Insanity Workout Review

Last week a comment on Pandamonium’s Post about ex-athletism at Amherst got me thinking about you, kind and gentle readers, and how you might put your athletic skill to a more greater use at Amherst. The comment by cmander13 read:

I recently quit the Amherst Softball team to stay abroad and sometimes I find myself wishing I could be back out on the field, but just like you said, I usually wish to be back in my glory days of high school. This was a good article to write because as Amherst students we frequently hear about the athletes, but former-athletes are a big presence on campus as well.

I agree that former athletes are a big presence on campus––I count myself among them, and have been to the gym enough times in my four years to know that a lot of you are still fairly serious athletes, even if you don’t play an organized sport. If you’re a freshman in this circumstance, you might be thinking that you have done a pretty good job so far getting your butt to the gym most days to pound out a workout. If you’re a sophomore, you might be patting yourself on the back for making it a few times a week, and if you’re a junior, you may have decided to screw the fitness center and its stupid squeaky elliptical machine that make your feet go numb and restarts when you peddle backwards (seriously, wtf?!!?!?). Luckily it is almost spring, and you can take advantage of the bike path (you will also become bored of this in four years) and various other trails/paths around Amherst. If this is also boring (or if, like me, you never learned how to use the gears on a bike or run up a hill), you can take advantage of the physical education courses at Amherst. I have only ever taken Spring Break Abs, and I can tell you that while fun, the class wasn’t very hard.

Rather than hampstering in our sweaty gym on one of three different machines, day in and day out, watching crappy daytime television or national geographic episodes on Beluga Whales (nothing is wrong with whales, but if your going to give them your attention at all it needs to be your full attention), or overcoming the urge to walk slower than you have ever walked before on a six-mile run, I have a new activity for you ex-athletes.

You have have heard of P90X, the workout craze designed by Tony Horton as a strict 90-day regimen of cardio, plyo, and weight training. I haven’t done P90X so I can’t speak to it’s results, but 90 days is quite the commitment, and I could see it being difficult to listen to this guy yell at you for three months:

A lot of people like P90X, but in my opinion it doesn’t really jive with the typical college lifestyle. First of all, you need free weights and resistance bands––not something I really planned on investing in for my dorm room. Second, the videos are filmed in a serial killer’s basement––not exactly a calming work-out environment if you ask me. Third, Tony is way too into himself, and has a very condescending tone. Fuck that.

What I want to suggest to you, my fellow students, is Insanity.

Insanity is nuts. The workout plan was designed by former dancer and track-star Shaun Taylor for people who are already pretty fit––this is definitely not the ideal exercise to start out on. Like P90X it relies on cardio, plyo, and a good bit of stretching to force your body into shape fast, but you don’t need any equipment, and Shaun T. is so, so very awesome. Each workout is composed of a warm-up (during which your heart rate reaches about 200bpm), a 3-minute yoga-stretch sesh, 1-3 interval sets (usually three reps of 2 minutes of hard exercises with 30 seconds rest between each rep), and a cool-down yoga-stretch.

The plan is organized into two separate months with a “rest” week in between. In the first month there are five different workouts, each taking about 30-40 minutes. You are expected to do six exercises per week, but one is usually a “recovery” day (this is not to say that it is easy––try holding a perfect squat for 4 minutes and see how “recovered” you really feel). The “rest” week is the worst mentally––you do the same workout six days in a row, and you keep wanting it to be easy, but it isn’t easy. The second month is actually insane––the workouts follow the same general framework, but they are 40-60 minutes long, and because the warm-up and two stretches are the same length of time as in the first month, you get 20 more minutes of intense cardio/plyo. The reason for the gradual build-up to an hour of exercise is that there are moves in the second month that you just wouldn’t be able to come close to doing without the very specific cardio prep in the first. Trust me, this is factual. I just finished day 60 (woo!) and I still couldn’t do all the moves in the second month’s workouts.

I consider myself to be a generally in-shape person, and but I remember the couple of days after my first workout as a time of crippling pain (but the good kind of crippling)––a wake-up call that my 30-minutes per day of bored crawling on machines at the gym just wasn’t doing it for me. Insanity is so accessible because it can be done anywhere, and you don’t need anything but yourself, a water bottle (or two), and maybe a friend (or two). Huckle and I have been doing the workouts in Seelye for the past two months, sometimes with other friends, but always with each other. Having a workout buddy is a great suggestion, but just because someone goes to the gym with you doesn’t mean you will try your hardest once your plugged in to the treadmill. The group-workout mind set is great for making you try your hardest––if you’ve ever been to a spin class, you know that all you really have to do is get yourself on a bike, and you have to try. Also, having a strapping, young ex-dancer motivate and encourage you everyday isn’t too bad either.

As an ex-swimmer who knows what a hard workout is like (butterfly snakes with pushups, for example. Thanks Coach Helen…), this is one of the hardest workouts I have ever done. I recommend it. I think the DVD set costs $160, but being savvy college students, I think you can figure out another way to procure it. Library request, perhaps?

Love and Happy Exercise,