Fad Fitness: My First Insane Mistake

Staff Writer
Week 1: Working out and pounding gummies before Insanity

As I sat in my bathroom, wondering when I would finally throw up, I thought: Well, I should have seen this coming.

My path to this moment started three weeks earlier while I was on an elliptical machine at my gym. I was flitting through TV shows on the three big screens when an infomercial about a new workout program caught my eye. I watched as a group of cut, six-packed athletes fell to the floor gasping as a beast of a man walked around the room encouraging them to “dig deeper.” His name was Shaun T., and this was Insanity.

Suddenly, my workout felt totally inferior, and I knew I had to give this new program a shot. I was in good shape, thanks to workouts 5 to 6 days a week that included cardio and weight training, as well as increasingly long bicycle rides in preparation for a century at the end of December. This would be a great way to change things up, I figured. I had never tried interval training, let alone the maximum interval training designed by Shaun T. for this program.

Traditional interval training includes short bursts of full-out effort followed by longer periods of less intense exercise. However, the Insanity system uses longer bursts of intense exercise with only short periods of rest. The goal is to work to your maximum capacity and push your own limits which, the program claims, will extend if you stick with it.  

Insanity is a 60-day commitment and the program comes with an online support system, meal plan ideas and 60 days worth of videos that include resistance training for the upper body, core exercises, cardio, plyometrics and sports drills. No additional props are necessary.

Now, why was I so sick the first night? Well, I didn’t exactly set myself up for success.

Feeling confident in my athleticism, I decided to get in a hard workout before my first Fit Test—the measure Insanity uses to help you track your progress. Walking out of my gym after 60 minutes of intense cardio (mistake No. 1), I was desperate for something to eat and grabbed a bag of Haribo gummies from a street-side vendor (huge mistake No. 2).

A word of advice: Don’t do either of these things unless you want to be in incredible pain.

Upon returning home, I popped in the Insanity DVD and got started doing as many reps as possible in 60 seconds of switch kicks, power jacks, power knees, power jumps, globe jumps, suicide jumps, push-up jacks, and low-plank obliques.

By the time the first exercise was over, I knew I was in trouble. By the end of the last exercise, I practically had to crawl my way into the bathroom. I spent the next three hours swearing off any sort of sweet or unhealthy food for the rest of the Insanity program.

I did shape up that week and learned (through occasional slip-ups) that this is the kind of workout that holds you accountable for your diet. The videos made me sweat like someone in a bikram yoga class and made my legs sore, but as long as I ate well, I could make it through the workouts with regular breaks.  

If you've never heard of Insanity, here's a general outline of the program:

The four weeks are primarily based on four videos. Each is about 40 minutes long and includes a warm-up, stretching and a cool down, in addition to cardio and power exercises.  

  • Plyometric Cardio Circuit: Intervals of intense lower-body plyometrics and cardio include exercises such as power squats and suicide drills, as well as plenty of core work through plank exercises such as ski drills (staying in plank position, you jump your feet out to the right, back to center and out left. Continue until you feel like your abs will explode).
  • Cardio Power & Resistance: Strength training exercises such as V push-ups, walking push-ups and tricep dips, as well as power moves such as power kicks, aim to help you build lean muscle and upper-body definition.
  • Cardio Recovery: With deeper resistance work, such as slow-motion squats, you get a break from the intense cardio in the other videos.
  • Pure Cardio: This workout includes switch kicks, suicide drills, power jacks, frog jumps, mountain climbers and push-up jacks for a hyper intense cardio session. 

In week 2, you add in the 20-minute Cardio Abs video to help sculpt the abdominal muscles. This video has an intense warm up, a lot of plank exercises and–here's the good news–no situps. 

Week 5 is your recovery period, when you do six days of Core Cardio and Balance back-to-back.

Then, finally, you hit weeks 6-9 which ramp up the intensity and the length of your workout for an even more insane experience. Four different videos of about 55 minutes comprise the bulk of the program, but you also do cardio abs once a week starting week 7:

  • Max Interval Plyo: Take plyometrics to the next level with squat push-ups, power jumps, one-legged "v" push-ups and more.
  • Max Cardio Conditioning: This video takes you through exercises that include suicide jumps, ski abs, belt kicks and hop squats. 
  • Max Recovery: Break from cardio with moves such as lunges, high planks, low planks, push-ups and side planks.
  • Max Interval Circuit: You'll put together insane combinations that include plank punches, squat hooks, side suicide drills, moving push ups and floor switch kicks.

The program is measured through Fit Tests every two weeks, and you can use before-and-after photos as well as your weight and body fat to track progress. Along with the DVDs, you'll also receive a basic meal plan with recipe suggestions, as well as access to the online community. The total cost is $119.85 plus $24.95 for shipping in the United States.


About the Project: The Active Times' Fad Fitness Challenge is a six-week-long project in which five hapless writers will immerse themselves in five popular fitness programs—CrossFit, Insanity, Barre, Flywheel and Kettlebell classes—for the dual purposes of getting in shape and evaluating them for our readers. We guinea pigs will bust our butts, burn calories and discover muscles we'd long since mothballed and, if all goes well, emerge into the New Year with a well-rounded perspective of the top fitness fads. Check back every weekday from now until the New Year to come along for the ride without breaking a sweat. Click here to check out the rest of the programs.