What can you expect from a workout dubbed Insanity? Do you really have to be nuts to try "the hardest workout fitness program ever put to DVD," as its website describes it? Probably not, but you have to be pretty motivated. Those following Insanity burn up to 1,000 calories in each of their hour-long workouts, which are based on max interval training. That means long bouts of intense strength, power, resistance, and core training moves, with short breaks in between. For 60 days, folks follow these workouts via Insanity's 10 DVDs, which they've paid for in sweat, maybe tears, and three payments of about $40. If Insanity's dedicated followers and their before-and-after photos say anything, the results are pretty substantial for those who stick with it.
The workout's creator, Shaun Blokker—better known as "Shaun T"—pushes and sweats alongside the participants featured in the DVDs. (Try a Google Image search of him, and it's easy to believe that this part-trainer, part-choreographer is also the creator of the Hip Hop Abs workout.) U.S. News talked to Blokker about how realistic Insanity is for our readers, and what they should know if they decide to give it a try. His responses have been edited.
What types of people are a good match for Insanity?
There's a wide range. I've had people who weigh more than 300 pounds do it, and they just modify it. You mostly need to be mentally ready, but Insanity is really for all levels of fitness.
How do you know if you're mentally ready?
No one should have to persuade you to do it. If you're hesitant or have a minute of doubt, Insanity probably isn't for you. It's for people who are like, "That's the challenge that I want to try." The great thing is that right now, we have this new DVD called Sanity Check for people who are on the fence. It's a little shorter and a little slower. It's basically a buildup so you're prepared for the real thing.
How much time should people set aside for this workout?
It's about 40 minutes per day at first. When you get to month two—the max interval part—I'd map out an hour each day, which includes stretching and cooling down. That hour a day will become a gift to yourself.
How should one's diet change while following the Insanity workout?
It comes with a nutrition plan, but mostly, people need to know that they've got to get 60 percent of their eating in before 3 p.m. One thing I'm not an advocate of is only eating salads and lettuce. Combine foods you like with those that are healthy. So, for example, people who like French fries can try sweet potatoes. I've trained people who are more than 300 pounds, and the one thing they're afraid of is being hungry all the time. For other people, pizza was their life. So I say, "OK, pick the one meal per day that you have that slice of pizza, and for every meal around it, let's figure out what you want to eat to make your diet a little healthier." If you eat 85 to 95 percent healthy, you will get results.
I know for me, it helps if I start off my day eating healthy; it tends to carry throughout the rest of the day.
Speaking of healthy starts, what's your go-to breakfast?
I like egg whites, avocado, and a low-fat sausage. Depending on where I'm staying, I like to find that region's specialty low-fat sausage and add it into my omelet. Then I usually have it with a piece of wheat toast and the avocado on top.
Should you get a certain amount of sleep while you're on Insanity?
There's a dynamic shift with Insanity. When people start the workout, they feel exhausted. You're using energy you don't even have, and because of that, your body is like, "what?" Then you start to feel more energized as you become fitter. Everybody has a different point at which they feel the most rested, but if you're doing Insanity, I'd say you need a solid seven to eight hours each night.
Consider people who are feeling exhausted at the beginning of Insanity and are tempted to give up. What advice do you have for sticking with the program?
The first two weeks is when we see the highest percentage of quitting—it's when the most people stop the program. And it's because they are just totally exhausted. I suggest those people do that day's workout the best they can. For that day, they can just do the 10-minute warm-up at the beginning, and then the five-minute stretch. Fifteen minutes is better than nothing. And a lot of times, after they stretch they're like, "OK, I can actually finish this." Once your body gets warm and you get going, you're more likely to surprise yourself and complete the workout.
What's the best way to maintain the effects of Insanity once the program is complete?
When people finish, they've done a complete lifestyle change. Most people do it over again and again. They may do the 60 days of Insanity, take two weeks off with lower-key workouts, and then take some of their favorite workouts from the DVDs to keep Insanity in the mix.
Spring Break is around the corner, and we're curious: What are your favorite exercises for the beach?
I'd go to the beach in the mornings and do plank walks or crab walks in the sand. And have fun with it and play a game of beach volleyball.