10 Life Lessons The Insanity Workouts Taught Me

Just for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Insanity is an aptly titled workout program designed by Shaun T. It runs for 63 days, and after two rounds over the last couple of years, I’ve learned more than the proper form for a squat from it.

1. Nothing is impossible – it’s only a question of time. And sometimes, it can be a very long time before you get even close to what you couldn’t do before, but it’s not impossible. Case in point: a shoulder defect and general lack of upper-body strength make push-ups almost impossible for me to do. In fact, the first time I completed Insanity, 99% of the push-ups were done on my knees. My mental attitude played a role here too, where I allowed myself to think that I couldn’t do these, but for most part, I was being realistic: I simply couldn’t do them. Recently though, I managed to get ten push-up jacks on the fit test. I still can’t do a full minute of push-ups, especially the crazy variations, but I’ve definitely come up from zero. It took over a year, but it wasn’t impossible.

2. Any hard work does pay off, though not always in the way you’d think or hope for. We’re always told that if you work hard enough, you’ll get whatever it is you aspire for. My issue with this nugget of knowledge is that it has the underlying implication of this being an all-or-nothing deal. That’s not true. I don’t think I tipped the scales much after completing the 63 days that should have made me a legitimate member of Team Beachbody (literally!), but where at first I’d start huffing within the first fifteen minutes of the videos, I can now go all the way with minimal breaks (and of course the push-up modifications ). That’s progress. I didn’t get what I started out for, but I didn’t come out of it with nothing, either.

3. Doing work haphazardly will cost you a lot more than you’d think. For those of you who don’t know, the workouts involve two or three minute circuits done nonstop, followed by a thirty second break. Initially, I found it very easy to just take a break when I felt myself getting a little uncomfortable, but I quickly learned that that was setting me back more than I thought. I’d end up breaking the momentum I’d built up, for no good reason, and getting back was even more difficult than it would have been if I’d just kept going.

Along those lines, it’s my conscience that made me think: No. I can’t keep doing this. I would feel guilty for having ‘cheated’, and as such would rewind so that I’d do the full thing, and that helped, I like to think. If I’d been happy to just let it slide, I’d have gotten nowhere, which brings me to a bonus lesson: Without integrity, you’ll get nowhere.

4. The first step is the only hard step. Saying it’s the hardest step would imply that the other parts are difficult, but as it turns out, the first step gets you to the top of the mountain, and the rest is all downhill. After the first few weeks, I wasn’t always the happiest person when time came to push play. Once I did though, and got through the warm-up, I wanted to finish, finding myself thinking: this really isn’t so bad, after all!

5. First impressions last a long time, so be slow to judge. There’s a video that involves thirty seconds of in and out abs, where, in a push-up position, you basically draw your feet in, then shoot out. That’s followed by thirty seconds to taking your feet to the diagonal, and needless to say, I took an instant dislike to this workout. I decided that it was hard, and I’ve had that impression for the longest time – in fact, it’s only recently when I somewhat dejectedly started off the video that  I found out that it wasn’t the ticket to hell I’d made it out to be. I’m not as good as the people in the video are, but it’s doable.

My point is though, I was quick to judge and my first take lasted a long, long time, probably making the journey more unpleasant than it would have been had I just been less judgmental.

6. Your mental attitude towards the task you’re taking on is critical. This ties in with what I said above, but there’s more. Soon after mentally sorting out what was hard and what was impossible, I’d find myself looking at what was coming up two days in advance, and whenever the impossible awaited me, my spirits would sink. I’d take the longest time to just get started on the workout because mentally I had a negative attitude towards it, and even during the workout, I’d find myself thinking that I’d been right, and this was terrible. Now that I’m wiser (and stronger) that attitude’s been reversed completely too after a revisit to the ‘impossible’, and I’m thinking, I probably made it harder for myself just by thinking negatively.

7. Have an open mind – things aren’t always what they seem. The first ‘Recovery’ video left me unable to stand up straight without support near the end. Need I say more? I thought I’d be refreshed and all set to go for the next three days before I got a break after this, and then I learned. Now no longer a newbie, I can see how Shaun would classify that as recovery, but at the time, it most certainly was not.

8. It’s okay not to be perfect. This is the kind of thing you’d think a loser would say to themselves after failing to get 100%, but it’s not. When I started out and needed all the breaks that I did, I’d pause the video, regain my breath then start up because I wanted to do everything, and basically take one hour to complete what should have just lasted forty minutes. It was hard to shake off that habit, but as time has passed, I’ve come to learn that it really is okay if you can’t do everything and have to stand there watching as the Insanity team plough on. The alternative was to lose a lot of precious time and I wasn’t even doing HIIT in the true sense, so it wasn’t worth it. Imperfection was the way to go.

9. The only real competition is you – compete with others and you’ll always fail. Right off the start, I wasn’t disillusioned into thinking I could up the Warriors – this lesson is something I realized after the first few fit tests, by which point in time Tanya’s and Chris’ stats became familiar to me. Two moves in, it looked like Tanya was incredible and made Chris look bad, but then Chris had a 100% increase in another move, and I realized how immature my thinking had been. It really doesn’t matter if Tanya can get more low plank obliques than him, because Shaun can definitely get more than her, and someone else more than him – what’s important is where he started off, and where he’s reached. Shaun kept telling us the before and after figures, but sadly, it took quite a while for this to sink in.

10. Obstacles are only obstacles if you let them be so. I’m not talking about actual pain or being headstrong and doing something when it’s not advisable for you to do it, but about the smaller, self-created hurdles. I once burnt the edge of my index finger, and spent the whole day keeping it pressed to ice or dipping it into jars of cream, telling myself that I was in pain. I carried that even to the start of my workout, and almost stopped before actually starting, but once it started off, I forgot about everything (a side-effect of Insanity). How do I know that my problem had been self-created? My finger didn’t start hurting until I started thinking about it again, after the workout. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog