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I currently have two coaches in my life and they both happen to have the name “Tony”. I’m not working with these two Tonys personally, though it feels like it for me as they “talk” to me every day.
One is Tony Horton, who you may know as the leader of the P90X exercise training program. I first discovered P90X on late night TV during one of my visits to Canada, where I dismissed it as something that looked a little more legitimate than those “ab machines”, but still not a product I would consider purchasing.
P90X is a 90 day exercise program focused on muscle confusion. It deliberately varies the exercises so your body never has a chance to get used to one specific routine. There are several weight training sessions, plyometrics (jump training), kenpo, one of the hardest yoga routines I’ve ever done, stretching, an abs workout and more. Each session is roughly an hour long and quite intense. You do something every day for 90 days, so you don’t take it on lightly. It requires real commitment.
I’ve done regular exercise for most of my life, including swimming, bike riding, jogging, skating, tennis, yoga, baseball, weight training and good old fashioned walking. Although I’m consistent over time keeping active, I rarely exercised more than two to four times a week. I had a habit to do something, but definitely not every day (exercise on Sundays – that’s just not right!). My body demands movement, so I did something for the endorphin high. Now I’m well and truly addicted to endorphins thanks to P90X.
It’s amazing how powerful a limiting belief is. For all my life I’ve been a skinny guy. It’s been something that I both love and hate. I love that I can eat as much as I want without ever changing weight, but I’ve hated being a skinny male, especially when I was a teenager as it severely impacted my self confidence, especially when it came to the opposite sex.
I’ve had some terrible assumptions that cemented to limiting beliefs, which stopped me from doing many things. Growing up I believed that most girls didn’t find me attractive because I was thin. Any time I liked a girl and they didn’t reciprocate, I assumed it was for that reason. Given enough experiences that you believe are a result of one factor, you make it true, even if in reality you completely misread the situation in 9 out of 10 times. Of course if you believe it’s true, it becomes true and you will see proof everywhere, so it’s a dangerous pattern to get into.
Although I sulked as a teenager for a long time because of my build, as an adult I realized I might try and do something about it. This led me to some research into weight gain for males. I discovered that given my metabolism where I can eat as much of whatever I want without gaining weight I was known as a “hard gainer”. This meant it would be challenging for me to gain weight.
At one stage while at the doctor for something else I asked what he could suggest regarding putting on weight. He said I was perfectly healthy and then asked me if I’d ever seen a fat old man. His point was that old men are always skinny guys, guys who have my build and people with more weight generally don’t live long enough to become old men. As comforting as that was, I still wanted options. He suggested I start drinking ovaltine (a chocolate milk drink) as an additional meal and then showed me the door.
Later I found a book online specifically targeted at hard gainers, created by a guy who looked like he had transformed from skinny to muscle man. I read the book, started to follow the exercises, then looked at the eating guide and realized it would be very hard to stick to this.
I had conflicting motivations. I didn’t want to eat meat all the time, shove done all kinds of chemical supplements and focus on my diet so much that I had to eat even when I wasn’t hungry. On one hand I was learning about the importance of raw foods for health, and that meat and dairy are killing people, yet if I wanted to gain weight I need to slam down steaks and whey protein (a dairy based protein) in order to build mass.
I recall a news story on one of those sensationalist current affairs shows about a teenage guy who was skinny with a high metabolism (a hard gainer). He was so fed up with being called skinny at school (it’s amazing how being called too skinny is socially acceptable, but being called fat is rude – talk about double standards!) and dealing with the social stigma that he decided to go on an all-KFC diet. He figured if he ate KFC for every meal he’d have to gain weight.
Of course he didn’t, and as the personal trainer who was brought on to help him explained, he might not gain weight as a result of an all-KFC diet, but he would increase his cholesterol levels. He may not show fat on the outside, but it would be building up on the inside, which could lead to all kinds of health problems.
I was left believing that as a hard gainer it would take a ridiculous amount of discipline and training to eat right and work out properly that it was just too hard. Instead I decided to focus on my mindset and self esteem. I decided to believe I was great just the way I was – plus I could eat as much as I wanted!
That’s a simple enough revelation and although the belief structure took a while to take hold, thanks to a few changes to things I could control easily such as clothing and style, I eventually set up a new set of much more positive belief structures about my appearance and what the opposite sex thought of me.
To put a long story short, I have a much more positive self esteem when it comes to body image today than I did compared to the previous ten to fifteen years, yet I still believe certain things about my body that I just accept as true.
That was until recently, where once again I became aware that my beliefs were holding me back.
Enter P90X, or to be fair, enter Pat Flynn.
Pat Flynn, who you may know from his blog SmartPassiveIncome.com, who I interviewed in a podcast, recently completed his own 90 days doing P90X. I read his blog post were he reported his result including some fairly impressive before and after photos, and I decided I should give it a shot.
Generally I’m great with follow-through when I really want something and believe it’s possible for me to have it. I can form habits and stick to them, which is why I’ve had success with this blog and other online businesses.
I’ve never committed to an exercise regime that includes a work out every day. I’ve never committed to a program that was 90 days straight. I’ve done small experiments on myself, for example not eating any chocolate for two weeks (that was hard!), cutting out all red meat for six months, but never something this long or this intense.
Pat had thrown down the challenge simply by completing the P90X program (I couldn’t let this upstart achieve something I hadn’t!) and I wanted to do the same.
Strangely enough, I didn’t see this as a chance to finally gain weight, it was just something I wanted to do to prove that I could do it. I knew it would help my all-over fitness and strength, but since it wasn’t designed for hard gainers (there’s a lot of calorie-burn workouts, which benefit those trying to lose weight, not gain weight), and my previous weight training had not really yielded any results, I didn’t have expectations for weight gain from P90X.
Now before you assume I’m about to tell you I’ve become this huge muscle-bound version of Yaro thanks to P90X, let me set the record straight. As I write this I’m about to begin my eighth week of P90X and I’m loving it. I can’t let a day go by without doing the workout or I risk becoming very grumpy, it’s become that much of a habit. I even restructure my entire work day around making sure I can get it done during a peak energy time in my daily rhythms.
I’ve got just a little more than one month to go to complete the first run of the program. I’m eating healthier, drinking green drinks (my other “Tony” mentor had something to say about this), making raw vege smoothies with an organic brown rice based protein so I don’t have to mix dairy (I use oat milk). I haven’t become religious about food, nor do I force feed myself extra protein. I eat regularly, take a multi-vitamin as I’ve done for years and cover my basis, but I haven’t become a supplement junky, nor am I a slave to my diet.
The results so far have been encouraging. Of course I have more energy and strength, and I’ve even gained some weight – about three kilograms in two months so far, which is very pleasing. Being intimately aware of my own body as we all are, I can see the changes, though most people wouldn’t notice (two friends have – thanks guys!). I’m very happy with the progress so far – I’ll take one kilo of muscle gain a month as a great result any day especially compared to my previous results. However I’m more pleased that I’ve been able to do it day in and day out, that’s the real challenge and where most people fail to get the job done.
The really surprising thing is that I became aware of another limiting belief I’ve had for a very long time that P90X helped me smash through.
Many years ago because of having to “defend” myself for being skinny, or being able to eat so much while my other friends gain fat if they do the same, and because of what I had learned about weight gain for people with my “condition”, I simply assumed it was just how things were. I am a hard gainer and I’d have to do unreasonable things to beat it.
It never occurred to me that if I just did certain exercises long enough and often enough that I might actually get a result. If I stuck to a program that worked my body every day that things might actually change. I didn’t think beyond my past results and assumed them to be true because of something largely out of my control – my genetics.
And talk about a bad label – HARD GAIN – that doesn’t sound like fun. Simply using those words was stopping me!
It is strange that I didn’t believe consistency and persistency would make a difference given I teach exactly that when it comes to blogging or building a business. I just never connected the dots with my body and had a belief that was set in stone. I adapted using my mindset, so I wasn’t suffering any more from negative self image as I did when younger, but that hadn’t changed the fact that I still believed certain things about myself that I hadn’t really ever tested properly to prove true.
The new belief is yes, it’s true I have the body build I do, but if I work my body often enough it changes. All it takes is focus on a daily basis, not haphazard effort now and then.
If I believe I’m a hard gainer, then I am, so I decide to do nothing. If I believe that effort produces change, and I focus on completing and enjoying the tasks, not the specific results, then I win and I can change. I give myself the chance by believing in something that I know I can do – I can complete the activities and improve over time. If I focus only on the result then it’s too easy for me to defeat myself before I even start.
That last point in the previous paragraph is really important.
The great thing about mindset is at any point you can simply decide to change it. If I had begun a weight training program specifically to gain weight in a certain time frame and I came from a place of low self esteem about my weight, it would be much easier to “defeat myself” long before I finished because I had weak self belief. If I saw no results or received negative feedback or simply thought badly I would very easily give up and just leave my limiting belief in place.
This is something I did countless times growing up – and it goes way beyond just building muscles. It’s possible to defeat yourself every day if you think negatively and reinforce negative belief patterns, and for a while that was my mindset.
I had to first adjust my self image and be happy with myself regardless of the circumstances – and this is something anyone can do anytime no matter what situation you are in – which gave me a healthy base from which to build on. I could deal with whatever results came my way. Anything positive becomes worth celebrating and spurs you on tremendously. Anything negative is quickly ignored and focus returned to getting the job done.
I’m sure you can see the parrallels if you take this idea beyond body health. Apply this to any aspect of your life and you will benefit.
If you don’t believe your blog or business will take off, it won’t. If you are so tightly focused on achieving a specific result within a certain time frame that you don’t enjoy what you are doing to get there, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Every situation and person is unique. Comparing yourself to others is valuable when you use it as constructive motivation, but if it becomes a tool you use to measure yourself and all you see is failure, you’re making it very hard to succeed. Your negative emotions will stunt your ability to perform and thus will enforce more negativity. You will see failure and that will manifest more failure, in your eyes at least.
Your power comes from choice. You decide to perceive your reality how you want to, so choose the reality in every given moment that gives you what you want. In almost all situations you want to feel happy – positive emotions – or perhaps love. You can choose that all the time if you want to.
If you want to change something about yourself, figure out possible options, decide which you will test first, and then get busy. Do it because you want to prove to yourself that you can do it. Judge only when you have tested completely and then decide if you have what you want or you need to test something different.
At the start of this article I mentioned two Tonys but I’ve only talked about Tony Horton.
In my next article I’ll reveal the other Tony and how I am benefiting from his coaching.
Now I have to go and do a legs and back P90X routine. There’s nothing like talking about something publicly on a blog to give you even more accountability. I need to get busy.
And by the way, if you are thinking of improving your health, losing weight and gaining muscle, P90X is a good choice. It’s by no means “easy” – I still can’t keep up with the guys and girls on the DVD, but I’m getting closer every workout. At the moment it definitely seems to be the bloggers choice for exercise, so why not join the crowd? Here’s the link…
If you do decide to start P90X please follow me on Twitter as I often tweet what I am eating and when I do exercises and I’d love to hear what you get up to. Knowing you are working too helps motivate me, and hopefully vice versa.
My Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/yarostarak