Why I Stopped the Insanity Challenge Mid-Way But Would Recommend it Anyway

I promised you guys a while back that I’d write up a review on the “Insanity Workout Challenge” when I finished it. Well, this is sort of half of a review, because I only sort of halfway finished it.

For those that don’t know, Insanity is a fairly well-hyped workout program produced by Beachbody, the makers of P90X and quite an array of other well-known at-home workout programs.

I generally like Beachbody programs because the production value is very high and the programs have specific schedules/rotations already mapped out – you’re not trying to mix and match a bunch of stuff to come up with a cohesive program for your goals.

After my last triathlon of the year, I wanted to do something different in the offseason. I have done P90Xa couple of times, so I chose Insanity for something different. I started it with the intention to complete the full 60 days, but, after five weeks of not missing a dayI shelved it.


I got bored with it!

But, not in the way you might think. It didn’t get so easy that I was like “oh, ho hum, this is a cakewalk.” It was never a cakewalk. It is a very challenging workout program.

They say it is the hardest workout ever put on DVD – I definitely believe that – and while it is hard, it is not impossible. I was able to complete the workouts in their entirety each time, though I had to generally take longer breaks in between each set than was allotted (usually 45 seconds to one minute instead of 30 seconds).

However, unlike some workout DVDs, once you pop in the DVD and get started, the time flies by! I think this is because there is no time for “phoning it in” – you really have to focus to get through the full workout.

It’s worth noting that Shaun T. is a different type of trainer than Tony Horton (from P90X), so I found myself taking a few days to get adjusted to the different style. It’s not a bad difference, they’re different people after all!

Here’s why I got bored:

  • While the program comes with 10 DVDs – 1 fit test, 4 workouts for the first month, 5 workouts for the second month —  the rotation was not varied enough for me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of continuing to rotate from a small sample of workouts for another month. Granted, the second month has five new DVDs, but my mind was done with this series before I got to disc one of month two. Perhaps this is why I like triathlon so much – lots of variety!
  • The exercises within each DVD are really very similar. So, the rotation of workouts is small, and the exercises within them are very similar. And then,  in each DVD, you do a circuit of exercises three times. Even the warm-up is a repeat circuit where you do a set of exercises and then repeat that set three times.
  • The recovery week is six straight days of doing the exact same DVD – I wanted to scream after two days, and, incidentally, this is the week that lost me.

I just like more variety than that!

This is really a pure cardio program. There is some  isometric strength training, but not weight training in the traditional sense, and I missed the weights.

My general thought is that the workout series would be very good if you:

  • Don’t get bored easily and like knowing what is coming at you
  • Are in relatively good shape already – this is not the step-touch-shuffle type of workout – lots of jumping, lots of intense bursts of cardio, and very little rest. You need to be pretty fit before you start.
  • Have good knees (did I mention there is a lot of jumping?)
  • Have an 8×8 space that is relatively secluded from the rest of your family. The jumping definitely echoed through our house. This would be a good garage or basement workout.
  • Have the mental fortitude to push through discomfort
  • Aren’t looking to build muscle mass, but rather, want to get super-duper-uber cardio fit
  • Want to burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time. I was regularly burning 600+ calories in the span of the 38 minute-ish workouts (they get longer for the second month)

All that said, have I seen improvements as a result of the half of the program I did? Absolutely.

My cardio endurance improved quite dramatically in just one month. I am able to push through discomfort on the track when doing running speed training that I never could do before – I have learned to focus and dig deep into my reserves. This is probably half mental and half cardio improvements.I have cut 15 seconds off my 400 meter (one lap around a track) time. 15 seconds is not insignificant!

So, I call it a successful foray into Insanity for that.

I am not giving up on the series altogether. I plan to incorporate some of the workouts into my schedule when I need a quick at-home workout that will burn serious calories and can’t get out for a run or bike ride. I just don’t see myself doing them in the prescribed rotation day after day for the full two months!

Have you done Insanity? What did you think of it?

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