Insanity's Shaun T on Living in the Moment, Health vs. Thinness, and Sweat USA

If you're into fitness in any capacity -- even if it's just watching infomercials and bemoaning the fact that your abs are flab -- you're probably familiar with Shaun T. The man behind Insanity, Focus T-25, Hip Hop Abs and lots of other glorious tortures, he's been whipping people into Beachbody® shape for quite awhile.

And now, the man behind the madness is paying a visit to the 305 for Sweat USA, next weekend's fitness festival extraordinaire. He'll be leading some uber-intense workouts, answering audience questions and meeting and greeting. Ahead of his arrival, we chatted up Shaun on diet vs. exercise, the fact that even fitness gurus have weight fluctuations, and why he digs our tropical town.

See also: Jillian Michaels on Miami, Motherhood, and This Weekend's Sweat USA Fitness Expo

Cultist: For people who have little or no workout or fitness experience or are overweight, what's the number one thing you recommend?

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Shaun T: I think the number one thing is to not put too much pressure on yourself and know that change doesn't happen overnight. It's a mental thought process -- it's not going to happen overnight. You have to make this a fun experience for you. So many times people are like, 'I have to work out, I have to lose weight' -- but even if you have to, you still want to enjoy it. It's not going to happen overnight, you want it to be a lifestyle change.

I always like to tell people to start out easy. If all you can do is literally five minutes of exercise per day, that's more than you did yesterday. People put so much pressure on themselves to try and reach their goals so fast they lose the enjoyment of the process. When you really think about it, your body being healthy is an amazing experience, so have fun with it.

I often hear people debating the question, what's more important, diet or exercise?

You know, I hear people say that all the time, but it's really not a debate. I always return the question, what's more important to you? Is it more important to you to feel fit or to be thinner? You can change your diet and lose a lot of weight, which would make you healthier. You'll feel better because you're lighter, but do you want to feel like you're in peak physical condition? You can lose weight without working out. It's such a bad example but take someone who's anorexic -- they stop eating, they lose weight, but that doesn't mean you feel great. I don't think so! For me, I think it's a combination of the two. Changing your nutrition is going to help you lose weight and working out is going to help you lose weight and shape your body. It's like, you decide what's more important to you -- fit into skinny jeans and feel soft or maybe go up a half a size and be really toned? That's the way i think about it.

How much time do you spend working out every week?

I would say maybe a total of ten hours a week. I do my T25 workout because it's so fast and ridiculously hard. So if I do about 30 minutes of T25, then I might add a little weight training or what I do in other workouts on my own. Then I go out and play tennis for an hour and a half maybe four times a week. Some people think I work out like three hours a day.

Yeah, I see people at my local gym who are there for like three hours a day, every day. WTF are they doing there all that time?

If you actually go there and you do it and you go for it, you ain't gonna want to be there for three hours! That's like professional athletes, tennis pros -- they're out on the court for two hours. But too long in one place and your body is going to burn out. Too much repetition. But look at those people and you know they be trying to look cute, they're all trying to browse around [laughs].


Some of the Sweat USA lineup
Some of the Sweat USA lineup
Courtesy of Sweat USA

Can you really get all the workout you need in 25 minutes with Focus T25?

When you take 25 minutes of completely focused exercise and no break and you're constantly changing the movements around for 25 minutes ... the average person, you try to get them to start doing that, they're just going to be like, 'This is out of control!' If you focus and you try to make your form perfect, the results ... it's ridiculous. Trust and believe that! I'm one of those people who was really pushing for 30 minutes, I felt like you needed that extra five minutes. The other thing is for people who might do Insanity or Crossfit, if you work out for an hour and a half, your body is going to get more muscle depletion, the muscles will break down -- there's something to be said for longer exercise. But I created T25 as a shorter amount of time with the most amount of work that will keep people focused and motivated to continue forward. If you start people with an hour and a half at the gym, that's going to last about a week and then they'll slowly fall off the wagon. With 25 minutes you're going see results. It's like, 'I don't feel overwhelmed, I can actually do it.' It's more than just immediate results, it's about how you sustain it and make it a lifestyle change.

Right - I feel like way too many people are too hard on themselves and expect too much when really they just need to start moving their bodies!

That's exactly it. Scott [Shaun's husband] and I, we tell this story to people. We had a woman who was the flower arrangement person at our wedding. We met her and she asked us about working out, she wanted to lose a lot of weight. I was like, just do the Insanity warm up, just the first round one time through -- then just slowly ramp up once you start to feel better. Just move and know you're accomplishing something

Two weeks ago she called us and said, 'I finally finished my first Insanity workout!' She was so happy she went at a slow pace.

Do you have anything special planned for the attendees at Sweat Miami next weekend?

I love Miami! I love the energy down there. I mean, I feel like those of us who aren't from Miami, we look at it as a vacation destination. You walk around the city and it's a lot of fit people, it's like a warm New York. So I know that I can come down there in Miami and really work these people! I'm just so excited about doing that. The great thing is that we have Scott who's going to be on stage modifying the workout. So if anybody sees the name Shaun T and turns away because they know I'm crazy, there's going to be a modifier on stage. Even if it's your first time working out you'll be able to follow.

Plus this is my chance to meet the people who might be doing the workouts at home. It's my chance to really connect with them. It's an experience -- hopefully they walk away from the class really motivated to move forward.

And the Q and A will be fun. I can be crazy or I can be really serious. There will be two different types of Insanity classes, and I'll mix it up with some of my new workouts. Let these people know they will be sweating a lot!

Do you get a lot of people who come up and tell you that you changed their lives or that they've lost massive amounts of weight, overcome obstacles, etc.?

It is overwhelming. It is absolutely overwhelming. You can't even understand. When you really love something you do and then people come up and say that what you actually love to do has inspired or changed their life, it's the weirdest feeling. You're in this space of like euphoria, almost. You're really making a difference.

Tell me about your live in the moment philosophy - how do you balance that with fitness?

I always talk about this with life in general, but you can easily translate it to fitness. Take my Insanity workout -- you only have right now to process what your future is going to be like. You can't think, 'Well yesterday I did 25 power jumps, so today I need to beat that.' Your goal is to always make yourself better, but you may have woken up with a headache or you had a phone call that made you feel uncomfortable -- in fitness the power that you have is right now in this moment. When people accept the feeling that they have in the present moment, that will help them. Think, this is the energy I have to move forward within my workout. There are some days you can go and do your favorite exercise and you're like, 'I'm killing it!' But some days you're like 'Why am I struggling?' It could be food, it could be a number of different things, but if can only do ten repetitions -- do that ten to the best of your ability. It doesn't mean you're moving backwards. Be aware that this is the power I have right now to use to push myself forward.

I actually give a full keynote address on this. Don't judge anything outside of self. If you're working out with me and I did 25 push ups and you did 10, guess what? Your body was capable enough to do 10. You should gauge yourself -- not judge based on Shaun doing 25. You can't get what somebody else has.

Shaun T is stoked to come to Sweat Miami. The event runs October 11th through 13th at the Miami Beach Convention Center from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Tickets run $20 for a Weekend Expo pass; $59 to $299 for Core Sweat Class Packages and $499 to $799 for VIP Celebrity Trainer Packages and you can score tickets online.

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

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