The Insanity Workout

This week on Monday, I started the Insanity workout with my roommate, Megan.


Figure: Beach Body’s Insanity Workout package, lead by Shaun T.


Ever since Summer 2010, my own intense cardio workouts have become sub par to non-existent. I had been doing light cardio randomly a few times a while for the past 3-5 months, but I knew it wasn’t challenging me. My main goal is to keep my friend motivated and pumped to exercise and lose that weight for a healthier her. Best part is that I don’t have to make her pay for a gym membership to go with me since I got a copy for free from my coworker at the lab.


The idea behind Insanity is that it is high impact cardio exercise with no weight training needed. It’s suppose to be easy to do at home, during any time that is convenient to the customer. Basically you are trying to do as many repetitions of an exercise as you can within an allotted amount of time versus traditional cardio that gradually gets your  heart rate up for a small amount of time and then gradually brings it down again.

Christal’s Exercising Past!

Before going into what I think of Insanity after a few days of trying it out, I’d like to go over a few regimes that were effective for me during college. This way you have an idea of what exercise experience I have and how relevant my review is for you. Since my attentiveness to exercise was sporadic during my years in school, I have provided an estimate of “months” for the duration of the regime.

  • Kickboxing class: weekly basis for 45mins + 15mins weightlifting (8lbs dumbbells or 9lb body bar)- 18 months
  • Yoga class: basic Hatha movements for 60 mins weekly basis – 3 months
  • Cardio n’ Tone: high intensity cardio (including use of step) + weightlifting – 6 months
  • Jazz dance: twice a week for 90 mins – 3 months
  • Basic cardio: elliptical, jogging on track, or cycling 2-3 times a week for 1 hour – 6 months on and off….my default exercise routine if I am busy at school
  • Walking – I do a lot of walking everyday


Christal’s Current Physique

Now about me. At this point I’m pretty overweight and out of shape, though previous regimes has kept my form not too bad. I was about 12lbs away from my first weight loss goal, but I lost about 4lbs spontaneously out of stress from an out of state interview and lack of monetary needs for food. That’s another story, another blog entry in itself.

Thoughts on Insanity Workout after 1st Week:

In Insanity, I think it is really important to know basics that the instructor sort of assumes you do. Here are my top tips in helping you do Insanity if you are having a hard time, like me.

1) Breathing 

Shaun T mentions “breathe through the stretch” a lot, and I think it’s really important. As you pull your body to stretch your muscles, you should exhale as it will make the pain less and allow you to go further, increasing flexibility. I learned that tid-bit from Yoga class. From Cardio Kickboxing, I learned that controlled breathing helps execute a move. For example, when completing a kick, release a breathe. The worst thing you could do to your fatigued muscles is not allow oxygen to save them from lactic acid build-up

2) Keep your core tight

Again, this is mentioned in the video in text and a few times by the instructor Shaun T. You could easily go through the motions of this program and not see results. It is important to keep the abs/core engaged. This can be difficult if you are also trying to figure out how to control  your breathing, but it really helps. You will always be working out the core even if you are not focusing on abs during that session. Thank you Cardio n’ Tone for teaching me this.

3) Eating

Not really mentioned at all in the video besides the damn Recovery shakes. My Kickboxing instructor always recommended eating at least 3-4 hours before class and maybe a bar in between, but nothing heavy (or else you will throw up). Following the exercise, about 1 hour after, it is recommended to have a nice meal or big snack. I think it’s important to have some good protein in there (ie- meats).

4) Keeping your head level

Try to keep your head up, especially when you are not feeling well while exercise. If you tilt your head down too much during such an intense work out you might get dizzy or pass out.

5) Stretching/Warming up

Insanity has sections dedicated to both stretching and warming up, but I suggest you do your own stretches before starting the video since Shaun T gets into the work out rather quickly. I DEFINITELY suggest this if you have not been conditioned through high impact cardio before. I have done Kickboxing a many times, but my gastrocnemius’ point of insertion in my leg feels like it wants to snap sometimes. And I don’t have girly legs either; my thighs and calves could rival those of Kratos from God of War!


Figure: Me versus the God of War – WHO WILL WIN THE MUSCLEY LEG WAR?

6) Getting acquainted with proper form

Prior to participating in the Insanity exercises, I would definitely watch or review them quickly ahead of time to see what exercises they ask you to do. During the video, you have a few seconds during your water break to learn the moves (if it is the first time you are completing the circuit). Instead of rushing or disrupting your workout to pause, take some time before hand to make sure you know how to properly perform the moves with good form without speed. This way you know you are working it out right.

7) Learn to modify

So, I can’t guarantee I will have ground breaking results after 60 days because I modify the workout for myself.  I know my body and my limitations, so I will swap out some jumps for jogging from time to time, for example. I really wish Shaun T would show “low impact” alternatives to the moves, but then I guess it would not be called “INSANITY.” All the same, listen to the pains of your body, take it down a level if you need to so that you can prevent injury to your muscles.

Other critiques and comments:

  • Con: does not provide 1 break day in between each exercise day for muscles to heal and grow
  • Con/Pro: does not provide weightlifting: appeal because less equipment needed; questionable because muscles help burn fat even when not engaged
  • Con: WAAAAYY too fast for beginners to exercise
  • Con: SUPER high intensity. Jumping is a great way to increase heart rate, but this is crazy
  • Con: The day I can do these exercises easily, they will become very repetitive and boring. But right now I don’t have to worry about that
  • Pro: Very challenging and great for more experienced people
  • Pro: I sweat every time. Buckets of sweat. Sore muscles. IT MUST BE WORKING.
  • Pro: I love the timer provided at the bottom of the video.  It helps me push further when I know I’m closer to an end of a particular segment
  • Pro: Very motivating and inspiring (just YouTube Insanity progress or results) if you have a gym buddy to cry it out with
  • Pro: Only 60 days to complete the routine and then it can be repeated!
  • Pro: Shaun T is a great instructor, and he makes me laugh (though this leads me to realize the pain in my stomach muscles and collapse)

If you are interested in seeing how Insanity workouts look, check out this video posted on YouTube. It is the Fitness Test you are suppose to do to assess your progress.

I’ll check in again sometime and let you know how it’s going with Insanity! I encourage you all to at least try it with a friend and see if it’s for you. The best type of exercise that is most effective is one that includes gym buddy ❤


Figure: Image posted on the “Insanity” Facebook page


Dangers of Canned Tuna


I’d like to preface this entry with my strong recommendation to read “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie. I talked about reading this book for my Toxicology I class back at the end of October. I had finally gotten the chance to finish it before the term ended in December, and I really loved what I learned about the classes of common chemicals in consumer products. It also really emphasizes the point that while we cannot avoid completely the dangerous chemicals we have synthesized and incorporated into our daily life, it does not mean that we should not be aware and attempt to limit the amount of contact we have. A large amount of control can be done by checking the contents of what products we are buying.


Figure 1. “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health” book cover.

Chapter 5: The Tuna Feast Experiment

Chapter 5 entitled “Quicksilver, Slow Death,” examines the dangers of mercury and how easily its levels are increased. The author who took this challenge, Bruce, monitored his mercury blood levels for several weeks while eating a diet consisting heavily on fish. This means a lot of sushi, sashimi, tuna steaks, tuna salads, tuna sandwiches, ect.


Figure 2. A nice, wholesome tuna sandwich.

During the tuna feasting experiment, the author was surprised to find how easily tuna levels had doubled after just 24 hours of his meals. What is even more alarming is that as the experiment went on, mercury levels continued to increase rapidly at an exponential rate, far above the “safe” level of mercury in the blood. It seemed as though mercury is easily accumulated in the body fat, but is not easily cleared out of body via metabolizing factors or excrement.  This results in a chemical build up, which consequently changed Bruce’s normal personality and mood.

Relating to My Own Life

This chapter is  is a prime example of how awareness can help prevent getting sick.  The chapter starts by quoting an actress who went on a Mediterranean diet, which was built around eating tons of fish, including tuna. She started having fits of dizziness and fainting, and later she  realized it was linked to the high mercury content due to her diet.


Figure 3. Cans of tuna…yuck.

Firstly, I think that this brings up a good point of why diets that emphasize eating only one type of food is bad. A key to a healthy life is a balance of many types of foods, and a diet could lead to a build-up of something that can harm you. In this case, it was mercury. In fact, I have had a first-hand experience with this. During my internship over my summer, I had eaten tuna with cucumbers and crackers every single day for lunch for a quick meal between lab experiments. I would attribute my headaches and ill feelings to the humid and hot weather, but when I had gotten so bad that I was going back and forth to the doctor constantly for a recurring UTI (something that has never, ever hit me before). After taking Tox I class, I now know that metals in high concentrations can act as an immuno-repressant, leaving your body highly susceptible to foreign or “bad” bacteria invasions.

Solution & Conclusion

A point they bring up in this chapter is about bioaccumulation. Larger fish live longer and eat smaller fish that also contain mercury. Because of this, large fish accumulate a lot of mercy. Being on the top of the food chain, human beings consume this large fish and get the highest dosage of the deadly mercury. Especially in a society where bigger is always better, we need to be aware of the build-up of these harmful substances in our food or else it will immediately make a large impact on our health.

Because of the biomagnification of mercury in larger fish, the authors suggest to try to eat smaller fish as suppose to larger fish as a possible preventative action.


Figure 4. Infographic of a mercury cycle

Hope you enjoyed this! If you do not have time or are not interested in reading all of “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” below is a link to chapter summaries. Perhaps they will intrigue you to pick up the book or download the eReader version.

LINK: “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” Chapter summaries

Perks (and Non-perks) Of Being An Apple Shaped Girl

Note: I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a while, but it was very difficult because it shows me poking at areas of my body that I’m painfully self-conscious about. Try to be nice in your comments if you have any. Also, many of the information here are generalizations about apple-shaped females, however, remember that everyone’s body is different and unique and wonderful! 😉

If you are unfamiliar with the traditional classes of body type shapes, “apple” or “inverted triangle” is one of them. There are probably many more types out there now than just apple, pear, banana, and hourglass, but since I relate most to apple I will write what I learned about it.

Typical apple-shaped people tend to store fat in their mid-section and usually have long and thin legs and arms.

My apple-shaped body does tend to be chunkier in my tummy area, but I also don’t have very slender looking limbs. While thinner looking may be the better way to look, I like to optimistically think that having a chunky torso with matching chunky arms and legs makes me look more balanced 😛

How do you know if you are an apple shape?

Look in the mirror and check out where most of your fat hangs out. If it’s by your tummy mostly versus your thighs and hips, you are probably an apple!

Not an accurate enough method for you? Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. If it is greater than 0.8, you are an apple!

Here are my Personal Perks of Being Apple Shaped:

  1. I’m pretty modest when it comes to my body because I’m pretty self-conscious, but if there is anything I should be thankful for, it is my voluptuous topside. That’s right, I went there.
  2. Fantastically shaped legs! While my own apple legs are not long and very thin like the typical apple shaped lady, I must admit that I do like the way my legs (or at least my thighs lol) look in skinny jeans, shorts, and skirts.
  3. This again is more specific to my very own body, but I love how I am thick and heavy my frame is. While it frustrates me when I feel overweight, it makes me feel very strong and built when I am on top of my exercise and muscle training routine.

Where there are ups, there are downs….

Personal Cons of being Apple Shaped

  1. Number one issue is health. This body type is associated with being higher risk for the major baddies of our generation’s health issues: heart disease, diabetes, and hyper tension (high blood pressure). It does not help if you are also genetically dispositioned for these diseases, like myself
  2. The epic battle that people have no matter what body type: difficulty trying to look lean and long. However, trying to make your torso less stumpy can be difficult since fat distributes preferentially near the heart and stomach area in apples.
  3. When losing weight, the last place I lose inches is at my waist, while the first place to gain inches when getting chubbier for the winter is my waist!
  4. Not going to lie, wish I had a more prominent hip and butt region. Oh hourglass girls, I vie for your shape!

My very own infographic to sum up what I said…

How to be a Happy Apple

  1. Cardio! I love my kickboxing. But I am also trying to get some extra walking, elliptical, and even jazz dance this term in my routine since kickboxing is high impact and not always available. 30 minutes of cardio a day will keep the doctor and excess fat from the upper side away!
  2. Core exercises. I hate them, I won’t lie. However, when I’m good about my core routine, I feel more toned, stronger, and surprisingly flexible.
  3. Know how to dress yourself.  Top-half heavy? Here are some fast tips to make sure you are flattering your shape:
    • Wear v-neck shirts, but AVOID very low cut shirts (less is more).
    • Try avoiding stretchy/jersey tops and over-sized tops as they can be unflattering to your midsection. Instead try flowy tops and structured blouses that can complement apple broad shoulders.
    • Go for stretchy, dark washed jeans so you get the stretch at the waist while avoiding a baggy fit at the rest of your legs!
    • If you are feeling self-conscious about your shoulders or arms but like tank tops, try wearing thicker straps. It gives a more balanced illusion.
  4. Have apple shaped celebrity crushes! When you are down and out and wish your body was shaped differently, look to fabulous celeb crushes for exercise and healthy eating inspiration :D!

Here are two of my favorite classy celebrity apples: Catherine Zeta Jones & Kate Winslet.

Now go and embrace your inner goddess, no matter what shape you are 🙂


Correlation between Zombie Infection & Pollution Exposure

So for my Toxicology I class, I need to read this book called “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Dangers of Everyday Things” by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie. As you may be able to tell, the purpose of the book is to make the audience more aware of the soup of toxins that we are “marinating” in everyday.

Ala “Super-Size Me” documentary style, the 2 authors subject themselves to exposure to 7 toxins to see how it effects their body chemistry, including levels of the toxin in their blood and urine.The toxins are found in trace amounts in everyday consumer products and the exposure tests must mimic everyday life exposure. The one toxin I am interested in reading is triclosan, a hormone disrupter found in many antibacterial products. My last coop tasks were experiments had a lot to do with finding an alternative hand sanitizing methods.

I’ve just started the book, and it’s rather interesting. One of the more disturbing points discusses the evolution of pollution (direct quote from the book):

  1. It’s now global rather than local
  2. It’s moved from being highly visble to being invisible
  3. In many cases its effects are now chronic and long-term rather than acute and immediate.”

One idea in the first chapter really caught my eye though, that no matter where you live or who you are…


And here’s a “Walking Dead” spoiler for those of you who have not finished Season 1…

EVERYONE IS INFECTED [by whatever causes zombie-ness].

(“Walking Dead” zombie image from

Happy Halloween :D!!!

BzzReview: Unreal Candy

As a happy BzzAgent, I am able to sample many up and coming new items for free and write what I think about it. I received my coupons for a free Unreal candy bar earlier last week.

“Unjunked. Unreal.” is the slogan for this candy bar. It claims to have removed all the crappy stuff that makes junk food bad for us: artificial ingredients, hydrogenated items, corn syrups, preservatives, or GMOs (aka genetically modified).

Figure 1. The official BzzAgent image for the Unreal campaign.

I chose to try the caramel nougat bar because I felt like it was the most difficult to make “unhealthy” versus the M&Ms alternative or Reeses cup alternative. It still has some has a normal amount of candy calories (170 cals), but it has a noticeable amount less sugar than competitor candies (19 grams). Although it did have a whopping 5 grams of fiber and more cacao than a normal chocolate bar.

Figure 2. The Unreal #5 – Candy chocolate caramel nougat plus coupon.

Most importantly, I felt like you didn’t have to sacrifice price for a healthier option. It was only $1.19 as the local CVS, though I still appreciated the freebie.

The competitor candy for this Unreal #5 unjunked chocolate caramel nougat bar was a Milkyway, which I didn’t realize until I looked on the website. While I don’t personally prefer Milkyways, I really liked the Unreal 5 version of it. It smelled really tasty and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth. I will definitely be using Unreal as an alternative to my candies once in a while. I’m really excited to try the other types of Unreal candy out there. If I’m gonna eat sugary foods, then might as well be healthier in other aspects when I indulge!

Figure 3. A view inside the candy bar oozing with goodness.

While this is “unjunked,’ obviously it doesn’t mean that I can eat 100 of these candies and be okay. But when I have the occasional craving, it doesn’t hurt to be a bit healthier. Also, I think the extra cocoa gave me a super caffeine boost. I was super awake in the middle of the night, more so than usual! Very unexpected side effect considering I only at 2/3 of the bar and usually have coffee in the mornings, so I’m surprised how effectively it gave me a sugar boost. Definitely will get this when I need a pick-me-up, but not a casual snack.

Of Kickboxing & Other Physiology

No words can describe my love for kickboxing. I had started back in my 2nd term of college. I was in quite a rut at school because I had burned myself studying non-stop. My grades were awful because I was clearly trying too hard to study everything all at once. Plus I had gained my freshmen 15 (and more!), so my self-esteem got shot.

When I first started out in kickboxing, I was horrific. I was completely uncoordinated, I hadn’t done any form of active exercise in months, and not to mention I hated jumping around because I felt so flubby. Eventually though, I learned to stop thinking about how I looked in the mirror or what other girls (or guys for that matter) in the class thought of me when I messed up. I concentrated solely on my instructor’s movements and my form. Soon enough, I started picking up small mannerisms that made kickboxing a more effective work out, my my body got used to the cardio conditioning, and I gained a bit of confidence.

I have had 3 kickboxing instructors so far. Each have given me at least 1 valuable lesson.

Four (AWESOME) Kickboxing Lessons I Have Received

  1. Lesson#1: Muscle Memory & Stress Relief:
    Sierra was my first instructor, and she worked as an electrical engineer consultant.  She taught me to rely on my muscle memory for this class instead of thinking too hard about the motions. The key was to listen your body: if its in pain you are working it wrong, and its okay to stop and walk away for a bit. It was also from her I realized that kickboxing would be one of my number one sources of stress relief; where I could zone out from the worries of school, work, and life and just HEEYAA it away for a while.

    Kickboxing Style: Fancy & fun footwork, alternated with other muscle building activities: ie – use of gliders, weighted medicine ball, a lot of partnering up activities.

    Physio Connection – How Muscle Memory Works:
    This groovy physio diagram explains how exercising your muscle fibers actually helps them gain nuclei, thus making previously trained individuals have an easier time repeating those same exercises again. Thus muscle memory.

  2. Lesson#2: Breathing & Form:
    Johanna was my second instructor, and probably the one with most teaching experience. She was the one who really got me in the habit of correcting my form and learning to do the smaller movements properly so that the muscles were being worked right.  She definitely had my favorite combo sets that she skillfully built up throughout the term.Also, she taught the ever important lesson of all cardio intensive exercises: RHYTHMIC BREATHING. Which makes sense. If you are using your muscles that much, the lactic acid production is probably through the roof. Need to get some good old oxygen into those deprived muscles and relieve those cells from cramping.

    Kickboxing Style:
    Gradual combo sets, core muscle emphasis (my aching flabs!), sprinting and step aerobic courses, fluid motions

    I’ve seen this diagram a lot during my Biochem class. As you know, when you use your muscles, glucose can be broken down quickly (without the use of oxygen) for a rapid, small amount of ATP. The by-product is lactate or lactic acid which is actually toxic to the cells in high amounts. Blood flowing through in vessels carry away this lactic acid from the cells.

  3. Lesson#3: Use Force & Controlled Actions:
    Maggie is my most recent instructor, and probably my favorite in terms of teaching style and personality. She’s a PT student full of spunk and wit. There is really no other way to describe her haha. Her kickboxing regime is pretty challenging in itself because its full of a lot of jumping, more than usual than in any other cardio class I have taken. I feel like she is also the most fast-paced. What I love most besides the awesome kicks and leg work we do is the weighted bar!
    I felt like Mulan training with Lt. Shang waving my bar to and fro, up and around! My arms definitely got destroyed and rebuilt with some good muscle with that 9lb bar this term! We did a lot of rowing movements and swinging. My favorite move is the Helicopter 🙂

    I think from all the kickboxing classes, I lost the most weight/got the most toned during her sessions because she had emphasized controlled movements. For example, when you punch, don’t just sloppily extend your fist forwards. Jab outwards sharply and return quickly as if you made contact. Consciously doing small things like that can make or break how intense and effective a work out can feel. Since at this point I’m pretty comfortable with kickboxing, I had also exerted a lot more energy in my movements because I got a huge confidence boost. I felt as though I knew what I was doing, and it’s partially because I was one of the few who have had previous experience in this type of exercise.

    Kickboxing Style: Rowing movement-intensive, more jumping than a usual cardio class, muscle tone centered in arms/shoulders

    Side note: could not find a physiology diagram that could trump the epicness that is Lt. Shang.

  4. Lesson#4: Enthusiasm:
    Like anything else, what you put into the kickboxing classes is what you will get out of it in terms of results. If you hate it, you will probably not succeed or even continue going for that matter. If you love it and work yourself to what you think is your greatest limit each and every class, guaranteed you will see results physically and mentally. Your body won’t be toned in days or weeks, but in the months and years you continue, slowly your coordination will pick and muscles will show up. Also,  you can smile at the fact that you are participating in something super fun and hardcore while giving your heart a good work out.

    Look at that jacked heart! Nice & healthy! Goooo cardiovascular muscle!

While highly intimidating at first try, I really recommend kickboxing! 🙂 It has to be one of my top favorite college activities!

How to Make Rice Pizza

I’ve been pretty lazy with blogging lately. I gonna take a shoot in the dark & say it’s because I’m tired from work and haven’t been feeling well lately. I’ve had a few topics I was going to post but lost momentum for. I hope I get to post them this week though 🙂

Topic of the day is: RICE PIZZA

Blasphemy? Maybe to you hardcore pizza lovers, but it’s the love child of two broke, bored & creative college students! Actually Megan used a website called Super Cook, where you can filter recipes by telling the search engine what ingredients you have. Check it out; I think it’s great for spontaneous dinners 🙂

As for the actual dish, we replaced the main source of carbohydrate with rice.

Step 1: Cook 1.5 cups of rice in either a rice cooker or on stove. Let cool and mix with 2 beaten eggs. Press into a greased pizza pan or baking pan. Bake at 450F for 20mins or until rice is golden.

Here is Megan demonstrating how to make the rice crust.

Step 2: Take out your newly forced rice crust. Cover generously with tomato sauce, about 1/2 cup cheese, and toppings. We used about 1/8 of a whole onion and 1 Italian sausage link. Bake at 450F for 10minutes and cheese is gooey.

Into the oven it goes!

Step 3: Take out of oven when fully cooked. While cooling take silly pictures with roomie.


Take a slice & enjoy!

I’m actually pleasantly surprised how well this dish came out 🙂 And in the photos it kinda looks like a normal pizza. I would say its a great alternative to ordering out (and cheaper since you can use ingredients around the house). While it’s a lot less oily than take out pizza, I wouldn’t say it’s the healthiest thing in the world because of the amount of simple carbs in one serving.

All in all, an excellent cooking experiment 🙂 Would you guys ever try rice pizza? Or can you think of a better pizza recipe alternate?