Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

Zen and the Art of P90X

Lately I’ve been grappling with the inherent dissonance between this 90-day, “transform your body, be in the best shape of your life!”exercise regimen, and the Buddhist teachings I’ve been delving into. On the one hand, the transformation of one’s body fits in perfectly with Zen precepts: we are every day, every moment, a new being; nothing is fixed. Change is an essential component of life. Just months ago I was resigned to the slow creep of poundage, reconciled with my two tweaky knees and bad back, ready for an existence of loose cardigans and baggy jeans. Now, I’m jumping, I’m pumping; I am, if not close to the best shape of my life, near to the best looking shape of my life. What better example for the impermanence of our existence?

Except that it’s all a lie.

Sure, I’m happy to observe the process of change, the “fluidity” of the natural world, but only if it’s going in one direction. I’m not so sanguine about it flowing back the other way. And what is all this working out for, anyway? I’m not doing it to “shoot hoops” better, or “hit the slopes” or “round the bases” or “grease the pig” (is that even a thing? I’m so far out of my wheelhouse). No, whatever muscles I will attain during these 90 days are purely show muscles. For what? Am I trying to regain a younger ideal, to push back time? Am I attempting, ultimately, to stave off death? That’s a losing proposition. We are, Buddhists also say, every day dying (thanks, Buddhists). Buddhists believe that we suffer in this life because we are ruled by our attachments: attachments to emotions, to things, to our perceptions. And with my daily workouts I’m becoming mighty attached to an image I have of myself, and I’m already fretting about being able to sustain that image. I want to stay like this all the time. So much for impermanence. 

The trick, I believe, is to enjoy the process. To observe the changes that are occurring, to enjoy them, but to refrain from placing too much value on them. The state of my body does not define who I am, it is merely one manifestation of who I am. I must realize that, inevitably, my body will not stay the same—

Wait a minute: are those lat muscles I see poking up under my arm? 

Forget what I said. Must go do more pull-ups.

We’re back to pull-ups (or, in my case, band work) alternating with various forms of bicep curls. Grueling, but aesthetically very satisfying.
Chewing gum, I swear!

Participants: Oh, this is a chatty, almost giddy group. Everyone here reminds me of someone: Katie looks like Chloe from “24” and sounds like Jenna Fischer from “The Office;” Bobby is a shaggier version of Jon Hamm, and perhaps a gayer version too (I have no concrete evidence, just a radar bleep, plus the fact that he exclaimed, “Oh my!” twice in one minute). Timmy, diminutive, former marine Timmy, kinda looks like a ripped hobbit from LOTR with a shirt like The Green Lantern shirt and a swagger like Tommy Mickens in “True Blood.” He’s chewing gum during the warm-up, for Christ’s sake!

Tony Horton Words of Wisdom: “Ya got tickets to the show?” (flexes arms) “The gun show.” Really, Tony? Really? 
Fist Bumps: 3 singles & 3 doubles. 
Straight Quotient: How many times can you ask if you’re “ready to rock and roll” before it all sounds a little too silly?
Gay Appeal: I could be wrong, maybe it’s my geek fantasy of buff hobbits coloring everything, but the homoerotic energy abounds in this video. Tony is teasing Bobby mercilessly, the way a handsome, unattainable straight man will tease a gay man appreciative of such attention. Every other sentence out of Tony’s mouth is rife with double entendres: “Whack it! Whack it!”; “Squeeze one out;” “I’m pulling on something—use your imagination.” Oh, I am. 
Shameless Shilling: Maybe he’s distracted by thoughts of towel-snapping in the showers later, but Tony barely gets in one plug for the Recovery drink at the very very end of the video. 
Tony’s Pot-Stirring Stretch Soup of the Day: Non-dairy Corn Chowder. 
August 4th, 2011 - Still Life Las Vegas

2 responses to “Zen and the Art of P90X”

  1. Denis O. says:

    AS a fellow P90X-er, hell, I think I helped push you into this – and an aspiring Buddhist, I appreciate your meditation on the body and degradation. And don't make fun of Tim – he's my favorite.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How's Doug liking the new you? We want pics!

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