By Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY
Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan could run circles around most of us in the gym.
The Wisconsin congressman is an avid fitness buff whose toned, lean body is chiseled by P90X routines - among the toughest of workouts, health experts tell USA TODAY.
"It's really the higher end of programs," says Tim Church, director of preventive medicine at Lousiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. "It's good to see that he knows how to take care of himself, especially if there's a chance he could be president down the road."
Ryan, 42, is 6-foot-2, weighs 163 pounds and maintains his body fat between 6% to 8%, numbers that would make even super fit Olympians rejoice. He has said he is driven to stay in shape because his father and grandfather both died before they were 60 from heart attacks.
P90X, by Beachbody, is a 12-piece DVD set that has sold 3.5 million copies in the past seven years. Personal trainer Tony Horton designed the heart-pounding 90-day routine to help people regain their speed, power and balance as they age.
Ryan tellsPolitico he likes his P90X pre-dawn workouts in the congressional gym in Washington because they combine "muscle confusion" with cross-training, mixing in karate, yoga and plyometrics - fast movements using jumps.
P90X is a home fitness system that includes DVDs and a nutrition plan.
What's so different? P90X breaks from the routine of doing one aerobic activity for 30 minutes and building muscle by using weight machines. His workouts help build core and overall functional strength, rather than targeting just a few muscle groups. He also recommends a nutrition plan for shedding fat.
"Muscle confusion" is a Hortonism, but is not a unique idea. "Horton isn't the only one using that concept," says Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association. He notes that Horton is not an athletic trainer.
Muscle confusion means never letting your muscles get used to one routine. That way no weak spots develop, Thornton says. It's done by workouts in six areas: warm-ups, core, balance, speed and agility, plyometrics and strength and resistance training. The focus is multidirectional: diagonal to straight ahead and backwards. Every muscle and joint gets a turn.
"In other workouts, say if you do stair-climbing equipment for 30 minutes and then hit the weight machines, the body knows what's going to take place and plateaus. The only way to continue to get better is to change it up."
P90X is not for the faint of heart, says Church: "If you're a male in your 40s and haven't exercised since college, you could suffer an acute injury or even suffer a heart attack. It says in the small print to start slowly, but males never read that stuff."