I have questions about cardio workout modifications...
January 13, 2014 2:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently in my second week of the Insanity workout program. I survived the first week pretty well, but only because I modify many/most of the drills. As someone totally new to this kind of cardio program, I have no idea if the way I'm modifying the workout will help or hinder my progress, prevent or cause injuries, etc etc. Any tips for how to safely (and usefully!) modify the Insanity workout?

Everything I've found so far says to focus on form, but I'm not entirely sure what that means. Should I be going for the full range of movement, even if it means getting less of a cardio workout? Or should I focus on doing only what I can do cleanly?

Here are some examples:

*suicide drills - I can either go fast and not go all the way to the floor, keeping everything tight and clean, etc. OR touch the floor and do maybe a tenth of the reps. My form actually feels cleaner/tighter when I do the first version that limits the range of movement.

* globe jumps - Again, doing the full range of motion makes me sloppy and exhausts my muscles, but omitting the arm parts means I can do a lot more jumping and it actually feels like a cardio workout.

I could go on with more examples, but I think these two illustrate my point. This workout is really fun for me, and I can see myself getting into it for the long term. I plan on doing multiple rounds of this to work up to (hopefully one day) not need the modifications. For now, though, I don't know the best way to go about it.

My options as I see them include:

1) don't worry about the full range of motion yet, doing what I can while keeping the best form possible and doing the max cardio workout (within my personal safety limits)

2) go A LOT more slowly in the full range of motion, slowly levelling up the cardio intensity

3) a mixture of both - as in option one on the first set, option two on the second set, and whichever I can pull out on the third set

I'm open to thoughts and suggestions here, especially if you've done this program.
posted by Eumachia L F to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Only do what you can... Because it's impossible to do what you can't.

Keep to correct form. When you start to lose form, march in place or whatever, because otherwise you're doing more harm than good.

That's it really. You're supposed to train to failure, so keep doing that. You should be getting further and further before failure as you go along.
posted by tel3path at 2:08 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd keep to correct form as much as it doesn't hurt. I've done random little bits of insanity and it make my knees freak out. So I'd modify form/not do specific things.

Then I wouldn't expect to be able to do all the reps/speed. It's fine to do 25% of what he's saying to do if you're working hard.

You wouldn't need Insanity if you were already in ridiculously good shape. And even then I'd expect some moves to just bug your body and for you to not do them.
posted by Kalmya at 4:14 AM on January 13, 2014

Hey there! I have been doing Insanity for a few years (doing the whole program in the prescribed sequence a couple of times, and then at other times just picking from the various workouts 4-5 times a week to maintain fitness).

When I first started, I felt like I was going to die and definitely had to modify quite a bit (and still have to modify a few things here and there)! I would say the best option lies somewhere between the two that you describe. If "doing the full range of motion makes [you] sloppy and exhausts [your] muscles," and you omit those arm movements so you can keep jumping more, then that points out that the arm muscles need the work; omitting them will slow down the gains you might see if you kept trying to do them.

So try to do the full motion for as long as you can, as fast as you can, and as you approach the point that you can't do the motion any longer, keep trying at least for a bit, and keep pushing to go just a little faster than is comfortable. This is the point where you are really going to gain the most. It's OK to get a little sloppy with the form as you approach the point of complete fatigue. Just be careful of knees, ankles, stresses on joints in general.

Good luck! It's a great program, and very rewarding if you stick with it.
posted by fikri at 6:59 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you are tripping up on the as fast as you can part. This doesn't mean do it fast, or that you should be able to keep going always - do it right as fast as you can. I've done the circuit once two years ago...it was entertaining. The part where you can get injured is where you disengage your core, and/or fail to train your muscle groups in preparation for some of the later stuff. Arms hurt now? Without using them now and forcing yourself to slow down - they won't be ready for day 45. Insanity is about pacing... To quote pure cardio: That shit is bananas.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:26 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest keeping the full range of motion as much as you can. Out of context, those details are not critical--they're not key to the safety of the movement, like correct deadlift form would be--but when you are actually running or jumping, they have real functions:

--In the "suicide drill," touching the ground is really a proxy for lowering your center of gravity, which allows you to plant your foot harder without having your momentum topple you over. That way, you can decelerate and change direction faster.

--In the "globe jump," the arm motions get a little extra momentum into the motion, so you can jump for more distance or height. Again, this has a lot to do with your center of mass--with the arm motion, it starts lower and ends higher, giving you a longer distance over which to generate force. That means you can put more energy into the jump (so it's no surprise that these tire you out faster!).

Note that even once you get used to it, these will still feel a lot more difficult than your modified versions. Correct mechanics allow you to work harder; without them, you are limited in the amount of effort you can put into each rep, no matter how fit you are. The corollary is that limiting range of motion puts a lower ceiling on your results. So as long as you aren't aggravating an injury or something, in the long run it's best to use the full range.
posted by Aquinas at 7:35 AM on January 13, 2014

Agree with Aquinas. The more you modify, the longer it will take for you to master full range of motion PLUS cardio. You need to build your strength!
posted by stompadour at 9:26 AM on January 14, 2014

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