Fitness Class Review: Insanity at Sport&Health

Does the workout live up to the challenging DVD?

Ten Sport&Health clubs in Washington offer the high-intensity Insanity workout, which earned a following thanks to the DVDs of the same name. Photograph by Flickr user Tina Franklin.

Confession: The last time I attempted the highly popular workout video Insanity, I was motivated less by a desire to get in shape than by the unhealthy mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime. After arriving home from a margarita happy hour, my roommates, the tequila, and I thought it would be a great idea to take on a 50-minute cardio fat-blasting workout. Turns out we were wrong.

Touted on its website as the “hardest workout ever put on DVD,” the video followed a group of insanely fit students led by an insanely fit instructor named Shaun T. Using short intervals of bodyweight exercises, the program aims to keep your heart rate at a constant, fat-burning level. This translates to three or four blocks of four exercises, repeated three times. From burpees to high knees, it seemed like virtually every exercise I dreaded in gym class was packed into this 50-minute session. 

Which brings me back to the margaritas—or rather, my utter failure of motivation halfway through the DVD. Despite our gung-ho beginning, 20 minutes in my roommates and I were stretched out on the floor, deaf to Shaun T.’s most adamant encouragements. What harm would it do if we skipped the burpees—or the crawling pushups, or the diamond jumps? What Shaun T. doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

That type of pick-and-choose workout definitely would not fly in Shayna Eisenberg’s Insanity class, held at the Sport&Health gym in Ballston. The class was hosted in an open exercise room with about 20 others, and the peer pressure alone kept me motivated through exercises I could have easily fast-forwarded through on a DVD.

Following the format of the Insanity videos, Shayna first led us in a warmup, followed by a quick stretch. We then headed into the first exercise block, consisting of 30 seconds of squat jumps, lunges, and the infamous burpees, repeated in that order for three rounds. Performing each exercise in quick succession—and the fact that each move is done for just 30 seconds—helped me get through even the toughest of rounds.

The first half of the class focused on power cardio, and the second on strength and balance. Halfway through a second set of triceps dips, I remembered the class was only 30 minutes long—a bit disappointing, as I felt I could easily go for another 20 minutes. Shayna acknowledged the class may be a little short for some, but pointed out that Sport&Health also offers 45- and 60-minute Insanity classes, which burn approximately 500 calories and are offered at ten locations.

Though the session was short, I left with a strong feeling of accomplishment as I compared my performance with my lackadaisical approach to the Insanity DVD. Conquering those difficult moves made me more confident and energized—no tequila necessary.

Insanity. Available at various Sport&Health locations in Washington. Nonmembers can sign up for a free seven-day pass.