The Truth about Crossfit, Insanity, and P90x.

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Disclaimer: I am a Beach Body Coach who runs customized challenges and programs to a select group of clients including triathletes, stay at home moms and dads, and runners. Why customized? Because the cookie cutter program that you buy needs to be modified 90% of the time for individual needs and goals. Why select? I want to make sure you get the attention you need as a client and/or athlete. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. This article is not intended to sell you on Beach Body, Crossfit, Shakeology, 6,7 , or 8 minute abs, and the like. It is to help you figure out whether these programs are for you. Honestly, these are all gimmicks, but if done properly they are gimmicks that work. If you are interested in coaching, please contact me through email at  


I get a lot of athletes asking me about my experience with Insanity and other high intensity cardio/strength workout programs. Does it work? Will I lose weight? Is it too much intensity? Will I get injured if I do it? And most importantly, will it make me faster? All of these are good questions to ask. Especially with now being the offseason many athletes are taking a step back and doing things not related to swimming, biking, and running. Nevertheless, they still have their eyes on 2014 and their next race.

This is a wise attitude. Swimming, biking, and running year round without a break can lead to burnout. Moreover, it can also lead to a decrease in strength and mobility, leaving you prone for injury when the next season rolls around. With all the repetitive linear movement that takes place in and out of the pool, other supporting muscles get neglected. While smaller than the big mirror and beach body muscles such as the hamstrings and quads, these muscles become critical when those big muscles fatigue and your form breaks down. If they are too weak to support you, then injuries like IT band, piriformis, Achilles tendinitis, arise.


This time of year is also a good time to work on body composition. With the New Year just over a week away, everyone seems to be making (once again) that promise to oneself to lose that gut and get that body you have always wanted.  Some people like to put on some weight during this time, but I am not a fan of this approach. While some weight gain now is natural, it does take time to come off. Why not start the season where you want to be instead of playing catch up for 6 months?


Now really is the perfect time to focus on strength, mobility, body composition, and nutrition. These are the pillars of efficiency and speed, which will develop more over the course of the season.  Enter in Crossfit, P90X, Insanity, and other types of similar programs.


As gimmicky as these programs are–and they are gimmicks–they do work. By putting the participant through, high intensity cardio and strength routines, your muscles get a muscle building, calorie incinerating, and satisfying workout in a short period of time. The more important question though is will they work for triathletes?


Some of the athletes I work with have lost 10-25 pounds as well as added power to the bike, and decreased their run splits and all in just “30-40 minutes a day.” Sound perfect right? Not so fast.


These workouts are not to be taken lightly especially when coupled with traditional triathlon training. Doing these workouts on top of swimming biking and running can leave your body exhausted and injury prone. Moreover, many athletes go to a gym or buy a program without the proper coach supervision and guidance to manipulate and individualize the program to your needs and goals as an athlete, triahtlete, and swimmer. If you try to do the program as prescribed right out of the box, you will get burned out and injured.


Moreover, the moves done are very demanding and complex; therefore, it is essential to have the proper supervision and guidance to ensure proper execution without leaving you feeling like you have been executed. I usually do this either in person or Honestly, you are playing with fire when you use these programs and you can easily get burned.


With all that said, I actually took the risk last year and experimented by incorporating Insanity into my triathlon training last year. Under the guidance of my coach, who customized the program specifically to my goals (injury prevention, increase bike power, flexibility, core strength, and lastly get a kick ass but fast body), I would do three to four Insanity workouts a week. Each lasted 20-40 minutes, which was a perfect length of time to include while making dinner or early in the morning post workout and pre-work. Insanity was also convenient with no extra equipment and travelled well on the road. Not all the workouts were tough. While some did make me want to cry on the floor, others focused more on core strength, flexibility, and balance all the while giving me some cardiovascular benefits. Since I structured and timed these workouts properly with my other workouts, I did not undermine the quality of my more important tri schedule.


These programs also provided some good nutrition advice, which you may find surprising coming from me since I deplore 95% of all nutrition programs that are sold on TV. I do not like the whey protein that they sell, nor do I like the meal plan. I think the whey is much too processed and sugary, and the meal program includes too many carbs and not enough real vegetables. I actually tell my clients to ditch both of these or give them to your competition. The tips like 6-10 servings of healthy whole grains a day, calorie restriction, and the cheat day are all bologna to put it mildly and not applicable to triathletes. I give my clients a completely different program if they want one based on their needs and goals, which is important for a coach to do and something needed if you want to include these programs.


The only product I would ever advise is the Shakeology Vegan protein powder that you can opt for. It actually is not a bad option especially for those who “on the go” lifestyles. It helped me recover after workouts when either I was not hungry or could not get to real food, which always is the ideal. The Non GMO ingredients in the Vegan formula are pretty good especially compared to the other options found at GNC, it is worth the money.


Crossfit preaches more of a Paleo like diet, which I actually see as a good compliment to training with its emphasis on cutting out processed food and focusing on real food. It does need to be modified a tad for active individuals but the idea as a whole is sound. My personal coach helped a lot of course with my nutrition as well and told me what really foods I should add, and I do the same for my clients.


Now down to brass tax: does it work? When I tried the program, my results were just as predicted. I gained 5lbs of muscle added 10 watts to my FTP and decreased my body fat percentage. My 2013 season was injury free as well, my first season to do so. Results from my clients are about the same.


Your success and that of the program though relies on having a good coach who can monitor your form (either in person or via a video analysis), provide feedback, make modifications for specific for you, and answer questions. It also depends on listening to your body and monitoring your progress. Like any fitness program, there is no one size fits all and definitely will not train itself. You still need to do the work!


Of these programs which is the best? I cannot say. I personally like Insanisty because of the ease of use, its focus on flexibility, and the convenience. T25 is also good since it is lighter on the body than the others, so would be ideal to supplement an already packed schedule. That is not to say that Crossfit or P90x are not good programs; they are. It all depends though on your goals, the coach, and your time/space.


Now this post is not a sales pitch. I am NOT trying to sell you on any of this. I am just laying out the pros, cons, and my experience.


If you would like to disagree, yell at me, agree, are interested in more information, please feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have regarding these programs or my experience.

One thought on “The Truth about Crossfit, Insanity, and P90x.

  • Phil says:

    P90x3 with triathlon training

    I am a 45 yr old age grouper with fair success over 70.3 & ironman distance races. I was unlucky to be struck by a car at speed whilst on my bike which took 16 mths before I could return to work & another 6-8 mths before I was able to return to racing. I broke “a few” bones but of significance my right wrist & left shoulder which hampered both swim and bike hugely.
    Being a registered nurse & a triathlon coach I hope have some insight as to the impact upon my return to raining and racing, so elected to train for and complete rather than race ironman uk last year. This I succeeded in albeit slower than any previous by several hours with a torn rotator cuff and a finishers medal to my “joy”. Reflecting on my training I realized I had omitted or at least not heeded enough time and attention to strength and conditioning and despite my clinical and coaching “insight” had focused instead on the purity of swim bike and run. My swim technique came on leaps and bounds almost relearning front crawl , my mistake was not having spent enough time open water swimming thinking my previous experience would see me through and overlooking the restrictive nature of a wetsuit across the shoulder blade / joint. This then impaired my swim and subsequently my ability to ride without pressure through the left shoulder. My run however went really well .
    That said and having reflected I was adamant to incorporate a strength & conditioning program pre & as part of my base training. I undertook P90X3 for this purpose and have made really good progress with gains in upper body strength , flexibility and controlled range of motion. My choice of program was the mass schedule to redevelop muscle tissue to the promote a more rounded and balanced level of fitness before then undertaking a 12 week focused triathlon training schedule for ironman uk 2014.
    Along side P90X3 I have maintained an average of 8 hours of triathlon based training with every 4th week as a recovery week. It will have been either an experiment or even a game to see how this adaption of training philosophy pans out shifting away from long slow distance to shorter more specific high intensity sessions with weekly medium distance lower intensity sessions for run & bike. I am considering adapting the 12 week plan to incorporate a reduced number of sessions per week of p90x3 but have even considered insanity asylum as a progressive stage as my triathlon training moves through its various phases toward competition.
    The ideas and training philosophies of p90x are not any new or even rocket science but approached sensibly making use of safe and good form throughout coupled with careful and proportionate nutrition then results will follow. It’s how exactly to make sport specific enough to benifit the athlete without predisposing them to injury or over training .
    So far I retain the opinion that p90x3 being only 30’minutes per day is perhaps the better choice of the p90x series to suit the multisport athlete but one that requires some adaption unless undertaken completely in the off season or completed within the base phase.
    For me it is still work in progress and one I enjoying the cross training benifit of

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