So, our household has recently gotten into Insanity- you know, the super-difficult at-home workout programme? I’d heard of it, and known people who had tried it and gotten great results, so I decided to try it out.
I initially did this a few times in preparation for my dad’s wedding (I was trying to squeeze into a slightly too-small bridesmaid’s dress…) but with all the wedding excitement I didn’t stick to the plan and it fizzled out. My boyfriend had been doing it with me, and we decided we really wanted to get back to it, so we thought we’d start the programme again from the beginning so that we could follow it properly. I thought it might be cool to post my experience of it in regular instalments as I work through the programme, so you can see what it’s really like!
Cross-training is really important for dancers (read more about it here) and something that ballet dancers tend to lack in their workout routines is cardio. Although ballet can make you super out-of-breath (hello allegro), it is only ever for short bursts of time, therefore ballet is an anaerobic activity. Aerobic activity is important for a healthy heart, and to be fitter in the sense of not getting out of breath so easily. Those who don’t neglect their cardio workouts will make light work of lengthy, demanding and fast-paced choreography (i.e. when everyone else is doubled over wheezing after an especially demanding dance, you’ll be right as rain and entitled to look slightly smug). I found that when I was doing these workouts before the wedding, even though it was quite sporadic, I was feeling a lot stronger in class. Even though I was doing something completely different to ballet, working my muscles in parallel was helping to address those common muscle imbalances, and the overall increased strength had an immediate effect on my technique.
Workouts like Insanity aren’t the only way to get cardio into your routine; this programme is super-demanding and not for everyone, so keep that in mind when you are designing your own training plan. As someone who is already fit and strong, I find these workouts extremely difficult. This is good, because it allows already-fit people to actually progress and take their fitness to the next level. If you’re not already fit, proceed with caution. My boyfriend and flatmate have also been giving Insanity a try, and as they are less fit and active than I am, they have found it harder, but not impossible. If you are pretty unfit and inactive, you might struggle to complete these workouts.
If you’re not sure if Insanity is for you, try borrowing the DVDs from someone before you buy the programme as it’s pretty pricy, about £100 (of course there’s nothing stopping you from borrowing it from someone who’s done with it or buying second-hand if this is not affordable for you. I borrowed the DVDs from my mum). If the programme gives the sorts of results it claims to, I think it’s definitely worth the investment- we shall see!
This programme also comes with a diet plan, but as I have already spent a lot of time and energy devising a diet plan specific for my needs, I am not following the Insanity one. I tend to run a mile from any diet or eating plan that promotes low-fat foods, as fats are often replaced with sugar, and these foods can be really artificial. I prefer to embrace natural, healthy fats in a diet with reduced carbohydrate and sugar intake, and plenty of fresh, raw ingredients such as fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, pulses, nuts, etc. rather than artificial low-fat spreads and low-fat yoghurt. Also, in my milk-loving opinion, skimmed milk is the most disappointing substance in existence.
One more note: these workouts involve quite a lot of jumping. Make sure you wear trainers as it’s too high-impact to do with bare feet (I tried), and if you have downstairs neighbours, try to be considerate in terms of the time that you work out, and maybe drop them a note to explain all the noise!
DAY ONE: FIT TEST
The programme begins with a fitness test which you come back to regularly as a way of tracking your progress. I soon begin to feel a powerful resentment towards the annoyingly perky and enthusiastic assistants on the DVD. The fit test comprises of a set of particular exercises, and the aim is to do as many as you can in the allotted time. I don’t do too badly, but it’s very hard work- some of the moves use a lot of big muscle groups (such as power jumps) and leave me feeling sick. By the end of the session, I’m sweaty and tired-out, but little do I know this is but a taste of what’s to come…
DAY TWO: PLYOMETRIC CARDIO CIRCUIT
OH. MY. GOD. This workout is SO tough. My boyfriend and I were both half-dead by the end of the warm-up. During stretching I notice that one of the assistants has a really good turnout. I wonder if she’s a dancer. There are more of them in this video, and they are all annoyingly fit with perfect bodies and are far too enthusiastic about this torturous workout. This is longer and more difficult than the fit test, which now seems like a fond memory of the good ol’ days. By the end of it, I was entirely spent- but I felt really good. These workouts are all relatively short, and the exercises are always changing and moving on, so you have limited time to think about how much you’re hating life right now, and before you know it you’ve arrived at the end, having successfully completed what may well be the hardest workout of your life. It feels great, and a really manageable amount of time to fit into the day.
DAY THREE: CARDIO POWER AND RESISTANCE
After day two I woke up aching… and I have to say here, this is my second time through this process and it isn’t as bad. The first time around… I literally could hardly move. I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do class, and I could barely walk. Sitting down and standing up was suddenly a very painful and slow experience, (including sitting on the toilet- at one point I contemplated just staying there forever) and crouching down to the ground was impossible. But this DOES pass quickly if you keep doing the workouts- it absolutely sucks, but the best way to get rid of aches and pains is to exercise through them! So stay strong and just grit your teeth and get through that next workout!
It’s hard to say if this was as hard, or even harder, than day two, but the exercises changed really frequently so I didn’t get too bored. The warm-up was even harder than the plyometric circuit, but there are more rests, and the rests are slightly longer. A note of caution- do NOT do what I did in this one, and take advantage of the longer rests in the beginning to chug a load of water because the end of the workout is a lot of up and down from the floor and a lot of jumping. I made the mistake of being so full of water I felt it sloshing about in my stomach and threatening to come back out. Not pretty. However I held it in and again I felt super-accomplished by the end.
So this is where I’m up to right now… I’m about to attempt “cardio recovery” (spoiler: it is NOT what it sounds like) so I will let you know how that goes in my next update! Wish me luck, I am DEFINITELY going to need it!