Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Uncle Billy's here to show you the way

I'm really happy I found this clip, because Billy Blanks has put out a gazillion Tae Bo titles, but this is the one I started with many years ago and this is the one that finally kicked my easily-winded ass into gear. 

If I remembered the exact title I'd provide it, but I had to throw out my VHS copy a while back because I actually wore it out. Coming from a one-time Thin Mints hoarder and all-around physical activity dodger, that was absurd. I suppose it could have been a coincidental end result of VHS technology or something, but whatever the case, the dishevelment of that tape really did something for my self-esteem back then. It was as if Billy Blanks was telling me, "Hey, look at you! You can move your body around for whole stretches of time without collapsing! You...are ready...for the next level."

This video isn't as extreme as some of his others -- it's only 44 minutes long -- but at the time, that was a blessing. Blanks doesn't dilly-dally with your heart rate; he likes to get it up as soon as (safely) possible and keep it in that target zone you always hear about. If you're a fitness beginner, you will hate him and everyone in that video after 10 minutes -- especially the blonde chick (his (now ex-) wife, I recently found out!) with her practically mechanized abs. But because it's a no-apologies challenge, you'll feel results after just a couple tries and see them soon after. 

Also, Billy's got a nice bedside manner. He doesn't shout all the time. He's avuncular. His body is really nice to look at. He pronounces "two" like a clipped "teeooh." He's encouraging. And he LURVES technique. He always makes sure to illustrate what muscle groups you're working and how the correct movement should look; he calls you out on sloppy execution, like bouncing or wobbling the rest of your body in a leg lift when it should be stable. (See the beginning of the following video for an example.)

I'm an unreformed teacher's pet and the product of pretty exacting parents, so I'm for better or worse hyper-aware of the right way and the wrong way to do anything. (Ask anyone who's had to share a kitchen with me.) So that means I lurve technique too, even if I can't do it well because I'm still not strong enough. Knowing that you're building a solid foundation, even if it feels like you're sludging through the Mekong Delta during rainy season -- that's an assurance you can take to the bank. (Or the... Blank? (God that was awful.))

If there's one serious complaint I have with Tae Bo, it's the incessant counting. I get it -- it's supposed to be a motivator, a way to tick down the excruciating seconds. But sometimes it's like, enough, I got this, your music ain't all that but it ain't bad either so just lemme do me for a sec. 

But putting that aside, Tae Bo's my jam. Honestly I haven't done much of it in recent years because I've been so into dance, but anytime I only have 15 or 20 minutes to work out, I pull out my hardest Tae Bo and get as far as I can. And usually I still end up hating those goddamn overachieving kickboxer junkies somewhere during the fourth continuous set of fast lungey leg curls or whatever they're called. But Billy Blanks don't care. He's gonna keep on making his videos and smacking fat asses into shape until his unreasonably white teeth fall out. 

Billy Blanks, I salute you!

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