Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year

So I'm maybe the only person in the United States who's excited about this, but THE NEW 'PUMP IT UP' IS ALMOST OUT! Check out the preview above.

It's glaringly (and probably creepily) obvious to anyone who's read this blog that I am a Big Fan of Ministry of Sound's "Pump It Up" series. I explained why, in detail, in this post. But to summarize:

- They're long (70-90 minutes), thorough and challenging. No half-assey "20-Minute Solutions!"
- They're entertaining and varied, drawing from dance, aerobics, kickboxing and pilates. To quote myself, again from that post I linked to above: "The workouts are basically structured, aerobicized sassy-dancing in a fantasyland of bright lights and hot bodies wearing impossible outfits."
- They use real music, which is like omgthankyouwhycan'tmorevideosdothis. Even if you don't like LMFAO's "Party rockin in the house tonight" song (I don't, but I can tolerate it) or club music in general, I maintain it's still better than 90% of the crappy muzak used in other videos.
- They are built for a lengthy shelf life. They better be, since they only release one of these suckers a year. Instead of spending gobs of time explaining each move and, in effect, pandering to the audience, the videos keep a swift, fluid pace. It's assumed that you may need to press pause a couple time on your first or second go-round to get the hang of some of the dancier steps, but then once you get it, you don't have to slow down again!

The 2012 installment features the debut of a new instructor, neither Deanne nor Gareth nor that annoying girl from the older ones! (I think I'll have to write about Gareth for my next post; he's too good to keep away from you any longer.) Two of this year's dancers were in prior videos and.... now I'm really starting to sound psychotic. Ok, stopping here! Here's a longer behind-the-scenes preview:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Butts: A celebration!

So I'm way way behind in finishing an article on my first-ever pole dancing class for The Hairpin, and part of what's taking so long is explaining how I feel about butts. Ferreal. It's especially ridiculous because I know exactly how I feel about butts: I LOVE THEM! Why? Well, watch that belly dance video clip above, for starters. That's seriously one of my fa-vor-ite butt exercises. So meditative and pleasing. (Btw, "Churn the Other Cheek"??? I DIE. It's like an Itchy and Scratchy episode title.)

Anyway, butts are just fantastic in my book, but the Hairpin piece is about a bunch of other stuff and saying "I LIKE BUTTS" isn't really enough to fill an article, you know? However, it is enough to fill a blog post!

I give to you...a bounty of butts. A paean to posteriors and the workouts that keep them so darn likeable.

Here's that same video, but with "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" dubbed in. It's worth it.

The original butt-sculpting bible:

"Press it. Ooh. Ooh. Ooh."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Moves and music from the best of times" -- on your fanny.

If "Sit and Be Fit" and Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' to the Oldies" decided to have a kid to save their failing marriage, but spent more time playing mind games with each other than child-rearing and then got divorced anyway, that kid would grow up to be "Chair Dancing Through the Decades."

It's a well-intentioned video for the elderly and mobility-impaired, but a) it has the distinction of featuring the God's-honest worst muzak I have yet to hear in an exercise video, where the "hip-hop" sounds like off-off-brand Jock Jams and the rest fades into soul-deadening blandness; and b) the commercial tries to sell it as a rousing family activity or lunchtime pick-me-up for the office. As if!

And yet, I've watched this clip like 5 times, alternately cringing and staring in awe. Maybe it's instructor Jodi Stolove's Russian madame makeup. Or the arrangement of tropical flora behind her.

Maybe it's the feigned excitement on this granny and Kidz Bop "you betcha!" head-nod from this little girl when (1:03-1:08) Stolove's voice gets an echo effect and sounds like the ghost of Maude Flanders saying, "Let's get ready to hip-hop! Y'all ready for this?"

God bless this commercial, which my tipster said she discovered on late-night airtime, for entertaining untold scores of slack-jawed viewers snacking on nachos and cruising for syndicated TV to pass out to after coming home from the bar. This is the kind of as-seen-on-TV gem that can send you to sleep bemusedly content with this bizarre world of ours.

However, of this I'm sure: If I'd suggested to my dear late grandma, even when she was 92 and wheelchair-bound, that we decorate a couple paper plates and wave them around in our chairs, she'd have said, sweetly, "Honey, I'd rather not."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Quinn Within: How Carmen Electra taught me to smack my butt, and mean it.

THE VIDEO: "Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease," (Paramount, 2004)
STYLE: Dancey not-quite-aerobics
STRUCTURE: 10-minute, totally unnecessary instruction segment for the warm-up; actual warm-up run-through (about 6 min); Routine 1 instruction (about 12 min); Routine 1 run-through (about 3 min); Routine 2 instruction (12 min); Routine 2 run-through (3 min)
GIST: This workout is almost inexcusably mild, but it can be a nice, easy way to explore or rediscover your inner tease.

Ah, the quest for sexiness. Desirability. That thing.

There's a lot that could be said here about gender politics and the male gaze and heteronormative beauty standards and all that, but I'll start with this: 1) Doesn't matter who you are or how you feel about Carmen Electra, if you're a Quinn or a Daria; feeling sexy can be mighty fine -- empowering, even, if you've never felt sexy before in your life; and 2) The freedom to choose how you define "sexy" and how you incorporate it into your persona (if it all) is what's important, not what you "should" be doing according to a silly workout video.

Ok, half-assed feministy disclaimer out of the way, here's the deal with this video: It is barely a real workout. I bought it about 7 years ago when I was 20 lbs heavier, and it was pretty easy for me even then. Some of the individual moves are difficult to execute if you have limited flexibility or you're just unfamiliar with them, but I don't think I ever worked up a solid sweat doing this. I tried it last night, the first time in years, and it was so basic I got bored and went running instead.

So what is this video good for? Well, here's the thing about me 7 years ago: I was so young! So insecure! So anti-! So skeptical and afraid of those stereotypical feminine powers I was supposed to possess somewhere! Coquettish flirting, preening, seducing -- that stuff seemed so unnatural and contrary to my whole brainy-down-girl thang I felt embarrassed to consider even trying it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The DIY '90s dance workout

So when I said that Paula Abdul's "Get Up and Dance!" video is the best primer of '90s dance moves you're likely to find outside of period music videos, I was onto something. Because for all the stompy footwork in that offering, it really can't touch the wellspring of workout-able moves found on your friendly neighborhood '90s YouTube playlist.

My dance team in real life (Star-Steppin' Cosmonaughties, what!) has been working on a routine to Technotronic's "Move This," so I turned to Paula for support. I picked up a few potential moves from her workout video -- and delighted in watching her shout "JUST SIT ON IT!" with a chair-position-y move -- but I quickly realized I should be tapping her music video choreography output. It started with Janet's "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" and snowballed from there.

May I present a rough template for a DIY/YouTube '90s dance workout. The possibilities are endless. All these videos resist embedding in blog platforms, so just click to watch in YouTube. Take it away, Janet!

THE VIDEO: "What Have You Done For Me Lately?"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pre-"Idol" Paula Abdul: an homage

It's hard to remember, but there was a time when Paula Abdul was a singing, dancing, cartoon cat-romancing dynamo. Not an incoherent but empathetic, sympathetic, pharmie-laden judge on a TV singing competition.

Yes, kids, at one time, Paula Abdul was up there with Miss Jackson in the badass babe department, except OH WAIT Paula was actually schooling Janet in sassy dance moves! "Control"? "Nasty Boys"? "What Have You Done For Me Lately"? All that iconic fierceness? All choreographed by Paula. (And executed with the necessary Janet-ness, no disrespect.) Brava! Here's some fun footage of these two grande dames at work in their prime:

Other remarkable items from Ms. Abdul's resume: 
  • After becoming choreographer for the LA Laker Girls, she was tapped by The Jacksons to choreograph a video for their grasping-at-shadows-of-Michael single "Torture." Girlfriend was barely drinking age! And telling The Jacksons how to dance?! Sass.
  • You know that giant keyboard scene in "Big," like the only part of "Big" that anyone ever remembers? Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia didn't just get those melodious twinkletoes all by theyselves. Paula was the mastermind.
  • Ok, this is weird, but remember this part in "American Beauty"? (I didn't until I found the clip; crazy that it's been 12 years since that movie came out.) Anyway, yes -- Paula, going back to her cheerleader roots.
After conquering the music video landscape of the '80s and early '90s, Paula released her first and very entertaining workout video, "Paula Abdul's Get Up and Dance!" In it, she and several entire "Rent" casts' worth of 20-something urbanite dancers get down in a big ol' warehouse. Though not long enough to be a solid workout, (technically 45 minutes, but there's some padding), it is probably the best primer on '90s dance moves you're likely to find without skimming C+C Music Factory and Technotronic videos -- which I have also done and heartily endorse.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Soviet Lagniappe

A rare Saturday post! Had to share this righteous tune, because in the course of all my Eastern European sass exploration this week, it's become my jam for the weekend.

May yours be filled with all the pleasures that disco lights, yachts, underwater chess, 80s bathing suits, dolphins and mustachioed gi-wearing pop singers suggest!

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Soviet TV Land, a disco ball refuge for fallen ballerinas

Continuing my tour through Cold War-era Eastern bloc nations, I’m reporting now from ground zero, Soviet Union state-controlled television. And it’s marvelous!

Welcome to Ритмика, which, if Google translation can be trusted, translates to “Rhythmics,” a half-hour TV fitness show that blends backwater ballet and training camp calisthenics inside a bright white disco ball. It’s a strange animal, this show, and totally worth trying out if you like a) Soviet electronic music, even the chintzy stuff, b) Russian ballerinas and/or pretending to be one (click that link -- girl’s like a real-life Navi, just not blue) and c) testing your choreography-pickup skills. 

Hosted by a young lady who suggests a less-bulky He-Man, these programs are short and sweet, and they have no patience for hand-holding or heavy instruction. She and her leotard-clad troupe of thin-limbed backup exercisers get right to business, and half the fun is following along with their peculiar, oddly elegant combinations. 

It’s not enough to lean from side to side and stretch the adductor muscles, no no. Toss in some flair and feeling and grace, for god’s sake! Add an arm combination and an artful back curl, and maybe some footwork! And don’t forget about your head! What’s it doing? It can’t just be there. Stretch it back, and tilt the chin, and if I have to tell you to keep your chest lifted one more time you may as well not bother coming back.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meet the Metal Lady

At one time, I thought it was pretty balling (in my obviously, dorkily skewed definition of the word) to be rocking UK workout videos led by an Australian warrior princess on the regular. Even after discovering the King of Iranian Dance, I hadn't fully realized the scope of fitness videos around the globe. That is, until I met the Metal Lady, Hungarian fitness star. [Insert Iron Curtain remark here.]

There she is, leg-curling her gymnast-with-a-boob-job bod high above, I'm guessing, Budapest? She's wearing a killer black and yellow ensemble -- I WANT THOSE KICKS -- and her fluffily-banged yellow ponytail makes her look like She-Ra on holiday. The workout ain't bad either, and the generic synth music only adds to the appeal.

Seeing as I don't speak much Hungarian, I couldn't research much else about this chick, except that she's known as the Metal Lady. And I think that suffices. 

But seriously, you guys, I think her hair has mystical powers. I can't take my eyes off it.

Monday, October 31, 2011


There's enough hate in the world already, amiright? 

There are plenty of things to legitimately hate: Bigotry. Brutality. Religious extremism. Non-Knocked Up romantic comedies starring Katherine Heigl. These are real problems making the world a worse place.

Cardioke, laughable though it may be, is not one of those things. The Internet has a healthy enough crop of petty grievances and unchecked vitriol without me taking pot shots at a bunch of people singing Pussycat Dolls out loud while doing high-impact aerobics. 

Cardioke (cardio + karaoke, get it??) is the runty brainchild of Billy Blanks Jr., son and heir to Billy Blanks of Tae Bo renown. This is as pure a distillation of the American Dream as the "Jump to Conclusions" mat or the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine, and I'm not about to start casting stones. 

I was prepared to do so when I came across this clip. It's got so much going for it in the Internet-mockery department. But here's how I got on Cardioke's side:

0.24 seconds in -- We meet Desiree and Jackie, founding members of Cardioke and sassy middle-aged gals wearing bedazzled shirts from Stein Mart. Do your thing, ladies.

Desiree's had arthroscopic knee surgery. How bout that!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Fit-Fart: It's the Great Pumpkin Workout, Charlie Brown

Exercise and Halloween aren't really compatible, are they? The candy, the costuming, the (copious) drinking, the music festival-going, the scary movie-watching, the gourd-carving... There's not much to go on, is there? WRONG, apparently.

Turns out there's a micro-trend of working out with pumpkins, either as a way to get hits to your personal training website or to fill time on morning news shows. Or just because you love Halloween THAT MUCH. See what those people up there are doing? They're on a morning show, passing a pumpkin back and forth to demonstrate "The Halloween Workout." Looks like it works their oblique muscles. Bully for them.

Here's one from some guy called The Fit Bastard. It also puts a couple hay bales to work.

There are a bunch more of these, but I'm not gonna post any of them because they're all kinda boring and similar. Pumpkins as dumbbells, ho ho what a gas! Don't know about you, but these don't really get me excited for Halloween OR a workout. Halloween is one thing, exercise is another and never the twain shall meet. Unless:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oh Davina, whisk me away to Clatterford!

Isn't she the cutest?

VIDEO: "Davina Super Body Workout," (2 Entertain, 2008) **Only available in the UK and coded "Region 2," so it won't work on most U.S. devices. (Hello, bittorrent.)**
STYLE: Kickboxy aerobics, weights exercises, toning
INTENSITY: Moderate to kinda intense
STRUCTURE: Two 40-minute workouts, both with their own warm-up and cool-down: Super Fit is straight-up aerobics/kickboxing, while Super Sculpt consists of weights exercises interspersed with short bursts of calisthenics; four separate 10-minute toning sections (legs, butt, abs, upper body).
GIST: Funny, thorough and customizable, with good real music and the always-entertaining Davina. Like working out with your cool fit aunt in a sleek studio in the English countryside.

With all the workout video cruising I've been doing for this enterprise here, I haven't been able to keep any single one in rotation for very long. And with all the gorgeous fall weather, I've been jogging every chance I get. My old standbys are feeling neglected. They'll get over it.

I have kept one video, though, a fairly recent acquisition, in regular play: Davina. 

Who is Davina? She is your cool, fit but not fitness-obsessed, delightfully quirky aunt. She makes me laugh. And she's here to mug her way through your workout.

Davina is the ultimate everywoman workout video hostess. That whole "hostess" concept is kinda strange in the U.S., because we typically only have one person leading the video: the instructor. In the U.K., there's this trend of having a host, usually a famous/semi-famous/barely-famous person, AND an instructor to lead the workout. The host is Famous But Just Like You, and y'all are both going along for the ride following the instructor's orders. (See my post on the mega-titted Katie Price for a memorable addition to this genre.)

Reasons I heart this video:
  • It's a real workout, meeting pretty much all my benchmarks: It's long enough, challenging enough and entertaining enough to give me a good sweat sesh. The 40-minute aerobics section weirdly doubles up the same 20-minute routine with the exact same music, prompting you to wonder if there's a glitch in your ISO file legally-sourced DVD. But no, you're not buggin. It's just the same routine, starting over from the beginning. But whatever. That said, the kickboxing moves have some great, killer variations. They got my heart rate up right quick and kept it in a good place. 
  • Davina's the star here, but the instructors are too cute. One is a gentle giant of an ex-Marine; he leads the Super Sculpt section. The other is a straight-up middle-aged lady who looks straight out of Clatterford. (Do you not know about "Clatterford"? Or "Jam and Jerusalem" if you're in England? Get it on Netflix, stat. It's like warm plum crumble and Devon pudding eaten on a brisk ramble through the English countryside. And hilarious.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

How to sleuth your way to Hunkercize in 10 questions

I found this...artifact. Oh my. (NSFW.) So many questions. 

1. Is this real? The screen says "Cooldown" and the vodka-soaked lady narrator's voice says it is indeed the "beginner's cooldown." And then, not even 10 seconds in, they toot their asses in the air and start spreading it. Hanh? 

2. Is this a parody video? The flesh-toned mankini bottoms, the yoga/autofellatio thrusting -- this has to be fake, and also holy crap wow that's some butt right there. Sure is. Sheeeeet. 

3. Wait, is this like a male stripper workout video? That would make sense. Googling as such doesn't turn up anything similar, and the YouTube user who uploaded the video (the spectacularly named STORYOFSHIRTLESS) doesn't have anything else like it. Though he does, in his library of bodybuilding videos, deliver an entire Ibiza knockoff's worth of haircutted juiceheads. 

4. Why are they working out with dry ice around? Don't they know it's dangerous to touch? All those legs flying around, someone going to get hurt.

5. I got distracted looking at posteriors. Forgot my question.

6. I like this song. Can I Shazam it?

7. Thrusting's over. They're doing pretty real stretches now. I think this is actually really real. I'm holding out for stripper workout. What was the name of that big male stripper franchise? Duh duh duh, this is so obvious why can't I remember?

8. Chippendales! Of course. Is there a Chippendales workout?

9. Why yes there is. Can't tell if it's the same thing as this video, though. I don't know. What's that? There's a related video that has something to do with Playgirl and something called Hunkercize? This...could be major. 


Oh my word. This is big. HUNKERCIZE EXISTS, Y'ALL. And it was so worth the Interweb rabbit hole. And has the freaking "Careless Whisper" sax thing and jock-strap peeping and all sorts of horndog meat market stuff. Ok, so it's only a "workout video" in quotation marks and more for working out the forearm, but it's still real, baby. Hunkercize is real. YOU'RE WELCOME. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Khordadian, un-snarkable King of Iranian Dance

I have a new favorite person, and it's this man: Khordadian.

Mohammad Khordadian is a hero. Of freedom of expression, of workout videos. An Iranian-born dancer, choreographer and teacher, his story is a real-life, Persian, non-overrated "Footloose," with himself as Kevin Bacon and the Islamic Republic of Iran as all the repressed bumpkins.

In fact, Khordadian's story is so much better than either the new or old "Footloose" in every conceivable way, (music, costumes, accents, villany, sexual orientation), that I think the comparison is unfair, albeit convenient, so I'm gonna drop it right now. This is a man who can wear outfits like that one up there, make videos like the ones below, and remain absolutely un-snarkable.

Khordadian didn't only dare to dance; he dared to make Persian dance workout videos. He was a taxi driver in Tehran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. After that, he fled the country and became the first Iranian to form a Persian dance company outside Iran. He settled in Los Angeles, formed a dance studio and made the world's first Persian dance-instruction videos in Farsi. These videos are awesomely fun, even for an English speaker. The music is bitchin, the steps are easy to follow and Khordadian is eminently watchable. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

100% Pure Aerobics Love

I love aerobics. I won't lie. I will jumping-jack and knee-raise and grapevine the everloving jujubes out of some high-energy aerobics. But I realize now that, maybe I don't really love aerobics. I don't think I love them as much as these people up in that video. BECAUSE THEY ARE OVER THE MOON BOUNCING ACROSS THE GALAXY BANANAS FOR IT. 

They are like me-on-Mardi-Gras-morning-in-a-bouncy-cloud-of-love GAGA for that ish, all in their fresh white kicks and patriotic leotards, testing the evergreen composure of Alan Thicke. You can tell it puts them, for a few precious, effervescent minutes, on a higher plane of existence. And I'm left feeling...semi-awed? Entranced? Bemused, definitely. Competitive aerobics! Who knew?!

I'm ambivalent. Conflicted. Because I love aerobics, but I don't think I want to be them. Do what they do. I prefer to think of aerobics as calorie-burning, structured, dance-like conditioning to help fight the bloaty effects of weekend-long drinking and complicated, boring food issues. But I never even considered aerobics as a competitive end unto itself.

It's like synchronized swimming out of water, no?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The curious, shiny case of Deanne Berry

VIDEO: "Clubland Work It Out," (2008, Universal Pictures UK)
STYLE: Dance aerobics, dance, kickboxing and toning
INTENSITY: Moderate to difficult
STRUCTURE: 10-minute warm-up; 15 minutes of aerobics; 15-minute dance routine; 15 minutes of kickboxing; 15 minutes of floor exercises; 12-minute cool-down. About 80 minutes total.
GIST: I LOVE THIS WORKOUT. That's it. But it's not available for purchase in the U.S. Wah wah.*

See this creature? Is she the second coming of Xanadu-vintage Olivia Newton-John? A Barbie brought to life?

This, friends, is Deanne Berry, the queen of Clubland. She's a supernova of the sassosphere who burned bright for several thrilling years in the mid- to late-aughts and, after some TV spots and an ill-fated attempt at a recording career, all but disappeared. Where she now roams nobody knows. Intrigue!

Today we're going to be talking about "Clubland Work It Out," which is, in my opinion, Deanne's most solid effort. Like all the Clubland videos, it's not available for purchase in the U.S. *If you buy it off, it won't work on most American DVD players or computers, because it's coded with a different "region." There are ways around this, but they're long and maddening. I don't think I can legally tell you to download it from a file sharing site, but if you don't know how to download it from a file sharing site, you can find most of the workout in the links I provide below.

Ready? Ok!

Like Aphrodite rising from the foam of severed testes cast into the sea, she burst onto the scene a fully-formed workout goddess -- or at least she played one convincingly in the shamelessly lubed-up video for Eric Prydz's "Call On Me."

The video was a crazy gigantic hit across the pond -- one interviewer in a TV spot says she "captured the imagination of the country" -- and even though Berry was just a dancer, not an aerobics instructor, the UK music label Ministry of Sound invited her to host the next in their series of "Pump It Up!" workout videos. THIS IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF, FOLKS.

So she rustled up some fitness certifications and did just that, bringing her Aussie looks (slammin tanned bod, toothy smile) and dancer's nuance (so much sassy hair-flipping!) to the workout video world. After another title with "Ministry of Sound," she jumped ship and moved over to Clubland, yet another UK house music label with a stake in the fitness video market. (WHY DON'T WE DO THIS IN AMERICA???)

That brings us to "Clubland Work It Out," a dizzyingly ludicrous display of quality dance aerobics, music video fantasizing and a whole lotta ass-cheek. Exhibit A (har har):

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fitness class reviews on + second line magic

That's my head. I can explain. 

Jam-packed fall weekends, y'all. That's what's up.

Mine started strong, with the posting of my first exercise class review for The Hairpin, a wonderful website geared toward ladies and people who like ladyish things. Flock to it. A while back, I did a series of fitness class reviews -- groaningly named (by me) Molly's Fitness Follies; got to have my head photoshopped in many embarrassing ways, the pic above being just one example -- for the New Orleans daily newspaper. Getting to take up that odd-duck beat once again, especially within the freer mores of the Internet, was quite a gas. Looking forward to doing more of them!

Lots of dancing this weekend, which is just as it should be. Happiness (and my all-time favorite not-really-a-workout workout): a big bumping second line, made all the more beautiful coming as it did through my neighborhood right after the Saints' win against the Panthers. Plus, the weather was sunny and bright enough to get me in that sun-blinded trance-dance state. Heavennnn.

Other weekend highlights:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The granny-hug delight of "Sit and Be Fit"

How much do you love this lady? God bless her!

Mary Ann Wilson's the name, and exercise for old or mobility-impaired folks is her game. She's led the delightfully low-budget "Sit and Be Fit" for over 20 years, which is produced by a nonprofit organization of the same name and has won a bunch of health/wellness/old people awards.

First off, HOW BOUT THEM GAMS! Lady's got one of the best sets of legs in the sassosphere, and she knows how to show them off. Colorful scrunched socks + short high-waist shorts + loose sweatshirt or baseball shirt or tucked-in tee (+ some hosiery, methinks) = OFF-THE-CHARTS SASS. Take notes, boys and girls.

Hands up if you've done this by yourself after finding it on public television. Own it.

This show makes me wish my beautiful grandma were still around, because I would have loved to have done this with her -- most likely with a peach cobbler or some snickerdoodles in the oven. Which, come to think of it, is what watching "Sit and Be Fit" feels like: grandma hugs and baked goods.

Back to Auntie Wilson.

Even though it's ostensibly for the elderly, you could learn a thing or two from "Sit and Be Fit." No joke. For example:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ballet porn? Not exactly.

VIDEO: "New York City Ballet Workout Vol. 2"
STYLE: Ballet-inspired stretches, resistance exercises and standing barre exercises, plus a bit of aerobics
INTENSITY: Light to moderate
STRUCTURE: Three short warm-up segments; 25 minutes of resistance exercises; just under 20 minutes of barre exercises; short cool-down; tacked-on aerobic section at the end.
GIST: A lovely workout, though uneven in pacing and structure. Gorgeous classical music is the biggest star here. The dancers are beautiful but blank; the production values are top-notch, with moody lighting and a sleek look. The exercises are geared toward strength training and some ballet basics, but for aspiring dancers, it can't replace a real class. 

Balletophiles are kind of creepy, and I say that as one of them.

We love ballet for the art itself, yes, but dance is the one art that uses the human body as its sole tool, and that leads to a definite creep factor in the envy, fascination, awe and delight that ballet fans take in examining dancers' bodies. If you're just as happy watching dancers at their daily barre work as in a performance, (or needed some private time after watching Baryshnikov in "The Turning Point"), you know what I mean. 

The "New York City Ballet Workout" series (there's just two of them) is a feast for ballet creepers in its wonderfully lit, sleekly produced style -- all those bods! -- but you don't need to be a huge ballet fan to enjoy it as a workout. In fact, too much ballet envy could hinder your "NYCB Workout" experience, because this is a basic, ballet-inspired workout first and an Angelina Ballerina escapade second. You have to actually, you know, work. Not just practice your port de bras and do some wobbly pirouettes in the mirror. (Not that I ever do that, of course.)

Friday, September 30, 2011


Kids, this is why cocaine is a dangerous, nasty drug. Don't do it.

You think it's allllll good when it's 1977 and you're the queen of the Milwaukee disco scene, gettin down every weekend with the glittery people 'til the wee hours and having AMAZING conversations with your new best friends as the sun comes up, and you all just GET EACH OTHER so much and it's magical and you're destined for greatness, you just gotta be.

But then suddenly it's 1982 and you're wearing white stirrup tights and hell-bent on showing the world just what kind of CA-RAAAAZY AWESOME PARTY STARTER you really are! It's not over for you yet. Hell to the no, it's not over yet. YOU'LL SHOW EVERYONE!!!!

See if you can make it all the way through that clip. It took me a couple tries.

Also, I've replayed it half a dozen times, and I swear she says, "Move that Jew little boogie body!" at 1:49. Am I wrong on this?

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sweatin' out Satan

So I was watching the televangelist channel last night, learning about a special offer to pay my bills supernaturally with the power of God -- gotta love Robert Tilton: the man's been sued for fraud, investigated by the government and exposed on the national news, yet he just keeps on scammin' -- and I saw this:

Made me wonder what other religious workouts are out there...

"Mormon Muscle Burn"?

(Btw, that image was taken from the very real website You won't be saying hasa diga eebowai after feasting your eyes on these hunks!)

"Klezmer Cardio Party"?

"Buddha Belly Blast"?

How about "Pontius Pilates"? No good? Don't think Christians would go for that? Probably not.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Monday weirdness + happy birthday, Jack LaLanne

I was going to play it straight today with a plain ol' video and some "fresh start Monday!" jibber-jabber, but I was also going to stop my drinking for the weekend after the (AMAZING) Saints-Texans game yesterday. Instead, I found myself talking to some new friends over Manhattans at a swanky hotel bar with Little Richard in the house (he was hangin' -- no big deal), and I learned about this little oddity, "Color Me Beautiful." So here we are.

C'est bizarre, non?

Workout video parodies are pretty old hat, yes, but mix it with an art-school director (Christian Simmons for Savannah College of Art and Design) and some aggressive, symbolically dubious blasts of paint, and you get "Color Me Beautiful."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jack LaLanne, Mother's Little Helper

I just followed along with the first episode of "The Jack LaLanne Show" from 1959, (which you can watch on YouTube or at, and though I'm not sweating, I'm smiling. I'm also thinking about high-fructose corn syrup.

I'll explain that later. First, the good stuff:

LaLanne, founder of Trimnastics and the "Godfather of Fitness," was an impeccably-torsoed he-man everyman who invited himself into American living rooms and basically invented workout videos. For this, World of Sass owes him a great deal.

A bodybuilder and nutritionist at a time when "feeling the burn" meant "social disease," LaLanne was aware he was pushing a new concept. So he structured his half-hour TV broadcast with "Trimnastic" exercises the average housewife could do in her living room -- or while sitting down with a cigarette and a cocktail in hand -- interspersed with 1- to 2-minute-long morsels of wisdom, encouragement and self-promotion.

He was smart, this Jack LaLanne. (I'd like to start calling him Trimnasty, because was just that balling.)  Trimnasty often starts out episodes by addressing the children inevitably left in front of the television set, asking the boys and girls to go get their mothers and "tell her that Jack LaLanne is waiting!" Sometimes, as a reward for doing his bidding, he shows them how he can "blow up" his muscle.

This guy is chock full o' plainspoken corniness like that. He wears a silhouette-hugging, waist-cinched jumpsuit and black ballet slippers. As he goes into an exercise, you know it's time to follow along by the jolly live organ accompaniment playing "Daisy Bell" or "That's Amore." When LaLanne tells the audience to take a deep breath, the organ gives a big wheeze to join in the exhale.

Seeing as at-home fitness as we know it was still in its infancy in the '50s, it makes sense that the program comes across to a modern audience almost as a kids' show. However, though the calorie-burning aspect of LaLanne's routines are mild by today's standards, they're full of classic moves you just can't argue with, many of them taken from ballet and basic calisthenics. Stationary leg and knee raises, relévés, hamstring curls and pedal kicks haven't gone anywhere; it's just the intensity and the soundtrack that's changed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meh days, brisk walks and Crunch "CardioSculpt"

VIDEO: "CardioSculpt," from the Crunch series, available on Netflix instant streaming
STYLE: Circuit training-style combo of light aerobics and quality dumbbell exercises
INTENSITY: For beginners, moderate to intense. For intermediate and up, light to moderate.
STRUCTURE: Just over 30 minutes total; brisk 4-minute warm-up; 20 minutes alternating aerobic and weights exercises; 4 minutes floor exercises; 3-minute cool-down.
GIST: A pretty solid 30-minute workout that gets your heart rate up, but focuses more on an all-over tone than serious cardio work. Interesting variations on classic exercises make the workout challenging and semi-fresh even for more advanced folks. The cardio exercises are so-so, and the look and feel is definitely same-old, same-old.

Some days are going to be sloggy. Meh. Comme ci, comme ca. The usual. Not every day can be brazzle-dazzle, dancing on a lighthouse with Helen Reddy and wearing amazing sailor pants. But a meh day is better than a terrible, awful, no-good day, right? And looking back, you realize it wasn't that meh at all, because it was just another day of wins and losses, ups and downs -- another day of being alive.

Sometimes, circumstances -- misplaced your fave videos, tired of your workout routine and needing something new in a pinch, just generally feeling pissy, etc. -- require us to do the more "meh" workout, because it's better than no workout. More important, it can save us from slipping into "Whatever, I'm getting cheese fries" regression. Or worse, (unless you're the Fat Boys).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcome to Clubland + Criteria for Successful Sass

Friends, I want to tell you about a magical place called Clubland.

I've been racking my brain trying to encapsulate as thrilling and fantastical a place as Clubland, because it can't be contained in a single video or review. Its goodness shines across the sassosphere. It lights up my life. It is my special funtime workout sweet spot happy place, the single best thing to happen in my fitness career thus far. Okay?

Clubland is the (my) collective term for two UK workout video series, both put out by house music labels catering to the raving, clurrbing, foam partying young people of Europe. They are: Ministry of Sound (the biggest and oldest) and the namesake Clubland. The fitness videos -- only available for sale in the UK, which is a damn shame -- are a perfect synthesis of rigorous dance-based aerobics, fly-girl/boy choreography and strength training. They are Cher/Di and you are Tai. They want to dress you up and be your slightly superior but ultimately got-your-back friends. They hit all my marks for a successful workout video. Here's why:

1. They're long enough (70-90 minutes) and challenging enough to count as real, fuck-yeah sweat-fests, which is where so many "20-Minute Hot Bodz!" workouts come up short. According to American College of Sports Medicine/American Heart Association guidelines, 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week is only enough to maintain one's weight. To lose weight the right way, you're looking at 50-90 minutes of mostly-cardio exercise 5 days a week, plus regular strength training. Ouch. But take heart! Read on...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Totally Mel B: From Scary to Sporty

Look at Mel B! Totally hot, totally charming, totally working it in this video, "Totally Fit: Mel B." Totally check out this preview:

Former Spice Girl toning and moaning in the sun? I'm interested! The workout breakdown (warm-up, 25 minutes cardio, 40 minutes targeted toning, cool-down) looks good and the moves seem interesting enough, although Mel seems to be doing an awful lot of counting. When will instructors of the world learn? No grown-up likes being treated as if they can't count to 8, so don't count every rep every time! Unless it's a turbo-mega-overdrive thing or a Billy Blanks minion-survival thing, which this clearly isn't. Just get some better background music and come in with the count when we're at the halfway and/or almost-there point. K?

Speaking of better music: I guess Mel B doesn't own the rights to the Spice Girls catalog? Because if she does and she didn't use this workout video as an opportunity to release new Euro-house remixes of Spice Girls songs, then the world really is an unfair place.

Aside from the counting, this video seems promising. She's got sass, a brassy and encouraging bedside manner, and -- it must be said -- some marvelous tits that she and the camera lo-hoooove to show off as they sparkle in the sun. Ain't nothin wrong with some good old-fashioned boobular distraction, right?

Wrong, if you're this lady [on]:
I did like the workouts, but after doing it a few times I started realizing that a lot of the camera angles are focused on her chest, stomach, and between legs (I'm trying to put it nicely). I quickly began to feel uncomfortable putting this video on in front of my children because it's clear this is also meant to be used for adult "entertainment". I ended up throwing it in the trash.
 C'mon, lady, Mel was just givin' you everything! All the joy it brings. Yes she swears.

This one's going on my short list!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Streaming Sass & "The Situation Workout"

I learned a few important things today.

1. Netflix has a modest but decent library of fitness videos available on instant streaming. This is marvelous news! They're culled mostly from the Crunch, 10 Minute Solutions and Dance Off the Inches series, with a few randos thrown in. Which leads me to...

2. Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of "Jersey Shore" shadenfame has a workout video. Of course he does. It promises to give you "the recipe for your own Situation" and features two vaguely guidette-ish chicks, along with Mike's meathead bestie from the block, dubbed The Unit. (Why "The Unit"? Says he: "You don't choose the nickname; the nickname choose you.") As for the chicks' nicknames, they get to share the generic, maddening "sweetheart," along with douchey molestations from "the man, the myth, the legend" himself.

The Unit, at your service.

The only workout that includes special instruction in sexual harassment!

3. Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino has a fairly decent workout video. I would never do it for real because of reasons already stated and further elaborated below, but in terms of the actual workout, I can't find too much to hate on. It consists of five 10-minute circuit-training segments, each of them a combination of dumbbell exercises and "active rest" aerobics. The whole workout, about an hour long, amounts to P90X: "Jersey Shore" Edition.

For some, that's not only tolerable; it's a selling point. For me, not even an ironic fan of that Music Television programme, I'd rather suffer the private humiliation of the entire "Dance the Chakras Yoga Workout" than listen to Signore Situation opine on himself, his haters and women, (but mostly himself).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Fit-Fart: You're not tripping. Those really are poodle people.

Ah, if only this were real. It's a parody of Susan Powter's original workout video, made by Nagi Noda for Panasonic for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Why? Why ask why? Real or fake, the world is weirder with it around.  

I tried to find a clip of the Powter workout, but she has either a busy legal team or a dearth of tech-savvy fans. I did, however, come upon this:

That's pretty much how I felt the first time I tried Billy Blanks' Tae Bo Advanced. 

Speaking of Susan Powter, I never thought I'd have a use for this other than my own awed amusement, but I found her cookbook, "C'mon America, LET'S EAT!" in my parents' attic a while ago and oh my lord is it CRAY. Here's the start of the introduction, verbatim:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"I'm not too good with this one."

VIDEO: "The Jordan Workout," (2 Entertain Video, 2005). Note: This video is only available for purchase in the UK, but the entire thing is on YouTube in six segments. See the video embedded below to get started.)
STYLE: Light cardio kickboxing and standing/floor exercises
STRUCTURE: Warmup; 15-minute cardio kickboxing segment; 15-minute standing exercise segment; 15-minute floor exercise segment; cool-down
GIST: This isn't a fully realized workout, so don't do it except for a laugh, (total fitness beginners who are also fans of Katie Price excluded).

I was going to cover "The Jordan Workout" as a fun little trifle, then got sucked into hostess/workout slacker Katie Price's whole orbit, then did the entire workout and took notes in order to review it for real, then realized how crappy the workout is and am now writing about it a fun little trifle, but for real. This is the Holly Golightly of workout videos: She's phony; she's real; she's a real phony.

Let me explain. Have you never heard of Katie Price? No? Then you probably don't live in the UK. If you did, you'd know all about this girl's start as a topless model, time as a reality star and political candidate, series of best-selling novels and autobiographies, string of relationships with soccer stars, impregnation by some soccer star, marriage to musician Peter Andre, divorce from Peter Andre, series of children's books called "My Perfect Ponies," marriage to some other dude, divorce from some other dude, and all-around tabloid chumness. (I don't live in the UK. I got all of the above from Wikipedia and my Scottish roommate.)

So why's it called "The Jordan Workout"? Well, Ms. Price went by the single-name Jordan during her early glamour girl days, and still keeps the name around in a Sasha Fierce kind of way. (Both Katie and Jordan, however, seem pretty lame compared to her given name: Katrina Amy Alexandria Alexis Infield. Dayum, that's like an entire litter of Bratz dolls.)

So, the workout: Katie is the first to admit that she's just there for decoration and moral support -- not, like, peppy encouragement, but rather cheerfully whiny empathy. As Katie explains, in her blasé I-just-popped-a-Xanny delivery, she'd "never ever exercised or dieted in her whole life." But after giving birth and getting ready to get married -- "the two major events in a girl's life" -- she called in the big guns to help her "get back in my G-string in record time."

Enter Richard, who seems game and as surprised as anyone to be doing the heavy lifting for Katie in her Barbie Dream House workout world. (The set, a compact cesspool of pink, goes over the top -- I'm looking at you, high heel chair -- yet makes perfect sense.) Richard introduces himself as "the best fitness trainer in the world, apparently." 

Richard is the kind but tough instructor; Katie is the charmingly bratty pupil, a proxy for her target audience at home. Together, they have a disarming screwball chemistry that makes the decent parts of the workout better. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Diaper dancing or Kundalini cardio? You decide.

Here, for your consideration, is "Dance the Chakras Yoga Workout." It's presented by the yogini duo Ana Brett and Ravi Singh, who seem to have quite a following, if reviews and YouTube comments are any indication. (Full disclosure: I have not done this entire video, only marveled at and done the moves in a couple trailers.) 

I learned of this video's existence back when I was in full Hemalayaa thrall, so I was open to a certain amount of metaphysical mysticism if it complemented and didn't distract from a good workout. I have eagerly followed instructions to "paint the world with love!" while doing a side hamstring stretch. I've visualized negative energy escaping from my pores in a yoga class. (I imagined it looked like this.)

Anyway. I think dancing the chakras is simply beyond my new age threshold. Examine the evidence: 

First off, girlfriend's wearing a diaper. Or boy shorts that strongly resemble a diaper. Combined with the tank top, stringy hair and chicken legs, Ana cuts the figure of a 6-year-old on Saturday morning on a Go-Gurt bender.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hemalayaa: selling you sass, self-esteem and sex

VIDEO: "Hemalayaa: Bollywood Booty" (Gaiam, 2008)
STYLE: Dance-based cardio and toning
INTENSITY: Mild to intermediate; low-impact
STRUCTURE: Three 5- to 12-minute mini-workouts, plus brief warmup and cool-down 
GIST: Best done with a girlfriend(s) and/or a sense of humor. It's fun, silly, sexy and full of harmless new agey self-affirmation. Resistance is futile. 

Hemalayaa. Hemalayaa is the cool older girl you were friends with for a hot minute over the summer who taught you how to flirt and French kiss, combined with your corny sleep-away camp counselor.

The Amazon-described "fitness czarina and yogini" works these two vibes -- sultry and silly -- to great effect in her series of Bollywood videos, and "Bollywood Booty" covers the widest part of that spectrum. It follows the same format as the others: a short warmup, the beginning of which has us touch the ground "to receive Mother Earth's blessing"; four mini-workout segments ranging from 5 to 12 minutes; and a short cool-down.

If you didn't check your ego upon receiving Mother Earth's blessing, you'll have to once Hemalayaa starts bringing out the "Butt Monster." She dedicates the entire first segment (the shortest, at 5.5 minutes) to these so-called moves -- a series of pliés, toe taps, leg lifts and leg curls, which she calls "butt kicks." The Butt Monster moves are monstrous only in the Muppets sense: they're mildly challenging, and perfect for a beginner, but they won't have you screaming for mercy. Which is fine! This is a video that both fitness beginners and sweat junkies can enjoy. Do it with a girlfriend, or your mom.

The second workout segment (8 minutes) gets into cardio, which remains light throughout the video but is fun enough to stave off boredom. Hip shakes, lunges, "Indian vogue arms," hops and pliés get the heart rate going, but it's the third segment (12 minutes) where more advanced participants may finally start to sweat. Hemalayaa draws from belly dance strongly for this bit, which starts off with a figure-eight hip swivel that she calls the Swan. If you've never worked on hip isolations or rolls, this will be a little frustrating, but it's a good place to start. If you have a dance background, especially belly dance, this will be like workout comfort food, nourishing and warm in the tummy. Hemalayaa adds variations on the Swan with arms, and then introduces piece de resistance of the video, the Elk -- so named because it mimics the mating ritual of that animal. Yes. Having seen a Siberian elk mating ritual in the "Planet Earth" series, I'm pretty much an expert in this area, and I must say the move is passably accurate. Try it on your boyfriend or even random people; their genitals just might become engorged. This is what Hemalayaa wants!

Friday, September 2, 2011

You are now entering a World of Sass


Welcome to World of Sass, a blog that surveys the richly varied realm of at-home fitness videos.

My name's Molly. As an ardent consumer and beneficiary of exercise videos for most of my adult life, I've traversed their lycra-lush landscapes many times over in my search for well-made, entertaining workouts. I've seen sparkling, spangled peaks, gentle plains and frightening wastelands -- and I want to chart them all.

Whether they're inspiring, amusing, effective, bizarre, vintage, exhilarating, erotic, maddening, boring or plain god-awful, they'll have a spot on the World of Sass map. Legit videos (fully realized workout, passable production values) I'll review and/or summarize in detail, with accompanying video links; all others will inspire pithy remarks, poems, extended metaphors, etc.

Let the journey through the sassosphere begin!