Brutally fit but you'll get into it. This program is yet another world class contribution by one of the elite trainers at Beachbody. It is serious stuff for the seriously fit and those who want to be. There aren’t many modifications of the program. If I had to choose a word to describe it, it is I like to say brutal. There’s no two ways around it – max intervals are hard. They are supposed to be by definition near the top of your effort level for bursts of time followed by rest. But unlike traditional intervals, max intervals require long periods of max effort with little rest. It’s like 60 days of fitness torture. The only reason you can have a prayer is body areas are cycled so that you don’t quite get fatigued in a particular area like say legs because the next interval might involve core or upper body. On the other side, it is amazing the changes you make over time. You add incredible capacity and endurance for all-out effort. This is applicable to many sports or even just feeling better overall. You will feel awesome after doing this and be better in just about every aspect of activities where intensity is rewarded. I feel like I could compete in the 400 meters and probably do well for my age bracket after doing this program.
With that in mind I thought I’d share what I learned after recently completing a round of Insanity, with the intent of helping others avoid pitfalls and have a great round.
Take the fitness test. This is a key to tracking your progress. It's a little different for someone like me who is already kind of at my goal weight and came in very fit already. But much to my happy surprise, the numbers in my fitness test bear out an incredible increase in capacity for intense bursts of vigorous effort. In short - I'm kicking butt REALLY hard on cardio after doing Insanity! :)
Do YOUR best, by this I mean – I’d love to be as quick or as strong as some of the folks on the video, but realistically at my age I am not. But I do have a “slow/medium/fast or all-out” and that’s what I do. I know this because of my HR monitor. You need to be able to gauge this with a monitor and with your own sense of effort level. Maintaining form for me is paramount to avoiding injury, the bane of my existence for staying fit as I age. Doing that means at times backing off the accelerator a bit (just a bit). Typically I’m still burning upwards of 1000 cals per workout and conditioning my body like a pro athlete.
Hip flexor stretch – I read some about this online. It’s crucial you do these stretches not only for your legs but to keep your lower back aligned. If you don’t it can throw things just out enough and you end up straining your lower back and have some soreness and stiffness, which could in theory lead to injury. Shaun T emphasizes this stretch, and despite an incredible pounding of plyo cardio 4-5 times a week for 60 days, I never really had major problems there. I really think the discipline of doing the hip flexor stretch (and having good shoes – see below) was a major part of this.
Get some good crosstrainer shoes. Something with ample lateral forefoot support. Stability is key here. Expect you will wear them out also in a round if you’re doing it right. A lot of folks like UnderArmor shoes although New Balance and Nike make some crosstrainers that are good too. Find one that fits your foot is snug but comfortable. Running shoes won’t cut it folks! Even doing “the Heisman” during warm-ups will expose an unstable shoe and possibly turn your ankle. Don’t skimp, get something good for your feet you will be asking a lot of them.
Use recovery drink. By use I mean not only after but probably during. Particularly during phase 2 or the “max” phase you’re doing LONG periods of max intervals – this is very taxing and you will require glycogen replenishment if you’re doing it right. Beachbody recovery I believe is superior to something like Gatorade for instance for several reasons one being the absorbable protein content and inclusion of supplements like magnesium which helps with muscle cramping.
Have towels. You will sweat, a lot, even just warming up and stretching.
Ironically a mat wasn’t as important as I thought it would be for my knees. And I am 44. Maybe it’s because I came in down in my weight already, having undergone transformation thanks to several rounds of P90x, but again, probably the shoes.
I never realized how important hip flexors are for explosive movements. It makes sense. I had always been under the impression hip flexors were those things in your legs which prevented lots of sit-ups (probably because they were weak on me). They are now even visible. And I find I am capable of much quicker and sustained explosive leg movements – I can move my knees much faster. My theory is this is Shaun T’s hurdles background here. Great stuff for running and jumping to have strong hip flexors!
There is a lot of core conditioning and emphasis on core. This is also key to overall fitness and injury prevention. Shaun T’s abs or core conditioning philosophy doesn’t include sit-ups so don’t be disappointed there. Trust me you will get plenty of resistance in the abdominal area but to do it you are performing things like jumps, metabolic conditioning pushups, suicides etc. There’s plenty for the core. I can tell he really understands how to work the abs without doing traditional ab exercises. The ab focused workouts include a lot of plange movement in the hips, you are constantly engaging the abs while balancing and stabilizing. The big tip for this area is to maintain form and engage your core. You want to keep things aligned and execute moves properly to prevent injury.
All in all I’d congratulate Shaun T on a successful and world class program – this is one I cherish completing right up there with running marathons and P90x. I will definitely be using this to condition myself for ski season and cardio capacity and endurance overall.