Nomadic Fitness and P90X

11 April - 14 July 2012. Filed under category Nomad.
Soldier in Afghanistan, working out while in the field. If he can, so can nomads!

Soldier in Afghanistan, working out while in the field. If he can, so can nomads!

The gym is not the only place where you can build a good strong body. This is good news for nomads since gym membership rarely suit their geo-independent lifestyle.

In this article, I’ll explore what added features a fitness solution should have to be suitable for nomads. This is equally relevant to stationary people who don’t have time to go to a gym, can’t afford it or simply prefer to work out at home.

I will also discuss a specific fitness programme called P90X and share with you my personal experience of that program and my results.

Requirements of a nomadic fitness solution


Minimalistic nomads (like me) who carry all their belongings with them when they move need a fitness solution that fits their luggage. There is another, less obvious, concern however. Minimalists usually stay in temporary homes like hostels, short-term rentals or the homes of friends. This means that the fitness gear shouldn’t require a lot of space when used.


The fitness regime should be effective at bringing you to your fitness goal. If your goal is to maintain a healthy weight then you don’t need this article. Eating healthy and an active lifestyle that involves a lot of walking is enough. But if you want to build muscle and get a ‘beach body’, then you need some kind of resistance training.


Tony Horton is your P90X instructor and ball-breaker.

Tony Horton is your P90X instructor and ball-breaker.

P90X is a popular 90-days training programme released in 2004. It combines strength-training, cardio, yoga, plyometrics (jump training) and stretching. The kit consists of

P90X and Portability

P90X is well suited for nomads, even the space-limited minimalist. P90X was designed to be completed at home, and it does not require any specific wall fixtures or a lot of space. You can choose to do the programme using free weights or elastic exercise bands. (Each exercise is demonstrated using both.) If you are a minimalistic nomad, then the dumbbells are out of the question. The exercise bands, however, can easily be packed into a backpack.

P90X and Effectiveness

P90X, like all other commercial exercise products, claim AMAZING RESULTS that you, as one of my many intelligent and handsome readers, will treat with a healthy dose of scepticism. I gave P90X a shot not because I believed the hype but because friends recommended it to me, and I liked their results. In the next section, you can get an idea of P90X’s effectiveness from my own results after having completed the 90-day programme.

My personal P90X experience and the video diary

Getting a fit body was one of my goals for this year. When I began P90X, I was of average shape after a five-year break from the gym. I used work-induced lack of time as an excuse not to work out, but I was quietly wishing for that fit and sexy body.

When I left my job, I didn’t just lose my paycheck but also the excuse of not having time to get fit. It was time to decide. I was either going to get fit now or forget about it. I chose the former and dedicated ninety days to P90X.

Where I deviated from the P90X programme

Medialunas, a particular weakness of mine here in Buenos Aires.

Medialunas, a particular weakness of mine here in Buenos Aires.

I didn’t stray too far from the training schedule, but I did make a few detours.

There is an hour-long exercise, six days per week except for yoga which is 90 minutes. The seventh day is either rest or an optional hour-long stretch exercise, which I never did. Three days a week there is a second 15-minute long stomach exercise, which I also skipped. I just couldn’t bring myself to do a second exercise on those days.

I abandoned the P90X nutrition guide completely. It sent me into despair when I first tried to implement it, and I almost gave up P90X entirely! The nutrition guide comes with loads of healthy recipes and a schedule detailing what to cook each day, but I couldn’t work out what half the ingredients were and the whole thing is clearly meant for a US grocery store. Try finding low-fat Greek yoghurt in Argentina! Alternatively, you can follow the guide by weighing all your ingredients in your normal cooking, but the idea of measuring and fiddling with my food to that level was too disheartening to contemplate for long.

So I simplified. I picked two recipes with ingredients that I could get in bulk from my local farmers market and I ate the same thing for 90 days: scrambled eggs (turkey, nuts, tomatoes, cheese, basil) and chicken stir-fry (with broccoli, carrots and pumpkin.) In short, I replaced carbs for protein and ate a lot of vegetables. What this approach lacks in variety it makes up for in simplicity, and it is guaranteed healthy.

P90X wastes no opportunity to encourage you to buy their nutrition supplements, even mid-workout. I ignored this and got my nutrients through the good old-fashioned way: food.

Finally, I kept drinking alcohol during these 90 days and occasionally had ice cream and desserts. In short, I ate healthily at home and allowed myself to have fun when I went out. In my mind, if an exercise programme is only effective if you cut out all the pleasures in life, then it is not worth following.

My equipment

Click through to view my review of the Bodylastics exercise bands.

Click through to view my review of the Bodylastics exercise bands.

P90X sells their own brand of exercise bands, but after reading a few reviews, I bought another set from Bodylastics. In my weekly P90X video diary, I reviewed those bands so I won’t do it again here. In summary, I am very pleased with their design, function and quality, and I have no problem recommending them. I used the five-band set, but there is also a six-band set available. (If you want to buy them, please use the links above as they give me a small referral commission.)

Many of the exercises involve lying on the floor, so you’ll want some kind of yoga mat. This isn’t very portable, however, so I improvised with a folded up blanket, which worked just fine.

You also need something to play the P90X DVDs on. I began playing them through my laptop, but later switched to a tablet as I could move it around the room more easily to be within sight as I changed position during the exercises.

Finally, the P90X guide strongly suggests that you get a heart-rate monitor. I bought one but stopped using it after a while.

My results

Gustav after P90X (by Beatrice Murch)

Gustav after P90X (by Beatrice Murch, photographer extraordinaire and my landlady!)

I had two goals when I began P90X.

Firstly, I wanted to complete the three months, just to prove to myself that I had the discipline to finish it. No doubt, I achieved this goal.

Secondly, I wanted to get sufficient results to prove that a nomadic fitness regime can be effective. My results are far from the transformative before/after images featured on the P90X website, but I never believed in them anyway. Comparing my results to the P90X marketing photos would be silly. What matters to me is that I am now doubtlessly in the best shape of my life! I look at my results and I feel good, proud and happy, and that is result enough for me.

I’ve tried to achieve this kind of fitness before, many times, and I have always failed. I really do attribute this success to P90X. The programme gave me the structure, information and motivation to reach my goal for the first time in my life.

Did I prove that you can get fit as a travelling nomad? It’s subjective, but I think I did.

The video guide

Before I committed to P90X, I watched a few video diaries from people who had already completed the programme. Seeing these normal people talk about their experience made the whole project seem more manageable and achievable, and it really helped me to get started.

Since these video diaries helped and inspired me, I decided to make my own. Each week I published a new episode and added them to a YouTube playlist: The Modern Nomad’s Weekly P90X Video Diary.

The full playlist is an hour long. I mostly prattle on about my daily aches and pains, but there are a few special features of more broad interest interspersed among the chatter. You can skip to these features using the following links.

Click through for the full video guide playlist.

Click through for the full video guide playlist.

Now it is your turn

If you harbour a desire to build a better body, then I hope this article and the video diary will inspire you to get started! You just need to make the commitment, show up and work hard, and P90X will make sure your work is rewarded. But that first initial commitment is the hardest step on the journey. Why don’t you take the next five minutes and silently ask yourself if you really want to improve your body, and if the answer is yes, make that commitment today.

Bodyweight Exercises

The exercise bands are a lightweight and portable alternative to the gym, but it isn’t the most lightweight and portable solution available. Nothing, as in requiring no equipment, is more lightweight and portable. There are a surprising amount of exercises that you can do using nothing but your own bodyweight. I didn’t go down this route, however, as I couldn’t find a good exercise programme that led me through these exercises and kept me motivated.

Buying P90X

If you are inspired to start P90X and wish to buy it from Amazon, then please use this link as it gives me a little commission. There is also a newer P90X edition, imaginatively named P90X2. I haven’t tried it so I can’t vouch for it. If interested, you can buy P90X2 here. Finally, there is an older and less-strenuous version of P90X called P90. If you are in a bad shape and want something lighter, then you can start there. You can buy P90 here.

Travel Updates

This has been my last ‘normal’ week in Buenos Aires! Next week, my mother and brother are coming to visit me, and we’ll be doing some hard-core tourism in and around the city. Expect some more travel-oriented posts to come soon!


Will you make a commitment to better your body?

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  1. Craig Brown says:
    1. I’ll only say this because I doubt anyone else will think to mention it, but it seems like your skin looks better too. Am I crazy? This could be a result of eating differently as well I guess.
    2. I started working out with the objective of feeling sexier years ago, and now I’m ecstatic about where I’ve landed healthwise. No harm in wanting to feel good about how you look!
    3. I don’t believe those other before and after pictures either. With just bands and a room you made great progress in 90 days! Congrats!
  2. Imogen says:

    Well it took a while for us to stop laughing at your shameless vanity poses 😉 but the transformation is amazing. It shows up even more on the videos. Well done for getting through it, you must be well chuffed with the results.

  3. Rodolfo says:

    I’ve already made it…. it’s done and I keep it every day, and I’m very happy about it….

  4. Rodolfo says:

    I’ve already made it…. it’s done and I keep it every day, and I’m very happy about it….

  5. Robby says:

    Keep up the good work young man. You can certainly see the change in definition. Your body proportions and mine are very similar. I am 5’6” 145 lbs but at 48 ½ years old its all I can do to keep the belly slim and trim :o/ It doesn’t help that my eating habits are so lousy. Any way just wanted to say good job Mr. Hot Man.

  6. Robby says:

    Oh and I would gladly put a face to my posts if I knew how. LOL

  7. Ray Kenyon says:

    Again, congratulations and thanks for the exercise tips. Seeing someone else go thru this and getting an idea of what to expect before I tackle each week has really helped out. Much appreciated!

  8. Jonathan Carter says:

    Congratulations Gustav, your dedication and focus is an inspiration. The before and after results speak for themselves. Not sure about the P90X product claim: “Normal to Ripped”, however your body has clearly responded and you look tremendous, healthy and fit!

  9. Jono says:

    Exercise is about routine. There is a high chance that someone who follows a fad program then thinks, “great, I am finished now” and eventually falls backwards into the abyss after a few months.

    I started exercising years ago and never thought to ask anyone how to do it. It seemed logical to get some weights and then lift them, over and over again.

    My advice is:

    Perform some sort of consistent exercise an hour a day, four days a week (two days of back and bicep / two days of chest and tricep), and go for a run a couple of times a week. Follow this routine. Forever.

    Eventually you stop finding excuses to stray because it is just something that you do. Forever.

    Life is about balance, therefore, you got it right that cutting out all the joys of food is a bad idea if you want to be happy AND healthy. All in moderation, and when you exercise more you find your body wants better food anyway. That can take a bit of research; about five minutes on Google to come up with some recipes.

    If you are a poor cook, go to a cooking class. This is probably one of the most useful life skills you can have, regardless of whether you want massive guns.

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      I agree that there is a high chance that many will stop exercising after a few months, but I disagree that this risk would be bigger with what you call a ‘fad program’ than your ‘just lift weights’ approach. In fact, I think there is a higher chance that someone starting with a program like P90X will form a lasting exercise routine than someone who just starts lifting weights with no guidance. I have two reasons to think so.

      1. Following a program means that you get a good starting point when it comes to information on how to work out. No, it isn’t rocket science, but when you start working out, self-doubt start to creep in. When I’ve tried to work out before, I often had a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I was doing everything wrong, and I might as well quit because I would never get anywhere with my poor technique. Having a program helps, both ‘informationally’ and psychologically.
      2. By starting really heavy, you get results early, and those early results are so important to get motivated to continue and eventually form a routine. But that heavy start is difficult to do, but it gets easier to do if you can tell yourself that ‘it is just for 90 days’. When the 90 days are over, and you can actually see the results, then the results motivates you to keep going.
      1. Jono says:

        These are fair comments. Mind you, you must know a hundred guys that go to the gym that can easily show you the ropes so the “I am afraid of poor technique” argument disappears. Just choose someone to help that isn’t an idiot (i.e. who teaches poor technique).

        My 15 year old brother (at the time) took me to the gym when I was 19 and I must admit I never considered whether I was doing it right. Your body will tell you of you are ruining it. With most exercises there isn’t too much to go wrong long term (especially if you are young), except maybe a couple of heavy back exercises could cause real damage if you aren’t paying attention.

        On point 2, if you want quick results then you absolutely should take protein supplements/creatine etc. You missed a real trick there. At least in terms of size (it does nothing for a six pack) you can’t go wrong using a high quality whey protein (like Maximuscle Cyclone) to compliment heavy training.

        After your initial growth period, say six months, you can ease off the supplements (admittedly they are expensive).

        This is what I did (after a few years of supplement use), although there was no master plan; I am just passing on the experience. My perception is my body looks about the same (maybe even lost weight on the tummy so it looks better) in size as it did a few years ago when I used protein supplements all the time – except now I don’t use them – but still do exercise (albeit less than a few years ago).

        However, and here is the big admission of weakness – I am about 10 – 15% weaker in the chest than back then – but it is a hell of a lot cheaper. No change in arm strength interestingly so it seems it is possible to maintain strength in those muscles once you build it up in the first place.

  10. Maya says:

    Hey not sure if you’re doing this already but since your living a nomadic lifestyle you can actually making money by sharing your experience of beachbody products and becoming a coach so you can support your nomadic lifestyle and encourage people to get in shape!

    1. Gustav, the Modern Nomad says:

      I am not doing that, and thank you for the tip. I might do that. I am, after all, very happy with P90X and have no problem promoting it. As long as I am not forced to promote a non-personal view of P90X where I, for example, encourage people to buy the P90X resistance bands (which I haven’t used) or the nutrition stuff (which I didn’t take).

      I’ll e-mail you and we can chat off-line from the comments.

  11. I haven’t tried P90X yet but The Insanity workout, also from BeachBody is also great and very portable.

    I bought it since the TV commercial said that you would have to do the workout 6 days a week for about 45-60 minutes…
    Finally something that sounded realistic compared to “get a six pack from just 10 minutes a dat” and similar.

  12. Annie Post says:

    ps… now an iphone app available w/ entire program on it… even more nomadic!

  13. Phil Stevens says:

    Felicitations Gustav on your successful completion of the programme and it’s undeniable results, you must be proud! It’s got me interested, as I am into a lot of the exercise content of the P90x (yoga, weights etc) but tend to lapse into episodic bouts of demotivation. Love the pics by the way, light and shadow on that lean muscled torso, beautiful, but what about the legs?
    To mine eyes you were already blessed with a fit handsome body it’s just that now, your levels of hotness have increased, but of course, it is all about what it has done for you on a personal level and your achievment of yet another journey within a journey. Respect.

  14. karl says:

    Hey Gustav,

    I’m reasonably active and go to the gym, cycle to work etc. I want to maintain this when I become nomadic, hopefully even increase my fitness. I read your posts about P90X with curiosity, a program where I just follow along with the DVD that I can do anywhere will probably suit me. I’ve just got one question, once you complete the 90 day program, do you start at the beginning again and repeat? What is your ongoing workout?

    1. Hi there.

      Yes, once you are done with the 13 weeks, you can go back and start again, but this time on higher weights, of course. working out is a lifelong endeavour. Sadly. 🙂

      I have also begun to change some exercise routines for others, tweaking things as I go along. I also don’t do it as frequently as back in Buenos Aires. I work out about three times a week now.

    2. Jono says:

      My two cents…

      Once you achieve a reasonable fitness/strength through a more intense phase, then it should be possible to maintain it with a lot less, but still regular, exercise.

      I do about half the workouts I did, say four years ago, but I am still basically the same strength. I lost a bit in benchpress but a few weeks ago I did a quick course of Creatine powder and now I am (almost) back to my former glory. Ha.

      To supplement that P90x rubber band thing, consider getting a chin-up bar, i.e. a bar to span between frames on a door. It is great for arms and back and even for vertical crunches hanging from it.

      I have one which kind of hooks around a door frame to be self-supporting. It dismentles easily and is made from light tubes, but you might not consider it very portable. However you can get straight bars that expand to a firm fit into the door frame.

      Try a straight bar, you might like it.

      1. Jono says:

        BTW. The reason I think the chin-up bar is a good gimmick is you can keep it set up in a door frame and every time you walk by do a quick set of 10 (or 20 if you aren’t a pussy). I have no idea if that is a wise exercise regime or not but it becomes a good routine and I’ll stick with it until I have a massive heart attack.

  15. Anne says:

    Hey Gustav..
    Keeping fit & healthy is a must if we want to get the most out of our lives & new experiences.. Congrats at sticking with it.. Afraid the body is like all machinery, leave it without maintenance & its bound to have seized in places :S

    I’ve mentioned at some point I have horses(altho is only one now:(.. Old age gets us all).. Think having animals probably defeats the nomadic lifestyle..although I am thinking of making my Semi-Nomadic dream of seeing my entire country more of a regular & worthwhile option.. I work mainly in the animal industry & if you know anything about horses, you’ll know that everything horsie is heavy(so built in weight training & reason for regular regime, built in ;)).. Although the swimming in summer & walking the overly energetic kelpie x ..finishes of a home made work out nicely..
    Keep on keeping on.. 😀

  16. BriB123 says:

    P90x is a good workout, if you like that type of intensity-based program. For results without all the crazy (though you’ll sweat) I recommend

  17. zB says:

    thank you very much for this post!
    (really needed both objective review with a face)
    need to do it myself asap and will look to get same things in EU

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