If you tend to find inspiration in the loser-turned-winner narrative, then Tony Horton’s story will captivate you right away. A kid from Long Island, with low self-esteem, speech impediment and lousy at both sports and school, he transformed his life, overcome adversity, and inspired millions of people along the way.
Creator of some of the most popular programs in the history of fitness as well as one of the best coaches and motivators around he alone made a huge impact on America’s health and now continues to change the lives of millions of people around the globe.
Satisfying Hollywood’s criteria in terms of looking good, being an excellent showman, as well as years of beating on his craft made him differ from others in the industry by a huge margin. His success led him to speaking gigs, book contracts, and appearances on national television including CNN, NBC, CBS, as well as magazines such as Men’s Fitness, Fitness, People and Self. He also coached many celebrities including Shirley MacLaine, Sean Connery, Annie Lennox, Rob Lowe, Antonio Banderas, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, even Billy Idol (He jokes that he’s keeping Rock ‘n’ Roll alive).
But it wasn’t always like this for Tony. His biography is a true testament to the power that fitness has in transforming lives, and his story made him an advocate of fitness- perhaps one of the most influential we have ever seen.
He was born Anthony Sawyer Horton Jr. on July 2nd, 1958, in the small town of Westerly Rhode Island. Due to his father service to the ROTC army his family moved five times before he was in the fifth grade- something that made life very tough for young Tony. Being the new kid around the block he was often times pushed around, bullied, having hard time making new friends.
Reflecting back upon his childhood he will add that it was a mix of insecurity and low self-esteem. Having a speech impediment and being a bad student only spiced up what he describes as having a lousy childhood.
What also surprises is that he almost always warmed the bench and was picked last in sports, despite the fact that his father had excelled at sports and had even set athletic records at his high school. He had imagination and drive, but never managed to develop a great body in school.
The narrow band of circumstances which is to blame for his insecurity and low self-esteem was what probably led him to individual sports. Even then sports like gymnastics and skiing have had a certain appeal to young Tony. But it wasn’t until his weight lifting class in college that he started to narrow his focus on exercising and fully understand the nature of individual sports. The newfound discipline, work ethic, passion and, by then, tangible results will impact his state and instill in him confidence and resolve like something he never experienced before. By then, he became in tune with his fitness.
Life after college
After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, Horton followed his dream of becoming an actor by moving to Hollywood, California, in 1980. Working long hours did not leave time to pursue exercise or eat right and his talent agent made it clear if Horton wanted to make it in show business, he must get fit.
Working as a waiter, stand-up comic and whatnot deprived him from this, and at the time he found it hard to match his ambition and resolve with his health and physical condition. To change this, he knew, a radical shift in lifestyle was needed. From there on, his life will never be the same.
The foundation of what will later become the revolution in fitness
After some deciding he joined the World Gym in Venice, California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and fellow bodybuilder and actor Lou Ferrigno worked out. He took notes on their workout and nutrition programs, but as many others found the big, bulky bodybuilder’s look slightly repelling.
This caused him to tilt more towards a workout routine based on speed, balance, flexibility, and one cohesive approach to being fit – a resolve that will start to pertain his passion for holistic fitness and ultimately, more than a decade later, reveal itself in what is probably the number one selling workout program in history – P90X. And latter on with his P90 workout.
At the time he studied and perfected his own version of cardiovascular and resistance training after studying world-class triathlete Mark Sission’s program of exhilaration drills and interval training. His routine was starting to grow in both complexity and pragmatism and as his passion for holistic fitness grew bigger he added one refinement after another.
Fitness became an agent of change with the help of which he reinvented his life. He realized that it has more going on than what your typical gym rat would assume at first. That conclusion led him to delve deeper into the nature of fitness. Henceforth it became an ever growing pursuit that over time would show particularly apt.
Tony discovered that his now fit body affected every area of his life. His mental clarity improved, and his renewed energy levels allowed him to be more productive. Tony’s possibilities opened up. He explored new activities including rock-climbing, inline skating, Pilates, yoga and plyometric training. His fitness program combined circuit, cross and interval training, cardiovascular/aerobic training, weight and resistance training , advanced stretching, yoga, and kickboxing. The holistic guide to fitness, slowly but decisively, was starting to take shape.
Word got around about Horton’s transformation, and he began to train celebrities such as Tom Petty and Sean Connery. He established ASH Fitness (Antony Sawyer Horton) in Santa Monica, California, in the early 1980s. At the time his fitness techniques appeared in several men’s magazines and he became a spokesperson for Nordic Track. His charisma came to the surface and he was starting to feel at home talking to people and influencing them. He also worked with the cast of “The 13th Warrior” to get them in shape for the movie training cast members among which was Antonio Banderas.
Though it seemed tough to cope with the sensory overload at the time, little did he knew that his life will make an even bigger turn after meeting with a guy named Carl Daikler in 1996. Tony started coaching Carl and, being the incredibly charismatic guy, he developed a close friendship with him. “We shared the same sense of humor and that made us very close friends” Tony remembers.
Carl Daikler, as it turned out, was the president of Beachbody- the company that will end up changing Tony’s life and the lives of millions of people around the world. All was finally set for the fitness revolution to take place.
The fitness revolution
What Tony understood even early on was that fitness should be geared towards making us perform well in life physically, mentally and emotionally. This provided the direction of movement in which his fitness philosophy will develop.
At the time he was quite well introduced with Yoga, cardiovascular training, Pilates, Aerobic, as well as weight lifting. It seemed to him, at a glance, that these aspects of fitness were not mutually exclusive, but rather worked well and produced incredible results if combined together. What one of them lacked the other would provide for.
By combining them all together his philosophy now encompassed what he later on described as functional training. Namely, he saw an opportunity to incorporate fitness in the lifestyle of the average Joe and Jane, realizing that it can transform not only their looks, but quality of life as well. They will be able to go throughout their day with more ease, having more energy, performing better at their job as well.
Making an analogy we can say that traditional weight lifting was not a tree but rather a television set- something that our bodies were never inherently meant to devote to. Running, yoga, strength exercises- these were all similar to this notion for the most part. Realizing that fitness, as in functional fitness, should be thoroughly rethought, he sought the solution on the periphery, flexing his creative muscles pretty hard to combine them all together.
The Power 90 series and his road to fame
By the time Carl Daikler asked him to come up with something that can be put on video and offered to the public which was already in growing demand for a new fitness concept, Tony’s routine was far from the inchoate set of exercises he once tried welding together. He had the knowledge, the years of experience on his belt, his body to serve as a proof, and many successful transformations to back up his revolutionary claims in the fitness industry. His drive for entertaining and motivating people was now stronger than ever and the Power 90 series finally began filming.
After seeing the rate of success as well as the ever growing demand for a similar product Beachbody realized that there is potential in this new approach to fitness.
By then Tony started connecting with other experts, seeking for opportunities to grow his knowledge even more. This soon become an addiction and in a very short time frame he took rudimentary concepts and started developing them just to add more to his already refined routine. This resulted with revolutionary concepts such is muscle confusion, and P90X came to the market.
Up to date it probably generated over 300 million dollars, cementing its place at the number one sold fitness program in the world. A price that can never match the value it brought to the world- literally millions of people took upon the journey which lasted 90 days and ended up transformed for good.
The results were not based only upon looks, but incorporated a spectrum of benefits including healthy diet habits, increased speed, agility, strength, endurance, cardio, making a huge lifestyle change, and improving the health in general.
During the first couple of years the program had a certain appeal only for people who never appreciated fitness that much. Their level of fascination with being able to quickly transform the body walked hand in hand with the eagerness to try this new tool. For them it was the perfect introduction to something very complex.
The majority of fitness aficionados though quickly found their way on the opposite side of the fence- without providing any rationale they stood against this ever growing fitness trend, and believed that it is a complete fallacy.
This changed soon after the results started showing. It finally seemed that this new type of training buys you a lot of fitness either way. One after another enthusiasts jumped on the boat.
P90X became so popular that people higher up started noticing. It was obvious that it worked and that it’s qualitatively different from how fast you can run two miles, or how many sit-ups and push-ups you can do, which is how the military measures fitness.
Tony made some inroads with the military trying to get the services to incorporate his routines and update how they view fitness. Brig. Gen. Steven Shepro, the commanding officer at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington, first started using P90X when he was in Afghanistan, and at Andrews he took down tennis nets and used the courts to put base personnel through their P90X paces.
Word got out and Tony started being asked to train people at places such is the Canadian embassy, the Pentagon, the congressional gym. He also went touring to other countries and visited troops, working out with them and motivating them to keep stay determined.
He is now becoming what his idol, Jack Lalane, was once for fitness- the perfect advocate.
Tony Horton about aging and pushing the envelope – his philosophy on living
At the time of writing this, he’s 55 years old, and not showing any sign of aging. None, zero, zilch- as he likes to say… When asked what will be he doing at age 80, he said:
“Same. Same. Better, harder, crazier… Jump higher cliffs, longer hand stance, frickin’ spin around like a psycho…”
He believes in pushing the envelope day after day, and this philosophy is dispersed not only throughout his fitness endeavors, but lifestyle as well. As many others have pointed out he is redefining the concept of aging. Or reversing it, if you so prefer. Instead of aging older, he jokes and says that he is aging younger.
What started as an inchoate fitness philosophy developed, by degrees, into a broader set of insights by which Tony conducts his life. His experience in transforming millions of people’s lives, as well as redefining his own, led him to the idea of writing a book.
“Doc. Horton. He’s the Master. There’s a P90X army out there–it’s athletic and more explosive than any other, and he’s leading it”. –wrote Mike Golic, cohost, ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” about “Bring it” where Tony brings fitness and his philosophy of living even closer to the masses.
Aside from writing he is even more at home at speaking events, such is the Beachbody annual coach summit where he is the main star. The crowd loves Tony, and not only for his ability to motivate and entertain, but because of his view on fitness and living which is rather simplistic.
He rests his fitness philosophy and life philosophy as well, at the concepts of variety, consistency and pushing the envelope.
Simplicity is also a dominant force shaping his lifestyle. His workouts are structured around the belief that your body and mother earth’s gravity is all that you need. Similar reasoning lay behind his diet selection, and he is an advocate of organic whole foods.
“Look down at your plate, and see if you can pronounce everything there is in there” says Horton.
This obsession with advocating whole foods led him to open Tony Horton’s Kitchen, an organic meal delivery service which is based on the principles of the diet he follows to stay into shape. Many other brandable products followed, and you will find Tony’s signature on apparel to be ever growing.
The Lifestyle Updated
Tony never anticipated the lifestyle he is currently living. Thirty years back he would have considered it a dream come true. Fast forward from there to today and it is amazing what his life looks like.
He wears pants only when he really wants to, enjoys spending time with friends, coworkers in the fitness industry, doing seminars, speaking at life events, coaching people nationwide.
The philosophy of functional fitness allows him to enjoy sports like skiing, rock climbing, anything that jumps up the adrenaline really. He is an avid skier, visiting ski centers constantly and hosting fitness retreats two or three times per year.
He is working out seven days per week, eating whole foods, never drinks alcohol, and never cares about what other people think. He adds- “I ask what I want from life, and 90 percent of the time I get it”.
It is funny how his fitness addiction is ever growing, so you will see him going over new and demanding moves all the time back at his home in Santa Monica, California. His home gym and backyard where he works out with his friends are Disneyland for fitness aficionados, and some of the videos he is featured in are filmed there.
You can also find him at the beach in Santa Monica where he is with his crew doing some mind blowing workouts based mostly on gymnastics and strength. When they train it is a spectacle for the crowd and many people show up.
Nowadays he is releasing a new workout program aimed to give everybody an on switch to fitness- the new p90 workout. You can check the p90 review that we made and see that he is still ” bringing it”.
Tony’s lifestyle and life story indeed inspire and set new standards in what is possible. Age is just a number, and as he is saying “aging is for people who don’t know better”. He lives life in a simple, modest way, living the dream urging others to aspire for the same thing. Having achieved so many things he is not a fitness icon, but rather an idea, representing possibility and setting an example.