Cristina Woodill does the Insanity workout in her boyfriend's living room (Photo: Adam Scotti).

Insanity workout not for the faint of heart

The name says it all.

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Cristina Woodill likes a challenge. Even if that means having sweat pour off her face, pushing through the pain of tight muscles, and being yelled at by a buff fitness guru via her computer.

Recently, Woodill began rigidly following the Insanity workout regime, a 60-day program designed to quickly whip people into shape.

As a varsity athlete at the University of King's College, Woodill is used to the rigors of intense training. But during the off-season, she wanted to take her workouts to the next level.

The six-day-a-week workouts last an average of 45 minutes, but get longer as the weeks progress. Insanity is the latest in a line of popular exercise DVDs sold by the fitness website Beachbody.

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Cristina Woodill's workout (Slideshow: Adam Scotti).

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Shaun T. demonstrates Insanity on the Tyra Banks show.

A typical workout consists of high-energy jumps, various push-ups, knee-raises and airborne jumping jacks. According to Woodill, even the fifteen-minute warm up is challenging, "I wanted something more intense, and that's what I got."

Insanity flips the traditional idea of interval training on its head, using long periods of maximum intensity workouts in combination with short periods of rest.

The workout is designed and led by former dancer Shaun T. (born Shaun Thompson). In 2008, his Hip Hop Abs routine was featured on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

Woodill says Shaun T. helps motivate her to keep going when she's struggling. "I listen to him when he's telling me to push harder. I don't know why, but I listen to him."

Eighteen days into the program, Woodill no longer feels out of breath playing basketball - "I can definitely see the results."

Another King's varsity athlete, Haley Anderson, also decided to try Insanity because "you don't have to go anywhere, you can do it in your living room whenever it is convenient for you."

But after hurting her knee in a volleyball game, Anderson fell behind with the workouts and stopped. Due to the daily progression of the program, she says "if you miss a day it's all shot to shit."

Anderson also felt the program "isn't designed for females very well." She says while most women want to tone their bodies, she feels Insanity is all about building muscle.

Professionals weigh in

Ally Everett, a personal trainer at Fitness FX on Quinpool Road, says Insanity is "definitely more advanced." She supports clients that undertake the program - "anything that gets people up off the couch is good by me."

Everett warns that Insanity isn't for everyone, though. She says people ought to be in good physical shape before taking on this particular workout.

A local physiotherapist, Dawn Hanifen, agrees. She advises people to consult their doctor to make sure they are sufficiently fit before starting Insanity.

Hanifen says to avoid injury, people should "take breaks when they need to and never jeopardize form for speed." She also warns that if your ankles or knees feel wobbly at any point during the workout, you should stop.

While the 10 DVD set costs almost $150 after shipping, people looking to cut corners have managed to download it online.

Gaining popularity

Although Insanity was released in 2009, it is just now attracting mainstream attention, riding on the recent success of the P90X strength-training workout, which is also distributed by Beachbody.

Some people attempt Insanity after completing P90X.

While Insanity and P90X both offer multiple full-body workouts, P90X requires an array of equipment including weights, mats, resistance bands and chin-up bars. Insanity exercises use body weight instead, meaning no extra equipment is necessary.

The Insanity website claims participants can lose up to 1000 calories per workout.

Shaun T. asked people to send in their before and after pictures in exchange for an "I earned it" Insanity t-shirt. His promotional video says he got thousands of responses.

Insanity's success landed it on "The Tyra Banks Show."

Multiple personal reviews on external websites say people are losing an average of 10-15 pounds by the end of the program.

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