Welcome to part 1 of the 9-part Tony Horton interview. I was lucky to get to spend 45 minutes on the phone with Tony, and it was inspiring…let’s start with the Evolution of Tony Horton…
Craig Ballantyne: Hey, everyone. This is Craig Ballantyne, and I am here with Tony Horton. You guys must know who Tony is. He is on TV all the time with his P90, P90X programs.
I’m gonna let Tony explain a little bit more about his background – you know, he’s a trainer to the stars and all that sort of stuff – and the first programs that he put available on TV and the most popular programs that he has. And then we’re gonna go into asking him about his ideas on exercise and, most importantly, motivation and inspiration to keep you guys going.
So Tony, welcome to the call, and tell us a bit about yourself.
Tony Horton: Hey, Craig. My pleasure, my friend. I’m really excited to share what I know with your crew. And I started out, I guess, about 25 years ago. I came out to Los Angeles from the East Coast; I grew up in Connecticut and Rhode Island. And I came to California to be an actor. I thought I was gonna be Brad Pitt and Jim Carey wrapped in one, which did not turn out.
But I actually had a much better situation when I started really learning about the effects of exercise and how that changed my life and how I could share that with more people – and learning early on that true fitness and true health doesn’t come through a pill, a potion, or processed food. It comes from hard work and consistent work. And it comes from a good diet.
And so at first it was all about weightlifting, for me.
I was just about going to the gym and doing chest for an hour and a half and then getting on the bike for 45 minutes. And that was pretty much my routine, but that was certainly much better than what a lot of folks were doing that I knew at that point. They were not exercising at the rate that I did.
I was doing it, back in those days, purely because I thought it was gonna help me be a better actor. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t like to go to bars or clubs, so it was a chance for me to meet people and be social without having to be in a smoky, alcohol-ridden environment.
And then over the course of time, I got very lucky.
I started my training business, and I met – my first client was – celebrity client was Tom Petty, and then from Tom Petty it went to Billy Idol and Annie Lennox and Stephen Stills and Shirley MacLaine and Sean Connery and Rob Lowe and Chad Lowe. And the list goes on: Annie Lennox – I think I said Annie, but also Allison Janney – she was on West Wing for a while – and Usher and Ewan McGregor. So I had a nice ride, there.
And I had a nice little training business just training people one on one, but the thing is there’s only so many hours in the day, so you’re getting up at 5:00 and training people till 9:00 at night, barely having enough time to eat right. I’m eating CLIF bars and PowerBars in the car, from client to client.
But fortunately I had some camera time, as well, so I was getting my chops in front of a camera, along with building my fitness business – and at the same time, still acting here and there, little parts in movies, not – nothing really tremendous to talk about.
But – and then I started working for NordicTrack.
And so NordicTrack, when I was – I was their spokesperson for a short while. So I was able to sort of incorporate my fitness knowledge with my on-camera knowledge. And so that was kind of rare, ’cause there was a lot of people who could go on camera but didn’t know much about exercise and fitness and sports psychology and those types of things. And I did, so I walked the talk. And that helped.
And then I met Carl Daikeler about 11 years ago, and that’s when Beachbody got started, and we did Power 90 and then P90X, and now we’re the biggest fitness company in the country. Holy cow.
Craig Ballantyne: Yeah. Very cool. Hey, why – sorry, when did your training philosophy change? You said when you started out, it was the classic bodybuilder type stuff. Was it an evolution, or was there any kind of major changes, instances that you can tell us about that really twisted your philosophy about training?
Tony Horton: Well, I think initially I was very skeptical of things outside of what I was used to. I think that’s very common with a lot of people. That’s why you see a lot of folks that are just runners; they’re just – just do Pilates classes or just do yoga or just do weightlifting. Some will do – just do gymnastics. Even though it – I think all those are great exercises, but I always was very curious about other types of physical movement outside of what I was doing.
And it seemed that, nine times out of ten, every time I tried something different, it – there were new benefits.
When I first took Pilates, it was really hard, and I thought, “Well, why is this hard? You know, I’m physically fit, but why am I having a tough time with this?” So I started incorporating basic Pilates – not a full-bore Pilates schedule.
Same thing with yoga. I mean, I went to yoga, and I had my butt kicked. And I thought, “Man, oh man. I see the – ” I saw the benefits on day one. I mean, I put it off for five years, ’cause I thought it was sitting in lotus and doing “oms” for an hour. But I discovered that there’s dozens and dozens of different types of yoga. And I found the two or three that I really liked, things that were really beneficial for me. And the same thing came with Plyometrics and interval training and speed drills and cross training and mixing them all together.
I mean, that’s basically what P90X is.
It’s just a combination of all the things I’ve learned over the course – over the last 25 years: things that have worked for me, things that have worked for my clients. And so when you’re hired by a big rock star or a movie star to get them ready for a tour or a movie, you wanna make sure that whatever you’re doing is unique and stands out and is very effective in a short period of time, ’cause a lot of times actors and rock stars have limited time and tight schedules.
So my philosophy was a – we call it “muscle confusion” now, but it was really a combination of different exercises that provided onset muscle soreness without joint pain and the ability to come back day after day after day, five to six days a week, really hard, without hammering people and getting them hurt and getting them injured. So that’s how I got started.
Stay tuned for the rest of the interview where Tony will talk about cardio, diet, and the folks who have lost over 100 pounds with P90X.