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Obstacle Race Training: How to Integrate P90x and Insanity

3 Feb 2012

*For more on how to use P90X2 for your obstacle race training, click here.

We know there are a lot of ways to train for an obstacle course race. Google Tough Mudder Training and you’ll get more than 700,000 results and even more with other searches: Spartan Race Training, Warrior Dash Training, etc.

Thanks to the popularity of BeachBody programs like P90x and Insanity, you may be thinking about using either to prepare for your race. Which one is right for you?

Let’s start with an overview of each.


3-month home fitness program with both exercise and nutrition plans to get you in overall great shape. Each workout runs between 60-90 minutes. Good for nearly all fitness levels.

  • A complete, comprehensive program with strength/resistance training, cardio-focused routines, & flexibility work.
  • The workouts vary, so you’re less likely to get bored. You’ll do strength training three times a week, plyometrics one day, yoga another, and kickboxing towards the end of the week.
  • Each workout is time consuming. Not many people have 60-90 minutes a day to work out 6 times a week. This can also get compounded if you need to add in running.
  • Few interval circuit training workouts. Probably the best total body circuit is Core Synergistics, which you often do on recovery weeks only. Circuit training is critical to building the strength & functional endurance you’ll need to survive a long race.
2-month home fitness program with a focused exercise plan and nutrition guide to get you in the best shape possible in 60 days. Each workout runs between 40-60 minutes. Ideal for exercisers with some experience working out (intermediate and above).
  • You train with your own body weight. This is practical since many of the obstacle courses you’ll have to do on game day will require a mastery of handling your own body weight.
  • Each workout lasts, on average, about 50 minutes. Each are usually no more than 60 minutes per session.
  • Interval circuit training focus. Each day is very intense with total body strength and cardio drills.
  • Excessive focus on developing vanity push muscles like chest, shoulders & triceps. You don’t work your biceps & back as much as you should.
  • Workouts can be repetitive. Since your doing a form of interval training just about every day, this program lacks the variety of P90x.
  • Maybe too much interval training? Since this program was designed to get you in the best shape possible in 60 days, it’s very intense–maybe too intense to follow 6 days a week if you’re also running a few days a week.

Based on this brief overview, you know which track to take. Before you decide, be sure to consider two questions:

  1. How far are you from event day?
  2. How fit are you?

If you’re a beginner with at least three months to before your mud run, P90x may be right for you. If you’ve been working out regularly and you’re less than three months away, Insanity may be the best option.


Integrating P90x

To make sure you start off at a moderate intensity and build up to circuit training, try the P90x Lean version. P90x Lean is a cardio and circuit-focused plan.

To work in running, you can swap the cardio-focused and/or yoga days for running. Here’s a summary of what your week would look like:

  • 3 days of strength – 1 including a circuit-based total body/core session (Core Synergistics)
  • 3 days of running OR 2 days of running + Yoga X
  • 1 day of rest or flexibility

Your weekly training calendar would change on weeks 4, 8, and 13 for rest and recovery.


Integrating Insanity

If you exercise regularly, and you’re eight weeks or less away from event day, you may want to try an Insanity-based plan. Make no mistake, even though you’re using your own body weight, Insanity is no walk in the park!

To make sure you work on your back & biceps, you can include rows and/or pull-ups during a couple segments per workout where you’re instructed to do push-ups or related exercises. This way you’ll be working all of your upper body.

To work in running, you can trade 2-3 Insanity workouts a week with running. Here’s a summary of what your week would look like:

  • 3 days of Insanity (pick any three aside from the recovery workout)
  • 3 days of Running OR 2 days of Running & 1 day of Insanity – Cardio Recovery
  • 1 day of rest

As mentioned, there are a lot of ways you can train for your first (or next) obstacle course race. If you’re a home fitness monster that’s prepping for a race several months away, you may have time to do both Insanity & P90x! Or you may decide to do something else altogether like work with a trainer.

Whatever you decide, be sure you’re getting in a good mix of running, interval training, total body strength, flexibility, and recovery to balance intense training with rest for your tired muscles. And be sure to have fun!

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2 thoughts on “Obstacle Race Training: How to Integrate P90x and Insanity

  1. Thanks for posting this! I’m going to do my first Mudder in July.

    I’ve been doing Insanity on and off for about a year, but haven’t stuck with it til the end yet. I’m working on increasing my running distance to six miles before the end of April and wanted to incorporate Insanity, but wasn’t sure if that was a good idea (to double up).

    I think 3 days of Insanity and 3 days of running is a great suggestion! Thank you for the post 🙂

  2. You’re going to have a blast with the Mudder! Let me know how it goes. Insanity + running is sure to make you tough for it :).

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