Loud. Zany. Totally nuts. Say what you will about Anthony Sawyer Horton, Jr., the dude has whipped a helluva lotta people into shape. According to forbes.com, his P90X series has sold more than 4.5 million copies, making it the top moneymaker for parent company Beachbody, which grosses over $700 million a year. Celeb disciples range from P!nk to Paul Ryan. And with a slick new edition, P90X3, and a new book, The Big Picture: 11 Laws That Will Change Your Life, Horton is poised to tighten the bodies and brighten the minds of even more sweat-soaked strivers. As he led a yoga retreat in Jackson Hole, we stole time with the ageless dynamo to talk fitness, philosophy and… organic elk shakes.
P90X3 launched a few months ago with an emphasis on 30-minute workouts. What was the thinking behind that approach?
A lot of people are stuck in an antiquated fitness mode and assume you’ve got to spend all kinds of time at the gym. In reality, if you come up with the right combination of exercises and sequences involving the entire body, you’re not necessarily going to build your chest really big or make giant arms, but you will get super fit and strong and flexible and improve your endurance, and you won’t have to spend forever in a gym to do it. That was the philosophy here—to make the routines and exercises fast and furious. We launched in December and our test group had phenomenal results: 39 out of 40 lost 10 points in body fat. Guys with giant bellies have six packs now.
“You can have the best trainer, you can work out seven days a week, you can be drinking green weight-loss shakes until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re a stressed-out mess, you’re still going to die before everybody else. You could be drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes and be a happy son of a gun and you’ll probably live until 103.”
How do you see the way we work out changing over the next, say, 10 or 20 years?
My hope and my dream would be that more and more people understand that to truly change their lives, they need to step outside their comfort zone more. The guys need to start doing yoga and Pilates and the gals got to start lifting some weights. It’s funny, I’ll meet people and they’ll say, “Oh, wow, you’re smaller than I thought you were going to be.” First of all, why would you say that to my face? Kidding aside, my focus in the future is working on speed, balance and range of motion because if you do those three things you stay very, very youthful. Strength and cardiovascular endurance are important, too, but working on your weaknesses truly is the best way to go.
What exercise should every man stop doing right now?
I don’t know if it’s any particular exercise—it’s the way a lot of us do almost any exercise. Form and function are everything. If you look at a clean and snatch move that you see people doing in CrossFit, you just think, ‘Wow you are so flipping vulnerable in a hundred ways there.’ But if your form is good and your weight is right, it can be an amazingly effective exercise that can make you very strong, durable and powerful.
Do you think the first man who will live to be 150 years old has already been born?
I think so. There are people out there who are 110, 113. It takes a really interesting combination to be able to get there. Obviously, you have to be fit as a fiddle. You’ve got to eat really well. Your stress levels have got to be at an absolute minimum. The people that are truly joyous and happy and purposeful, that’s got to be it. With supplementation and other things, yeah, I think that person’s out there. I hope to get to about a hundred, that would be nice. I always say 109 is my number.
That’s your goal?
I don’t know why I went 109, but at 109, yeah, I’m done. You know what I mean? You know, at 109 I’ll probably look like I’m 87.
Green juice and juice fasts are really hot right now. What’s your feeling about those trends?
The operative word is “trend.” Will it be popular in five years? Probably organic elk shakes will be popular in eight years. I stick with the basics. I mean, I’m 55. I’ve got nine percent body fat. I can ski top to bottom pretty well. I’m pretty flexible. I sleep like a rock. And none of those things used to happen to me, but because I exercise five to seven days a week and eat really well and I’m not stressed out, I’m OK. You can have the best trainer, you can work out seven days a week, you can be drinking green weight-loss shakes until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re a stressed-out mess, you’re still going to die before everybody else. You could be drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes and be a happy son of a gun and you’ll probably live until 103.
That’s good to hear.
I was vegan-vegetarian for 15 years, and then I wasn’t because it didn’t serve me anymore. Most people want to turn their diet plans into a religion, but it’s just food, man. So, if you’re eating this thing over and over and over and over again, but you can’t perform anymore and you’re not sleeping very well, your sex drive sucks, then you probably need some freaking bison or something, you know?
We have an “obesity epidemic” in America, but at the same time, there are guys like you bringing these awesome exercise programs to hundreds of thousands of people. There’s a disconnect. As a nation, are we getting fitter or fatter?
We’re doing both. Some of us are getting fitter and some of us are getting fatter and some of the folks that were getting fatter are starting to get fitter and I think that’s a good sign. We’re getting some help from the White House with the First Lady and her Let’s Move campaign. She’s had a great influence on a lot of people and I have worked with her a couple of times. I still think we’re 20 years away from seeing this crisis dissipate to the point where it’s not in the news much. But we’re heading in the right direction. It’s just a matter of whether more and more people want to educate themselves on what it takes to get there. That’s the reason I wrote The Big Picture.
Right. I was going to ask about that…
Well, you see how I segued there?
Yeah. That was very smooth, Tony. I’m not surprised.
I’m a smooth guy, bro. But yeah, The Big Picture gives people the right information so they can begin to rethink why they want to do what they want to do. Unless you’re a bodybuilder or a supermodel, the rest of us need to understand just the importance of being consistent and healthy for our families and begin to understand that it’s not about us really in the first place. It’s about how we function on this earth with everybody else so that once we have our act together, we can be an example to others who need our help.
I mean, that’s what happens when you exercise, you’re releasing epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin… there are these things inside your temporal lobe waiting for you to move your butt and when you move your butt you go ‘Oh, wow, sure I don’t look different 30 minutes to an hour later but I feel better, I’m more productive, my cognition and memory’s better, I’m a better father, sister, brother, employee, American…’ That’s the big picture.
You’re a hugely motivational guy. A lot of us listen to you and take your advice and benefit from it. I’m curious, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A lot of people are surprised to hear that I haven’t had a whole lot of mentors in my life. Everything was self-taught for me. One of the things I’ve learned is, it’s consistency more than anything, man. The more you do, the better you get. The other expression I have is, ‘Do your best, forget the rest.’ So the idea here is to show up and be bad and fall down and get up and do it again and again and again and again. I’ve met people that have lost 190 pounds doing P90X and they were terrible over and over and over again, week after week, month after month until all of a sudden they weren’t and it was only because they showed up six days a week.
I mean, I should be living in a van down by the river, but I’m not because I eat right and exercise and those two simple things without going to grad school allow you to become more productive. I can tell you a lot of guys with Ph.D.s, you know, in a one-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment with a view of a convalescent home, you know?
There’s an android app integrated with the new P90X. Is that something you see becoming more a part of fitness? What’s P90X10 going to look like?
Well, that is the future. It ultimately is. Hello. The nineties are over, man. It’s time to stream everything on your laptop, on your Kindle, on your iPad, on your phone. I mean, that’s where it’s going. People want to be mobile with their stuff. They want to have access to it right away. If they see an advertisement for it at noon, they want to be exercising at 12:05. They don’t want to wait for the mailman to deliver their stuff. As far as P90X10, I think it’s going to be naked capoeira. That’s where it’s heading…
—Photos by Tom Ivicevic from AFAA