Insanity Workout: a novice review

A few months ago I decided  to mix up my fitness program a bit in order to avoid the inevitable monotony that tends to follow prolonged routine,  and to intentionally focus on something that would require my mind and body’s full attention.

In consideration of this, I realized my choice would not only have to provide an element of challenge, but render me vulnerable to the possibility of complete failure in my attempt to succeed. While you may think me strange for saying this (and perhaps I am) I have learned that without the risk of defeat one can hardly presume the hope of true victory.  If there be certainty of triumph before battle, those fighting must relinquish their rights to any personal contribution in the end.  I can think of circumstances in which this surrender is imperative, but that is another thought for another time.

Before too long I had decided on the the most absurd option I could think of at the time, an interval training program called Insanity which a friend had recommended to me when I mentioned my need for an arse-kicker.

“It’ll leaving you dripping and panting on the floor, Jen.  You will want to quit at some point and you may begin fantasizing ways in which you might hurt the fitness instructor.”

Ah. Sounds perfect.

If focus and pain was what I was searching for, I certainly found it.  During the first week of the program my entire body felt like one all-encompassing bruise, making something as simple as walking a painful task.  Needless to say, continuing with the daily Insanity workouts in this condition took a great deal of determination on my part, and what seemed like an element of pure lunacy.

I see where they got the name.

When I realized the pain was not subsiding and it hurt to reach down to put my shoes on, I began to wonder if something was actually wrong. Seeing I was going to need some outside direction, I sought the advise of a friend who has considerable knowledge/training in the area of fitness, half-hoping he’d tell me to quit.  He didn’t, but the counsel he did offer was good.  In short, I needed to push through the pain my body was experiencing, drink more water, and learn to stretch more regularly outside the daily workouts.   The results were significant, the level of soreness gradually lessened, and got the nudge I needed to keep going.

I am happy to report I’ve now, two months later,  successfully completed the program and did not die as a result. (:  I liked it enough to repeat the 60 days and would recommend it to anyone who wants to go insane for a while and reap the benefits of doing so.  It was, for me, just what I needed, and am grateful for the pain it took to push through to the end.  For whatever it’s worth, I offer my thoughts below.


Strength-builder:   I am undoubtedly stronger than when I began. The further along I got, the stronger I became and the more I could put into each workout.

No Equipment:  Being a fan of simplicity, this was a big draw for me.  You don’t need anything but a pair of shoes, a bottle of water, and as much (or as little) clothing as you choose to wear.   The program is designed to use your own body to create strength-building resistance and cardio.  It seems to accomplish this.

Challenging:  As I said before, without a fair challenge it can be difficult for me to find motivation to try something.  This program was hard, and I loved it for that reason.

Increases flexibility: Between the stretches that are included in the workouts and those recommended to me outside the program, I am significantly more flexible than when I began.


-Not so nice on the knees.  My right knee has always given me a bit of trouble, and with the all the jumping that is involved in the plyometric portion of this program, I did have some issues with that.  I don’t really have an answer to this problem yet, I just wrapped mine and pushed myself as far as I could during the jumps.

-Running withdrawals.  Running does something for me that nothing else can do, so to refrain from that while I adjusted to the intensity of the program was somewhat difficult for me.  Fortunately, this second time around I feel quite able to do both and have enjoyed having the variety.

If you’re interested in this craziness but wondering if you can do it, allow me to offer a bit of encouragement. A month into the program I got a call from my doctor, informing me that after reading some routine labs done a few weeks prior, I was severly anemic.

Bummer, but it didn’t stop me.

If I can make it through this without having all the energy I would have liked, imagine what you could do with it.


Lessons from a dog

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things about working with dogs or having one of your own, is observing their abundant joy for life and constant need to satiate an undying curiosity about everything under the sun at all times.

To them, a day in which a good stick is discovered and a spoonful of peanut butter is procured is a good day indeed.

Dogs love life.  They don’t worry about things, never hold a grudge, and they don’t contemplate the past….at least I don’t think so.

I’ve never seen Bear choose to go sit in the corner, brow furrowed, pondering the thoughts of yesterday when he has the option of living life today.

And to him, ‘today’ is all the time.   I doubt he would know what yesterday means.

It is possible, perhaps likely, that in his mind the past is only as real as it exists in the present, never to be considered again once it becomes the past. He most certainly has a memory, but he does not seem to use it to mull over anything.  There is some great wisdom in that.

Before you think me completely daft, I am not for a moment suggesting we all stop considering the past and begin living like dogs, moment to moment, without thought or reflection or sense.

At least, not most of the time (:

Dogs are allowed to be extremists in this way because they are creatures unbound, free to live in the present as they carry out their own purpose in this world.  They teach us to forgive, to love like there is no tomorrow, not to judge, to do our duty, to appreciate each moment, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to never forget to be grateful for breakfast.  They also remind us not to remain in cognitive reflection so much that life itself is forgotten.

I have been guilty of this at times, becoming so lost in contemplation of the past that I check out of today.   This is when my dog finds me and brings me back to today real quick, usually by crashing into the room with something pricey in-between his jowls or by turning speedy circles around me with glee in his bright, mischievous eyes.

It’s as if he knows.

And who could resist those roguish little eyes?

He really hasn’t changed all that much in three years, still as mischievous as ever.

Dogs are so implicitly incapable of hatred or prolonged anger, that in order to be trained for attack in police or military work we have learned to initiate their training in the form of a game.

game.  To attack and, you know, occasionally kill.

These dogs aren’t raging when they strike; they’re simply following the rules of the sport they’ve been taught, and happily fulfilling their duty whenever they’re given the chance.   The moment they’re told to release a target, that he’s not the enemy, the guy become the dog’s next new friend.  If you’ve ever worked with these dogs or watched them train, you know this to be true.

Oh, it’s all very serious and often horrific work, to be sure, but they don’t know that.  Dogs working on the field are not angry and disturbed, they’re actually some of the most balanced,  fun-loving creatures I’ve encountered.  They’ve got a job to do and they know it, but it has nothing to do with a desire to kill or destroy.  They give for the joy of it, and for the good it brings to those they serve.

Dogs don’t hold onto things, they are simply too busy living to bother.

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.  ~Robert Benchley

Trader Joe’s Treasure Hunting & Some Recent Booty

I always sort of feel like I’m walking into Disneyland when I go into Trader Joe’s, save the charming predictability one finds in the land of fantasy and whimsy. You never really know what you’re going to find when you walk through these beguiling doors.

They’re constantly bringing in new cache and scattering it throughout the shelves without really telling you.

Tricky, very tricky.

Of course, that’s part of what keeps you going back, now isn’t it. When you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for but are sure that whatever you find is going to be good, nine times out of ten, you must be treasure hunting.

And lets face it,  that’s much more fun than going to the grocery store with a list any day, don’t you think?  Grocery stores are for days when practicalities must supersede adventure.

Hardly my preference, but such things cannot be entirely avoided, I’m afraid.

This random treasure hunting certainly has its potential downside, for new treasures cannot be spontaneously brought in if old ones are not simultaneously taken out.  My motto with Trader Joe’s is this:

Enjoy thoroughly what they offer, never get too attached to anything,  and be willing to try anything, bar none.

This has worked out most beautifully for me on most occasions.

There is something good about holding blessings in this life rather loosely that seems to allow for our deeper enjoyment of them, if we can remember to do so.  We are, it seems, quite naturally inclined towards the very opposite of this, wanting to own and seize and grasp, staking our claim upon something as soon as we feel it is ours….. even people sometimes.    But I’ve found that, as difficult as it can be at first, letting go and appreciating something for what it is and not because it’s mine is deeply rewarding and refining on many levels.

Mine?  What does that even mean?  Nothing in this world really belongs to us at all, and any good thing we delight in is a gift we cannot claim as our own.  We lose something when we try, I think, and so does that which we are attempting to grasp.

But I digress, here is my most recent plunder:

Roasted Gorgonzola crackers. 

These little beasts are no joke, my friend.   They are only 1.99 a box, a fact I neither understand nor feel I need to alert them about……though it sort of makes me feel like I’m cheating someone out of something whenever I pick up a box.

And not the sort of box that looks like it’s full but is actually half-filled with cracker-air.  No, it’s the real deal.

They pack a good punch and are great by their lonely self, but also do rather nicely with a light whipped cream cheese, if you fancy such things.

I certainly do.

TJ’s Canned Dog food

This is what I fondly refer to as doggie crack, since as far as your dog is concerned, that is exactly what it is. I don’t know just what they put in this stuff, but any dog I’ve ever fed it to is never the same again.   Chicken seems to be the preferred flavor, but for some reason it’s picture is impossible to find on the internet, which scares me just a little bit and makes me think that perhaps the cans themselves have all been devoured by crazed canines who have tasted whats inside.

I don’t know, but consider yourself warned.

Onto more people food.

Cheese & Green Chile Tamales

Ok,  I come from Cuban family that made authentic, mouth-watering tamales from scratch every Christmas growing up after having the stuff driven over from New Mexico.  And I still love these Tamales.  For a frozen food they’ve won my heart.

Rice Crispy Bars

I know, I know, I’ve mentioned these before, but look- they’re back. (:   After noting their absence during recent trips, I had feared the worst and accepted the fact that they’d likely never grace my mouth again.  But, seeing they’ve returned, I really must celebrate their presence…..I would be remiss not to.

Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snack

You sort of have to like this sort of thing to like this one, and since I like this sort of thing I’m going to mention it. (:  Delicious for those who have a taste for it.

And lastly, Turkey Chili with Beans

The question is not what can you do with this stuff, it’s what can’t you do. Seriously, the possibilities go on and on and on. Here are just a few:

Chili dog (very good with sweet potato fries)

Baked potato with cheese and chili

In a bread bowl

And just for kicks, lets not forget the best smelling soap in the world:

TJ’s Green Tea bar soap

Happy TJ hunting, my friend.  Don’t forget to share your treasures.

A previous adventure:

Hearing grief

A few months ago I wrote about a girl who had told me her story, a heartbreaking one.  She had just lost her sister and was beginning down the dark, cold and unknown road of grief.

I have yet to meet a person who aspires to embark upon this road when great loss or pain comes, and none who have been able to escape it.

Not for long anyway.

As much as I wish this were not the case, I’m afraid it must be.  If only there were some secret stairway to a mended heart without the vicious pain it takes to get there.

If you find one, do let me know.

Since our first conversation, I’ve met with this dear girl on a number of occasions upon her request, the last of which was in the corner of a coffee shop somewhere that delighted in playing mellow music rather loudly.

On a side-note, blasting mellow music can have a rather intriguing effect upon one’s state of mind, you know.  It is something of a paradox.  In this particular case, it simply made it easier to talk about things one might never wish to speak of at all, though I’m not exactly sure why.   Perhaps it is easier to speak pain when it does not fall upon quiet air.

In any case, as we sat at the table I listened to the distress and sorrow in her eyes and watched her stare into her coffee as if she had surrendered to it.   So tired of the pain, so sick of longing to be with someone who could never be with her again in this world, she told me.  No longer able to find comfort in any thought or word or truth at the moment, for the further she stepped into tomorrow the more distant she fell from yesterday.

And yesterday, not tomorrow, was where her sister was.  At least, that is where she remembered her.

Heaven suddenly seemed so distant, so foreign, and somehow so terribly sad.  And how do you move forward, or even want to move forward in life when all you desire is behind you?

“No one says these things,” she told me, “nobody wants to hear my feelings of anger towards God for stealing my sister, and my sadness towards heaven for keeping her. These are not the ‘right’ things to feel, I know.”

She knew that God had the right to take her, and as much as she wished she felt differently today, the fact was, she didn’t.  Searching inside she found only wretched sentiment she felt ashamed to admit to anyone.  But it was the truth.

“I am so weary of all of this, shouldn’t I be over it by now?” she asked me.

I hardly think so.   But oh, how I understand that question.

As CS Lewis so rightly put it,  “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape…not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago.  That is when  you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench.  But it isn’t.  There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat”

We want to harness, control and manage grief because it hurts so damn much.   We just want it to end, and right when we think it’s done- bam.  We’re back on the floor.

As if it were a stagnant, still thing, we seek to destroy it, if only we could find it.  But like the wind, it’s not a moment but a process, and we just can’t know when it’s journey will be over.  It’s messy, exhausting and excruciating, allowing us just enough rest to catch our breath so we can survive it’s next wave.  We experience thoughts and sentiments along the way, most of which we (or others) may find distasteful, hopeless or even ‘incorrect’.

I don’t understand grief either, I told her, but I imagine we aren’t expected to entirely.  God can handle your travels, your longing to have her back, your anger, your confusion….maybe he even expects it.  Maybe we must grapple in the dirt and stare at the wretched absence of those we’ve lost on this earth before we can come to terms with their presence in heaven.

It’s natural to feel its unnaturalness, maybe for longer than we’d like.  The fact is, we’re still here, they’re not, and that breaks our hearts. There is hope, and an end to the journey, but forcing oneself to that end before actually getting there seems neither helpful nor reflective of reality.

Does grief have a time-table?  If it does, I’m convinced we can never know what it is before it’s over.  Perhaps we were never meant to.

By the end of our conversation I admitted that I had nothing to offer her, save the knowledge of my own limited understanding of what she must be experiencing, and that the existence of hope, though perhaps unseen at the moment, was quite real.  I asked if she’d let me carry it for her awhile, reminding her that hope was indeed, somewhere and not floating around in an abstract cloud of someone’s word. She didn’t have to pretend to know or understand that now,  the pain of today is not indicative of tomorrow.

Grief can certainly make us feel that way though.

(Part one of this story may be found here:    /21/understanding-by-knowing-you-dont/)