On this episode of Unwonk, we learn who's liable for what when things go south at the gym. And we talk to super amazing fitness expert, Tony Horton, about what you need to do to start working out if you'e never done it before.

Listen with the player below, subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher (links above), or with your favorite podcast app.



Many thanks to our guest, fitness and lifestyle expert, Tony Horton! Tony is the creator of the best-selling fitness series: P90X, P90X2, P90X3, and Ten Minute Trainer, and most recently his 22-Minute military inspired workout, 22 Minute Hard Corps. He's also a motivation speaker and the author of top-selling books “Bring It," Crush It!” and his latest motivational book, “The Big Picture.” 

You can check out Tony's website here and can follow him on Twitter at @Tony_Horton


Enjoy the links to additional information relating to the questions on this episode - for people new to our show, these quotes and links may not make much sense until you actually listen to the episode:

"Do your best and forget the rest." - Tony Horton

[Episode Keywords: mirror smash, bring it, crushing anxiety, goddamn geese are not nice creatures, P90X]

Episode Transcript



As with everything on Unwonk, the transcript below is for general informational purposes only - this is not legal advice - if you need to have a legal question answered, please seek actual legal representation. 

On this episode of Unwonk, we learn what happens when you smash a mirror at the gym; and
And we talk to fitness expert and human force of nature, Tony Horton, about how to start getting fit if you’ve never tried before.

This is Unwonk. We respond to your legal questions with relevant and useful information. If you would like to submit a question, please visit our site at
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Even though the  general information on this podcast is provided by actual attorneys, you’d be an idiot to think it is actual legal advice, and you’d also be the type of person who re-rack your weights. Seriously. That’s bad gym etiquette.

And now, today's question:

I’m kind of a fitness noob (OK, I’m 32, overweight, out of shape and have never been to the gym before in my life). I signed up for a gym a few weeks ago. Had a free session with a trainer and he gave me some tips on what to do with a list of exercises. I was setting up to do a bench press when another trainer (not the one I worked with) said he wanted to “work in” on my sets, and to speed things up, he said I didn’t need to use those springy clip things to hold the plates onto the barbell. I went ahead and did it, but the plates on one side slide off and the bar swung back and cracked the wall sized mirror behind the bench. The gym wants me to pay for the damage, but I don’t think I should since a trainer told me to go without those clips. Who’s right? I was already embarrassed enough about going to the gym in the first place - this makes me not want to go back.  Jeremy - Seattle

Jeremy, this sounds like this caused you a lot of anxiety. 

If it makes you feel any better, here’s a list of things in my life that have caused me severe anxiety:

  1. My first Junior High School dance (and, I should note I was actually in Junior High at the time, not, like, as an adult, although I can see that actually causing a lot more anxiety).
  2. That time I was being chased by angry geese in a park
  3. That time when the dentist started drilling and I discovered just then that the novocaine hadn’t kicked in.
  4. That time I was being chased by angry geese while walking by a golf course (I don’t even play golf)
  5. That time I thought I dropped a class in college and then it turned out I didn’t drop it and had to take the final exam and it wasn’t one of those dreams where you have to take a final exam with no prep work - it was like that dream but real life (but at least I was wearing clothes, unlike the dreams I usually have about that).
  6. That time I was being chased by geese in a grocery store parking lot - like, I wasn’t even encroaching on their territory.
  7. Any time it’s an office birthday song when it’s my birthday.
  8. Whenever I’m on a call with someone and we’re about to finish the conversation but the call drops and those few seconds of deciding whether to call back just to say goodbye, and then after doing that the empty feeling that calling back to say bye didn’t really accomplish anything. 
  9. Any time it’s an office birthday song when it’s not my birthday. AAAND FINALLY:rr
  10. The first time walking into a gym, Crossfit box, or any place where people can see me doing any physical activity whatsoever. Only lasts a fleeting moment, usually, but always happens the first time at a new place.

No doubt, walking into a gym for the first time ever is nerve-wracking. There’s a bunch of intimidating equipment everywhere being used by a bunch of intimidating looking people. And for me, what often caused a lot of anxiety at a gym wasn’t that all these people were in amazing shape, it’s that they look like they knew what they were doing and that they belonged. It’s also a social uphill battle because it looks like everybody already knows one another. In other words, this is no different than walking into a cafeteria at a new school and not knowing where to sit - it’s an external social issue that has nothing to do with if you can actually work out. 

But let’s get to that with our guest, super mega fitness person Tony Horton, a little later on. 

So are you liable for the damaged mirror?

Generally, if you break something at the gym, you’re liable for paying for it. This is in part due to the fact that this is how life works: If you break something, you pay for something. This is also because you likely signed a contract, waiver, or whatever that said you’d be responsible for damage you cause. Gyms love waivers. Because people tend to break things at gyms, whether it’s themselves, other people, or just physical objects.

There are some exceptions to this.

This doesn’t apply to something breaking because of wear & tear. If something at your gym does break from wear & tear - say, a cable on a cable machine snaps, or a bench collapses because it had a loose bolt - you need to be switching gyms because it means that your gym sucks at maintaining its equipment. And that’s not safe.

Beyond that, when you think about it, a traditional gym facility is largely a storage facilty for heavy things that are meant to be lifted, thrown, jumped on, pushed, pulled, and so on. So there should be no surprises when those lifts, throws, jumps, pushes, pulls, and so-ons sometimes cause the heavy things to fall on people or things.

But let’s talk about why your weights slid off. It’s because a trainer said to do something that compromised the safety of the exercise. Now, there are two kinds of trainers - well there are lots of kinds - but there are two we’re concerned with right now: trainers who are employees of the gym, and trainers who are independent contractors. In the case of an employee trainer, they told you it was OK to perform without a safety device and chaos ensued. I’d argue that you’re not responsible for that. And then the independent contractor - a lot of trainers are actually just members of the gym that independently train other members. But, if they give the appearance of representing the gym - especially if it’s reasonable for a gym noob like yourself to think they do - then I’d even argue that you’re still not responsible. So, I’d push back hard on the gym. Frankly, gym management should be more concerned that they have a trainer running rogue in their gym, increasing liability for everyone. This is yet another case where business practice should be ahead of legal practice by miles - but sometimes business people are stupid.

But beyond the legal issue above, Jeremy, I’m more concerned about you seeking fitness out for the first time in your life and having that spirit squashed like a marshmallow under a kettlebell. And this is clearly way outside my area of expertise, so, I thought I’d seek out some advice on some of the best ways to get past what you’re going through, whether that’s at the gym or working out at home. 

This is clearly way outside my area of expertise. So, I thought I’d seek out some advice on some of the best ways to get past what you’re going through whether that’s at the gym or working out at home or elsewhere. Joining us now is fitness expert and creator of the bestselling P90X fitness series, the 10- Minute Trainer and his most recent fitness ops, 22 Minute Hard Corps, Tony Horton. Tony thanks for joining us.

Tony: Dan, how are you man? Great to be here.

Daniel: Hey, doing well, thanks. Tony, let’s talk about fitness newbies. There is this guy, early 30s, getting in shape for the first time, embarrassed himself the gym and now he doesn’t want to go back. What advice do you have for people who are new to all of this?

Tony: Well, you know there is a myriad of ways in which to get yourself in shape and certainly going to the gym is one of them. That’s how I started as a young kid. There wasn’t a lot of online, at home fitness programs. When I moved from Connecticut to California, when I was a bad high school football player, and an intermural athlete in college, all you had was going to the gym. 
It was very intimidating. You didn’t know how many sets. I didn’t even know they were doing sets and reps and form and function. That’s the reason why the Nautilus machines were so popular when I first started working out because it was so easy. You put the pin in and you just follow the motion of whatever it is.  You didn’t have to worry about balance or proprioception or anything. You didn’t have to worry about lifting up a bar bell and figuring out whether it’s too heavy or too light or whatever. It’s intimidating because maybe there are a lot of gym rats in there that maybe been in there for years and know what you’re doing. You’re a new person. It’s hard enough to walk into a party with strangers. Never mind walking into a gym and being exposed to all these things you’ve never seen before. 

So, typically if you’re somebody who wants to go to the gym, maybe you’re not really an at home fitness person yet. Then you go in there with somebody who knows what they’re doing or you go straight to the trainer desk and you ask for help. I would prefer, for me ask around. Do you have a cousin? Do you have a friend? Do you have a coworker, somebody who works out on a regular basis who goes to a gym who seems like they know what they’re doing? Kind of start there but if you don’t have that then, you would hope that the facility that you’re going to has somebody that can help you and guide you. And not all trainers are the same. Some are just terrible and I see that a lot. And some of them are great. And you’ll know whether you resonate with somebody or not.

Daniel: Now what about trainer certifications? You see a lot of trainers with more trainers with more letters after their names than a lot of doctors. Do certifications make a difference?

Tony: I always like a trainer that’s kind of verse on a lot of different things, somebody who has been certified as a certified yoga instructor or somebody who has a resistance thing, maybe athletics trainers, people who could even maybe do some really professionally with foam rolling and physical therapy, that kind of array. 

I don’t know what the percentages are but there is a vast majority of personal trainers out there that has maybe one certification in one area and they pass it by the skin of their teeth and they don’t really have… Maybe they’re buff or something and they can move a lot of weight around.

But that might not be the person you’re after. Because this is what happens with too many people is an ectomorph ends up with some kind of mesomorph trainer or something. And they’re really looking to condition their hearts, lungs and legs more than just building up their chest and arms. Really a lot of people just think a trainer is a trainer. And, you have to be really clear and specific about what your goals are. 

There are anaerobic athletes and aerobic athletes and athletes that are… or people that are different body types, have different objectives. Some just want to run 5Ks, maybe run a half marathon or kind of really work on weight loss. Some just want to build size. There are a lot of young men right now they’re really hung up on being big for whatever reason because they want to intimidate people and meet women, nit have a personality.  I don’t know what the purpose is. 

For me when I first started out I tried to become verse in a lot of different things. You might not necessarily want one trainer. You may want to have a trainer for sort of your resistance days but you want to go to spin classes with another instructor and you want to go to yoga classes with another instructor and you want to go to plyo class with somebody else or martial arts. I’ve got these two boxing coaches here in Los Angeles. And they’re just fun and they’re smart and they kick my ass and I love it.

Daniel: I wish I had that advice when I had a trainer who was clearly on a twelve year bulk. 
Tony: Yeah man. Yeah, I mean… I don’t know. I’ll go online and I’ll post myself on a peg board going around three times and most people are like, “Oh, my God. That’s really great. You’re 58. You can do something like that. But then there is always that 10 % says, “Hey man. You’re losing muscle mass. What’s going on? Why aren’t you working on size?” “I’m a scare. I like gymnastics. I like boxing and bigness, big traps, big chest. I don’t know. How much bigger does that thing need to be?”

Daniel: Alright. Now going back to one of the underlying issues of the question we received. What are your thoughts on getting over anxiety with working out for people who are new to the whole thing?

Tony: That’s the whole thing. I mean, that’s the case with almost anybody who is trying something new. The problem is I think too often is that a lot people are perfectionists and they want to be able to compete with their past. They have expectations in the short term about their future and how things are supposed to look and go. And they’re comparing themselves to others and there’s all this sort of these mind games that go on. 

And that’s usually based on ego. And I don’t know how many times your ego turned out to be your best pal to help make sure everything turned out great. Your ego is this nasty little thing that prevent you from participating, from being present, from enjoying the journey, from being okay with the fact that you’re not as good as everybody else in the class. 

Even at this stage I’ll go the UCLA, I’m the slowest guy there.  I’m the slowest guy there with the most pathetic hamstrings. They’re like fishing wire in the back of my leg. I got quads like Quadzilla. But I just don’t naturally work on my hamstrings so I have to be super careful. I have to go much slower than everybody else. Of course they look at me like, “The P90X guy, what’s his deal?” And I don’t give a shit. You know what I mean?

I think we care too much about what other people think of us and how it’s supposed to go. And at some point either figure out that that’s stupid and unproductive or you go see a therapist and figure it out and just go participate. 

I have an expression that’s patented called ‘Do your best and forget the rest.’ And that’s what it is. It’s like just go be there. Just open up the door, don’t lower your expectations, lower them down to the basement and you’re going to learn. And then you repeat. Repeat that process. The more you do the better you get. And, so first 5,6,7,8,9,10 30 times, I don’t know who you, depends on whether you’re athletic or not or whether you’re going to exercise or not, whether you’re over weight or not or whether you’re at the right altitude or not or whether you barometric pressure is different, your tatter humidity. I don’t know what it is man. You can’t control all those stuff. So, you just go, you show up with a smile. 

There was a CrossFit gym in Jackson Hole. This guy, Rob is a monster and these wads that he puts us through are just insane. I walked right up to him, looked him straight in the eyes and I said, “Hey man. I hear you’re a bad ass but here’s what’s going to happen. I am going to work my ass up and I’m not leaving here injured. That’s how this is going to go.” I guess nobody normally talks to him like that but I did because I know what I wanted. Ask what you need. Go to source; ask for what you need, have low expectations, enjoy the journey, repeat. 

Daniel: Sound advice. And, also I think, Michael Bay is rebuilding Godzilla as Quadzilla next summer. 

Tony: Oh, good. I hope I get a part man because I’m ready for Quadzilla

Daniel: Alright. The person we’re talking about, Jeremy had an embarrassing incident at the gym. Do you, Tony have any embarrassing gym stories you can tell?

Tony: You know it’s funny. I had a feeling this question might come up. I was a guy who lifted too much weight on the bench press and ended up with my chest squealing for help. You know what I mean. Everybody has done that. I don’t need a spider. I’m fine especially when you go to the gym by yourself. That happened in the early days when I was trying to impress no one. Wasn’t even paying attention. “Hey, a little help. A little help.” People look over like, “Ahhh. That poor son of a bitch.” 

And then early, early on when I kind of got into the whole fitness world, I found some guys were pretty fit going to the gym on a regular basis and my ego, because I was in my 20s was trying to compete with them and I had to run off into the bathroom and hurled. That happened a few times in the early days. Just pushing too hard, going too fast. My body just wasn’t used to the grind of it. 

Because I use to play sports pro, pro skier, pro tennis player, pro basketball player and I’d run out of steam because I didn’t train. I didn’t know you to train. I just thought you got better at playing sports by playing more sports but I didn’t realize that if you get into a bunch of different kind exercises it would be better. You’d have more agility. You’d have better lung capacity, better endurance. You have to shoot hoop. You got to obviously work on your shot and stuff and dribble and whatever, passing and even knowing how the game works. And I kind of did that but I was just terrible because I couldn’t play full. I was always looking for half court games. I couldn’t play full. I was always looking for a half court games. I couldn’t play full court game man.

And, so I went to the gym and I went, “Oh, oh this is what you have to do as well. This was early on when I first came up to California 1981. And, so, yea, I had a rough go of it but I got over it. It was a little embarrassing but whatever. I wasn’t attached to the outcomes so much so I kept showing off and things improved and I didn’t make those mistakes too many more times after that.

Daniel: Alright. So, a lot of that was about leaving your house and going to the gym. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you was because you obviously know the gym but you’re probably best known for home workouts. How would you compare and balance the benefits of going to a gym and working out at home if you’re someone just getting into fitness for the first time?

Tony: Well, its day and night man. It’s black and white. It’s apples and oranges. It’s a complete different world. I mean the vast majority of people who go the gym like that social atmosphere. They like being classes. You’ve got people who are gym rats. That’s what their social activities is as well. You know what I mean. There is a spin class over there, an aerobics class over there and a yoga class over here. There is the main gym typically with everybody who is lifting weights. There is this really fun sort… It can be competitive or not. You can go in there with a couple of buddies or not. You know what I mean. It’s sort of like I can go to a bar and meet people that way and hang out with people that way or I can go to the gym and take care of myself. 

I’m not a member of a gym now but before I started doing the at home stuff, I was a member of four different gyms. One was a body building gym. One was sort of a spin class cardio yoga gym. Another one was like all the above. It had a typical gym. It had everything. I was a member of four different ones because it was four different groups of people. I had my note pad out. I used to go to World Gym and spy on Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger and see what they were doing. Nine sets of curls, holy crap. And I go, “That’s the reason why they are so damn big.” And they are in there for two and a half hours, three hours, twice a day. That’s one way to go.

I used to go the Santa Monica track and the UCLA track and get I get on there and watch my hamstrings explode. Hang out with guys that were good runners. And, so that was the way I did it. But, then you have another whole category of people. The one that we’re talking about initially is people who are just intimidated by the gym. The nearest gym is 40 mins away and they got to park their car, and they got to get their gym bag and they got to sign the locker and they got to change and lock up their clothes. And the go into the gym and they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. And there is a bunch of sweaty people on machines. He’s like, “Oh, My God. That guy didn’t wipe off that machine. That’s so nasty.” You know what I mean? And, so there is all that that can come with a gym. 

At home I’m in my boxer shorts, put the DVD on. Now everything is on demand. You just click a button and there I am you know what I mean. P90X, P90X2, X3 10-Minute Trainer, 22 Minute Hard Corps. There is a panoply] of different types of workouts, work different muscle groups and you can do it in your underwear in your kitchen. You know what I mean? And the reason why we’ve gotten so many millions and millions of people, we’re like a 1.4 million dollar company. 17 years ago we didn’t exist. We’re the biggest company of its kind. We just kind of hit the nail on the head early on. P90X was sort of the main sale of everything we’ve done.

And, so because it was all that variety, 12 different workouts, over the course of 90 days, workouts averaged under an hour which is a much shorter period of time. 24 sets of chest and back, 24 sets of shoulders and arms, an hour and half yoga class. This was the real deal and it was super popular with young single people as much more so than anybody else and a lot of busy moms and busy executive types kind of fell in line with a bunch of people who hated going to the gym, had those bad experiences. 

If you are somebody who is looking at it you and I and we’re having this conversation, at home fitness couldn’t be easier. 22 Minute Hard Corps is an eight weeks boot camp. The workouts are 22 minutes long. There are spec op workouts if you want to take things to the next level. It’s a hell week if you want to do an extra hell week. It’s optional. A lot of people blame, “I don’t have enough time or I’m too busy.” Most people despise exercise. “I don’t love exercise. Nine times out of ten it’s the last thing I wasn’t to do. I do it because I want to ski hard, I want to stay fit. I want my brain to be sharp. I want to sleep well. I want a good sex drive.

The cover of Time Magazine 2 weeks ago, “Exercise, the cure”. We’ve always known that it’s really helped you lose weight and it’s helped you, of course with the diet. That’s essential as well. But it literally staves off cancer, staves off Parkinson’s, staves of stroke, staves off heart attack, improves your cognition and memory, releases more norepinephrine, dopamine, seratopin, brain-derived nootropics.

Physical movements, hearts, lungs and legs changes the outlook of your life and that’s the reason why I do it now. This guy say I should weigh 15lbs more. So what? I just want to feel energized. I want to have tons of enthusiasm. I want to be sharp and I want to feel better than I did when was 23 and I am 58 and that’s happening. And you get that in your house in that in your boxer shorts if you want. 

I live way under the bubble. So my bubble is Beachbody On Demand. And every one of my programs is on there so you could spend the $119 on P90X. Get on the phone and talk to somebody in Pakistan. You know what I mean. Be upsold to some things you don’t need or want or maybe you do that’s the reason why the upsells are there. Wait for these discs to come that you open up and you read the book and then you put the disc in the player and brrr, right. That’s so 1999 or 2004.

Now, it’s just you go on Beachbody On Demand. You don’t have just P90X. You have X2, X3 3. You have them all. First 30 days are free. I’m not here to plug my stuff. I’m just saying we’re better at it than anybody else. You can go and get a yoga program through somebody else. You can go get sort of a body building program from somebody else. You can go on YouTube and kind of fly around there. I’ve built programs. I’ve build beginning to end programs and I tell you what to do on what day 5-7 days a week over the course 8 weeks or three months.  

And, so, you know what I’m trying to prevent the course of Ornament dream plateaus. If you’re just sort of free forming it, “I’m going to do yoga today. I’m going to do chest tomorrow. I’m going to do a run the next day.” If you’re motivated enough and you’re smart enough, physical therapy, getting enough sleep, hydrating, keeping your stress down, form rolling, whatever you’re trying to do to prevent injury.  But I create programs so that ornament entries and plateaus don’t happen because of sequencing, because of length of workout, because I’m not over training and preventing under changing which a lot of people do as well. 

The goal here is to be consistent. Tons of variety so that way you won’t get bored of her plateau and then be super consistent so you can actually see results in a reasonable period of time. Because if you’re all over the place and you’re exercising sporadically or periodically and you are not consistent with it, it’s like going to work once in a while or sleeping once in a while or eating every other day. Shits going to hit the fan. Things are going to go bad for you on just a personal survival level. But if you want to thrive you want to just really kick butt and take names, then it has got to be as 5-7 days a week for the rest of your life equation. It’s got to be comments like who you are. “I go to work, take care of family. I pay my bills. I work out”. Done. And if it’s not me there is some great content on YouTube that other trainers provide as well. 

Daniel: Alright Tony I have one more question for you. You’ve sold millions of fitness programs, received countless tweets in emails thanking you for making a positive change to people’s lives. My question is this. Do you have any idea how many noise complaints from downstairs neighbors you’ve personally caused?

Tony: I don’t know the specific number but I do know I have heard in the hundreds from just meeting people at the airport or at a dance, people who live in apartments, especially people who travel. They’re on the road. They’re in a hotel or something. And I get a lot of hotel management knocking on doors, “What are you doing in there?” I get people [inaudible 25:09] especially on plyo day. You usually don’t get that on yoga day. But on plyometric day where the human body leaves to surface of the earth or leaves the surface of whatever floor you’re on. You got to land. People who are doing plyo right though, get less complaints because they’re landing properly. They’re trying to end more like a catalyst like Frankenstein. 

Daniel: Tony, really appreciate your wise words today. Thanks for spending time with us. 

Tony: Dan, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.


Got all that, Jeremy? Don’t let this incident get you down. 

Whether it’s at the gym or at home, I think Tony has some great advice: be consistent, drop your ego, and set your expectations. Finally, going back to a sentiment in your original question, at the gym, nobody is really watching you, and nobody cares - so don’t feel stupid. Unless, of course, you show up in just your underwear and it’s not a dream that time. That would be embarrassing. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Unwonk.
And thank you again to our guest, the engaging Tony Horton - you can find him online at, on Twitter at @Tony_horton, and much of his handy work, including the p90x series and 22 Minute Hard Corps at
Speaking of websites, please visit our site at to ask your questions, and for lots of bonus material about the topics on today’s episode. You can also find us on Twitter, and Facebook, and you tell everyone you know to listen and subscribe, which we make easy to do with the share buttons under the episode player at And don’t forget check out our deadspin column.
On the next episode, we learn:

  • 10 easy ways to lose weight and gain muscle.
  • Alright, alright. Not 10. But 5 easy ways to lose weight and gain muscle.
  • Fine. Fine. 2 ways. 2 ways to lose weight and gain muscle. Diet and exercise. That’s...pretty much the easiest way.