In the middle of April, a friend of mine loaned me the Beach Body workout series, Insanity. It came with a two-month (sixty-three day) rotation calendar. Unable to backdown from the challenge of a calendar dictating what I could and should do with my body for two months, I began Shaun T‘s workouts in earnest.
I am a regular exerciser. And I remember it taking a while for my body to adapt to Jillian Michael‘s short, but demanding interval training program almost two years ago. Shaun T kicked my butt in a whole new way.
The first month of workouts is made up of a series of roughly forty-minute workouts that put my body in an almost nonstop high-intensity cardio state. In all but one, there are thirty second breaks built in, and in all of them exercisers are encouraged to take a break when they need to, but just like I am unable to resist the delicious structure of following a calendar, I am ill-equipted to stop exercising, even for a few seconds while muscle-laden struggling actors kick, punch and jump with smiling faces and sweaty lats. If they can keep going, so can I (god, why must they smile??!). If they can’t keep going, then I really must continue on. That’s right, you buff Shaun T minion! I kicked your ass at switch kicks! So there!
Month two continues on with similar workouts, except they average about an hour in length. It was this first week of Month Two that caused me to reevaluate my Insane devotion. What follows is a litany of excuses for why I am not soldiering on with Shaun T in my quest for a firmer ass and harder abs.
Here is a brief summary of why I shall not “Dig Deeper!” and continue on with the program:
- Extreme Body Fatigue
- Pain bordering on incapacitation
- Muscle & Strength Loss
- Extreme Exercise Trains the Body to “Need” Extreme Exercise
- One Long Infomercial
- Exercise Shouldn’t be a Punishment
Extreme Body Fatigue
While I can do the workouts themselves in their entirety, I am beginning to notice some residual effects that I think can be attributed to the rigor of the workouts. My lower lip has been twitching for weeks now. Seriously. Weeks. While, admittedly, I kind of enjoy the feeling, it usually only happens when I am severely sleep deprived, which I have not been. Update: now, nearly a week after stopping Insanity, with no other dietary/sleep changes, my lip twitch is gone.
Pain bordering on incapacitation
I know what muscle soreness feels like. I quite enjoy it, even the kind that prevents me from touching my toes for a day or two. What I have been feeling is not muscle soreness. My body is in pain in places that make me nervous. Namely: my lower back. With the start of month two, my lower back seized up in a way that makes me fear it might go out, something I have (thankfully) managed to avoid for a few years now. The risk is not worth it to me
Muscle & Strength Loss
I am also noticing that while there is some body-weight strength training (pushups, planks, and the like) in these workouts, there is not nearly as much strength work as I usually do. Last week, I bought four fifty-pound bags of sand for my daughter’s sandbox. I had difficulty carrying them, and I even let some guy at Home Depot put them in my cart for me. Mortification! Last year, when I built the sandbox, I loaded twenty fifty-pound bags of sand, onto my cart, into my car and then into the sandbox all by myself (ok, my parents helped me a little to put them in the sandbox, but still!). While after the first week of Insanity, I did see increased muscle definition, I feel markedly less strong and generally more fatigued.
Extreme Exercise Trains the Body to “Need” Extreme Exercise
I am sorry. I am just plain lazy, and if I can get good results with less effort, I will totally do that. Another way that I am justifying my forfeiture of Insanity is my memory that a body defined under very intense conditions is easily lost. I recall that one of the few times I have “gotten into the best shape of my life” involved burning at least five-hundred calories per day doing high intensity cardiovascular conditioning. When I reached my goal and then went back down to more moderate exercise, the weight came back on more rapidly.
It makes sense that our bodies adapt to a certain level of intensity and when we increase or decrease that, it has an impact on our body composition. I would rather my body adapt to a less “insane” amount of exercise so that I am don’t have to spend the rest of my life punishing myself with increasingly intense workouts. Again, I did see a layer of fat shed in the first week or two, but I had been seeing slow but reasonable results with my half-hour a day five to six days a week that I had been doing prior to Insanity. I concede that it is good for breaking through a plateau.
One Long Infomercial
Lastly, while Shaun T seems happy and energetic (not to mention smoking hot and ripped!), and is clearly is an inspiration to millions, there is a certain vibe I get from the workouts that is distasteful to me. It is comprised of two components. First, there is the commercial component. I totally get that exercise coaches/trainers have to make a living. I happily pay them money for their expertise in getting me thinner, firmer, and healthier. That said, I shouldn’t have to buy their stupid protein shake or any other branded nonsense to achieve my fitness goals. As part of the Beach Body franchise, Insanity is insanely branded.
Having been a member of what I jokingly called an exercise cult some years ago, I recognize some of the same attributes here. And, admittedly, I have a knee-jerk (how many calories does a knee-jerk burn?) reaction to someone trying to sell me more products in order to do an exercise program the “right way.” Food products especially trigger me because of my strong belief that the best diet of all is one that consists of single ingredient plants and meats not packaged, fortified, fabricated shakes. Gross. Some of the workouts, while challenging and effective, felt like a long commercial for Shakeology. And scouring the the internet, I have come across many a Beach Body Head who praises the system and the shakes in a way eerily reminiscent of Jim Jones hawking Kool-Aid.
Exercise Shouldn’t be a Punishment
The second component that I am using as an excuse to leave the asylum is what comes off as self-loathing to me (no, not my own — that would make me soldier on with the program). This whole system seems to based on the premise that one must punish his or her body in order to achieve fitness. While I am certainly in favor of challenging workouts that leave me feeling exhausted and thoroughly workout-out, I find that I am far more productive (and happy with my exercise program) when I am working with my body from a place of love rather than beating it into a muscle-bound size two.
I realize I may sound like a super Berkeley yoga-type when I say this, but I have come to exercise from the place of self-loathing in the past — oh you evil bitch! You ate those cookies! Now you must do two hours of cardio. Yuck. I am over it. Choosing to look at exercise as an opportunity to spend some time focusing on myself and making myself better rather than a penance for sins of the pantry makes me enjoy it far more and (I’d like to think) brings about more satisfying results both mentally and physically.
It was this last issue that sent me over the edge and back to my Jillian Michaels and Tracie Long DVD’s. My body was feeling beaten by Insanity. Starting-up the workouts came to be something I dreaded. They felt like a punishment rather than a reward — something I was suffering through to say I’d done it rather than deriving joy from the process. With less than a week of sanity under my belt, I am feeling grateful for the workouts — I think I will still pepper them into my regime (just not six days a week!), but also feeling happy to have listened to my body rather than battling myself through workouts that weren’t really making me happy. Sometimes quitting is the best way to win (She said hopefully while wondering if she was just a sorry-ass loser who couldn’t make it through another three weeks of infomercial exercise).