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Do Your Best, Forget the Rest: An Interview With Tony Horton

Fitness guru Tony Horton has inspired and motivated millions of people to get and stay fit. In this interview, the creator of the P90X reveals his favorite Olympic sport, dishes on his cheat foods, and shares a 5-minute workout.
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Fitness guru Tony Horton has inspired and motivated millions of people to get and stay fit. In this interview, the creator of the P90X reveals his favorite Olympic sport, dishes on his cheat foods, and shares a 5-minute workout.

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Omega: If someone only has five minutes to work out each day, what do you recommend?

Tony: Ideally you want more time than that, but if you get down and dirty you can make a nice little sequence in five minutes.

Start with a set of push-ups, and then do some kind of core movement, like crunches or mason twists. Then go right to a leg movement -- a squat or lunge -- for 20 to 30 reps. Last but not least, do some cardio. Try martial arts, run in place, or do jumping jacks. If you rotate through these four things -- upper body, core, legs, and cardio -- you can get a lot done in five minutes.

Omega: Is it better to stick with the same exercise routine or change it up?

Tony: It's always nice to have some kind of variety in what you're doing. I think a lot of times people are stuck doing the elliptical, treadmill, or bike for 45 minutes to an hour every workout, but this is a repetitive, myopic, one-dimensional approach. It works your heart, lungs, and legs, which is good for your general health, but you want to do more than that.

The idea is to get healthy and fit so you're agile, strong, flexible, and pumping oxygen into your brain to release norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. All these things affect your memory, outlook, and sleep patterns. So whether you have five minutes or an hour, you want to rock 'n' roll with as much variety as possible.

Omega: What's the secret to motivating people to exercise regularly?

Tony: People that exercise regularly understand it has less to do with appearance, numbers on a scale, or dress size. Losing weight is a great short-term goal, but people who maintain and sustain understand that their entire quality of life is improved by exercise. They have the energy and enthusiasm to not just live their life but to go outside their comfort zone and try new athletic endeavors, like rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, or competing in 5Ks, 10Ks, or marathons.

Regular fitness creates a diametric shift in attitude about who you are and how you can impact others. It brings great joy and happiness to life. If you aren't afraid to struggle a little bit a few times a week, you develop a different perspective than people who don't. That's the nature of the work and the discipline.

Omega: Do you have cheat days? What do they look like?

Tony: I don't have fitness cheat days. I'll take a day off if I'm traveling or if I'm sore or injured, but I schedule workouts seven days a week with the hope that I'll at least workout five or six. I try to exercise 22 to 25 days a month.

When it comes to food, I cheat every once in a while. I'll have some pizza or I'll have some French fries. There are certain things I will never cheat on. I don't really eat dairy. I don't ever drink soda or alcohol. I eat bread once in a while, but have complex carbs more often than simple ones.

Omega: What do you find most effective for making lifestyle changes?

Tony: Strenuous exercising and eating whole foods is not fun for most people. It just isn't. We have to find a delivery system that makes it palatable for people. I happen to use humor -- I just say, "Do your best and forget the rest," and that works for a lot of people.

Omega: If you could compete in any Olympic sport, what would it be?

Tony: Gymnastics. I think what they do physically makes Cirque du Soleil look like playing tiddlywinks. When you look at the floor work and the rings and the high bar and the vault, it's physically amazing.

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