Interview with Tony Horton

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I was sitting in a coffee shop sometime in July waiting on some friends and I saw a flyer for canfitpro's World Expo. Now I'm familiar with canfitpro and their annual event, but what really struck me about the flyer was that Tony Horton and Shaun T were staring at me from the front.


I have a passion for health, fitness and wellness, but these were my people! And I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to see Tony and Shaun here in my hometown!

The world fitness expo is Canada's largest fitness expo and an opportunity to hang with 15,000 other fitness enthusiasts, trainers, instructors and vendors. 

I scored myself a ticket, planned out my day and the next thing I knew I was gearing up to interview one of my favourite Beachbody trainers - Tony Horton! I was persistent about getting this interview and felt so lucky to be able to make it happen bright and early on the Saturday morning. What do you ask someone who you've been following for years and who you recently spent 8 weeks for 22 minutes a day?

Tony and I talked about motivation, his favourite workout program, letting go and more. Check out our interview below!

You’ve trained celebrities, people in the military, everyday people like myself

Tony: you’re not an everyday people, you’re an extraordinary people and you know it

So what is one struggle that you see among all people – is there any common challenges that you see?

Tony: Is there one? We always want that one, when it’s really about a dozen. 

But if anything was to pop into my head I would say that motivation and diet are the two biggest issues in people. I think if they’ve figured out a way to stay motivated, and their reason why is rock solid and they were able to make healthy food taste good, then I think the problem would go away. It really comes down to those two things. 

Obviously hydration, sleep and the company that you keep – these are all things that matter as well, but really just understanding why you exercise, how often you exercise and the kinds of exercise, and you should have a variety of exercise and you shouldn’t be so attached to the outcome of exercise. You shouldn’t focus so much on your appearance and your ego and what people say about you and all that nonsense, and just focus on what you need and do whatever you need to do and do it poorly – but poorly is a helluva lot better than not doing it at all. And then the second part of that equation is just eating well. I mean there’s a healthcare crisis because people can’t eat well. And it seems so simple – it’s crazy.

I saw a study last week that said that 75% of Americans think they’re eating healthy.

Tony: yah, a lot of them think they do. And they tell me “I’m doing everything right” and then I’ll just kind of be at an event and watch them eat and I’ll think “Are you out of your mind? This is garbage” Because they’re avoiding bacon at three meals a day, they think they’re killing it. 

But all the fruit juices, and all those sports drinks and all the chemicals and salt, and the sugar and the garbage, and saturated fats that’s really where people are getting into trouble. I had an event recently where I asked a room of 800 people who ate 5-6 servings of vegetables a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, and of the 800 people maybe 12 hands went up. So HELLO!

It’s easy when we get excited and we have a goal, but then it’s making it a habit. What would you say to someone who has been working out for awhile and they’ve started and they’re stoked, but they struggle to keep that momentum and motivation going.

Tony: Without [health, wellness and fitness], you’re surviving just like anyone else. But with it you thrive and it gives you the energy and enthusiasm to take on more in your life. And so if you understand that and you want to take on more, and have the energy and enthusiasm to really get outside your comfort zone, think outside of the box, have more experiences, have more adventures, improve the quality of your life today, avoid the illnesses that occur as we get older, that’s why I do it. 

The whole idea here is to try and stay as youthful as you can. If you train every day, you will stay as youthful as you can and if you don’t, you’re going to slip. And you’re going to age at the typical rate. 

I have this expression that people give me a hard time about, and that’s ‘aging is for idiots’ and what I mean by that is aging is for people who aren’t willing to do the work to prevent the typical form of aging. It can’t be sporadic and it has to be for that reason – not for the typical reasons that we do it. For the inches, the weight and the dress sizes and for the compliments. Those things are nice, but if you’re living and dying by that, then you’ll never succeed.

You’re known for saying ‘do your best and forget the rest’ – so often we dwell on ‘the rest’ – how do you let go of that.

Tony: Well you know a lot of time, the rest doesn't have to do so much with our thoughts of what we can or can’t do and how we compare ourselves from the past and how we hope to be in the future; A lot of it has to do with our expectations. 

If you have very low expectations you’re going to succeed. Just have really low expectations, but show up. But don’t try to knock it outta the park or concur the world. "I want to go rock climbing so I’m going to start with Mount Everest". You know, for a lot of people 22 MHC or P90x is Mount Everest. You have to kind of start with the modifiers – I’m the modifying king. But the rest also has to do with the company that you keep. 

I talk about it in my book – new haters and blockers. And sometimes we’re a new hater and what I mean by that is we don’t like new things. New things intimidate us, they scare us and so we avoid them even though that new thing is going to improve our lives – say like, a smart phone – that’s a new thing in the last couple of years, but everyone is willing to figure it out so that we can participate in the process of communication better than they used to. That’s what P90x and 22 MHC is – they’re a new thing and you have to figure it out. And you have to be willing to do that because you care about who you are. 

And then the other group of people are blockers. And blockers and new haters are pretty much in the same category. New haters hate new things and they’re always going on about how much this sucks and that sucks and times are changing. And they’re afraid to learn and they like it the good old fashioned way. Whatever the hell that was. They’re walking around with a horse and buggy? No. Forget it. Catch up with everybody else and participate in the modern world. 

You are the company you keep. Can you imagine if your best 5 friends were world class mountain bikers or rock climbers or surfers or snowboarders and that’s who your peeps were? Then you’d be really good at one of those things and you wouldn’t have a health issue, you’d just be kicking ass every day because your environment is awesome.

 But most people’s environment – their friends, their family, their bosses, their coworkers, siblings or whatever are bitching and moaning about how shitty life is and you need to run from them. Run away from them and find some really cool people. And if they’re not in your immediate area, you can go sign up for a class or go on the internet and find people who are doing neat things and join them or you know, that’s what Beachbody coaching is – it’s an opportunity to find like-minded people online or at events in your area, like Super Saturdays or Summits so that way you know, there’s a change in mindset because there’s a change in physical environment and who you’re around. You can do that if you’re willing to do that, and you’re willing to be a little bit uncomfortable and a little bit scared, then life will get better. Yay!

Do you have a favourite one of your workouts or is that like picking between your children?

Tony: My favourite right now is 22 Minute Hard Corps

Tony: It’s so good. And here’s what’s so great about it. There’s a bunch of new people coming into the fray who would have never done one of my programs. A lot of people look at my programs, like P90X or P90X2 or X3 and they think they're too extreme. And for a lot of people who have 100 pounds to lose, they took an approach that allowed them to get through it. But a lot of people don’t even want to go there. 

And so 22 Minute Hard Corps gives a lot of people who are maybe doing 21 Day Fix or maybe just going on walks an opportunity to participate in an intense 22 minute workout. That time frame – if people can’t do 22 minutes then you just don’t care. 

But P90X is what brought me here, that’s my first born child and 22 Minute Hard Corps is my youngest child. And you always have to have a strong feeling about that.

If you look back at your career what’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?

Tony: Probably stand up comedy. That was a major stepping stone for me – getting up onstage with my shtick and trying to be funny in front of people and it’s such an immediate thing. 

Unlike if I’m developing a program, I have a lot of time to look at it and see what it will be like and even all my “jokes” are not predetermined. They’re spontaneous. And having been an improv actor and liking comedy, I’m just a fan of laughing. Making people laugh, it takes your mind off the pain and the agony. But just getting super comfortable in front of large groups of people and interviews like this, on camera with 3 cameras and a cast. That’s what acting did and taking those classes did, you know it’s all about presentation and delivery. It’s about creating a persona that is interesting for people to watch. 

Why is anything popular? If it were somebody else in P90X, would it have been as popular? I don’t know – maybe. Maybe they would have had to bring their own persona to that equation. But that’s it – just making this whole process fun, that was a big stepping stone for me. Learning that it was okay and I could do it my way, using my style and my technique.

One of the things that I talk about a lot on my blog is mental health, depression and anxiety – is that something that you’ve faced in your life and in your career?

Tony: Hell yah. I mean anyone who is eating poorly and not exercising is going to have some sort of that, especially if they’re lacking purpose. People who are fired up on what they’re doing then they don’t have as much of that. 

What ends up happening when you’re depressed or sad or frustrated or overwhelmed is that you’re usually spending most of your time thinking about you. Like “woe is me and my problems and I don’t have this going” and then there’s a combination of that and a lot of finger pointing, typically. Like “oh my life sucks and I’m not doing well, and I don’t have enough money and I don’t have a boyfriend” and yadda yadda yadda – it’s his fault, her fault, their fault and mom and dad’s fault. Yah – you gotta stop doing that. 

There’s two things you can control to help turn that around. And that’s what you eat and whether you exercise or not. And so when you eat well and you exercise, you create a chemical shift inside of your brain. Because all those feelings that you have are chemical reactions inside of your head. It’s lack of dopamine, serotonin, brain drive, neurotropic factor – these are chemicals that occur when you breathe heavy for 20-30-40-50 minutes. And the harder you work and the more you breathe and the more often you do it, then there’s a dumping of these chemicals inside the temporal lobe. And so you read John Ratey‘s book Spark and you think “Oh wow, I have to work out today because I’m not in a good mood". If I work out today there’s a sort of a shift that goes from “I can’t” to “I can” and that’s what physical exercise does. 

You have to combine it with food because food is another form of chemicals. You’re not going to see the physical, mental and emotional shift if you’re not eating well. Both of those things are hard. Both of those things require discipline. And they both require a plan. And they both require you to hang around the kind of people who are doing it as well. 

And if you can figure all that out – then you just feel fired up, and you feel like you can try things and you’re less fearful. And you’re less anxious. You’re less frightened. And you’re less scared. And it’s purely because you worked out. I mean – most people don’t know that. They just think that working out is something they do so that they can run faster or lift more or look good. And those things occur as well but those are just ancillary after effects. They aren’t as important as exercising purely for the purpose of becoming a happier, joyful person. That’s what really it’s about.

 I loved chatting with Tony! He's got lots of fun stuff coming up including a cookbook, a couple of TV shows / web series, and continuing to travel across the globe sharing his awesome workouts and approach to life with the masses. 

I can't wait to share more with you from my time at canfitpro world expo!

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