The Four Year Long “Hell Week”
“This is not a game people, Dig Deeper!” the fitness enthusiast Shawn T. yelled from the TV screen. With every last ounce of energy I had, I finished the Max Cardio & Conditioning Circuit workout with 35 power jumps. That might not seem like a whole lot, but believe me, after an hour of the hardest workout program ever put on DVD, 35 is quite the accomplishment. After the short but very relaxing cool down stretch, I was picturing my post-workout meal I was going to prepare myself. One cup of oatmeal with bananas, strawberries and blueberries and topping it all off with a 5 egg white spinach scramble. After all those years of shoving cookies and cake down my throat after a workout that strictly consisted of curls, benching and squats, I would have never imagined that I would ever be eating this healthy in my life time.
“Hello everyone this is Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit. We are going to go fast, we are going to go super insane, and I’m smiling because I love it”. These were the first two sentences Shawn T. says right before starting the gruesome warmup on day one. Needless to say, for me, it felt like “Hell Week” training for the Navy Seals. Being 235 pounds I wasn’t expecting miracles on the first day, but the one thing I was expecting was the realization of how out of shape I was. By the end of the warmup my clothes were drenched with sweat, and it felt like I already lost 10 pounds. I was completely drained of energy, and I still had the five minute warmup stretch along with the 30 minute workout following that. “Holy crap, this guy is going to kill me”. I thought to myself, but I knew if this program was going to transform my body in just 60 days, I was going to do whatever it took to accomplish my goal.
After the first interval, which is three minutes of intense body weight exercises, my quads were burning, my calves were on fire and my whole body was shaking. I’ve never felt this during a workout, and quite frankly, I was scared. I was ready to give up and start fresh the next day. We had a brief 30 seconds to grab our water and catch our breath, “30 seconds is not long! This is not a coffee break people!” Shawn T. yelled. Just being completely pushed to my limit really made me want to rip him out of the television and scream in his face to give him a taste of his own medicine. But I knew that wasn’t physically possible, so I just imagined it, which made me laugh right before I decided to toughen it out. I then went back to the burning agonizing pain my body was enduring.
The next day was horrible, I was so sore I couldn’t even sit up to get out of my bed because my abdominal muscles were on fire. It felt like I was stabbed 100 times. My legs were so sore that I couldn’t even walk up or down the stairs without holding onto the railing for assistance to keep me on my feet. My chest and arms were numb and sore, in which I had to walk like a T-rex because I couldn’t straighten my arms without feeling agonizing pain. And the first thing that came to my mind was, “How the hell am I going to work-out today?” Due to no workout ever giving me this kind of post-workout soreness, I knew this program was the real deal. Which is why I knew if I kept going, I was definitely going to see the change in my body that I was looking for. This also made me ignore how sore I was and power through to success. It wasn’t easy by all means, but like I said before nothing was going to stop me from accomplishing my goal.
The working out aspect of this routine was easy, all I needed to do was put in the DVD and press play. On the other hand, the transition from eating unhealthy to healthy was probably the most intense psychological challenge I ever had to endure in my life. For the first month of the program, the target amount of calories was only 1,200 a day. Not really recognizing how little amount 1,200 calories actually was, I was not psychologically ready. My breakfast consisted of a small 2 egg white scramble with a small portion of vanilla Greek Yogurt. I personally hate yogurt but it was a great source of protein to start off the day. My lunches were very basic, since I had to stray away from the greasy chicken patties and gummy worm fries, the large slices of pizza, and the disgusting lunch special which was either some sort of Chinese or pasta dish my school provided. I ate a small chicken breast with either broccoli or asparagus with a half cup of brown rice along with a side snack of carrot sticks and sliced peppers. For dinner my mom would either prepare me a vegetable stir fry or grill more chicken with a side of broccoli and more brown rice. One month into the routine I couldn’t even look at chicken without wanting to vomit.
Due to the disgusting amounts of sugar and fats I was consuming prior to insanity, the sudden cutoff of sugar made my body undergo a form of sugar withdraw. The constant urge to go into the kitchen and grab frosted blueberry pop tarts, tasty cakes, Oreos, brownies or a huge bowl of ice cream was unbelievably hard. I would probably compare this feeling to a person who just recently quit smoking, the urge and craving constantly fogs your mind in which you can’t concentrate until your body has fulfilled that craving. You just have to be mentally strong to resist. All I thought to myself was, “6 pack in 60 days Dave, you can do it!” Due to my strengthening will power, I started developing healthy eating habits as time went on. Instead of craving the high fat/high sugar foods my body was previously craving, my body was beginning to crave fruits, vegetables and lean meats that I never thought I would ever be eating. And going into month two of the program, I was ready to push myself beyond my limits.
Month two is the definition why this program is called Insanity. The workouts got harder while the meals got better due to a wider varieties of food I was able to cook. The month two meal plan provided organic chicken and steak fajitas, organic chicken and steak stir fry’s, organic salmon, whole wheat avocado shrimp pasta, and the list of meals can go on forever. Typically, organic foods are expensive and my wallet was definitely thinning out, but I was in food heaven. The variety of foods was overwhelming and I never would have thought that all of these foods could be as delicious as they actually were. I was glad because if I had to eat chicken and brown rice for one more meal I was going to jump out the window. “Alight, next move we got sci..sci.. I don’t even know what the move is called…scissor runs, I’m so tired I can’t even remember the names of my own moves” Shawn T. said while instructing the first workout of month two. What I really loved about the month two workouts was that my body transformed so drastically. My asthma was becoming non-existent and I was able to push myself further and further each day. I was physically drained after each workout, but each workout I completed was another day closer to my goal. This gave me a stronger drive every day to really see my full potential. Unfortunately, as time went on, I became too obsessed with my results. “Wow, I look like a skeleton!” I said to myself after completing my fourth rotation of Insanity. When I saw a picture of my younger brother and I on the beach of Hilton Head, South Carolina, I saw my shoulder and hip bones, and ribs sticking out. I kind of looked like Matthew McConaughey in one of his most recent roles “Dallas Buyers Club”. I was 145 pounds and I needed to put on healthy weight, muscle to be specific. This is when another Beachbody program came into my life, P90x.
“Keep on pushing, the more you push the closer you are to success. That’s how I’ve been doing it for the past 20 years, that’s why this 45 year old man going on 46, still looks like this”. Tony Horton said as he referred to himself. As I busted out twenty more reps of my favorite bicep exercise “corkscrew curls” of the Back & Biceps phase 2 workout of P90x, I was relieved but sad my favorite workout of the entire program was over. I never knew how much fun I could have lifting weights. Tony Horton opened my eyes to all new kinds of training that I could enjoy rather than completely push myself to the psychological breakdown insanity did. Don’t get me wrong, Insanity helped me lose the weight and it’s a great program for beginners, but what psychologically affected me was that I got too obsessive with losing weight that I ate less and worked out with a much higher intensity. Tony Horton and the P90x program helped me get back on track to a healthy lifestyle by incorporating humor into his workouts to allow you to have fun while pushing your body to the extreme. And personally now, I would recommend P90x over Insanity any day.
“Tip of the day, DO NOT hold in your breath” Tony said right when we were finishing our quick warmup stretch. It was time to hit the Chest, Shoulders & Triceps workout of the third and final phase of the routine. The one thing I loved about Tony Horton’s style is that he doesn’t give you multiple objectives during one workout, he tells you to pick out one aspect that you want to improve and to really push yourself to improvement. Personally, I dread any intense shoulder workout because shoulders have always been a weak point of mine due to a very bad dislocation two summers ago. I just feared that if I were to workout my shoulders too hard I would dislocate it again and possibly need surgery. Due to Tony’s style of coaching, I decided to make my shoulders an objective for improvement. As of today, my shoulders are the strongest muscle in my body, and still improving all aspects of my body today.
Besides the intense weight training exercises, the P90x meal plan also was an important aspect in getting my weight back to a healthy range. Instead of the metabolism boosting meal options the insanity program provided, the P90x meal plan offered high carb and high protein meals to pack on muscle mass, and those meals were absolutely delicious. The meal plan ranged from breakfast to dessert (Something the insanity meal plan forbid me to eat) including blueberry muffins, oatmeal pancakes, whole grain waffles, Mediterranean shrimp kebabs, vegetarian tostada, veggie burgers and grilled chicken and steak burritos. I enjoyed cooking every meal and it was even more enjoyable eating them; my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. One thing I was constantly worried about when it came to nutrition, was once I moved away to live at college. Once I was accepted into Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, I knew that this life changing event could either destroy my health because of the horrible, unhealthy foods the school cafeterias provided, or I could take healthy eating to a whole new level. Since I couldn’t even look at all the unhealthy, greasy options without wanting to vomit… guess which path I chose. Based on my past experiences in the kitchen, I used all my knowledge from both P90x and Insanity meal plans, combined them to make a hybrid meal plan and completely transformed my body in the process. Moving to college transformed my views on food and really opened my eyes to a wide range of options that even after mastering the meal plan of both P90x and Insanity, I was still learning and still am learning today.
If you have the determination and drive to succeed, anyone can accomplish what I have. You might want to quit several times and your body might ache and cramp, but the more commitment you have, the better chances you will have in accomplishing your goal. Most people don’t realize that progress is progress. Whether it’s slow or fast, your body is always changing. The one thing you have to remind yourself, and it’s something that I have told myself every day and still continue to tell myself “You are not the same person you were yesterday”. Once you have the ability to look at yourself and tell yourself this, you can accomplish things through your mind, that you never thought you had the strength and ability to do.
Photo credits; http://www.google.com