In those late nights when you can’t sleep, have you ever been flipping through the infomercial slums of your cable provider and run across something called the Insanity Workout? This is the most aptly named exercise program on the planet.
And we’ve been doing it (in a modified fashion) for a several months now. I swear, I don’t know where my wife comes up with this stuff.
Bear in mind that Insanity is not designed for 50-somethings. It’s more likely that your kids are doing it. It’s designed for people whose jobs require the highest levels of fitness – soldiers, firefighters, dancers, athletes. The developer of the program, who goes by the name Shaun T, started out as a dancer, but – beyond an eerie resemblance to a bulked-up Will Smith – he looks more like a Navy Seal.
So when I say modified, I mean modified. Shaun leads his cadre of hard-core, hard-body followers through exercises that turns them into limp puddles of sweat, so what hope do us oldsters have? So that’s why we do it three days a week, not six (interspersing other activities on our off days), and skip certain activities … such as leaning on your arms and kicking your feet in the air … entirely, in deference to our backs, knees, joints, and … well, sanity. I mean, I’m happy to bounce down into a plank position for push-ups, but please don’t ask me to bounce back up again. I’m not sure I could have done that even when I was younger.
But it is a great workout, for a variety of reasons. It requires no more equipment than you, a DVD player, a towel, a soft mat, and a little bit of room to maneuver. Oh, and water. Lots of water.
For boomers, it is remarkably reminiscent of the exercises we did in phys ed class in 7th grade: jumping jacks, burpees (although Shaun T doesn’t call them that – he calls them “suicides”), arm twirls, and more. If I close my eyes, I can still hear my gym teacher, Mr. Verweyst, screaming at me. Shaun T is a little more genteel than that. In fact, his patter is downright encouraging, telling people to rest when they need to; to keep in mind that they won’t be as limber when they first start the program as they will be later; to keep trying and push through. I like him.
The first month’s sessions, which repeat over the course of several days, last about 40 minutes each. But you spend half of that warming up and then stretching, so you’re half done before you’ve even gotten to the strenuous stuff. After the first month, there’s a week of recovery exercises (hey, Shaun, those should be the basis for your 50-something version). The second month gets a little more hellish – some of the sessions stretch to an hour, some of the exercises become a little more complicated. Not only was I never that limber, even when I was young, but I was also never that coordinated. Before long, I’m hitting the pause button on DVD, wheezing and dripping. It helps that some of Shaun’s cadre are completely gassed as well.
So we push through, at Shaun’s urging, substituting traditional push-ups for suicide jacks (why do so many of his exercises have “suicide” in their name?) and push-up jacks and all sorts of other horrors. But I’m wearing slacks I haven’t fit into in years, and that’s during the transition from Halloween candy to Christmas cookies. As someone who had a pulmonary embolism 13 years ago, I thought my lungs were permanently scarred and below capacity. But now my stamina for other exercise activities is much improved.
And for somebody my age, that’s just insane.