Starting P90x? Don’t Tell Anyone!

I’d like to introduce you guys to one of the most influential articles I have ever read. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but I’ll summarize. Basically a research study in 2009 showed that

According to the article, the reason for this is that we make major changes in our lives for two reasons:

1) because of the person we want to be (internal motivation) and

2) because of the person we want others to think we are (external motivation).

The theory is that the moment we tell someone else about our goal, we feel like they already think of us as having achieved it, and thus we already gain a major part of the benefit of #2. Then suddenly the external motivation is gone. We’ve already received the external payoff of telling other people about it. So now we’re only left with internal motivation, along with our feelings of guilt or duty to the person we told.

I have seen this dynamic at play in my life REPEATEDLY, in the smallest day-to-day interactions. I know it would make my hubby happy if I did laundry for him, so I tell him I’ll do his laundry today, and he thanks me in advance. Suddenly some of my motivation is gone, and now instead of doing the laundry in anticipation of pleasing him (as I would have if I hadn’t told him I would), I spend the day with oppressive, nagging guilt that I need to keep my word to him. It seems harder to actually make myself do it – many times I don’t. And then when I do it, it isn’t as fun for either of us, because I’m only doing what I already said I’d do, right? And I’m not even talking about a major identity goal here, or a major change in my life, we’re just talking about a mundane chore!

This, of course, is very applicable to P90x. For a lot of you, this fitness program represents a major change in your lifestyle. You have an image in your mind of the person you want to be at the end of the program – an identity goal. As long as you are doing the program in secret so that only you (and your immediate family and/or workout partner) know about it, you are doing it for yourself, and you have that identity goal ahead of you as a motivator. You can’t wait for people to notice how much better you look. You imagine how impressed they’ll be when they learn of your dedication and the rigors of the program.

You’re so excited about it, in fact, that you want to shout it from the rooftops that you are doing this crazy P90x program, even though you’re only at week 2 and aren’t seeing many results yet. DON’T DO IT. Sure, brag about it after it’s done. Once you have achieved that identity goal, have pressed play diligently and are 90 days closer to the goal of becoming a fit and healthy person, feel free to let everyone know how you got there and get that pat on the back. But in the meantime, put the psychology of goal-setting to work for you: until you ARE that person, keep P90x to yourself!


Skip to comment form

  1. KB

    CJ, Love the site, amazing labor of love. Thank you! I know this is not related to this section, but I am going to post here. (I have not told anyone I am specifically on P90X.)
    Ok, so I started this week. So far so good except, I am having trouble with some parts of the workout. Especially those exercises involving the core because I have had a few abdominal surgeries. Cut to the chase: anyone start with P90? How does it compare? What about the meal plan with P90? Do you think I should try that version instead? For example, I could only do about half of the Core Synergistics…thanks.

    1. Heather

      KB, keep doing it. I started the P90X with my boyfriend and we couldn’t be more different. He’s lean and I’m curvy. I’ve always been more cardio fit than he, but he can beat me strength wise any day. We’re on Phase 2 and there are still exercises that I struggle with but every time I do one more pushup, or one more rep or pick up a heavier weight, or do more core work, I’m thrilled. I have started skipping the AB Ripper X because most of those exercises hurt my neck. But I do the Core Synergistics and only stop when I feel my neck starting to strain. Don’t worry about it being hard. It’s going to be. Don’t worry about not doing everything they do. You won’t. But every day you will be able to do a little more, and it will get a little easier. Do what Tony says, Do your best and forget the rest. 🙂

  2. Josephine

    I totally agree!! Thanks for publishing this, now i know what exactly the problem is!!! 😉

  3. Beth

    Hi CJ! I am happy to have found this site! I have only been researching into P90X just today but reading some blogging here has helped some. One thing I just read above though was from Jason about working crazy hours. I work two jobs also and know for a fact that it will not be realistic to follow this exactly with food and workouts. So I was just thinking, for myself at least, maybe it’s a good idea to try the change of food for a week or so BEFORE also trying the workout. One change at a time might be easier for some beginners to get into the groove of making such drastic changes in their life – as this program seems to be leading in that direction.

    I am not in the best of shape myself and have just recently started training to be part of a relay team in the Pittsburgh marathon. My diet is not close to where I want it to be either. So I think, for me, just trying to get used to their suggested meal plans for a week or two might be all the change I can handle at one time! hahaha!

    Keep up the good work! I can’t wait to share this site with some co-workers!!

    1. CJ =)

      Hey Beth!
      Thanks for your comment. You’re so right – I’ve had lots of people email and comment about how they work difficult hours, or travel, and are not going to be able to do the plan as written. Your idea about getting used to the diet before jumping in with the exercise is a good one. Along the same lines, I’ve gotten a few comments from people that are either planning to start P90x or are in between rounds, and have decided just to eat recipes off of this site without keeping track of the portions, then they start tracking their portions once they start the program. Either would be a great way to ease into it.

      I also want to encourage you and anyone else that is concerned about not being able to do the exercises exactly on schedule. When I was researching P90x the first time, I read a before/after testimonial on the Beachbody forums titled “It took me 179 days, but I did it!” This guy had various reasons that he couldn’t do the program exactly, but what he did was worked his way through the 90 days whenever he could. If there was a day he couldn’t exercise, he’d just do that exercise the next day as if nothing had happened. I thought this was a great example of the fact that, more important than the 90 days, is just DOING IT. Just pressing play, and not letting anything stop you. Is there any way that doing 90 hour-long extreme workouts is not going to change your body for the better, even if it takes a bit longer than 90 days to complete them? Not likely.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment! So glad the site is helpful to you so far!
      – CJ =)

  4. Georgina

    Hi CJ,

    This is a great site, well done and thank you for putting so much into it! I’m sure it’s enjoyable to do too.

    I haven’t started just yet, I’m anxiously awaiting my DVDs to arrive so that I can get started, but have been contemplating the topic of to tell or not to tell.

    I thought this was a great article, it definitely makes sense that it removes one element of the motivation, but the point about being held accountable is also really valid and I can see that once you’ve promised it to others, you don’t want to add failure to their impressions of you. But at the end of the day, I firmly believe that we are ultimately doing this for ourselves and no one else. That impressed look from other people fuels our own sense of feeling good.

    Your point about knowing your own personality is so true, and I want to add another dimension and that is knowing the personalities of the people around you also. Unfortunately any times I have told my best friend about any intentions to change my approach she immediately wants us to go out for pizza and tells me it’s all in my head and I should embrace my ‘curves’. I’m not overweight as such but carrying about five kgs more than I need to, and quite frankly I like to look at toned bodies at the beach and accordingly am aiming to give my fellow beachgoers the same consideration, but for me more than for them. If I stopped she’d be like ‘oh well it was silly to do it anyway’. My super lean trainer for my aerial sports on the other hand when I told her was super supportive and I can see that if I lack motivation one day she would be saying, “don’t worry just do half of the workout if you don’t feel like it”.

    And so I have decided to be selective about who I tell. My partner as I want him to prompt me to push play. My trainer as I suspect she’ll act as a quasi coach. But no friends, as I don’t want them pressuring me about drinking soda water instead of champagne due to ‘some silly program’. Let them just see the results and go wow! Or not.


    1. CJ =)

      Hey Georgina!
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. That is a great point. We have to really think about how the people we tell will react when we tell them, and whether they will aid or hinder us in our attempt to stick with it!
      It is great that you are putting so much thought into this. The more prepared you are for all of the aspects of the program – the food, the exercise, and the motivation – the better you are going to do. =)
      – CJ =)

  5. Jason

    I’m curious how hard the nutrition plan is to follow. I work a LOT of hours and crazy hours too so is there a way to save time on the cooking??

    1. CJ =)

      Hi Jason!
      How hard the P90x nutrition plan will be for you to follow is rather dependent upon how much work you currently put into your food now. If you are like my hubby and me before P90x and almost never cook a meal, put basically zero effort into planning, and eat out almost every meal, then abiding by the nutrition plan will be a challenge at first. It takes a certain amount of effort and commitment to keep your fridge stocked, plan, cook, and keep track of meals. However, the good news is that once you are a couple of weeks into the program, it starts to become second nature. You start realizing what you like and what works for you, and you kind of get into a groove.

      So my advice would be to just go for it. Make the commitment to the nutrition plan as well as the exercise. You’ll need to plan ahead and take meals with you, but you’ll get used to it.

      Some tips:
      – Go with the portion approach NOT the meal plan approach. The portion approach is much easier to adapt to your own needs and schedule.
      – Try cooking in bulk on the weekends and freezing for reheating during the week.
      – Check out my article about P90x nutrition while traveling – some of the ideas there are applicable for folks with odd work schedules too.
      Keep track of your portions.

      I hope some of this helps!
      – CJ =)

  6. april

    I agree with lindsey. I feel the same way she does. If I tell people I’m doing this they keep me motivated by saying… you go girl or keep up the hard work. So that motivates me to keep pushing play. And if I tell people I can’t quit because I told them I was doing it and id feel like a fool lying to them. In the past I never told anyone because I was embarrassed about it and I never completed more than like 2 days. So this time I’m telling people. 🙂

  7. Maria

    Hi CJ,
    I totally agree with you!

  8. Lindsey

    i kind of disagree. (sorry! lol) I DO agree with you about the laundry part…it do that kind of stuff all the time (laundry, cleaning, mowing, going to pick up something for someone). I wasnt going to tell anyone that I was doing P90X BUT when i tell friends and family how many lbs or inches i’ve lost they all tell me how awesome it is or how proud of me they are. And it feels good and keeps me motivated. Also, i figured…if i dont tell anyone and i dont finish it, no one will ever know. If i DO tell everyone and I dont finish, i’ll look like a jack@$$. Therefore, I have to push myself to finish it because everyone will know i quit if i dont show some results.

    1. CJ =)

      Oooh, that’s a good point Lindsey! The accountability aspect of it is important, too. I guess it is a matter of knowing your own personality and how you will react to others knowing about your goal. If in the past you have lost motivation after telling people major goals, maybe you should keep P90x your “special secret.” If you have become more motivated to do it when others knew about it and were complimenting you, perhaps you should tell them in order to gain the “jack@$$ avoidance effect!” lol. Another way to do it might be to keep it a secret unless someone asks you about why you are looking better, which would be similar to rewarding yourself for the actual achievement. But then again, that kind of reinforcement might not come until later in the program, when you are experiencing more visible changes. People might not notice inches right away. Another option might be to only tell one or two “cheerleaders” or workout partners, so that you are getting that periodic reinforcement, but keep the rest a secret until you start getting actual comments from people.
      Wow, interesting, Lindsey! Thanks for your comment! =)
      Anybody else have an opinion?
      – CJ =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>