I Tried the Insanity Workout 15 Years After Its Release — and It’s Still Absolutely Brutal

Fitness

If you need a reminder of how incredibly popular the Insanity workout — a super-hard, DVD-based workout created by celebrity fitness trainer and choreographer Shaun T— was back in the late 2000s, how about this: my high school boyfriend once turned down an invite to hang out at my house after school — ahem, alone — in order to try out his new set of Insanity DVDs. I’m still not totally over it.

The Insanity workout is no longer in its heyday, when its ads featuring snippets of Shaun T leading super fit, super sweaty class members through brutal-looking exercises were in heavy rotation during late-night TV. In fact, this year marks the 15th anniversary of its initial release. But people still remember the program.

Case in point: In April 2024, I saw an Instagram Reel where Tania Baron, a former Insanity participant, tried the workout now, a decade-plus after she first went through the program, to see if she could still do it. (She can!) At the time of publishing, the video had 11.2 million views, 259k likes, and more than 5,000 comments. And plenty of those commenters were reminiscing about just how hard the workouts were.

“I tried jumping back into the videos after not doing them for years and immediately puked after just the test. It was humbling,” one says. “Girl I swore at you so many times and I’m so sorry. It was not very girls girl of me,” another admits.

Despite the fact that I once competed with Insanity for my boyfriend’s attention, the workout also holds a special place in my heart. So I decided to try a 42-minute Insanity workout from YouTube, to see how the 2009 program held up to 2024 fitness sensibilities. Below, my vulnerably honest review of the OG Insanity workouts. But first, a quick refresher.

What Is the Insanity Workout?

Insanity was designed as a 60-day program to get you in tip-top shape through plyometric and HIIT workouts to be completed six times a week. The regimen starts with a 30-minute fitness test designed to help you determine your fitness level.

Throughout the following two months, the Insanity program has you cycle through a variety of cardio, plyometric, and interval workouts. And they’re all bodyweight based, so you really don’t need anything to get started — besides some serious willpower, since the program calls for long bursts of intense work, alternated with very short rest periods, a method Shaun T and the Insanity program call Max Interval Training.

What Is the Insanity Workout Like?

In a word, the Insanity workout is grueling.

I completed the 42-minute cardio circuit sample workout that Insanity’s parent company, Bodi, uploaded to YouTube on May 3. (In case you needed further proof that people are still into this, said video currently has 121K views).

I liked that I didn’t need any equipment for Insanity and that I could do it from the comfort of my own home. Candidly, I worry about the way I look when I’m doing HIIT — any HIIT, let alone the max-intensity version found in Insanity — so I appreciated being able to do this alone and at my own pace. And I was especially thankful about ten minutes in, when I was already looking like a sweaty mess.

The cardio circuit starts with jumping jacks, Heismans, butt kicks, high knees, and mummy kicks. Shaun T demonstrated each move slowly before ramping up the speed. I started strong, but could feel myself tiring after a couple of rounds. At one point, I was so flustered that I messed up the mummy kicks.

Once we were done with that part of the circuit, we got a 25-second water break.

The next portion of the video was a breathing exercise. If that sounds like more recovery time, guess again — in Insanity world, this portion of the workout was more like a sculpt yoga class than just breathing. In other words, it wasn’t quite the reprieve I would have liked from the difficult movements of the first circuit.

The second circuit is comprised of flat backs, hip flexor stretches, suicide drills, power squats, mountain climbers, and ski jumps. At this point, no exercise was feeling easy. But for me, the hardest part of circuit two was the suicide drills. I found myself looking forward to the mountain climbers and ski jumps, which were fun for me — even as I felt them draining my energy.

A 30-second rest follows the ski jumps, and thank goodness! At this point, I was wiped and unsure of how much more I could take. Unfortunately, Shaun T doesn’t let us off easy. Circuit two repeats a second time, and there’s no break before the final circuit, which kicks off with a football sprint.

I got through this exercise and the next — basketball jumps — OK. But the level one drill and the ski abs? I think I only did one full set of each, and modified the level one drills by dropping to my knees during the push-ups, because the movements were that hard. When it was over, I lay on the floor for a few minutes, just catching my breath.

Is Insanity a Good Workout?

In terms of pure, sweaty chaos — yes, Insanity is an amazing workout. It’s also probably the hardest workout I’ve ever done. Considering I was fresh off marathon training, having completed the Big Sur International Marathon in April 2024, before I took on this experiment, I thought to myself, “How hard could Insanity possibly be?” Turns out, I wasn’t physically ready to find out.

Insanity isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer lower-impact or gentler workouts over a super-intense sweat session, for instance. For me, however, a good workout is one that challenges you, makes you sweat, and is still fun. Insanity was difficult for me, I was dripping sweat (even my knees were sweaty!), but I was still able to enjoy myself and smile from time to time. I’m smiling a little less as I type this, though, because my calves are sore — and they have been for the better part of a week.

All that said, now that I tried Insanity for myself, I get why my high school boo chose the workout over me. Insanity was probably easier to handle than teenage Natalie anyway.

Natalie Arroyo Camacho is a San Fernando Valley-based journalist with more than five years of experience in the well-being and lifestyle space. A proud child of immigrants and first-generation Mexican American, Natalie has landed her byline in the Los Angeles Times, GQ, Teen Vogue, Remezcla, PS, and many others.

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