Monday, January 4, 2010

Round 2 / Day 43: Insanity Core Cardio & Balance

At long last, it's Recovery Week!

If I were following the actual Insanity schedule (as opposed to a P90X/Insanity hybrid), I'd be doing nothing but Core Cardio & Balance all week. And you know what? That wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

My review of Core Cardio & Balance -- after the jump.

As I approach the midpoint of Round 2, I'm relieved to have a somewhat less intense week of exercise. But as I learned from my first Recovery Week (during Round 1 of P90X), "recovery" isn't synonymous with "easy."

Core Cardio & Balance isn't as punishing as most other Insanity workouts -- it helps, for instance, that Shaun T gives us short, 10 to 15 second breaks between moves -- but it's no cakewalk, either. Most of the exercises are still intended to get your heart rate up, and some surprisingly difficult moves are introduced at the end of the session.

First up is the warm-up. Rather than killing us with his typical rapid sequence of increasingly explosive cardio moves and calling it a mere warm-up, Shaun T leads us through a more reasonable series of six exercises -- each performed for a minute:

  • Switch Heel Kicks
  • Mummy Kicks
  • Side-to-Side Football Shuffles
  • Log Jumps
  • 8 High Knees / 8 Power Jacks (and repeat)
  • 8 Fast Feet / 8 Hooks (and repeat)
After five minutes of stretching, the workout begins in earnest. Ten moves are done in sequence. As in Pure Cardio) each are about a minute long, and none are repeated:
  • Moving Ski Jumps (just like regular Ski Jumps, but you jump 4 times to the right before jumping 4 times to the right -- and repeat)
  • Hit the Floors (nothing new)
  • Level 1 Drills (nothing new -- do four push-ups, eight plank runs, stand up, drop down into plank position and repeat)
  • Heismans
  • 8 Switch Kicks & 8 Hop Squats (exactly what it sounds like)
  • High Jumps (from a standing position, jump as high as possible and repeat)
  • Moving Plank Walk (similar to Moving Push-Ups, but without any actual push-ups; also, you move 4 to the right and 4 to the left)
  • 8 Elbows & 4 Suicides (throw alternating elbows while in a horse stance, and then drop down for suicide drills)
  • 4 & 4 Hops (hop on your right leg four times with your left leg knee above your hip, and then switch legs and repeat)
  • 8 Jabs & Jumps (jab the air with alternating fists, and then jump and spin 180 degrees, land and repeat)

With only a few minutes left in the session, I was feeling pretty damn good about myself.

But then came the Hip Flexor Burners. You start off just tapping a foot on the ground and raising your knee to above hip level for 30 seconds. I found this to be quite easy, and was puzzling over why this move has the word "Burners" in its name...until I realized that this is a three-part exercise.

The second part requires you to pulse your knee up for another 30 seconds, while keeping your foot off the ground.

Then came the addition of a kick while keeping the knee up, foot flexed, and toes off the ground. After another 30 seconds, my legs felt drained, but there was still another side to do.

Next, Shaun T introduces Oblique Knee Lifts: while standing on one leg with your opposite arm reaching for the sky, you raise your (non-standing) knee up to the side while bringing your elbow down until they touch. These weren't difficult, which lulled me into thinking that the hard part was over.


I don't know if Shaun T intends to punch us in the genitals with the most challenging moves at the very end of the so-called "Recovery Week" workout, but I certainly felt emasculated by the end of the plie sequence.

This is a five-part exercise. Start in a deep plie squat, with your thighs parallel to the floor and your toes pointing outward. Your arms are extended horizontally to the sides, and then you kind of flap them up and down from your shoulders (keeping your arms straight) for 30 seconds.

Next, you sweep both arms from the sides to the front, like you're clapping -- but again, keeping your arms straight. And you're still in your deep plie squat. After 30 seconds of this, you stay in that godforsaken plie squat some more, and swing your arms from the sides up over your head, and repeat for another 30 seconds.

Think you're done? Not a chance. Shaun T commands you to do arm circles, just like Tony Horton does 'em -- ONLY YOU'RE STILL IN THAT FUCKING PLIE SQUAT. Thirty seconds later, you switch directions and do even more arm circles. At this point, you lose all feeling in your legs.

Oh, and Shaun T also wants you to contract your core while doing all these moves. How do I know this? Because he goes around to his fitness models and proceeds to forcefully knead and squeeze their midsections until their belly-button piercings look like they're going to shoot out and hit you in the face.

I'm not looking forward to repeating the plie sequence. But with the exception of the last few moves, this workout's not too tough -- it's a good substitute for a P90Xer who's sick of Kenpo X but not looking to get roughed up by an off-the-charts cardio session. Thumbs up.