Esta Morenikeji: What you should know before starting the ‘Insanity by Shaun T’ workout (Y! Superblogger)


Welcome to Club Insanity! This is where you meet other insane people who love challenges and are drawn to athletic performances.

Whether you are a fitness enthusiast or you want to lose weight, you probably have heard about the “Insanity workout by Shaun T”, or you may have even tried it out.

Recently, I noticed the craze about the “Insanity” workout in the fitness circles in Nigeria. Gyms are running the program, fitness enthusiasts are drawn to the challenge, and those who want to lose weight find the promise of burning up to a thousand calories in just one workout session very appealing. The “Insanity” devotees love to talk about their workout to anyone who cares to listen, and those who think “Insanity” is way too extreme don’t care about it. I wanted to know why there was so much talk about the “Insanity” workout, so I decided to do an article on it.

All I knew about “Insanity” before I embarked on my “curiosity research” was what I saw in its infomercial, and what I had also heard people say about it. I knew I needed to experience the program myself before I could make any meaningful conclusions about it. Sure I could write something about “Insanity” based on my knowledge of a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) structure, but I wanted to have a feel, because that was the only way I could make an “unbiased” and informed conclusion.  So I needed to get the DvDs (without buying of course), and my friend who is already doing month 2 of the “Insanity” workout came to my rescue, and she was kind enough to let me use all her “Insanity” DvDs in month one, all six of them.

Let the testing begin!

This is purely insane!

The first thing I did after collecting the DvDs was to sit down and watch them all. I must say my first impression was different from what I had thought of the program. Shaun T did a good job in the way he structured the “Insanity” workout. It was after watching for the first time that I understood why people who love physically challenging workouts are drawn to the program.

Just sitting down to watch the DvDs I felt I had burned tons of calories, and that scared me as a fitness instructor. I am not a novice to HITT, as a matter of fact all the group exercise classes I am leading now are HIIT based. But “Insanity” pushed the envelope on HIIT; “Insanity” pushed your body to its MAX!  Now that is a good thing for those who work out regularly or are experienced fitness enthusiasts, or who are ready be pushed to the limit, but if the “Insanity” workout is the first introduction a beginner has to fitness, the person may be too scared and have a wrong impression of exercise. Therefore if you are just starting out, the “Insanity” workout is not for you. Shaun T said it in his introduction but you may not hear that part until you have purchased the program, except if like me you didn’t purchase the DvDs, but had a friend lend it to you.

The structure

“Insanity” is a 60-day fitness program divided into two months. The first month has five workouts and one fitness test, the second month also has the same amount of workouts.

“Insanity” contains simple exercise moves that can be done by anybody. Shaun T played with intensity instead of complexity, that way the exercisers are able to focus on the workout rather than learning complex exercise moves. That is a plus!

The strength of “Insanity” lies in how Shaun T was able to manipulate speed and duration at each interval to literally take your heart rate through the roof.

“Insanity” also comes with an elite nutrition plan that teaches you how to fuel your body with balanced and nutritious meals. The nutrition plan is designed to help you eat the right foods in the right proportion.

First thing first

The first thing Shaun T expects you to do before starting Insanity is a medical evaluation (don’t be scared, that’s the normal thing to do before you begin a vigorous exercise program that your body is not used to). Because Insanity is very vigorous, you should not attempt it-even if you have been exercising for a long time- if you have any condition that can be made worse by exercise (i.e. hypertension, Diabetes, hyperlipidemia, any cardiovascular disease, arthritis or any other skeletal problems ).

Also if you are a beginner to fitness or exercising, “Insanity” is not for you. If you have been exercising for a long time but cannot run continuously for at least 30 minutes, you should not try “Insanity” now, build your fitness with other exercise programs first.

The Fitness Test

If you pass the medical evaluation test, and possess an adequate amount of fitness, you are ready to proceed to “Insanity Fitness Test”! The Fitness test evaluates your current fitness level. If you find the fitness test really hard and scary, again I will advise you to improve your fitness with another exercise program before attempting “Insanity”.

The “Insanity” workout

Did you pass the fitness test? Welcome to Club Insanity! This is where you meet other insane people who love challenges and are drawn to athletic performances.

The warm up phase

Insanity’s warm up shows you right away that the program is not gentle. The “Insanity” warm up is very athletic just like the conditioning phase of the workout. The warm up starts with high impact moves and the intensity just builds on and on.

The conditioning phase

The conditioning phase builds on the intensity of the warm up phase and things get pretty insane from there on.  One thing I found disturbing is the fact that, Shaun T doesn’t provide modifications for any of the exercise moves, participants are stuck with only one intensity option. That for me is a minus. Every exercise program should have intensity options, so that the participant who cannot do the full push-up today, can do modified push-up on her knees. That way everyone feels successful.  But considering the fact that Insanity workout is for the “athletic” population, and not the general population, I can’t fault Shaun T’s decision on that.

Is the gain worth the pain?

One major reason why many people are using “Insanity” workout are the results the program promises to deliver. The question many people have not asked themselves is whether their current health and fitness conditions can make that happen. As a fitness instructor I believe safety should come first. The “Insanity” workout is not for everyone because, “Insanity”, like any other HIIT programs is not gentle. There are lots of plyometric moves in the program, and there is very little rest in between intervals, which is why the caloric expenditure is high. But this also can pose risks to certain groups of people. What I mean by certain groups of people are individuals such as, the significantly overweight, the hypertensive, the diabetic, individuals with joint problems, those individuals with signs and symptoms of cardiovascular diseases and individuals with low fitness level.

Plyometric moves do not only stress the joint of lower extremities, they also put a lot of stress of the cardio-respiratory system.

The idea of burning up to 1000 calories in just one workout session may look appealing, but to tell you the honest truth, very few individuals can burn that amount of calories in less than an hour. It may even be harder for a person who is already overweight (no insult intended) to be able to move her whole body mass at the pace that will make such high caloric expenditure happen. Therefore certain individuals whose goal is to lose weight can benefit more from a moderate intensity exercise program.

It is true that Shaun T does not provide modifications in the program, but common sense requires that you learn to listen to your own body. Knowing when to push and knowing when to withdraw are both signs of strength. You should exercise at the pace you know is appropriate and safe for you. It’s your workout, you determine how intense you want it to be.

My conclusion

Overall, I will say that “Insanity” is a good program.  Programs like Insanity give you a sense of accomplishment and reveal the athlete in you. And if you love fitness challenges, you will find Insanity appealing.  The program may not appeal to you if you don’t like extreme workouts. And if you are just starting with exercise, DON’T START WITH INSANITY.

I only sampled month one workouts for 7 days, for the purpose of this article.


Esta Morenikeji is a fitness instructor and fitness blogger. Once upon a time she weighed 92kg, now weighing in at 67kg, she teaches people how to lose weight and keep fit in a fun way. She blogs about fitness and weight loss at and tweets from @estamorenikeji


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (0)

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail