, leaps, sit-ups and pumps. Every day brings a different routine, so there's no time to get bored. The roughly hourlong workouts are delivered via DVD, designed to be done in the privacy of one's living room, or hotel room, with very little equipment.

Since Ryan was picked for veep early last month, he has been on my mind when I consider punking out of my latest attempt to complete a P90X program. That's because the media throng has been reporting his daily pilgrimages to the gym where he uses a P90X iPad app to follow the day's workout regimen.

Warriors try to do the whole program in 90 or so days. Mere mortals take longer — if they finish at all. A cycle takes roughly 12 weeks. I've taken several runs at P90X, and each time I get as far as Week 7 or Week 8 before giving in to the pain. It tells you how difficult the workout program is that many people (like me) lose momentum because of a punishing 90-minute P90X Yoga workout intended to be done once a week. Yes, you read that right. The yoga workout can make a grown woman cry.

As a result, many P90X-ers conveniently skip that part of the program. But as P90X frontman Tony Horton will tell you, you're not really doing P90X if you cut corners.

So you see? My yoga question for Ryan is not so silly after all.

I don't think it's coincidental that the second generation of P90X (P90X2) has a far easier yoga workout that clocks in at 66 minutes. I'm just starting Week 9 of P90X2, and I'll have no problem finishing. That's partly because the yoga is not nearly as torturous and also because I've finally set my ego aside and taken Horton's well-worn advice to heart: "Do your best and forget the rest."

For each workout, Horton leads his "kids" through never-before-seen exercises dreamed up by Horton & Co., such as push-ups while hands and feet are balanced on medicine balls or biceps curls performed in a one-legged chair pose.

There's always one person on screen modifying the exercises — either to make them slightly easier or do them with less equipment. I follow that person. Results show that modification works just fine, thank you. I can easily give you 20 push-ups, and I've lost about 7 pounds so far. (Would be more, no doubt, if I faithfully followed the P90X diet.)

I've also taken another piece of advice parroted by the P90X faithful: "Keep pressing 'play.'" That is, slap in that DVD even though you're so sore that it hurts to scratch the back of your head.

If Ryan can manage to "press play" each day, so can I. And if the election were based on fitness alone, Ryan would get my vote in November.

(The P90X system is sold by the Santa Monica company Beachbody, http://www.beachbody.com.)

rene.lynch@latimes.com