For wonks, stars and average Joes, Tony Horton is 'the man' with the workout plan

The counterintuitive success of Horton's grueling P90X exercise program is winning toned-up converts -- even on the Hill.
By Monica Hesse
Friday, April 30, 2010

There are push-ups and then there are Tony Horton's push-ups, which might involve medicine balls, might involve balance balls, might involve scuttling from sphinx pose to plank pose then back again, summoning your muscular reserves as if they were flagging troops in battle. There are enough push-ups for every day of the week, month of the year, dead character on "Lost"; there are push-ups that go fast, go slow and one that goes literally up the wall, as Horton walks his feet toward the sky while keeping his arms in push-up position.

"There was one," Horton says, "that I called the Impossible Push-Up." The Impossible Push-Up looked like this: Position each hand on a basketball. Position feet on a balance ball. Push up. "When I first invented it, I couldn't do a single one. But now," he says, spreading out his hands as if envisioning a title on a marquee, "I call it the Possible."

Tony Horton is intimately familiar to those who spend too much time watching television at odd hours of the night, surfing fitness infomercials while eating Doritos and thinking, Man, I need to do something about this flab. There they have seen Horton's fitness system, P90X, which he sells with a mix of charisma, charm and chiseled man-pecs.

Horton was in Washington recently to whip into shape congressmen in their private gym.

"It's probably the most bipartisan thing we do in this place," jokes Kevin McCarthy in a phone interview. McCarthy is a Republican congressman from California who participated in Horton's private workout along with about 20 other lawmakers. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) are also reportedly members of the Tony tribe, which hovers around a dozen.

"Even during [the] health-care [debate]," McCarthy says, many would come together for a morning workout.

When McCarthy can't make it to the congressional gym, he travels with his own set of DVDs. "I keep [P90X] in my suitcase wherever I go," he says. "Then [the hotel staff] knocks on my door and says I'm being too loud."

The P90X charge was led by Ryan, who learned about it from a Navy SEAL buddy. "I asked him, 'How on earth do you stay in shape and hang with those younger guys?' [He] said P90X."

While in Washington, Horton also swung by the Results on G Street SE to lead a workout for about 140 average blokes.

"When I first started the leg workouts," says Results workout attendee David Shahoulian, a Hill staffer who has been doing the X for a few months. "It made me want to puke at the middle."

One woman here has flown in from New York just for Tony; she's lost 73 pounds on the DVDs and speaks beatifically of P90X's signature muscle confusion exercise theory, the way the converted are prone to do.

At Results, Horton finishes up one workout while the next class waits outside. A beefy guy with a wrestler build stops a woman who has just left the first session. "How bad was it?" he whimpers. "Seriously, how bad?"

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