On top of working full time, being a new mommy, and squeezing in time for my video game hobby, I decided it was time to be serious about getting in shape and trimming some more of the baby weight I gained during my pregnancy. On the suggestion of a co-worker, I decided to take the plunge and try the now-popular INSANITY home workout program brought to us by Team Beachbody and Shaun T.
I am coming clean and admitting I did not complete the entire program. I made it to the final week (FML) and fell off the wagon. Life often gets hectic, and finding the time to work out 1-1.5 hours almost every day gets tough. Especially when my little one doesn’t have a perfect sleeping-all-night record just yet. Like a lot of gamers, I am not into sports. I play Dance Dance Revolution and jog on the treadmill for exercise. Until now, that is. So even though I didn’t complete the INSANITY program in its entirety, I’m hoping that you fellow gamers and fitness noobs will at least hear me out with some suggestions and ideas for how to get the MAX out of your time with INSANITY if you decide to take the plunge.
First of all, this is not for beginners or people with physical barriers. If you have any medical conditions I strongly suggest meeting with a doctor before beginning this program to see if it is right for you. I don’t mean to scare away anyone who is overweight and wants a challenge. But if you’re going to tackle INSANITY, you need to follow Shaun T’s instructions and be very careful with executing some of the exercises, especially in Month 2.
Your body needs appropriate fuel to have the energy to complete these workouts. I first attempted INSANITY when my son was about 5 months old and I just couldn’t do it. Without a solid 7-8 hours of sleep and proper nutrition (I didn’t even try following the meal plan at the time) it wasn’t happening. Nutrition is an uphill battle for a lot of people because regulating how we eat and changing our mindset about food is a 24/7 thing. Our society inundates us with food-like products that do nothing but addict and fatten us. Combine advertising, lack of transparency, and our hectic lifestyles, eating right seems nearly impossible sometimes. The INSANITY nutrition guide is a helpful, informational menu which simply explains how many calories you need and what kinds of foods to eat to help achieve your weight loss/toning goals. Michi’s Ladder and a list of building blocks are also included for the pickier eaters out there to help substitute foods that you don’t like in the meal plan.
In terms of food, you can expect to eat a LOT of the following foods: raw/steamed veggies, raw fruits, poultry and other lean meats, and low-fat dairy products such as 1% cottage cheese and 0% Greek yogurt. Oh, and peanut butter. Peanut butter is great if you need a quick protein/healthy fat fix. The meal plan is divided into 5 small meals with adjustments for individual caloric needs. Eating every three hours was a big adjustment for me after limiting myself to a 1200 calorie diet. After plugging in my measurements with the provided formula, it allowed me 1800 calories a day to prevent my body from going into starvation mode. I did my best to eat the foods in the meal plan. Eating the exact meals and measurements was a time consuming hurdle I didn’t exactly overcome. My sane compromise was eating the foods in the meal plan and using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone to track my protein/carb/fat ratios and calories. MyFitnessPal is an incredible free resource for anyone interested in calorie and fitness tracking.
Beachbody’s INSANITY program is a 60-day workout regimen. Not too long but not too short. In order to help the time go by and for motivation, try to get a workout buddy. The closest thing I had to a workout partner was my sister who popped over to do a workout with me once in a while when my brother-in-law was home to entertain their son. Oh, and my hubby did a Fit Test with me one day instead of going to the gym. If you can’t get someone else to commit to the program with you, go to teambeachbody.com and make an account. You’ll automatically get assigned a coach. Too late in my quest, I stumbled upon the website and a great group of very informational and supportive people. Some are fitness gurus while others are normal, busy people like myself trying to make a lifestyle change.
As embarrassing as it probably is, take before and after pictures. Don’t just do your weight, do your measurements too. I didn’t lose much in the weight department, but I went down at least one pant size and have more muscle definition than before. My Fit Test results always improved as well, so I knew my cardio and strength were improving. When you first start the program it’ll most likely seem like an insurmountable obstacle, but don’t give up! As you repeat the workouts you’ll find yourself taking fewer and fewer breaks and doing more and more reps of the exercises. You’ll still be exhausted at the end. And, more importantly, you should be proud of yourself for pushing play and digging deeper!
There are a variety of workouts in Month 1, followed by a recovery week, and then a new round of workouts to kick your butt in Month 2. The philosophy behind the exercises are reversed intervals: Shaun T swapped the typical interval sets. This means you push yourself for longer and get a shorter break compared to traditional interval workout programs. Aside from the cardio conditioning days, there will always be interval sets to allow you to grab a drink of water and check your heart rate. I liked the move sets and the general flow of the workouts. Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, it was time for a new exercise focusing on different body parts. Mostly. There’s a crap-ton of squats incorporated in everything. Your thighs will BURN. I love how firm my quads feel now, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Even on the “recovery” days I was sweating and feeling the burn.
Shaun T is the man behind and in front of this madness. I have come to really respect and adore him. He stands behind his product, that much is evident. He is full of passion and energy. It is hard not to be inspired by him. I started following him on Facebook recently. He posts motivational and inspirational thoughts daily. He also takes the time to read and respond to comments and questions made by fans. AND he recently did an INSANITY birthday challenge following his 60 day program, posting his Fit Test results, and tracking his personal struggles and progress with the program. If a fitness instructor with six pack abs who can do over 100 power jumps in a minute can admit he has his days, that tells me he has no problem admitting he’s only human and shares in the journey to fitness… even with the people who purchase his products.
A great feature of this program is the lack of equipment. All you will need is whatever you like to wear on your feet while working out, and a mat. Even the mat is optional. I strongly suggest purchasing a mat, some comfy sneakers or no-slip socks, a face towel or sweatband (if you wear makeup I guarantee it will sweat into your eyes and make them burn more than your muscles) and a heart rate monitor! I just got my heart rate monitor, and I wish I had it this entire time. If you’re really pushing yourself during the workouts, having a heart rate monitor will help you stay in your target HR zone and show you how many calories you’re burning. As I track my calories via MyFitnessPal, this would’ve been a big motivational factor for me. There’s always next round, I suppose!
Would I recommend Beachbody’s INSANITY program to others? Well, it really depends on the person. You need a high level of commitment and flexibility. Everyone’s bodies are different. I had to do a lot of experimenting to figure out how to get my workouts done and how to see results on the scale. For me, it took getting my carb ratio below 40% and getting at least 60% of my calories before I was done work. And drinking a lot of water so I didn’t retain quite so much. If you’re thinking about doing INSANITY, watch some videos so you don’t go into it quite as blind as I did. Shaun T managed to say just the right things at the right moments to keep me in tune with the workouts and see them through until the end. My problem was both time management with the workouts and lack of motivation after I met one of my personal goals, which was to fit into my summer shorts from two years ago. I think that deserves a big cheer itself!
Right now I am killing time with a less demanding workout program by Shaun T, Hip Hop Abs. It is older and a little cheesy, but it is fun and doesn’t feel like a chore like INSANITY was becoming. I’m considering looking up a HHA/INSANITY hybrid so I can get the best of both worlds until Shaun T’s T25 comes out this summer. 25 minutes a day 5 days a week… I can commit to that!