I have previously written about how I became out of shape during my 30s but was able to bounce back before turning 40. One month before turning 41, I decided to start the 60-day Insanity workout that has become so popular. I started the program on January 2 and finished on March 4. This post provides a review of the program.
I Wasn't Out of Shape
I started the Insanity workoutless than a month after testing for my black belt in taekwondo. I was not out of shape. However, my cardio endurance was not as strong as it had been because I had focused heavily on form and flexibility. I started the program with the following numbers on December 30:
Body Fat: 14.1%
Note: I measured body fat with the EatSmart Precision GetFit Digital Body Fat Scaleand a simple caliper. This percentage is an estimate based on averages between the two.
My weight may seem high, but I had also engaged in weight lifting for several months, so I had gained some muscle weight. Nevertheless, I still had some pounds I could lose.
What Is Insanity?
Insanity is a workout released though a company known as Beach Body, which also produces the popular P90X. The Insanity routine is designed to be a complete workout system completed in 60 days. It involves six days of workouts per week, followed by a day of rest. Videos of Insanity showing young and fit participant sweating and acting as if they are agony. Here is one of those videos, entitled Team Beachbody Insanity Workout Program - Shaun T:
I’ve seen many of these types of videos and thought perhaps some of it was exaggerated. One day after starting the program, I realized that nobody in this video exaggerated anything.
The first day of Insanity requires participants to complete a fit test. This test involves doing eight exercises for one minute each. Easy, right?
After four exercises, I had to pause the video to catch my breath. It was simply crazy (or, um, insane). Here were my results from that first day on January 2:
Switch Kicks (alternating kicks): 74
Power Jacks (combination of jumping jacks and squats): 64
Power Knees (pulling the knee to the midsection): 75
Power Jumps (a plyometric exercise involving lots of jumping): 60
Globe Jumps (another plyometric exercise): 8
Suicide Jumps (use your imagination): 17
Push-Up Jacks (pushups with a twist): 30
Low-Plank Obliques (pull knees up to chest while doing in low-plank position): 60
Sweating a Lot
It proved tough to get used to the exercises. The program has many different basic exercises that increase and maintain heart rate, which is one of the keys to success. The difference between Insanity and other workout is that the program allows little rest time. My heart rate would jump to 155 or 160 beats per minute and stay there throughout the routine. When the program called for a break, it lasted 30 seconds.
I have never sweat so much doing any exercise routine. I sweat during the warm-up. I sweat during the stretching. I sweat during the routines. I sweat during cool-downs. I sweat for an hour after the workout. And no, I am not exaggerating any of this.
It took two solid weeks before I felt like was really improving. Very few of those on the video (including Shaun T himself) could finish all of the exercises, and I certainly couldn’t. However, I took fewer and fewer water breaks and felt stronger.
It took two more fit tests, including one the day after my 41st birthday. On each one, I improved my performance from the original test.
I was purportedly supposed to use a couple of the disks for “recovery.” That recovery involved nearly as much intensity as the other workouts, and I once again sweat throughout the entire workout.
At the midway point, the program calls for a week of recovery exercises. There is a disk (core cardio and balance) devoted exclusively for this purpose. By the third day of this recovery week, I could get through the entire exercise and was feeling better. I viewed that as a positive sign.
I started the last four weeks of the program on February 6. The first thing anyone would notice is that the routines increase to 50 to 55 minutes instead of 35 to 40 minutes. The second thing anyone would notice is that the first half is an exhausting workout by itself, but there is still another 20 to 25 minutes to go.
I cannot say I was able to finish any of these max routines without having to take breaks. I do not think this is uncommon. I injured my thigh in martial arts, and some of the exercises during the max training caused so much impact that I had to adjust so that I could finish.
By the last week, I was not panting for breath by the end of the routines, though I was always worn out.
I still had two workouts to go, but I measured my numbers on March 3. They were as follows:
Weight: 209 lbs. (originally 221)
Body Fat%: 10.1% (originally 14.1%)
I did not have specific goals in mind and was satisfied with what I lost under both categories. Here are before-and-after pictures:
Not the crazy improvements seen on the video, but I have noticed quite a change in how my clothes fit. Moreover, the pictures do not show the effects on my legs.
I took my last fit test on March 4. The final numbers:
Switch Kicks: 91 (improved by 17)
Power Jacks: 84 (improved by 20)
Power Knees: 109 (improved by 34)
Power Jumps: 106 (improved by 46)
Globe Jumps: 12 (improved by 4)
Suicide Jumps: 25 (improved by 8)
Push-Up Jacks: 50 (improved by 20)
Low-Plank Obliques: 100 (improved by 40)
Would I Recommend Insanity?
I would recommend this system, but not for everyone. I have been very out of shape in the past, and I cannot imagine finishing even the fit test unless I was already in decent shape. It is a very demanding program that requires a great deal of willpower, and someone who is not in good shape to start will have a steep curve.
One point I would make, though, is that it may be a good routine to spread out over 120 days, especially if it will take some time to get back into shape. The program is not designed to provide much of a break between days, but that does not mean an individual could not adjust as needed.
For someone already in shape and who does not mind high impact exercises, this is a great program. I have discovered that my cardio endurance is much greater than it ever was before the program, and I intend to continue doing the exercises.
Two sweaty thumbs up!