Friday, April 15, 2016

Exercise Prosperity: My Review of INSANITY

Today I'll be reviewing the Insanity exercise program created by Shaun T.! This is my fourth post in my Exercise Prosperity series.

After thoroughly researching Insanity, I ordered it from Amazon in June, 2015. Because of all the reviews I read—about how sweaty you get while doing Insanity—I also ordered an eight feet by six feet Square 36 extra large exercise mat, also from Amazon. Last year, my Square 36 mat cost 20 dollars less than it does now, so I'm really glad I purchased it when I did! As an FYI, if any of you decide to buy a Square 36 exercise mat from Amazon, you'll save about 15 dollars vs. buying it from the Square 36 website. That said, be sure to read their detailed information because it is filled with good news about how their mats are made. :)

I began exercising to Insanity just like I had with P90X (see my previous post Exercise Prosperity: My Review of P90X): by following their scheduled video routines, three times per week. After I did the first two weeks worth of videos, I was concerned that I would lose all the muscle mass/strength I gained with P90X because Insanity seemed (at first) that it was only cardio. Thus, I looked at the rest of their video workout schedule and decided to bag it. Instead, I exercised to each video in order.

After finishing the 10 Insanity videos—including Fit Test, I decided to incorporate the nine regular Insanity videos into my P90X video series. I also decided not to follow either program's listed video combinations, but instead created my own list/order! My future P90X/Insanity post will explain how that endeavor turned out!

Here is my list of Insanity supplies/necessities—they truly keep me sane! Ha ha.
  • exercise clothing and supportive athletic shoes
  • Square 36 exercise mat—I cannot adequately express the love I have for this mat! (Refer to links above.) I was hesitant to pay so much money for a mat (it's expensive!), but it was absolutely worth every penny! I wouldn't want to exercise without my Sq36, and I shudder to think of exercising on carpet ever again! (Again, no one is paying me to write any of this. I just want to share my happiness with the world!)
  • water bottle—I usually refill once during each video
  • large towel—I legit can soak an entire towel during most Insanity videos! (There are a couple of easier videos where I still sweat, but not quite as much.) Okay, it's not dripping wet, but it totally feels like I toweled off after taking a shower!
  • hair in a bun on the crown of my head—it's the only way I can do Insanity without losing my mind! ;)
The first thing everyone should know about Insanity is this: be prepared to be out of breath and sweat a lot! You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. I've never breathed so intensely, or sweat so much, in a workout program. Yes, Insanity takes the cake for breathless sweatiness! I remember seeing a hilarious meme on Instagram that said, "Insanity: Straight Outta Can't Breathe." HA! I couldn't agree more!

Secondly, your DVD player's pause button is your best Insanity friend—besides Shaun T., that is! In all seriousness, I believe that pausing each DVD for an extra 30–60 seconds between exercises/intervals is much better than taking a break while running the DVD continuously. Pausing between exercises (only when truly necessary) and finishing all the repetitions will give you a better bang for your buck. You'll feel so accomplished(!) in finishing every part of the workout, vs. missing repetitions. Did that make sense?

Yes, pausing the DVDs will make your overall workout times longer, but to me, it's totally worth it! I mean, if you watch the videos, you'll see that no participant is capable of doing the Insanity workouts uninterrupted from start to finish—not even Shaun T. himself! Every single video demonstrator ends up taking a break for a few seconds at one point, or another.

Each video has a ticker at the bottom of the screen that gives tips/helps in addition to what exercise is coming up next. Those ticker tips frequently say to rest when necessary. Thus, I believe it's better to pause and rest between exercises so you get the benefit of the complete Insanity workout. Don't skimp on any exercise! Just rest to the point that you can catch your breath and your body doesn't get cold (keep moving), then start up again fresh. You'll be amazed at your body's abilities when you rest properly—but again, don't rest too long! :)

Because Insanity is so cardiovascularly challenging (I don't know if cardiovascularly is a word, but I just made it one!), be aware that it could take your body quite a while to adjust. In the beginning, go at your own pace and don't give yourself a heart attack! As time passes, you'll see that your body is adjusting and each video will get a little easier the more often you do them.

I remember the happy day I told Greg, "I die a little less each time I do Insanity!" Ha ha. It's true and feels totally awesome! I'm so much more able to make it through my Insanity videos now than I did last year. One might think that I would have plateaued after doing Insanity for 10 months, but I continually get better every time I do an Insanity video—even though I've done each one countless times! And I'm now able to make it through certain sections of videos without having to rest, whereas before, I had to take frequent rests. I'm so excited with my progress!

Let's delve a little deeper into breathing. I have to give major props to Shaun T. because he taught me how to breathe properly! That may sound ridiculous, but I had no idea I was breathing improperly while doing cardio for all these years—until Shaun T. pointed it out that I was clenching my jaw and throat. Well, he didn't tell me specifically, but you know what I mean! ;)

Once I understood how tense my face and neck were, I consciously relaxed them and my breathing results have markedly improved. Yay! For years, I wondered if I had asthma because I had such a hard time breathing during any cardio workout. Yet because of Shaun T., I finally figured out that my face and neck were just too tense! I'm grateful I've been able to relax. The benefits of fully breathing feel amazing!

To continue, in one of the easier Insanity videos, there's a semi-stationary section that I've really struggled with. Yet I finally realized last week that I simply wasn't breathing big enough for my stressed muscles. Thus, I started breathing as heavily as I possibly could and I totally finished the difficult section! Seriously, friends, learn from me: breathe as enthusiastically and continuously as you possibly can!

Now, a word of caution for anyone exercising to Insanity: while doing the sprinting-type movements, stay on your toes/balls of your feet as much as is humanly possible! At first, I didn't realize the vast importance of that previous sentence. Yet after doing Insanity for several months, my knees began feeling achy. It wasn't good.

I thought my knee pain was due to incorrect stretching, so I started doing a couple of different stretches during the Insanity warm-ups. Unfortunately, my knees started feeling even worse and I quickly realized that one cannot substitute stretches in Insanity: the stretches are there for a reason and must be done completely and correctly!

Over time, my knees started aching during my Insanity workouts, which really scared me because they had previously only ached only after I finished. With all of my knee pain, I was concerned I could be developing arthritis—which is one of my worst nightmares! Thus, I got on my knees and prayed for knee help. Pun intended. :) I felt the answer I received was to do exercise physiology research online.

After reading up on exercising, I realized my problem: during the explosive, high intensity sprinting-type movements, I was trying to protect my knees by landing first on my toes and then coming down fully onto my heels—which is the wrong sprinty thing to do. When sprinting, it's important to land on the toes/balls of the feet only. That type of toe-to-heel movement (I was doing) also slows you down. Yay not me! ;) Happily, my research reiterated there are specific times while doing plyometric exercises when you need to land softly on your entire foot—toes to heels—as I had already been doing. I was relieved that I at least did something right!

So, even though my knees hurt in the beginning (because I was still sore from my improper foot landings), I tried staying on my forefoot (toes/balls of my feet) throughout all of the sprinting-type exercises. It only took a few workout sessions of landing on my forefoot for my knees to start feeling better! Yay! Staying on my toes, and not coming down on my heels, have made all the difference in my knees' feel goods. :) I wonder if that's where the saying, "Stay on your toes!" came from?! And here I always thought it referred to ballet! ;)

My heels occasionally come down while Insanity sprinting (it's impossible to stay on my toes perfectly at all times)—and there are some moves where I need to land briefly on my heels for stabilization, but for the majority of time, I'm in tiptoe shape and knee-pain FREE! I can't tell you how relieved I feel knowing I don't have arthritis—it's beyond lovely!

*All of that said, please don't rely solely on my experience. I'm not an expert and every body is different. I also think the fact that I'm so flexible probably has something do do with my previous knee pain. I'm guessing if I did one of those body mechanics research videos—where they film your body to see how it operates during exercise, I would discover something I'm doing wrong. Yet I really try to listen to my body; I watch my body's reflection in the glass of my entertainment center and TV screen to make sure I'm doing the movements properly.

For great tips on feet strengthening, I enjoyed this article, "5 Foot Strengthening Exercises to Improve Speed, Power, and Balance," by David Weck.

Here's helpful information about plyometrics, "How to Safely Land a Jump During Sports." (It was recently updated.)

This is a good article on sprinting techniques, "9 Steps to Faster Sprinting."

As you might have guessed, Shaun T. is super least he is to me! I've tried to keep up with Shaun T.'s speed, but my body just does not naturally move as quickly as Shaun T.'s. Despite my slowness, I always try my best! Hey, at least I'm flexible! #yogaAdrie! Yes, I would classify Shaun T. in the supersonic fast cheetah family and probably put myself into the fun flexible ferret family! Ha ha.

By the by, ferrets look like fun family pets! Check out what the American Ferret Association Inc. and Petco have to say about ferrets. I'm not a fan of shedding pet fur, so I don't think I'll become a ferret owner anytime soon. That said, maybe one day I'll be the old lady with a ferret!

The good news is, I've become faster and quicker since working out to Insanity! What's even more amazing are my reflexes. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't experienced it myself, but my reflexes are legitimately better since the first half of 2015!

It's been really funny to see that my husband and kids are continually surprised and impressed at my quicker reflexes and reaction times! I can't count how many times they'll playfully toss something my direction, and they're like, "What?! You actually caught that?!" Oh, it makes me laugh when they underestimate my new-found quick skills! Ha ha.

Remember my blog post, Reaction Time, Family time? Yes, I directly attribute all of my speedy improvements to following Shaun T.'s high-speed example! :)

An additional big bit of happiness is the fact that my heart efficiency and lung capacity have improved dramatically! Out of curiosity, when I took my resting heart rate a few weeks ago, I was ecstatic to see that my heart was in the Excellent category! Even better? I was only one heartbeat away from being in the Athlete category! Yippee! While I'm super excited about achieving a great heart-health rating, I'm even happier about the fact that my heart and lungs are thoroughly capable of helping me do any exercise I desire! Seriously, is there anything better than good health?! :)

I greatly appreciate that Shaun T. constantly reminds everyone to contract/tighten/hold-in their abdominal muscles. He does a great job of helping people understand how to do everything with tightened abs! Until I began exercising to Insanity, I never realized just how often my core was looser than it should have been. I'm convinced that Shaun T.'s core words have made all the difference in my abdominal strength!

Don't get me wrong, for P90X is what gave me the initial and amazing changes I see in my abs today, but Insanity helped me take my abs to the next level and really cement those amazing changes. I believe I even lost another inch around my waist simply because I was conscious of contracting my core more often than before! If I were to give Tony Horton one suggestion, it would be to constantly remind his participants to tighten their abs throughout his videos—I'm very conscientious about it now!

I have only a few quotes from Shaun T. to share. You see, whenever I workout to Insanity, I'm simply too exhausted to write down funny/helpful quotes! That said, these are my favorite Shaun T. quotes I wasn't too tired to remember! Ha ha.
"Keep the core contracted." 
"Focus and go!" 
I'm smiling because I love it!"

Yes, Shaun T. is a very supportive trainer; I do much better during my Insanity workouts because of his positive words and attitude!

Another benefit of Insanity is strength in numbers. Seeing real people (the video demonstrators) working their hearts out, sweating like crazy, and struggling to finish (just like me!) helps me do my best and finish every section well—no matter how difficult it is! It sounds mean-ish, but I love knowing others feel my pain! ;) Recognizing I'm not alone in my exercise struggles makes all the difference!

Here are my bonus Insanity thoughts/pointers:
  • View the videos as a long-term commitment. They aren't a quick fix. Utilize their "power" for the rest of your lives! :)
  • Don't overdo it your first several times—but don't go too easy on yourself. Work hard, but don't keel over! ;)
  • Pace yourself regardless how many times you've done the videos.
  • Don't ever get discouraged. Keep going, never give up. You can do it!
  • Over time, it will get easier!
  • It's 100% worth the effort you put into it! You'll feel amazing if you try your best!
  • You will see and feel results in your body—especially in your heart and lungs!
  • Any other physical benefit you receive from doing Insanity—i.e., your clothes fit better; you look better—is just gravy on top of good health for life!
Lastly, unlike Shaun T., I initially didn't smile when I started doing the Insanity videos. You see, I was convinced I would never be able to fully keep up, and it's not very fun to feel like you're lacking. Am I right?! Now, however, I totally smile every time I do Insanity!

Over the past 21+ months, I've truly learned—without exception—that I feel amazing when my body is in good shape...I promise the same will happen for you, too!


  1. Such a vivid description and detailed description! I feel like I lived it..sooo...since you did I don't have to!

    Just Kidding. You have inspired me to try it.

  2. If anyone is looking for a mat to protect their floor and joints during their workouts, I have heard great things about Gorilla Mats!


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