Three weeks ago, I did the impossible. I finished the Insanity workout. For those uninitiated, the regime involves 60 days of high-intensity cardio-focused exercise (read: blood, sweat, and tears). Here are my takeaways.
1. I was left completely drained after the program. While I believe that anybody can use Insanity to jumpstart their health, make no mistake: it’s incredibly demanding. Shaun T, the host, constantly urges you to “dig deeper,” but it’s imperative to know your boundaries and protect yourself from injury. I paced myself carefully, but was sore and would have to “roll out” on my foam roller often — highly recommended if you embark on this journey. My joints also protested occasionally at the high-impact exercises I put them through, especially during the second (and unbelievably even more intense) half of the program. There was also the question of nutrition, which naturally impacts performance. I was dieting too strictly, which often left me depleted and irritable. This segues, of course, into the mental aspect of the thing, because despite being terribly cranky, I discovered that…
2. I have self-discipline, after all! At the core, I really am your typical physical-activity-averse couch potato. My dream life is me, in bed, with my two favorite groups of friends (Ben & Jerry, and Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha & Miranda). However, once I committed to this program, I nixed failure as an option. I would wake up every day at 7 am, change into my workout gear, and exercise furiously for an hour before heading off to work. Most mornings, I’d dread the alarm — but habit reigns supreme, and I hate not finishing my work. I even structured my vacations and rest days in order to complete every workout. It was through sheer willpower that I stuck to the schedule. While a huge (huge!) pain, the feeling of accomplishing a very tangible goal was worth it. Because —
3. I’m fitter now. I can feel it throughout my body, especially in my core (which Shaun T encourages you to engage near-constantly). My muscles are solid and my stamina is increased. I shed a few inches and lost a few pounds. While it wasn’t the total body transformation depicted in infomercials, there’s an appreciable difference in my appearance, and an even greater one in my fitness level. The fitness tests, which you perform throughout the program, are a testament to this.
So — would I recommend Insanity? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Well, I already re-started it as of two weeks ago. However, this time around, I’m going to listen to my body’s cues more carefully, especially when it’s overly tired. One thing I want to avoid is physically stressing myself out, which I think can be quite easy with Insanity. I also want to try mixing in some other forms of physical activity, especially weight lifting and lower-intensity exercise.
It feels great to have finished a set regime from start to finish. However, I want to think about my fitness in the long term — what’s practical, feasible, and effective. I’ve now been through P90X, running 10Ks regularly, and Insanity — now it’s time to take what I learned and figure out what truly works for me.