A Decade of P90X
If you haven’t tried it yourself, you know someone who has. In the world of home fitness, no other video series has maintained the fame and stamina P90X has enjoyed over the past decade. As P90X approaches it’s 10 year benchmark, Mason Bendewald shares his take on why this program has had such wild success!
Over the past decade you’ve worked with a host of fitness trainers and programs from DailyBurn to RevAbs, Inferno, MOVE! DBK, Tactical Bodyweight Training, DDP Yoga (we could go on and on)… but P90X really stands out as a household name. With over 3.5 million copies sold and counting it’s safe to say P90X has reached legendary status in the world of home fitness. As director, you have a unique POV when it comes to understanding why these videos work and continue to work for thousands of people. What to you attribute to the longevity of this program? Is it just luck?
MASON: Well, nothing like P90X had ever been done before and it was a big gamble. Carl Daikeler, Beachbody’s CEO took a chance on me. I had only directed two fitness videos before P90X, but Carl saw that I did things differently and that’s what he wanted. It’s successful because it got people to take fitness seriously. In short it’s one part science, two parts fun, and it gets results. Before P90X home fitness was pretty basic. The industry perception was that people wouldn’t workout unless it looked easy, and so that’s what was produced — light workouts with pretty boys and girls in spandex and leg warmers (to put it bluntly). If it was going to be hard I wanted our audience to see it all — the sweat and the tears. I wanted the soundtrack to be the grunts and groans of real people. I wanted to see real people, in real clothing, really pushing themselves. That meant no cutting to re-set the stage. I shot it in real time and we managed to convey a pretty compelling story.
Did you think going in that P90X was going to be a hit? When did you realize what a phenomenon it was?
MASON: I always believed in the program because I got in great shape while working out with Tony. We were busy perfecting the program way before we shot it. It wasn’t until years later with hundreds of success stories did I realize it was weaving into popular culture. That kind of phenomenon doesn’t happen very often.
You’ve worked with an array of fitness professionals. Can you turn an ordinary trainer into a Tony Horton? Or does he just have something others don’t?
MASON: I went to the High School of Performing Arts in NYC and there was a conversation between the Drama Department Chairman and my Directing Teacher I never forgot. They debated the topic of “talent” and this was their conclusion — “Talent is something you are born with… but a great talent is something that is directed.” Tony has talent but over years of working together I helped harness his exuberant energy so he could be more masterful at his craft. I love developing talented trainers. Teaching them how to work with the camera and visualize an audience they can’t see takes time and patience. Everyone thinks if they can teach a class or are a great personal trainer they can star in a video – that just isn’t the case – it’s much harder to perform on a stage, hit marks, remember 1,000 details and make it all look natural while maintaining a smile.
There seem to be hundreds of fitness videos on the market these days. Most of these, if their lucky, might enjoy 15 minutes of fame and then quickly flame out. What are some of the biggest mistakes you see from trainers and companies attempting to produce their fitness programs for video?
MASON: One of the biggest issues I see is companies and trainers rushing into production before doing their homework. There are a lot of important steps that need to happen before you lay out expensive production dollars. By testing, developing and then testing P90X even more we learned a lot of dos and don’ts that helped make the program solid. I see way too many companies take a good idea and rush it to market. Working with the trainer to really craft a clear message is also a development process many people overlook.
What are the tools necessary to launch a program like P90X? Is it even possible to start small and enjoy this level of success?
MASON: Things have changed a lot since I shot P90X 10 years ago in 2003. For one, it doesn’t take years to get your idea to the masses like it did back then. There are a million steps getting a DVD to market compared to uploading a video to the internet. With a compelling message, program and trainer you can get some serious attention today.
So opportunities in the home fitness industry are looking good?
Next Up: In celebration of it’s 10 year anniversary, Mason will be sharing key lessons he learned during P90X development and production — Essentials you will want to take to your fitness program! Follow us on Facebook & Twitter and don’t miss out on the latest news.