A Check List To Hit The Ground Running With P90X

nextfewmonths_9397828228Getting ready to start a round of P90X? You’ve bought a copy of the program and opened up the box. Maybe you’ve flipped through the nutrition and fitness guide books. Now, you’re ready to get started, right? Not so fast. Here are a few things you may want to do before that first day of P90X. Even though I’m focusing here on P90X almost everything mentioned could apply to starting any exercise program.


Weigh: Because P90X is not designed to be a weight loss program you may not see tremendous weight loss, especially in the beginning. Many report not losing much if any weight until after the 60 day mark. However, if you have a weight loss goal, weigh yourself and record your weight. Come day 90 you might be very pleasantly surprised.

Measure: You will also want to take some measurements. While people report not losing weight in the first two phases, they do report losing inches. There is a list in the guide book of which measurements to take, but I have my own list.

  1. Chest (bra band line for the women)
  2. Waist (the skinniest part of your mid section)
  3. Ab (about 1″ below the belly button)
  4. Hip (the widest part around your butt)
  5. Arm (the widest area of one upper arm below the delt)
  6. Leg (widest part of one upper thigh)

These are the areas where I was most interested in seeing change. You may decide to replace things or add to the list. It’s up to you.

Body fat %: I also measure my body fat. I have a hand held Omron body fat measuring device. They things aren’t incredibly accurate, but I feel it’s close enough. More importantly, it reflects changes in body fat and that’s really what I want to know. So, maybe the actual percentage isn’t dead on, but if it says I’m 2% down from last time, it’s a fair indicator that I’ve lost body fat. I’ve always found that it’s measurement is confirmed by changes in body measurements. This is certainly optional, but if you have an easily accessible means for measuring body fat it’s another good non-scale metric to have.


Take some photos! You may not be psyched to do this, but you will be glad you did. There’s a YouTube video that describes the poses you should do. I have my own list.

  • Front view with arms at sides.
  • Front view with biceps flex arms.
  • Side view with arms down.
  • Side view with feet at a 45 degree angle to the camera, shoulders twist toward the camera, hands on hips.
  • Back view with arms down.
  • Back view with arms in bicep flex position.

I wear exactly the same thing every time. I stand in the same spot every time. I try to make everything as consistent as possible from one photo session to the next so that it’s easier to see any changes in my physique.


P90X nutrition guide: The P90X diet definitely requires some planning. You’ll need to put together a grocery list. If you do use the portion approach then you’ll need to sit down an plan out your own meals to make sure you get all the right food types and the right amount of calories. I have created sample menus for a day in each of the three phases (phase 1, phase 2, phase 3).

Doing your own thing: If you really know what you’re doing with nutrition then you could follow your own meal plan. Now, when I do P90X that’s what I do, but in the beginning I followed the plan that came with the program. People often think they’re eating better than they are. This can really sabotage your results. If there’s any doubt in your mind, then follow their plan. You’ll get the best results and you’ll learn a ton. If you really do have the know how to set your own meal plan then you may still want to make a grocery list to make sure your kitchen is stocked and do the following…

Prepare your kitchen: There are those who eat clean all or most of the time. Then there is the rest of us. Preparing for a round of P90X is a good time to clean out the kitchen. Get rid of any junk and make room for the bounty of fruits, veggies, lean proteins and other healthy goodies. Also, you’ll be doing some cooking for the next 90 days (and hopefully beyond). Think about what you’ll need to prepare your meals. Do you have all the pots and pans you need? How about measuring cups and spoons? A food scale?

Pre-program diet: I also think it’s important to consider what you’re eating and drinking in the day or two before you start. There’s no easing into it with P90X. You hit it hard from day one with the Chest & Back workout (+ the ab workout after that!). If you eat a bunch of junk and drink alcohol the day or two before, you won’t perform well and the workout will fee much harder than it already is. You don’t have to go totally clean with your diet yet, but keep it under control. Consider “how is consuming this [food, beverage] now going to affect me tomorrow?

Space and Gear

Space: You can do most of the workouts in a fairly small amount of space, but you need to scope out where that space is for you. You can actually do a lot of P90X in the gym if that makes sense for you (check out this post) or you’ll need to find space in your home. There should be enough room for lunges (the length of two walking lunges is ideal), push-ups and the like. You’ll need a place to put a pull-up bar or to anchor your bands. Ideally you want to be near your TV. The Plyo X workout is definitely the biggest space hog of the bunch. However, if your space is very small you can always modify and make it work.

Equipment: I have a whole post on this (here), but here’s a quick list… TV and DVD player, yoga mat, a few sets of dumbbells or resistance bands, a pull-up bar or a heavy resistance band and way to anchor it overhead, and a chair (a folding chair works great for P90X).

Clothes and Shoes: You must have a decent pair of shoes. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Find a decent pair of cross trainers. Make sure they fit you properly and provide the support you need. Plyo X in particular is high impact. While you can modify at first, eventually you’re going to want shoes you can jump in. Wear clothes you can move in. All the better if the clothes move with you. If you can swing it, it’s nice to have some clothes specifically designed for working out. TJMaxx and Marshall’s are awesome for getting great name brand workout clothes for cheap. The ads are true! 🙂 Besides, getting new workout clothes can be really motivating.

Wrap Up

This might seem like a lot, but if this is your first structured program and/or your first program of this intensity level then some preparation before day one can really help you have a good start. There’s a lot to be said for learning as you go. So, no matter how well you prepare you’re going to encounter things that you didn’t expect. You’ll learn all sort of tips and tricks along the way that make it all work a little more smoothly for you.

I also want to note that this list is by no means exhaustive. For example, the fit test is something I did before my first day of my very first round of P90X and haven’t done since. However, if tracking your progress this way is appealing to you then you might want to do it on a regular basis. You can find it in the fitness guide. Another example, something a lot of people do that I don’t include in my routine, is a recovery drink. You can find more about it in the nutrition guide.

The things discussed here are what I routinely do to prepare because they are the things I have found most valuable, not just in practical terms but also in terms of mental preparation or “getting my mind right” as Tony would say. This is my personal addition to the P90X guide books, but everyone is different and so it truly is a guide. There are few hard and fast rules. I think it’s good to take in the information and then find your own way as you go. The more you make it your own, the more you’ll own it and the more likely you’ll be to stick with it. Have a great round!

photo credit: Arya Ziai via photopin cc

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1 Response

  1. Laura says:

    Thanks! I’m starting a round on Monday. This is just what I needed.

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