Beachbody Insanity: How Insane Is It?Posted on Jun 23rd 2010 11:00AM by Kristen Seymour
Insanity bills itself as "the hardest workout program ever put on DVD." It's a 60-day program that consists of 10 DVDs (six workouts you rotate through according to the Insanity calendar for the first month, one DVD that's used for recovery during week five, and four that are rotated throughout the second month).
Each workout is based on the idea of MAX Interval Training, which basically means you do longer periods of super-intense exercise with short rest intervals. By switching up the intervals in this way, Insanity claims you can burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour. These intervals keep your body and mind occupied with moves that are easy to learn but tough to master, especially when you're nearing the end of an interval and facing total muscle failure. Because, believe me, you will experience total muscle failure.
The workouts are all similar insofar as to say that, if you like one of them, you'll like them all, but they differ enough to keep each day fresh. The first day is the Fit Test, which takes you through eight exercises for a minute each, and then has you write down your score. Insanity trainer Shaun T leads and, as he does with all the videos, participates in the majority of the exercises, but takes breaks to show form (and catch his breath). The man and woman he uses as examples offer up their scores from their first time and what they score on the video (after 60 days on the program), so you can get a feel for where you stand. I was pretty middle ground -- sometimes higher than their starting score, sometimes lower.
I thought the Fit Test was tough, but compared to the 40-minute Plyometric Cardio Circuit, it was a breeze. Plyometric Cardio Circuit features a group of people doing plyometric exercises focusing on the lower body (but not ignoring the rest), and while there are different body types, everyone is very, very fit. This workout was the first (but not the last) time my muscles gave up before my mind on the program. There were occasions where, even if my life had depended on it, I could not have possibly done another rep. And it was awesome.
Cardio Power & Resistance was even harder, if possible, but since it introduced new moves, my tired, sore legs were able to hang in there for the full 40 minutes. However, my inner thighs and hamstrings were so tender that I started drawing concerned looks from strangers as I tried to climb stairs that night.
Cardio Recovery went at a much slower pace for 40 minutes, but was challenging in its own way; think about the type of burn you experience doing yoga rather than the burn you feel jumping rope. While all the workouts include stretching, there was certainly more (much-needed) stretching in this workout.
Pure Cardio (40 minutes) was a pleasant surprise. I don't know if it was because I was coming off a recovery day, if the moves catered more to my strengths, or if I was just getting used to these workouts, but it definitely seemed easier. I was still left shaking, gasping for breath, and pouring sweat, but there was a little less total muscle failure.
Cardio Abs is supposed to be paired up with Pure Cardio in week two, but I tried it out after a run on the beach (hey, if I'm at the beach, you really can't expect me to do all my workouts in a hotel room, right?). This was a solid, crunch-free workout. Although there are some on-the-floor traditional ab moves, there were lots of moves that I'd never done, and there was still a good amount of cardio.
The other workouts (Core Cardio and Balance, MAX Interval Circuit, MAX Cardio Conditioning and MAX Recovery) all come after the end of the first month, so I haven't tried them out yet.
The Insanity program is $144.80 on the official Web site (including shipping and handling), which makes it one of the pricier options we've reviewed on That's Fit. But that's a small price to pay for results. Plus, it comes with a nutrition guide, quick and easy fitness guide, calendar and access to online support tools. Is it worth it? Let's see!
Level of Difficulty
Advanced. If you aren't already fairly fit (or extremely stubborn), you won't be able to keep up.
Next Day Soreness
Are you kidding? I groaned so loudly when getting up from my desk that I actually startled my husband (who was in another room, with the TV on). So, let's go with major.
Who's It For?
It's not insane, but it's really an athletic workout -- I found myself transported back to being 15 years old and attending the varsity volleyball and basketball open gyms, hoping I could work hard enough to keep up with the juniors and seniors. It's sporty without the sports, so if you consider yourself an athlete and want to be pushed in the same way a coach would push you during tryouts, you'll enjoy it.
As crazy as it might sound, I really, really enjoyed the high level of difficulty. I mean, the bar is set so high by the people in the video that giving up really doesn't feel like an option. Shaun T runs his workouts the way I would run them -- he's tough, but he never lets you forget that you're working this hard so you can see real results. And, although he doesn't give modifications (this is a "go hard or go home" type of program), he also makes the point over and over that you should never sacrifice form. If you're unable to hold your body properly, take a breather and try again. Just don't give yourself too much time off!
The people in the video give it a real "team" atmosphere (being filmed in a high school gym doesn't hurt, either), something I found really motivating. They were grunting, they were sweating, they had to take breaks, but at the end, they were high-fiving and smiling. And they should smile -- they just kicked some butt, and only had to spend 40 minutes doing it (although in the second month, there are some 50 to 60 minute workouts, plus the 20-minute Cardio Abs added on once a week).
One last bonus -- you don't need a lot of space to do this. You do need to be able to jump, and you'll need enough room to do a plank or push up, but other than that, there's just a bit of side to side action -- totally manageable in a living room (or tiny hotel room) if you're willing to move a bit of furniture.
Initially, I was kind of turned off by the whole "this is so insane" approach, but after doing the videos, I suppose I get it. It creates some camaraderie among those who are taking on this challenge. The only thing I can say I don't love about the program is that the schedule makes it hard to work other workouts in -- I still want to run and swim, so I'm going to do a mixture of switching Insanity days around and doing partial Insanity workouts after some of my outdoor efforts.
Features and Options
Like many videos, Insanity gives you the option to play the workouts with music or without. (I opted to keep the music, and it's not a distraction at all.) Additionally, there's a timer shown at the bottom that counts down each interval, which was super handy -- when there are just 10 seconds left, you know you can do another rep or two, but if there are 30 seconds left, you can take a quick break and finish strong.
If Insanity were a guy, I'd want to make out with him (well, that and if I wasn't married, of course). I like it that much. Because I was traveling while trying out this first week, I didn't follow the meal plan very closely, but I intend to do a better job of that in the coming weeks. If you do this program and eat reasonably well, you'll lose weight. If you do it and follow the meal plan closely, you'll get in amazing shape, I have no doubt in my mind.
I'm excited to see if, at the end of month two, I can keep up with the fastest and strongest people in the video. I'm also psyched to see if doing workouts that remind me of the hard sports workouts I did as a teenager can get me closer to my high school body. That is, if I can hold onto all the videos -- a bunch of my friends are already asking to borrow them!
Shaun T isn't the only well-known trainer who can work you out at home. Check out what Bob Harper has on the horizon!