P90X for Women: Expectations, Tips…and Results!

January 24, 2011


I’m not your average P90X devotee…young and male.  I’m a 52 year old, vegan, menopausal woman, and I finished one round of P90X AND lived to tell about it.  In fact, I’m about to start my second round.

If I can do it, you can do it!

I definitely learned a bunch of things during the intense 13 weeks of P90X and I’d love to share them with you!  I want to tell you what you can expect from P90X as a woman, and what you shouldn’t expect.  I also have some tips for you, and some ideas on the results you might get.  Let’s go!

Get Ripped in 90 Days


  • Expect to build muscle, and to increase your flexibility, strength, and endurance.
  • Expect to start seeing results as quickly as 2 weeks.  Expect to be proud of yourself and to be motivated by the results that you see.
  • Don’t expect to immediately lose a lot of weight, especially in the first 30 days or even up to 60 days.  You’re going to be building a lot of muscle and losing some fat too, but you may be building muscle at a faster rate than you’re losing fat.  Make sense?  We also know that muscle is heavier than fat, so the net effect may be zero weight loss for a while.  In fact, you might even gain a pound or more, but you just have to be patient.  Don’t freak out!  If you stick with the exercise program and eat properly, then you will build muscle and lose fat, but don’t expect to see an automatic gigantic weight loss immediately.
  • Expect to be sore, even weeks and weeks into the workout.  You may even be sore after every new workout.  That’s a good thing…your muscles are telling you that something is happening.  What they’re saying is that they’re confused and they’re changing!
  • Expect for this workout to be extremely tough; maybe the hardest thing you have ever done.  Tony Horton says P90X isn’t some “silly little class”, so expect it to kick your butt, because it will!
  • Expect for it to be difficult to push “PLAY on some days.  We all have days when we’re low on energy and/or low on motivation; that’s just part of being human.  Don’t let those days control you though.  Even if you don’t feel up to a super-duper tough workout, just start it.  Just start!  Chances are, you’ll pick up momentum as you go along, and you’ll get through the whole darn thing before you even have time to whine about it.
  • Expect to modify some of the exercises, especially if you have knee or back problems.  Side lunges, for example, are terrible for my knees, so I either do them very carefully or I skip them altogether if my knees are grumpy that day.  I also know that the yoga chair pose is something I can’t do at all because it kills my back.  Another modification I made is that I didn’t use the pull-up bar in my first round of P90X, but it wasn’t rest time for me when the folks in the video were doing pull-ups or chin-ups.  I did another upper body move that I felt worked those same muscles, so I still got a workout on that body part.
P90X Chinup Bar
Photo credit: aJ GAZMEN ? GucciBeaR's flickr photostream

  • Expect to struggle with push-ups. Don’t be surprised if you have to do “girl push-ups”, even all the way through.  There’s no shame in that!  As long as you’re doing your best, you’re going to see progress in what you can do and you will get results.  I personally have a really hard time with push-ups, and I pretty much hate the nasty little buggers, but I love what they do for my upper body so I keep pushing through!
  • Expect to be blown away by what some of the people can do on the DVDs. These folks are not all professionals, but they are SUPER FIT people!  You should not expect to be able to do everything they do!  Please hear me…do not expect to do everything they can do! It’s something to strive for, but don’t think you should quit if you can’t keep up with them.  You just do the best that you can each and every workout, and you’ll see improvement each time you do that workout. Their performance is something to work toward and not something to be discouraged about.
  • Don’t expect to be able to do exactly what the men do.  Men are built differently from women.  No matter how fit you are, it’s not going to be hormonally natural for you to build muscle as quickly as men do, or to be able to do all of the things that they do, especially when it involves upper body strength.  Don’t expect to be able to do all of the variations of push-ups, for example, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do the chin-ups and pull-ups.


  • Expect to be amazed at what YOU can actually do.  If you do more every day and keep pushing “PLAY”, you will be stunned at the results that you’ll get, and those results will start soon!  You’ll be proud of yourself, and will want to tell everyone you know about your program.
  • Expect to love some programs and to hate others, and to feel just ambivalent about many of them.  For me, the one that I absolutely hate is the favorite of lots of people, and that’s Kenpo.  For some reason, I just hate it, so I skip the Kenpo workout and substitute another on that day.  I might do cardio or yoga or legs and back, depending on what I feel like.  I don’t make the Kenpo day a rest day, I just do something else that I enjoy more.  I don’t think exercising has to be all rainbows and butterflies, but I also don’t think it has to be torture.  Be kind to yourself and make an adjustment if you need to.
  • Expect to want to quit. At some point, you may decide it’s just too hard.  This is absolutely the hardest workout that I have ever done.  I’ve done aerobic workouts, step workouts, Tao Bo, Jane Fonda, ballet workouts, Jillian Michaels, weight workouts; you name it and I’ve done it over the last 25 years, and this is by far the most challenging program that I have ever done.  Tony Horton makes Jillian Michaels look like a Girl Scout, and I thought her DVDs were pretty tough before I attempted P90X! So expect to want to quit.  It’s normal! But don’t give in to the temptation!

Once you get to that frustration point, I think that one motivational strategy is to concentrate on the body part that is your favorite and that people always compliment you on.  Realize that that you’re just making it better and fitter.  If that doesn’t spur you on, maybe negative psychology is more effective for you, as it is me.  I think about the body part that I am least happy with, and the fact that if I don’t work out today, that body part is going to look WORSE.  For me, legs are always my battle…trying to keep fat from accumulating on the stems. If I’m tempted to skip a workout I just think, guess what, your legs are going to look even worse than they already do if you wimp out.  It sounds negative – and it is – but it works for me.

  • Expect that you will want to talk with others about what you’re going through, what you’re experiencing, what your questions are, what your problems are, what your successes are.  There are lots of ways to do that:  the message boards on Beachbody.com, plus Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Expect to want to continue at the end of the 90 days; whether you want to do another round of P90X or to go on to do something else:  Insanity, TurboFire, P90X Plus, Brazil Butt Lift, whatever.  You’re going to want to do more once you see how strong you are, how good you feel, how much better your endurance is, how high your energy is, and how pumped up your confidence is about your body image!  There’s no way you’re going to want to sacrifice all of that and just go back to whatever your routine was before (or no routine at all).  So expect to continue!


  • Listen to what your body is telling youP90X is a serious workout.  If you’re trying to do something and your body says you’re hurting it, not just exerting it, then you need to stop and make sure that you don’t do that exercise again without evaluating what’s going on.
  • Know your body and what your limitations are.  If you’ve been working out for very long then you know the difference between STRAIN from a muscle that’s being worked really hard, and PAIN from an injury that is about to occur.  Don’t feel like you have to be SuperWoman, otherwise you’ll end up with an injury that may sideline you for weeks.  If you get hurt, you’ll be set back and you’ll be mad that you tried to be tough and push through when you should have stopped the moment your body warned you.
  • Start out with light weights, and don’t worry about being a wimp.  P90X Pink WeightsI started out using 3 pounds for triceps and 5 for biceps, and then just worked up from that.  I finished at 10 pounds for biceps and 8 for triceps, but occasionally I’d back off a bit on shoulders if I felt a little strain.  I’m at the age where I know people who are getting rotator cuff surgeries and I don’t want to be the next one on the operating table!  That’s another example of listening to your body.  Don’t feel like you have to do heavy weights, especially as a woman.  You’ll get the muscle growth and the toning you want without heavy weights. If the guys are doing 50 pounds, don’t feel bad if you’re only lifting 5!  This is not a competition!  It’s about getting fit and healthy; not winning!
  • Wear good shoes in every workout (except for the yoga, of course).  MizunoYou’ll need the support for the jumping and jogging, and for the weight workouts, good shoes give you a sturdy foundation.  You also need a really good cushy mat for the 90 minute yoga workout, and for warm-ups, cool-downs, and some floor exercises.  My favorite shoes are made by Mizuno.
  • Try your own music if you don’t enjoy the music on the videos.  I don’t care for the music on the yoga video, and it makes the 90 minutes feel even longer.  So I choose the option for the voice cues only with music off, and I just play other music I like in the background.  Just keep your music level low enough so that you can still hear Tony’s cues.
  • Take your measurements and photos before you start.  I was a bad bad girl and didn’t do it, and now I wish that I had.  You can get a feel for how things are going by the way your clothes fit, but it’s just really helpful to be able to look back at where you began.

Get Ripped in 90 Days


I finished my first round and am about to start my second.  After week 9, I had to take a 6 week break from working out after I smashed my ribs in a fall while on vacation, and then it took me 2 weeks to ease back into working out.  Even so, I still got tremendous results and once I was recuperated, I started right back where I left off.

Before the fall in week 9, I felt incredibly strong.  I was close to being in the best shape of my life, even compared to my 20s when I worked out every day and was obsessed with being fit.  I’m now 52, 16 years vegetarian, 1 year vegan AND menopausal. The fact that I got the results that I did really speaks to the power of the program.

Being vegan, I have to use my common sense and eat in a very intentional manner, since I also do a cardio workout at the gym during my lunch hour every day.  I need to make sure that I get enough protein, and that my food is giving me fuel.  I don't want to be slowed down or weighed down with empty calories that I’m going to have to burn off.   By the way, my favorite book on vegan sports nutrition is Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier.

So what kind of results did I get?  By week 9 before I got sidelined, I built a lot of muscle, and lost about 5 pounds.  I'm 5'7″ and started out at 131 pounds.  After 9 weeks, I weighed 126 pounds, but I had lots more muscle. During the 6 week injury break, I lost muscle mass and got down to 123 because of it.

My arms and back both built muscle, my ever-grumpy lower back was stronger, I was more flexible from all the yoga, and had a lot of endurance.  For women it’s really important to have your butt lifted up, and this program does that.  Between all the cardio and leg routine and yoga, your butt definitely goes back up to where you want it to be, in spite of gravity and aging!

I also I noticed my quads were more defined than they have ever been, even in my 20s, which isn’t to say I don’t still have some fat, because I do.  I think it’s pretty much impossible for women to expect they can see a day with zero fat and zero cellulite – #1 because we’re our own worst critic, but #2, I just don’t think our bodies work that way.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m going to have SOME fat that I’m not happy with, but even so, my quads were really defined from all the different exercises but they didn’t get bulky.

As far as my arms go, they of course didn’t get as large as a man’s would, but they buffed up quite a bit and I saw definition in my triceps, biceps, shoulder and forearms.  That’s pretty much the whole arm, wouldn’t you say?  I did the Lean Program with lower weights at 12 to 15 reps, and my arms still got plenty big for me.  I like for my upper body to build up a little bit, because I think it gives nice balance to the pear shape that many of us women have.  For me the Lean Program was the perfect amount of upper body growth and lower body toning, so I’ll choose it again.

P90X AbsMan or woman; we all want toned abs, right?  Well, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and get your abs right here.  P90X will absolutely tone your core and build your abdominal muscles.  I hadn't built a 6-pack when I finished round 1, but I saw definition and was beginning to see that vertical line of defined muscle that kind of hints that a 6-pack could be in your future.  Did it hurt?  Well, yes, of course it did.  Ab work is always uncomfortable, but I think visible progress happens pretty quickly in the midsection, as long as you're not carrying a lot of extra weight there.

I already mentioned that I’m going through menopause, which translates into weight gain for lots of us girls. I’ve been on a mission to NOT gain 50 pounds and have so far been successful, but without P90X I think I would have a much bigger struggle on my hands (and on other body parts)!

The results are truly amazing and I’m looking forward to doing the whole 13 weeks without a break – God willing.  Long term, I probably will rotate different workouts on different days after round 2.  P90X is not a program that you do for one period of time; I think it’s something you integrate into your life for the rest of your life.


I heard in the media that some female celebrities have done P90X with fabulous results (Pink, Demi Moore, and Sheryl Crow, for example) but I never really considered attempting P90X myself.  When my nephew told me I could do it though, I was intrigued and challenged and decided to try it.

I also heard that if you want to do P90X, you have to want it.  You have to want it bad.  This isn’t a program you can toy with or play with and then poof, presto, you get great results.  You have to want it because you’re going to have to work for every single ounce of fat that you lose and every single ounce of muscle that you build.  If you want it, you’re going to have to work for it, but it’s going to be worth it.

Push yourself through this program!  If it was easy, everyone would do it.  When you reach your goal, you’re going to be immensely proud of yourself.

One last piece of advice?  Bring It!

The Supermodels' Secret to a Perfect Butt


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9 Comments so far

  1. Posted by LilSis

    January 24, 201112:56 pm

    I’m still amazed that you got through this program the first time and now starting it again!! Good for you!!

    This is a great motivational testimonial to anyone out there that’s afraid to try it, “like me”… 🙂

  2. Posted by BigSis

    January 24, 20118:02 pm

    Hey LilSis, you could totally do this! If I can do it, you can do it. I am very *slightly* older than you after all, so you have an advantage. 😀

  3. Posted by Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer

    January 24, 20111:20 pm

    WAY to go!!! That is great that you are doing this – Hubby and I have talked about it for months – While I do go to boot camp 3 days a week we thought this would something we could do together!

  4. Posted by BigSis

    January 24, 20118:04 pm

    Thanks, Cathy! You should totally do P90X! I know that lots of couples do it together, and I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s really tough, so it would have to help to have a partner kick you in the fanny when you want to skip a workout, or quit altogether! If you two do it, let me know!

  5. Posted by stacey

    August 8, 201111:44 am

    Great posting…i wish I would have had this when I started. don’t doubt yourself you can do this I lost over 35 lbs doing this -going on my 3rd round. Not bad for a 46 years young.

  6. Posted by Irene

    March 26, 20122:25 pm

    I loved your article. It really inspired me. I am 42 years old and have suffered with my weight since I was forced to have a hysterectomy at 29. Gained 40 lbs in 8mths. Ouch!
    I am on Day 16 of P90X. Whew! I love how you said you have to ‘want’ it. So true. If you didn’t have real determination, it would be so easy to say,”This is too hard.” Loved your story and hope to be an inspiration to others, like yourself someday. Continue to Bring It!

  7. Posted by Kim Greene

    April 20, 201311:42 am

    I loved your article as well. Very informative and right on the money for me, as I am a 53 year old menopausal woman. Thanks for taking the time to write and post this article. You have inspired me to go for it.

  8. Posted by BigSis

    April 20, 201312:36 pm

    Hi Kim, thanks for your comment. I’m so glad the post encouraged you…let me know how it goes for you. I’m psyching myself up to start another round of P90X, but I’m not gonna lie; I’m a little nervous that it’ll kick my butt since I’m 7 month away from 55! I know that most of the battle is mental though, and I just need to START! Good luck to you!

  9. Posted by Barbara

    June 21, 201311:12 am

    This was so nice to see. I am a Vegan and have been for almost a year. I am 46 and am right before going into that “m” word as well. I am struggling with my weight and have been doing the lean version for 34 days. I am actually seeing a 2-3 pound weight gain from where I started and am becoming frustrated. Feeling very hungry and not sure exactly how much to increase my protein. When I went Vegan I thought my weight would miraculously fall off and it didn’t. I am not a simple carb or sugar/snacky kind of a girl either. I think it is just he old “age/ hormone” thing that is kicking my behind. Hopefully I will start seeing more definition and weight loss in the next few weeks. But glad to see you did get results when you were sticking to it.


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