By Lee Jay
Just as lockdown hit, the panic crept in. How would I cope without my stints at the gym and camaraderie at studio classes?
As a personal trainer, building exercise routines is second nature, but remaining motivated during the weeks ahead would be a challenge in itself.
My partner was the catalyst in us signing up to Beachbody.com, where, among thousands of pre-recorded workouts, you'll stumble across Insanity Max: 30, one of eight programs in a series by renowned American fitness trainer Shaun T. Having dabbled in Insanity years earlier - I was sold. Simply put, these sessions are f#@king tough and we were both eager to test our limits.
A small disclaimer- we are not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with the brands (Beachbody and Insanity) in any way. Just two eager beavers on a fitness journey to MAX OUT.
Reaching New Limits
Coined 'the world's most efficient workout program ever,' Insanity Max: 30 incorporates 150 arduous exercises designed to push you beyond your comfort zone to a level of fitness seemingly implausible. Compound burpee/lunges, endless tuck jumps, shoulder tap jacks and pushups galore - and that's just for starters.
The goal during each workout (as the name suggests) is to max out - that is to reach a point where one more rep is unfathomable, record when you paused for air, and better it the next time.
The program offers snazzy nutrition and cooking guides, user-friendly workout calendars, trackers and before & after weight loss shots to convert the most skeptical of individuals. All in all this sh*t is hardcore.
Myself, a strength trainer and Pilates instructor, my partner a passionate runner with a love for endurance sports, started the program with a solid base of fitness - although by no means at our peak when grueling cardio is on the menu. Our goal, above all, was to enjoy the workouts, although it was inevitable competitive natures would rear themselves from time to time.
Five 30-minute workouts are split between Monday through Friday, with optional 'Deluxe' workouts to tag on if you so desire (we did not...).
Shaun T and his uber-fit gang of shredded trainers are there with you each step of the way for encouragement when the going gets tough. A moderator is also on hand to guide you through a toned-down version of each exercise - ideal for easing into the workouts.
A mix of cardio, Tabata (intense intervals), and exercises to test and build power, strength and plyometric ability, no muscle is left forgotten - with an on-screen timer keeping you in the loop on when the end is in sight.
Exercises grew progressively more challenging as the week raced on, culminating in the sweat-inducing fight round on Fridays.
Monday: Cardio Challenge
Tuesday: Tabata Power
Wednesday: Sweat Intervals
Thursday: Tabata Strength
Friday: Fight Round 1
The workouts kick off with a high energy dynamic warm-up - arguably just as intense as the workout itself. By minute two, we're already sweating.
Me, below, warming up in a sweater, tossed aside precisely 30 seconds later.
As month two swung around, Insanity Max: 30 upped the ante. Intensified exercises were packed into merciless 30 minutes windows, with just a scattering of water breaks.
Monday: Max Out Cardio
Tuesday: Max Out Power
Wednesday: Max Out Sweat
Thursday: Max Out Strength
Friday: Fight Round 2
The intervals are longer, exercises tougher and Insanity once again lives up to its name. The workouts are meticulously tailored to blend intensities, muscle groups and pace during the week. It was all a mental game at this point and we prepared for the 30 minute daily blocks - half the battle, right?
The week concludes with a second fight round - each minute a 'fight between your body and your mind.'
We were gradually to go all in, immerse ourselves in the workouts and perfect our form during each movement. What began as a fun bonding experience soon became an unmissable daily episode during our lockdown.
The Hiccups and the Triumphs
About five weeks in, my boyfriend suffered a (non-insanity related) back injury - leaving me to struggle on alone. Although lonely without my partner in crime, the workouts remained a daily highlight and it was around this stage I experienced the 'workout high'. Despite 30 minutes of exercise torture, I craved the burst of endorphins.
Having said that, I'll be just dandy without another tuck jump in my life.
There were a few days of 'burn out', whether down to interrupted sleep or general lethargy. We found on such days that by the halfway point, our muscles were warm enough to generate a second wind to sweat it out to the last second. Long story short - do not admit defeat!
In general, the workout were becoming increasingly manageable. We could attack the exercises and it was empowering to see our stamina for intense cardio improve. As my partner's back was on the mend, he joined in, following the moderator, and together we completed week eight in triumph!
As the 30-minute timer ran its course for the last workout, it dawned on us - now what?!
On reflection, as the eight weeks whizzed by, we found the structure and routine of each session spilled into other areas of life in lockdown. Having a daily purpose and a reason to maintain a (relatively) healthy diet saved us from gathering quarantine pounds and our fitness stayed on track.
Here is what happened to our bodies during the eight weeks:
Our cores became way stronger: There are no two ways about it. Our increased core strength drastically improved during the course of the workouts and allowed us to perform at higher intensities. It's true what they say, it's all the core!
We felt better: Alongside walking taller and with better posture, the post-workout muscle burn was enjoyable. We'd worked our bodies to the max and reaped the benefits.
We surpassed a mental barrier: Half the battle in any form of exercise is mental. Negative self-talk and lack of self-belief can sabotage your ability to perform. What seemed like an ongoing uphill battle at first soon became a task we could tackle with confidence.
On a personal note, I mastered the pushup!: My pushups improved to a whole new level. After a few weeks, I was able to perform pushups with proper form and control.
My running pace is faster: The weekends were reserved for short runs and Pilates. Without noticing, I was running a 5k with little to no bother, my legs able to carry me at a quicker pace and my breathing steadier than before.
The below pictures (before on the left, after on the right) were snapped a few weeks apart. Was I in this to 'transform' my body? Heck no! I'm happy where I'm at. But, given the exercise intensity, my hamstrings strengthened, glutes are stronger and there is slight definition at my waist.
Also below, the first time I attempted the burpee alt lunges, I gasped for air. This combo exercise is enough to wind the fittest. A few weeks in, it was far more tolerable.
Had our diets been diligent and we'd lifted during the eight weeks, I'm confident we would have achieved further visible results. But, as I said, this was not the goal.
Insanity Max: 30 was a welcome opportunity to break from our typical workout schedules, dabble in a new exercise regime and bond over our passion for fitness.
We mastered our diamond jumps, completed more push-ups than we care to count, went hell for leather on switch kicks and maxed out multiple times. But most importantly, we proved to ourselves just what we can achieve when we put mind over matter.
We dug deep and maxed out. Now onto the next 👊