June 7, 2017, 8:25 p.m.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one simple step.”…or something like that. The journey of 6months of pain, sweat, and dedication began with one simple fit test, and maybe a few choice words. Over 6 months ago I attended a conference for people working in cross cultural capacities; we were challenged to write a Personal Development Plan to include things we wanted to add to our lives as we fought to adjust to life in a new culture. For me, it was natural decision. I love fitness, sports, couldn’t find a gym, and my time over seas, so far, had taken an extensive mental and physical toll on my body. I needed some sort of kick into a new gear. I looked at my development plan. What could I add to my life over 6 months? I’d gotten roped into a few Insanity workouts before, so the idea hit me. 3 workout programs at two months each, I was going to do the Insanity Triple Crown.
Today was my final day of that journey. 6 months ago I hit play on the original Insanity (OG) fit test, and since then finished the two month program of OG, two months of Insanity Volumes 1 and 2, and two months of Insanity Max 30. I expected it to be hard and to challenge and shape my body. But I had little idea of some the plethora of other ways I’d learn and grow through this process. This was my journey:
The Nitty Gritty
I come from a very athletic background. I’ve trained for and played some sort of contact sport since I was in the fifth grade. I was used to lifting weights, building strength, and hitting people. Needless to say the idea of gaining fitness by running in place in my living room was just a slight source of skepticism. But look, my contact sports career is over, so let’s give it a shot.
OG Insanity will always have a place in my heart now. Does Shaun T have to tell me to keep my core tight every 3 seconds? Why are power jumps basically the worst? I pretended those things bothered me, but really I enjoyed them in secret motivation. Week 1 was hard, but Week 1 of Month 2 was hell (as anyone who has completed Insanity will confirm). It also didn’t help that I tackled Day 1 of Month 2 at 5am after not being able to sleep all night and with a stomach ache. I didn’t have much choice but to get better from there.
60+ days later I finished the first Insanity program. I actually lost weight, which I didn’t think I had much of to lose. And my cardio was by far the best it had been in a long time. I celebrated the only way I knew how: I ate an entire Fatiira.
OG made me a believer in bodyweight fitness, but I can’t lie. I was just a little excited to see Insanity’s successor on the horizon, Insanity: The Asylum. The Asylum raved all the expected intensity of OG, but this time with an equipment list. I took the program head on, knocking out Volume 1 the month after OG and then followed that up with Volume 2 which landed around Christmas time.
It did my soul some good to have a program that at least let me pretend I was training like an athlete again. Few things got me as pumped as Gameday on Asylum 1, and Shaun T constantly telling me “we gotta win”! Throwing some weights around (especially in Volume 2) was also a much needed change of pace. The real proof of Asylum is in the Christmas pudding, meaning, it got me through the holidays! I finished the Asylum series towards the beginning of January, and celebrated the only way I knew how: I ate an entire Fatiira.
If you’re not already familiar with it, the premise of Max 30 is simple. Take the idea and intensity behind Insanity: OG, and condense it into 30 minutes; nothing more, nothing less. Even after finishing OG and Asylum, I went into this program intimidated. I saw one infomercial on YouTube that featured Shaun T laying on the ground saying “that was the hardest workout Ive ever lead”, and, after thinking nothing could top Gameday +Overtime from Asylum in terms of torture, I couldn’t help but feel a bit skittish.
Nonetheless I started. And wow, it’s almost a form of art to successfully cause so much pain in such a short time frame. And once I got to Month 2 I discovered the workout that Shaun was calling his hardest: Friday Fight Round 2…and he wasn’t lying. Seriously though, to actually get a good workout in 30 minutes, you gotta do 2 things: 1) go absolute bonkers in terms of effort (up to you), and 2) Get creative (up to Shaun). Trust me, a move like “touch the floor moving tuck jumps” is a testament to Shaun’s sick sense of creativity.
I thought I was in the best overall athletic shape of my life around the end of OG. But now at the end of Max 30, in the most non-conceited way possible, I feel like a super human. I’m nowhere near as strong or as bulked as I was in college, but man, I feel like I could go a few rounds with anyone…as long as I keep my core tight.
But that’s the nitty gritty. Were there days I didn’t want to do it? Yup. I’ve never worked out for 6 days a week for 6 months straight. There were days my body hurt, I had other things to do, or didn’t feel like stumbling over a speed ladder. But now 6 months, 10 pounds, and a whole lote of lessons learned later, I’m glad I did it, and I celebrated the only way I know how: I ate an entire Fatiira!
“Abs are made in the kitchen.” “You can’t out train bad nutrition.” I had heard these phrases, and many like them time and time before. But my experience doing the Triple Crown has now put 6 months of anecdotal proof behind them.
My journey through the Triple Crown also marked the first time in my life I put serious effort into understanding and monitoring what I used to fuel my body. Ironically, before this experiment I got by on an “eat clean” philosophy that honestly was just a subjective preference to ordering the chicken variation of any item at a fast food restaurant. For the Triple Crown, however, I went a different route entirely.
Originally intrigued by a nutrition approach called If “It Fits Your Macros”(IIFYM), I approached nutrition for the Triple Crown by tracking two things: calories and macros (the Carb, Protein, and Fat macronutrients that make up all foods). I learned more about nutrition the first month of Insanity than I had the 23 years of my life prior. I learned nutrition is all about making choices and sacrifices. “Eating Clean” would have me making homemade granola bars using dates, oats, and honey because that’s what is ‘healthy’ regardless of the fact that a single one of those bars would pack 300 calories and only a lot of carbs. On the other hand, I could just buy a store packaged bar for 140 calories, and find better ways to allot a remaining 160 calories. Choices and sacrifices. I weekly ate rotisserie chicken, a cheeseburger, and even ice cream, but if we left the story there we miss the fact I regularly swapped for cauliflower rice, underwent a slight peanut butter famine, and survived on tea, coffee, and water.
However, perhaps the biggest blind side I received from nutrition on the Triple Crown was this: maintaining a proper diet is mentally exhausting. So much of fitness is focused on your body and the food you put into it, but I was surprised to find how easily trying to track nutrition can take a toll on you psychologically. Eating isn’t just a daily necessity anymore. Food becomes a combination of daily caloric and macro numbers aimed at achieving a goal for the end of the day and it’s easy to become unhealthily obsessed or self-critical. I found giving yourself space and not be perfect is necessary. To me, hitting a physical goal loses its grandeur if you’re losing sleep over an unplanned slice of cake at a surprise party or the fact that you’re not quite sure what the ratio of rice to beans was in that pot-luck dish.
This was the area I had to learn to grow the most in. My current work revolves around entertaining and being entertained as a guest in my host culture. Fittingly, this culture revolves much around food, and little around nutrition. To reject an invitation to a meal is among the harshest insults you could give someone in this culture, so I had some choices: suck at my job and offend many gracious local friends, or track as close as I can and make the best of it. I went with the latter, did my best to anticipate invites while adjusting accordingly, and everything still turned out ok. On bad days I let it go, forgot the red numbers on My Fitness Pal, and gave it another go the next day.
I honestly think everyone should spend a season of time tracking, and just getting a realistic and honest picture of what we’re eating. It might hurt to see at first, but it’ll also free you up to learn a little bit about balance, self-control, and grace!
Fun Fact about my Nutrition on the Triple Crown:
1) I ate at least 9,000 grams (roughly 20 pounds) of Oatmeal over the course of 6 months (and still love it).
2) A serving of peanut butter is depressingly smaller than I initially thought.
3) Don’t trust the local Egyptian protein powder.
The Finish Line
So that’s the real question, right? Sure you did the workouts, ate the food, but what was the end result? Simply put: pretty great! I lost 10 pounds, and I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. But, here’s the deal: I’m actually smaller than I’ve been in probably 4 years, my jackets I left America with hang too loose now, and there’s no way I can bench press close to 250 pounds like I was before coming here.
However, I feel more naturally strong and agile than I ever have in my life. Real talk, the flexibility you gain while doing the Insanity workouts is probably one of the most underappreciated aspects. I can sit cross logged or on my haunches with ease now, and I was unexpectedly able to shed the knee brace I’ve depended on the last 6 years of my athletic career! As said before, I actually know what it means to eat right now, and yes doing so does leave room for pizza and cheeseburgers (sometimes!). And finally, I am more aware of my body’s limits than I ever was before. Hopefully this doesn’t sound too much like hippy nonsense. I now have mounds of respect for anyone who has ever undergone the discipline needed to dramatically change their body. Meaning, I did this from a fairly fit standpoint; those who have done this from the opposite and achieved their goals are my new heroes in life. That stuff is hard!
I’m looking forward to taking what I learned the last 6 months and use it to form a sustainable, physically and mentally healthy routine to sustain me for the rest of my time overseas. I’m not sure 6 days a week of HIIT, high impact is the most sustainable long term thing, but it’ll be fun to mix it in with some of the traditional stuff I enjoyed. As much as I used to scoff at home workout programs, I sure am thankful for Shaun T’s ability to encourage and push someone he’s never met before through a TV screen. It wasn’t always fun, sure as heck wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it. Dig deeper, keep your core tight, and come on yall!
Welcome to my work in progress. Like most desks, its currently pretty strewn about. More stuff coming soon!