I love Paul Ryan. Here’s someone who has hitched his wagon to the Romney horse (lame though it may be) and is all gung ho and ready to “energize” the base, and make the Romney campaign relevant to young people and to…well…BRING IT!
Yes those immortal words from the fitness guru du jour Tony Horton, repeated, time and time again in his P90X video series. Yes, P90X…muscle confusion…push through the pain…BRING IT! It brings back memories. You see, I have the delicious fortune (although none of the money) to be featured throughout the P90X series. It was a great little fitness modeling gig while I was working for Equinox in LA back in 2003 (yes nearly 10 years ago) and it was great fun. The people I twisted into “crow” with and “crunchy frogged” with and “Dreya rolled” with were an absolute delight. When I worked on this project, I knew it would be popular but had no idea HOW popular. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was working for Disney Cruise Line in a totally non fitness capacity when one of the dancers on board approached me and said, “The guy in our workout video looks a lot like you…” I was taken off guard until they told me that the entire cast had been doing the AbRipper X workout and they thought the guy with the dreadlocks looked a lot like me. I informed them simply “…because, it IS me.” That began what is now a regular occurrence where I have to “manage” my incredibly minor celebrity. Someone recognizes me or corners me conversationally about being in P90X or asks me questions about it. It seems quite endless and I am deeply flattered. And now with the presumptive Republican Vice Presidential Candidate talking about it, I must brace myself for another onslaught of P90X Mania.
I don’t believe that wellness should be politicized. Wellness and health are for everyone. But the only problem is that Paul Ryan doesn’t think so. Again, I’m not trying to be funny or political (much) but he’s touting a national financial plan that would complicate and probably limit the options available to people who are medically vulnerable and are currently having their health and sustenance needs served served by Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. That strikes me as a pretty bizarre irony when he’s marching around being hailed as an example of health, showing off his “guns” and talking about 6% body fat (which for those of you who are trainers know is unhealthy) based on a product that really only certain people can afford to purchase. I don’t live in that world. If I weren’t in P90X, I couldn’t afford a copy. A little over 5 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Besides the intense emotional roller coaster that this continues to be, it meant making some extremely challenging family choices. Lifestyles were forfeited to care for her, houses were lost, savings evaporated; but financial ruin was averted when we were able to secure her into a care facility that would be paid for by a combination of Medicaid and her Social Security. If it were not for these two “entitlement” programs, my family would be absolutely destitute and probably still trying to manage her care on our own and maybe even on welfare. We are not stupid people, we have multiple advanced degrees, we’ve had exciting careers, we did intelligent (though limited) planning…and it all went to hell. Thank God for Medicaid and Social Security as they currently exist.
The core of P90X is “muscle confusion.” This is basically where you systematically fatigue the muscles in an unexpected or non-regular pattern. Variety becomes the key to improving fitness. With a muscle confusion workout, one constantly changes the “target.” Paul Ryan says it very well in a recent YouTube Post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wb374ZdZ2w
Unfortunately, he seems to be “bringing it” to his political agenda as well. Although he was a trainer in an earlier life, he’s forgotten an important element of the whole muscle confusion paradigm and I think on the political front as well…functionality. You see, muscle confusion burst on the scene when trainers began to focus more on “functional fitness.” Functional fitness is training people to be able to actually do things as opposed to just looking like they can. So instead of just giving someone a giant weight and having them do barbell chest presses, you have them do chest press, but you also have them do push ups, and you have them add a balance element, then you combine it with other movements, etc. For me this was always my favorite kind of training to do with clients and it got amazing results. What is missing for me with Paul Ryan and his political platforms and with Romney and the GOP in general, is the basic functionality of what they are about. Neither of these men has had to make a choice between keeping their job and shepherding the process of putting their parent into nursing care (though Ryan faced hardship in his youth.)* Not a pretty choice to have to make or one anyone could have anticipated. When you have to make choices like that, you get very focused on functions like “must eat,” “must have shelter,” etc. Not necessarily, how big are my “guns” and how high can my horse prance.
Okay, I said I wasn’t going to politicize this but it is hard not to. You see beyond “bringing it” and muscle confusion and 6% body fat, by watching P90X, I know that Paul Ryan would have had to personally watch my naked sweaty body repeatedly… legs in the air, bending over, spread eagled, and he’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish while watching me. Good for you Paul Ryan! But he doesn’t realize that my body didn’t come from P90X. I got that body by doing countless hours of ballet and figure skating, sport specific training and, for fun, wiggling around on the dance floor in night clubs on Santa Monica Blvd with half naked men. Bravo Paul Ryan, if you can look in the mirror and say, “Hey, I look just as good as Adam the Ab guy!” My question is this, would you look at the mirror any differently if you knew that I was a gay Liberal Christian studying to be a minister to marginalized queer communities of color? I find it ironic that pretty much everything Paul Ryan and the Romney campaign represent from a narrow minded limited lifestyle perspective seeks to actually deny me an existence in the United States…yet he is willing to stand there trying to look like me. Just think, Paul Ryan, if I was living in your United States, I would probably have killed myself when I was 16 because I knew there was never any hope of being accepted by society or my family. Where would you have been with no one to compare your weenie confused body to and say “Yeah, I want to be like that.”
Okay, I said I wasn’t going to go political, so I’ll keep it simple. Thank you to all of the fans of P90X, I love that you love this product and I wish you all the best in health and happiness…as Tony would say… BRING IT! Thank you Tony Horton and Beachbody.com for letting me be a part of this phenomenon. And thank you Paul Ryan for the free press. Keep up the good work and maybe if you continue to “bring it” someday you won’t just look like a gay, black, progressive Christian minister, who is 5 years older than you and can still rock a speedo…but you’ll magically find yourself lucky enough to be one.
*Note: Paul Ryan collected Social Security benefits after the untimely death of his father and lived and cared for his grandmother who had Alzheimer’s as a teenager.