Why the Insanity Workout is Hard Work

Insanity Workout

Everybody knows the Insanity Workout is hard. It’s billed as such, says it right on the box, warns you that this is an extreme workout, and that it shouldn’t be jumped into lightly. At first people revel in this intensity, love with a masochistic thrill how brutal it is. They recount war stories about each workout, compare just how bruised and sore they are. The more punishment they receive the more they feel they’re earning a whole new body, and as such they come to almost crave that intensity, that burn, the sting of sweat running into their eyes as they lie on the floor, panting for breath. But that only lasts for a couple of weeks before that love for pain becomes resentment, complaints, a struggle to keep going, and then they quit. Why? Why the change of heart? Why does that intensity at first thrill and then kill? Why is the Insanity Workout such hard work?

The reason people quit is because they rely on motivation. They think motivation will see them through, the desire to lose weight, to get back into those pants, to look good, to feel good, to be healthier and more energetic. They feel nothing but extreme motivation when they begin, and inevitability that motivation dries up a few weeks in and they quit. You can’t win at the Insanity Workout if you rely on motivation. Why? Because motivation dries up. It happens to everybody, all the time. From the biggest, baddest body builders to the complete novice, motivation is an inconstant and random source of drive.

So how do the long term people keep at it? What makes that body builder get up in the morning, aching and sore and tired and burned out, to hit those killer weights one more time? What keeps those slim and slender beach models from having just one cookie, how could one cookie hurt? It’s called work ethic, and it’s very different from motivation.

Work ethic is what you display when you do what you don’t want to do, but what you know will be good for you in the long run. Work ethic is having pride in your determination, in knowing that your body and mind are weak, but your discipline is strong. Work ethic is what happens when you do what needs to be done, day in and day out, until a few years down the road you look like a movie star. Work ethic is what pushes you to do your best every time, even when you want to lie down and give up.

How do you develop work ethic? You cut yourself no slack. You don’t give yourself an option. Whether you’re tired, hung over, hungry or bored, whether you’re depressed or sad or furious or distracted, you do your workout, you press play. You don’t have ‘cheat’ days, you don’t eat cookies, pizzas, beers. You don’t think in terms of ‘starting again fresh on Monday’, give yourself the option of sliding for a little bit because you’re human. You simply draw that line in the sand, and say ‘I will workout every damn day for the next three months, and that’s all there is to it.’ Do that, and you’ll finish P90X, or the Insanity Workout, or anything. Despite weeks of low motivation. Despite times when you give up.

Work ethic. It’s what separates the wannabes from the pro’s.




  1. I’m now a day into my fourth week (of insanity) and know just what you mean. I had a “slip up” due to travel during my second week but looking back I realized I still could have found the time but passed it off and used travel as my scapegoat.

    When you let that first one go it is 10x easier to let the second one go and so on,and before you know it you’ve quit completely. Not gonna let that happen.

    Btw, I have been doing Insanity with a partner but did it with a group of 5 yesterday and found it very rewarding. Though it may be hard to find the space I found that working with five others forces everyone to push harder because no one wants to be that person who is resting. Try it out.

  2. What about when your body is just so worn out you can’t get your feet to leave the floor during squat jacks? I’m in the second week of the second month of Insanity. Hanging tough, but the second month workouts are a league above month one, and I’m finding I need an extra rest and recovery day each week in order to get quality workouts.

  3. This is amazing and makes me never want to slip up. This is extremely motivational.

  4. I am currently in week 4… motivation has been a little lacking.. but once I get done it is so rewarding to know that I pressed on… I just tell myself its only40 minutes.. get it done..

  5. It can be good and bad… I didn’t know when to say stop, and tried to push through an old “sore” back. Until it became a major problem and I couldn’t move without searing pain. Having missed a significant amount of time now, getting back up to speed is as hard as the first day.

    I would add, that it’s important to know the difference between “digging deeper” and pushing too far. It’s a fine line, but you’ll learn something about yourself if you test it.

    Also, putting it into writing goes a long way. Knowing I had to write about the experience each day helped keep me on track.

    Great post.

  6. Great post. I’m in my first week of insanity and just finished p90x. You put into words what I would try to explain to people when I would pass on beer or junk food. I would try to tell them that I’m nothing special and they could do it too if they made the choice.

    For me that choice is to get healthy before the birth of my second kid.

  7. I have completed the insanity program…never quit or skipped a workout (even on vacation). It was tough, but very rewarding! I look so much better and feel great! I have continued to do Insanity after the full program was over. I think I have done it for close to 5 months now. I just switch out workouts from both months of the program and throw in some perfect push ups (about 200). It’s getting kind of boring now though, and I’m constantly looking for something new that will still give these results. I also don’t want to drop a bunch of money on a new program like p90X. But I still will continue to do Insanity until something else comes along. I don’t want to lose the results I have received.

    People think I’m crazy for doing so much! They say they couldn’t eat like I do and that they don’t have the willpower. I tell them they can, but they need to decide for themselves to just do it and not give up!

    I always tell them that it’s very hard, but very rewarding!

    Good post!

  8. I agree! Im on Day 30 and Im just now getting used to it! The ride was crazy, but I can truly say it was worth it! Insanity is my fav program thus far.

  9. yes this workout is not for beginners. I think it is best for people who used to be in good shape, have gotten lazy, and want to get back in shape as quickly as possible. I dont think a morbidly obese person could even do this workout and could potentially harm them. is there a product insanity offers for “very” obese people as well?

  10. @fastdiets

    As a (formerly) severely obese person, I can tell you that with a few modifications, a LOT of effort, and a little additional attention to your body (as going from “couch potato” to “insane” will take a lot out of you), you can use the insanity program/diet to get into shape.

    I’m currently 2 days from my first time through, and I’ve lost 70 pounds and 8 pants sizes. I can definately tell you that it’s obvious from day 1 that you are at a severe disadvantage if you are as big as I was starting out (340+), but every workout is littered with phrases like “take a break” and “go at your own pace”.

    Even if this isn’t the place for you to start from, I just wanted you to know that it is possible. That said, the OP has great pointers on how to work up to the program if you try it out and feel overwhelmed.

    Good luck to you!

  11. I agree!…It can be hard most of the time. I’m on week two and I’m still trying to get use to it, but after having 2 children I feel so out of shape and I want 2 be able to look good in a bikini again by the summer, so that is what I’m focusing on to give me the will power to succeed.

  12. I am on the third week of the first month and when I first started I loved it!! I feel soo much better and I have a lot more energy. Now I keep finding myself staring to lack.. I just need to suck it up and do it.. It is soo hard though! Probably the hardest workout i have ever done. I really don’t wanna quit.. I need self motivation! Oh and I cannot do a friggin v push up to save my life… It’s a sad day..

  13. I started Insanity today. I am obese and I only completed 23 minutes. But, that’s 23 minutes in the right direction. I know it will take some time to get through an entire workout but I am willing to make that commitment to myself. I would love to feel strong again, whether or not I lose an extreme amount of weight. I am looking for stamina and strength those are my goals not weightloss.

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