In the crowded world of workout “gurus” hawking programs,DVDs, and merchandise, Shaun T—creator of the aptly named Insanity workout series—inspires unusual devotion. He began his career as a backup dancer for Mariah Carey and has gone on to inspire millions with his tough but fun workouts and his positive attitude (he’s seems universally known for being a really good guy).
I’m pretty particular about coaches and trainers: most I find either too shout-y, too exuberant, or both. But something about Shaun T’s unique brand of drill sergeant meets cheerleader meets best friend strikes exactly the right balance for me. And about a billion other folks, judging from the popularity of his programs. From within the confines of the television screen, he manages to convince you that he really does care about you and that he’s proud of you for working hard.
Shaun T’s uber tough at-home workouts have a turn-key solution for me. My schedule is crowded between my increasingly busy day job and writing life, and regular exercise is non-negotiable. My basic rule about getting things done is to wake up earlier. It’s not because I like mornings, but once the work days get going (and going and going) the chances of writing and getting to the gym get slimmer and slimmer. So the challenge: how do I get both an hour of writing anda workout in before heading to the office? Even the shortest commute to the gym isn’t an option. But lucky me, my boy Shaun T just came without a new 30-minute workout that kicks your butt even harder than the 45-60 minute workouts on his original DVDs.
I love doing these two activities (writing and working out) back-to-back because they reinforce each other so well. Writing is solitary, so it’s nice to have Shaun T’s handsome, pore-less face all up in mine encouraging me right after I finish my hour. Here’s some inspiration straight from the source:
You can (freaking) do it!
Shaun T believes in you. He wants you to believe in you too. When the going gets tough, he’s there to talk you up and remind you what you’re capable of.
If you don’t believe that you can meet your goals as a writer, then you probably can’t. I’m not talking about the absence of any doubt, even wildly successful writers suffer from doubt, but underneath it, there has to be a stalwart belief that your voice matters, that your work can move people, that your words belong in print. It’s a belief that will carry through the challenges of the writing life.
I’m here for you. We’re all here for you.
One of the striking things about Shaun T is the real sense of community that he brings to his DVDs. Though everyone in his videos is uber fit: they’re diverse in terms of age, race, and background. He regularly does sold out events around the country and has a vibrant online community with coaches and message boards that anyone can use.
People think of writing as a lonely art, and it can be if you let it. But your writing community matters: writers groups, conferences, book store events, lit crawls, online communities. Connect with your people wherever you can—it will help.
One of Shaun T’s famous catch phrases is “Dig Deeper”. When you feel like you can’t go on, he encourages you to check in with yourself, can you do just one more rep? Last one more minute? Everything you need is within you, sometimes you just need to reach a little further to find it.
As much as I believe in community amongst writers, this art ultimately comes from within. To continue writing for many years without recognition (as most of us are bound to do), to continue through the rejections, disappointments, and existential angst takes a massive amount of internal fortitude.
It’s not easy, this takes commitment
Shaun T has fun with his workouts, but he also takes them seriously. He often takes a moment at the end of the video to congratulate his team and you at home on the hard work, he’s knows you’re not half-assing it if you’ve chosen this workout, this is tough so be proud of yourself.
Being a writer is hard. It takes discipline, commitment, and resilience much the same way that a challenging exercise routine does. Writing is always going to have its low moments so it’s crucial to take time to give yourself props for sticking with it and to celebrate milestone like completing a draft, getting an agent, getting a book deal, or even just having an especially good week at the keyboard. Being a writer isn’t for the faint of heart, be proud of yourself.
Know your Limits
Unlike some fitness programs, Shaun T constantly reminds you to listen to your body and know your limits. In Shaun T’s world, there’s no shame in taking a break. Watching the uber fit people in his videos take five to towel off and drink some water, only to hop back in with renewed energy and enthusiasm, is reassuring and inspiring.
Comparing yourself to other writers is a sure path to despair. Everyone’s writing life is different because everyone’s life is different. Don’t compare yourself to a writer who is able to devote their whole day to writing and feel bad that you can only fit in an hour. First of all, they might have a secret trust fund; but regardless they’re a different person with different demands on their time, different priorities, different relationships, etc. etc. Figure out what works for you in your writing life and stick to it. Use other writers’ strategies as inspiration, not bars for competition.