Around the bend: A little 'insanity' preserves harmony

My husband Mark and I have discovered the key to a happy marriage: Insanity.

I don’t mean our mental state after 15 years of being shackled together in wedded bliss. I mean “Insanity,” the hardcore fitness program you may have seen advertised on TV. As far as I know, it’s the first home workout that comes with its own defibrillator.

Six days a week for nine weeks you rotate through a series of DVD workouts — including such favorites as “Sucking Wind for 39 Minutes” and “Jumping Up and Down Until You Pass Out” — led by a muscled, upbeat young guy known as “Shaun T.” I believe the “T” is short for “tendons” or “taut” or perhaps “traumatize.”

Behind Shaun T. stand a dozen or so attractive, fit men and women, all of whom sport rippling abs with which they could no doubt crack walnuts. But the workout is so hard even they can’t get through it without stopping to rest, catch their breath and occasionally get dragged out on a stretcher. If this is supposed to make us doughy amateurs at home feel less inferior, it doesn’t.

Insanity is primarily a cardio workout program, which uses plyometrics (from the Latin “ply,” meaning “pain,” and “ometrics,” meaning “immeasurable”) to increase your heart rate. Plyometrics employ fast, powerful movements to increase explosive muscle strength. None of our muscles have exploded yet, but we’re only on the second week.

Insanity requires no equipment other than your own body weight, but believe me, that’s plenty when you have to keep getting it airborne with “jump squats” and “basketball jumps” and “squat jumps” and “mostly jumping with some squatting thrown in for good measure.”

The program is based on interval training, which means working hard for several minutes to get your heart rate up high and then pausing briefly to let it recover, and then doing that again and again until you see a white light and feel an irresistible urge to go toward it, at which point it’s time for a water break. Shaun T. encourages you to stop frequently to check your heart rate, presumably to establish that you still have one.

If it’s so grueling, you might ask, why do it?

Because once it’s over, you feel so good. Seriously. And I mean more than the euphoria you get just from not dying. You also end up with tons of energy and a sense of well-being that lasts all day. It’s enough to make total strangers want to smack that healthy smile right off your face.

Mark and I have sweated through the workouts each morning for 12 days now, and despite the agony, we love how quickly we’re getting stronger, building stamina and even losing weight (an impressive combined total of six pounds, meaning Mark has lost six pounds and I am really happy for him).

Throughout the day we call each other to giggle like young lovers. “Are your calves as sore as mine?” “Can you feel it in your core?” “How about those squat jacks?” At night we pillow talk about the day’s workout, how our muscles feel, and how we’re looking forward to — and dreading — the next morning. We’re obsessed.

That’s the one drawback of Insanity.

We had dinner at another couple’s house last weekend and somehow the conversation kept coming around to how much Mark’s quads burned from the Heisman jumps and how many suicide jumps I managed to get that morning.

It wasn’t until after Mark and I had settled a heated debate over which of us had better form executing push-up jacks (“You do,” “No, you do,” “No way, you totally do”) that we noticed our friends had gone up to bed. That sort of thing’s been happening a lot.

I’m not going to apologize for being excited about Insanity. I just wish I had noticed the disclaimer on the box sooner: “Insanity is an advanced exercise program that may cause serious self-absorption. Nobody cares how many globe jumps you can do or how much water you drank today. Nobody wants to feel your obliques. Keep it to yourself.”

Whatever. Insanity has brought Mark and me closer together and that’s the most important thing. Especially since no one else can stand us right now.

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