Insanity Workout Part 1: My Personal Descent Into Exercise Madness

So, I’ve half-seen this Insanity Workout being advertised on shopping channels for a while now, Shaun T shouting for his crew to ‘dig deeper’ and lots of arduous looking exercises taking place to camera, with maximum interval training and nicely shot professional video being the name of the game. I never paid much attention, it looked a bit glossy. But then I figured I’d give it a shot. This is an ongoing record of my personal fitness journey, will I make it through to the end?

What Is It?

If you’re not aware of the Insanity workout, then it’s an at-home ten DVD cardio workout programme from Beachbody that requires you to work out six days a week for around 40 minutes to an hour or so each session. It uses the maximum interval training method, which flips interval training on its head. Instead of working out at maximum intensity for a short period of time and then easing back for a long rest before hitting another quick high intensity peak, it exercises you at maximum intensity for three to five minutes, with a 30 second rest period, then launches you straight back into prolonged high intensity again and again. I did not know this from the outset.

Who Survives?

Not many, in my experience! Quite a few people I know through work have had a go at the Insanity workout, but have given up either through injury – mainly knees or ankles – or just found it too severe or too much of a commitment. I still haven’t met anybody in person who actually completed the full 63 day Insanity workout programme. In fact, I haven’t met anyone who made it through the first month.

I’ve read somewhere that just 17% of people who begin the Insanity workout program actually complete it.

A New Start

Earlier this year, my life started to get back on track. My girlfriend and I moved cities. For the first time in my life I was living in a place that I actually wanted to live, rather than ending up there through chasing a job or some other happenstance. One life goal sorted. After working at the same place for eight years I handed in my notice, shipped out and started a new job which got my brain chugging along again, working on business strategies and putting together marketing plans.

So with all these fresh starts under my belt, I decided I wanted to sort out my fitness levels as well, get back in decent shape. It’s been perhaps ten years since I stepped inside a gym. Many years ago fitness and workouts had been the centre of my life. Lifting iron in back street gyms was my way of life. One year I spent Christmas eve looking for a gym that was open, because it was a training day and I didn’t skip training days. Hell, I even started a sports nutrition company in my early twenties with my then training buddy, selling flaxseed oil in the UK way before it went mainstream.

So I started looking for a challenge that would kick start my fitness future. Insanity training seemed like the best option – kick my body to bits over the course of a few months and reap the rewards.

Plus, how hard could the Insanity workouts actually be? I felt sure that a product for sale on the shopping channels to a bunch of sofa surfers couldn’t be all that difficult. And the fact that I hadn’t spoken to anybody who had actually completed it was another reason for me to give it a try. It intrigued me, so I placed my order and waited for the DVDs to arrive from Beachbody.

Meanwhile, I spent four days jumping rope with a long TV aerial lead that I had laying around. I figured that would ease me into the Insanity way of doing things. First day, three minutes skipping, which completely exhausted my lungs. Five minutes the next day, then six, then seven. Gasping for breath at the end of each skipping session, I realized I was in worse shape than I had originally anticipated.

The Insanity Food Plan

I also worked out how many calories I needed each day, using the Harris Benedict equation. It pegged me at 2,800 Calories each day. So I headed off to the supermarket to buy the core Insanity training foods and ingredients:

  • Tuna
  • Chicken
  • Peanut Butter
  • Crushed Nuts
  • Spinach
  • Eggs
  • Teriyaki Sauce (dang, this stuff is amazing!!)
  • Brown rice
  • Apples
  • Feta Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Natural Yogurt
  • Turkey Mince
  • Milk
  • Frozen Mixed Berries
  • Flaxseeds (flashback to my sports nutrition business in the mid-1990s!)
  • Whole Grain Cereal
  • Nutrition Bars

It seemed like a lot of stuff, but I worked out that I’ve been spending around £6 or so each day on sandwiches (and sometimes sausage rolls) from the food wagon at work, so it will probably be cheaper for me to eat this way after all.

After a stack of internet research I bought myself some new trainers from Amazon, Inov8 BareXF 260s, here’s my review of what I think of them so far.

Scoping Out Insanity Training

And then the Insanity training pack arrived from Beachbody. I spent half an hour one night just randomly putting a few of the DVDs in the player and watching some of the sessions. They looked like hard work!!!! I was starting to realise that this was not going to be easy. And there was this one woman to Shaun T’s right, who just kept smiling through everything, regardless of the arduous craziness of each exercise. I had no idea how she was doing that. I will come to know her as Tania “The Machine” in the days to follow.

I watched an exercise called jumping jack press ups, where you do a normal press up, but also shoot your feet out to the sides as you descend, then feet back together as you straighten out your arms.

I gave it a try. Ouch!

I dropped down easy enough, but pushing back up made my left arm shoot pain. I shattered my upper arm snowboarding on a pro snow park around five years ago and it sometimes lets me know about it. Thing is, I can usually do about 15 press ups, so I was pretty surprised that this one jumping jack press up was so hardcore. What was I getting into here?

Day 1: The Fit Test

So, day one arrives at last! I’ve worked out my meal plan to cover my options for 2,800 Calories each day and I have my food sheets, workout calendar and fit test sheet ready to go.

Monday morning. I get up early, eat my fruit and cottage cheese combo plate at 500 Calories before heading to work. It takes me nearly 20 minutes to finish it, I’m not one for eating in the morning. Vanilla protein shake at 10:45. By lunch I’m still feeling stuffed. It is going to be hard work eating all this food. When you’re eating clean, 2,800 Calories is a lot of food. Eat dirty and it’s easy to chug down the Calories, but this is way different. Got to keep forcing it all down.

Being from the UK, I’ve been having some problems figuring out what an American cup is. All the Insanity food recipes talk about measuring everything in a cup. I spent a bit of time working it all out and here is my short explanation of how to quickly work out calories using the cup method. Definitely worth taking a look at this, as when you’re undergoing Insanity training you’ll have to customize the diet plan for your own specific calorific needs.

Home from work and I throw on my new training shoes, an old pair of shorts and an old white cotton training vest. Towel at the ready and a pint of water.

I’m pretty excited as I drop the fit test into the DVD player.

Day one is the Insanity fit test, which gives you the starting point as to how fit you are, so you can track your progress over the course of the 63 days. By the end of the full programme – if I complete it – I will have taken this fit test five times.

So, straight in and Shaun T, our personal trainer and the inventor of Insanity, was taking two of his pupils through the fit test, showing them and me what exercises we would be doing. One of them I recognized as the smiley woman, Tania “The Machine”, from my spinning through the discs previously. The other is a guy called Chris, who seems in pretty good shape, but kind of a normal guy. I figured I’d try to keep up with him for this session.

I got stuck in, starting with a warm up that almost crushed me – it was a multitude of times more difficult than anything I have done for a long time. Jogging, jumping jacks, heismans, high knees and mummy kicks. That is all, but it was two minutes of intense. Two minutes has not ever felt as long as that.

Then a quick stretch with Shaun T and his crew of two before we get led through the exercises.

My results are below, with a short description of each move. Each move is done for 60 seconds for as many reps as possible, followed by a 60 second rest before diving in to the next exercise.

Exercise 1: Switch Kicks

Two kicks equal one rep. Each leg is kicked out in front of you, aiming to get your foot above your waist. Jump from leg to leg, so you never have both feet on the floor at any one time.

Day 1: 50

Exercise 2: Power Jacks

Like jumping jacks, but when your arms come down, instead of just spreading your legs you go into a squat position.

Day 1: 36

Exercise 3: Power Knees

Start with your hands together and out in front of you and your left leg behind you, raise your leg as you lower your hands to your knee. This one blew my ass muscles to shreds.

Day 1: 62in

Exercise 4: Power Jumps

In a squat position, jump up and tap your hands to your knees, landing back down into a squat. This one really got me struggling and gagging for breath.

Day 1: 24

Exercise 5: Globe Jumps

Four jumps equals one rep. Jump right, jump back, jump left, jump forward for one rep, moving your arms with each jump, too. I thought the power jumps were hard, globe jumps were intense and I’m beginning to flag now.

Day 1: 8

Exercise 6: Suicide Jumps

These are what I know as jumping burpees: squat, into push-up position, back to squat and jump up. Repeat.

Day 1: 11

Exercise 7: Push-Up Jacks

Similar to a normal push-up, as I mentioned earlier, but when you go down your legs go out similar to a jumping jack. I was able to do more than one this time! Though I did feel my old snowboarding injury and all the titanium hardware in my right arm start to give me a bit of pain.

Day 1: 16

Exercise 8: Low Plank Oblique

Get into a plank position with elbows on the floor and hands clasped.  Then bring your left leg forward and to the side. Repeat with your right leg. This exercise completely blitzed my obliques and my stomach muscles. After this one I was completely blasted and had to lay down on my towel for a few minutes.

Day 1: 23

After all that I dragged myself off the floor and jumped in the shower. But then later, I had to slide myself off the sofa and go lay down in the middle of the lounge for half an hour when my body suddenly shut down on me. Dang, I was drained, but I was happy. I’d pushed hard and I was pleased with what I’d achieved. One day down, 62 days left to go.

One thing that people told me is that you’re covered in sweat after each session. I wasn’t. I think my lungs and heart were giving out before my muscles most of the time. Maybe this will change as I move through the Insanity programme.

Measurements And To Bed

Later in the evening, I did my measurements, photos and weight:

Chest: 101.5cm

Left Bicep: 33.7cm

Right Bicep: 34.3cm

Waist: 90.5cm

Hips: 96.6cm

Left Thigh: 56.8cm

Right Thigh: 56.0cm

Left Calf: 37.0cm

Right Calf: 37.0cm

Weight: 78Kg

Read the second part of my Insanity workout journey and if you like this post, please comment or share it!

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