Q&A with P90X Creator and Fitness Guru Tony Horton

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Fitness guru Tony Horton arrives at the 27th Anniversary Sports Spectacular at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City, Calif., May 20, 2012.

Tony Horton is the creator and marketer of the P90x, a set of workout DVDs that Paul Ryan credits for keeping him in shape. I quizzed him about fitness, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the congressional gym.

Obviously P90X has been very good for Congressman Paul Ryan.  Has Paul Ryan been good for P90X? 
I think Paul Ryan’s been very good for P90X, as much or more so as Michelle Obama.  I’ve worked with the First Lady and her Let’s Move campaign, and more than half the Secret Service came up to me and said, hey man, we’re really loving the P90X.  I’m well aware that they’re using it in the White House. I’ve been to the congressional gym I think, seven or eight times.

Is that a good gym?
It’s surprisingly modest; it’s Democrats and Republicans coming together to share this thing they both enjoy; Paul Ryan and [North Carolina Rep.] Heath Shuler, a Democrat, started the whole thing.  Initially they were the only two in the gym doing the program.  Now men and women from both sides of the aisle come in, they set all their issues aside.

(MORE: Paul Ryan’s Killer Workout: Is P90X for You?)

So maybe when they’re in there sweating and they’re in, say, their 45th minute, you could just subtly say, let’s talk about the national debt?
Seriously, I just don’t go there. It’s not really appropriate to talk about those kinds of things.

You’re 54 and you’re incredibly cut. Also you also don’t have any wrinkles. Does the p90x give you a smooth forehead? ?
I avoid the sun. I drink tons of water. I don’t drink any alcohol whatsoever. No caffeine. I take quite a few supplements, I mean, I just follow directions.

Recently you tweeted “aging is for idiots.” Isn’t dying the only option?
Well nobody gets out alive, right?  At 54 years old, I don’t care about aesthetics so much, but I care about being able to climb up 25 foot ropes and doing backflips off a wall. It’s just really fun to be able to get better as you get older.

What could a Republican do to stay fit while convening?
All you need is the human body, Mother Earth, and Sir Isaac Newton’s law. And you do a set of push-ups, as many as you can, and you stand up and you try to run in place for 60 seconds, and then you get back down on the floor and maybe do 30 crunches and maybe 30 lunges or squats. I mean ultimately, we’d all be fairly thin and in shape without the exercise if we just made better food choices. Look down at your plate and see if you can pronounce what you see.

Everyone can pronounce corn dog. 
But do the contents of your corn dog – are they something you can pronounce? That’s the key.

(MORE: It’s Not Too Late to Start: Tips for Training for a Distance Run)

Is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic in America not exercise but food?
We’re consuming 64 gallon drums of sugar water, and massive amounts of French fries and white bread and candy bars and soda pop.

Is there a politician that you think, Gosh I’d love to get my hands on that guy or that woman and train them? Say, perhaps the governor of New Jersey?
Most certainly. He is such a popular governor and people just love him, but I’m afraid that he won’t live as long as he could if he doesn’t start making some changes.

Women have been dealing with objectification for years. Are you worried that society is getting a little abs-obsessed about men?
Yeah– I’ll do a live chat with 5000 people, and the questions that come at me are, How do I get my six pack abs?  How do I build my chest? How can I get vascular?  And I’m thinking, you’re looking at it all backwards. Stop focusing on your six pack abs, for God’s sake, and just focus on the fact that you’re going to be a better human if you get off your butt and eat better. Today.

(MORE: The Perfect Playlist: How Your iPod Can Help You Run Faster and Harder)

I hear you do an absolutely awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger impression…
I did improv and I was an actor, and I was broke. It was great practice.  There’s nothing more vulnerable or raw than being up there and trying to get people to laugh.

Didn’t  you used to represent NordicTrac as well?
Many many moons ago. I combined the acting and the fitness, that’s where it started.

Do you still have a NordicTrac, even for hanging clothes on?
My God, no.

I wonder if some of your enthusiasm for fitness grows out of the fact that when you grew up, you had a name of a cowardly elephant.
When you’re in fifth grade, some kid can say, Horton hatches an egg, and you get so upset cause you don’t have the wherewithal to go, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ I had no self-esteem and I had a speech impediment as a kid. That’s the reason why I was a mime.

Wait, you were a mime?  Did you have the unitard and everything?
I had the long hair and the handlebar mustache and white face, and I’d wear a black vest and white shirt. I knew how to walk in the wind three different ways, and pull the rope, and do the glass box, and lean on the bar, and I had this kind of R-rated thing that I would do in clubs.

(MORE: 5 Common Mistakes You’re Making at the Gym)

The R-rated mime!  I think you maybe gave that up too soon.
You know, in case this whole fitness thing doesn’t work out –

How are you going to vote?
I’m a big fan of Paul Ryan. I really like him as an individual. I just enjoy the man’s company. It’s fascinating to kind of watch him on the trail now that he’s gone from relative obscurity, the average person, to being in the limelight, and it’s just fun watching him handle himself.  I think he’s doing a great job. But at the same time, I am in the middle, honestly, because when I was broke, I thought I was a liberal all the way. But now that I’ve lived a little bit, I’m 54, now that I kind of see the world in a different way, I’ve moved right to the middle.

Now that you’re a kasquillionaire, you’ve moved to the middle?
Not as much of it goes to me as you think. This military tour, they’re not paying us a penny. And it’s just – not to sound too corny – it’s just really cool to be on an amphibious aircraft carrier or go on an Air Force base – I mean, I was lucky enough to throw up on an F18 seven times in Japan.

The soldiers don’t think it’s  sissy-ish to work out with video instead of all that macho CrossFit machinery?
Well no, because they can see that physically I can do some things that they can’t do and I’m twice their age.

And by that, you don’t mean throw up seven times.
I’m hoping next time it will be only six.