June 25, 2013 posted by

Zoltan Keller: From P90X to the “hardest race in the world”

Zoltan Keller: From P90X to the “hardest race in the world”

Neil told me before the race that we’d be looking forward to a rest day and I was. Not only did it give us a chance to recover from racing, it would slow the daily ritual and give us some time to more appreciate where we were, which was now the stunning high-mountain community of Manang. It would also offer a chance to do some trial and error on my shock and hopefully fix my bike.

gangnapurna, viewed from anywhere in manang. above, zoltan at the finish with santosh and narayan

I’m going to split the rest day in two, and begin with a short interview with one of the racers, Zoltan Keller from Hungary. He was different than the rest of us, who have been long time riders or, at least, adventurers. Just a few years prior Zoltan was a non-exercising chain smoker. A concerned friend introduced him to P90X and now he’s here, lining up against some of the best mountain bikers in the world—as an aside how good these guys are, last weekend Ajay won a 100k race in England. I’m tellin’ ya, the only thing holding the locals back is silly bureaucracy.

before the start in kathmandu

I run into people who know me from P90X all the time. But very rarely is it cycling, climbing, running, or any outside activities. I’ve spent most of my life as some type of athlete and the two crowds are usually different. In fact, outdoor athletes I meet often haven’t heard of any of our products, even those that seem like household names, because they tend to be the type of people who eschew training and would rather play. Still, it does happen on occasion, so I wasn’t surprised someone who’d done P90X was at the Yak Attack. I was, however, pretty shocked to find out Zoltan Keller was more like a Beachbody Success Story than the type of seasoned outdoor athlete who’d sign on for a sufferfest like this.

A few years back something like the Yak Attack wasn’t on Zoltan’s radar. Even riding a bike, in fact, was more than he’d commit to, which was little more than drinking and smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. One day a friend introduced him to P90X and now he’s here, mixing it up with some pretty stout competition at the highest, and some say hardest, mountain bike races on earth. We sat down after stage 4 with a beer and a tea (Keller gave up drinking with smoking “it was easier to give up all the bad habits at once”) to talk about his unlikely journey.


“P90X is what my friend had,” he responds to my query on why he started with such an advanced program. “So that’s what I used.”

psyched to hit the mountains, with steve edwards

“I wasn’t committed when I began. At first I couldn’t even get through the warm-ups but, even though I wasn’t trying very hard, I also I didn’t want to quit so I kept pushing play. After about a month and a half I started seeing results, even though I was still smoking. This motivated me to quit and my results, of course, got even better. So I quit all of my bad habits and it started to get really fun to see how I could push myself. As soon as I finished my first round I stated another. That was in 2010 and I’ve been hooked on Beachbody even since.”

On biking…

“I’d ridden bikes when I was younger so I decided to try again. I bought a road bike and did some races and did terrible, but I know it takes time so I just kept training. Then in 2011 I went trekking in Upper Mustang (near the Annapurna circuit) and Santosh (one of the Nepali riders) was our guide. He told me about this race and it sounded amazing, so I started training for it as soon as I got home.”

with santosh and narayan at the finish

I kept doing Beachbody programs and using all of the tools, like your blog, and the nutrition plans. I’ve done many of the programs but Tony is still my favorite. His workouts are fun and he explains things well so you understand what you’re doing and why. And he’s super motivating. I never really followed the guides exactly, as in making recipes, because I don’t really cook, but I used the principles that you taught to eat better. It made it very easy to become a healthy eater. In fact, the whole package you guys create makes it really easy to change your life. I mean, look where I am.”

On the Yak Attack, so far.

“It’s going well,” he said. “Better than expected. But I’m worried about the elevation. In Hungary it’s never more than 1,000 meters and we’re going up to almost 5,000. So we’ll see. But I’m happy that my regimented preparation, so far.”

zoltan at thorong la pass, nearly 5,000 meters. now that’s a p90x success story!

HERE is stage 7. Manang rest day recap is HERE

1 Comment

  • What a tribute to Beachbody and P90X! More than a few of my success stories have started with someone not giving up their bad habits, not wanting to workout, etc. But their persistence in pushing play changed that for them!! Great story! Thank you for sharing! So nice to meet you this week Steve!! Look forward to finishing our multi-conversations!! Smiles, T

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