Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Turn your pear into a sweet, tight peach"

VIDEO: Callanetics: 10 Years Younger in 10 Hours
STYLE: Toning; isometric conditioning
INTENSITY: Moderate to high, depending on skill level
STRUCTURE: 50 minutes long, broken down into short segments covering pretty much every part of the body
GIST: Holy wow, I'm a believer. Provides an all-over tone focusing on the crucial pelvic floor and core muscles; superior instruction with modifications and injury warnings. Also the music is weird and awesome.

Pure Barre, eat your heart out. Callan Pinckney owns your ass.

I mean that literally. All that fine-tuned butt-sculpting and ab-scooping currently on sale for $25/class at Pure Barre or True Barre or any of those ballet-related Pilates offshoots? It's all here in the first Callanetics video from 1989, "10 Years Younger in 10 Hours."

Despite the gimmicky title, this program doesn't eff around. All the exercises are isometric -- meaning they're done in a mostly static position, with a range of motion that's limited to about an inch -- and they focus on the tough-to-reach pelvic floor, core and thigh muscles. These movements go hard, yet they're also wonderfully relaxing.

Check out those gams! Lady's nearly 50. Dang.

Callan, with her tight dancer's body and chic mop of auburn curls, is like a cross between a chilled-out Katherine Hepburn and your mildly eccentric rich aunt who almost made it to the Kirov Ballet until that awful horseback-riding accident. She exudes confidence and competence, and she's bossy in a gentle, concerned way. I'm in love.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hips don't lie. Except when they do.

Between a lingering cold and getting ready for my real-life dance team -- Star-Steppin' Cosmonaughties, hoody-hoooooooo! -- to take the world by storm this Saturday in our first-ever Mardi Gras parade, I have had zero time to do any workout videos. Which sucks, because this one, "The Brazilian Carnival Dance Workout," looks legit in all the right ways -- long, challenging and comprised of actual samba moves you'd likely see during Carnaval. 

Samba is friggin' ARDUOUS. I took a couple classes with a local samba troupe a couple years ago, and it's just a different vocabulary rhythmically, one for which the learning process is, I suspect, like riding a bike -- once you've got it, you've got it, and it's just a matter of going faster faster faster! To say that it works your hips, lower abs, butt and thighs is like saying Mardi Gras is better than a regular Tuesday.  

My own results in that class looked more like an adult pee-pee dance, a tangle of wiggles and jiggles that prompted the teacher to come over and recommend that I take the beginner class next time. Ah well. Check out this loca's outfit!


I love that this chick is meaty and delicious. She is bodied, and I want her to get me bodied. That is all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A ghost of workouts past comes back to haunt

I found my first-ever workout mix CD. It's from 2001, the summer after my senior year of high school. This CD was the soundtrack to my first sustained attempt at jogging and my first honest shot at being marginally healthy. If I recall correctly, that campaign lasted for about 3 months, but I lost some weight because of it and my plainly titled "Workout" CD was largely responsible. I see now that, whether consciously or not, I was shrewd in engineering this playlist. Because look at what I put in the top slot:

This song is wildly inappropriate and all kinds of offensive. It's about beating the women (or men, but mostly women) in your life when they're pissing you off. Babymama wiling? Bom ba-ba bom bom Rocky Balboa. That's...abhorrent. Awful. I've got a pretty high threshold for tolerating misogynist rap bombast bullshit, because it's pop art not real life and blah blah blah. But after listening to this song enough times, I decided -- out loud, to myself, while driving to the grocery store -- that I simply couldn't call myself a feminist or even a decent human being while regularly enjoying an ode to domestic violence. And yet...

It works as a workout song. Ugly truth.

Because of my so-serious reversal on "Rocky" tolerance, I put that workout CD away and forgot about it for pretty much a decade, until I unearthed it in an old CD case last week. But listening to it again, I realize that "Rocky" functioned as the heavy against my wimpy, fledgling sense of fitness discipline at that time. Putting it first on the mix was like staffing my brain with an unhinged drill sergeant for the first 5 minutes of my run, there to beat down any attacks to my resolve. During that first attempt at jogging (and the second, and kinda the third), there was always a not-insignificant chance that I'd crap out before getting even a quarter mile under my belt and walk home like a chump. 

"Rocky" pounded into my head a ruthlessly simple message: if a bitch gets outta line, show it Rocky Balboa. I say "it" instead of the verbatim "her" because a) it distances me from the song, which even now I'm self-conscious about praising*, and b) ultimately, to me, the only thing getting beat in that song is a whiny attitude about going for a damn run. That's m'story and I'm sticking to it. 

And! Track #2 is your reward for taking Juvie's abuse and getting through those first five "I DON'T WANNAAAAA" minutes of a run:

Friday, February 3, 2012

How do you solve a problem like Dolphina?

VIDEO: "Goddess Workout: Introduction to Bellydance" (GoddessLife, 1998)
STYLE: Belly dance
STRUCTURE: Warm-up, 8 min.; heads, hands and arms, 5 min.; hips, 7 min.; shoulders and chest, 6 min.; hip circles, 5 min.; undulations and snakes, 4 min.; shimmies, 3 min.; routine, 4 min.; cool-down, 3 min.
GIST: A hot mess of bad camera work, mediocre instruction, titty fixation and half-baked Eastern religion -- but with killer outfits and a presenter who means well.

You know what Southern women would say about Dolphina? They'd say, "Bless her heart," and it'd be just as simultaneously backhanded and sympathetic as it sounds.

You see, Dolphina -- can you guess what her spirit animal* is?? -- wants to help you unleash your goddess within; but she and the creepers behind this video are too enraptured with the goddess on screen to really help the budding belly dancer at home. Whether intentional or not, it's all about her -- her truly marvelous body, her devilish grins, her fantastic costumes, her affectations of worldly mystique and sexual power, her exotic sets. Choreography, instruction and viewer comprehension come second -- not always, but far too often.

Add this to the ever-expanding Laws of Fitness Presenters (and life?): It's hard to be too beautiful or too fit, but it's easy to seem too into yourself. Really, the issue comes down to what makes it on camera. In your own mind, you can think the tides move with the slope of your torso, but you can't let that show in your work. That's just common sense. You're there to instruct, inspire and entertain all the poor suffering blobs at home. Not eyefuck yourself through the camera.

And sweet Jesus, does Dolphina love eyefuckin'. Observe:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

So, I got this in the mail today...

It is real, and it is called "Body Flex." I bought this video and its follow-up, "Body Flex II," because a) they cost a total of $8 on Amazon, and b) there seem to be people living in real-life modern times who swear by this series. Consider this review (from the Amazon link above):

You see results almost every week, guaranteed. (In 1998 I lost an inch or more off my upper abs, lowers abs, waist and hips every week. 4+ inches total every week is an awesome result. I went from a 29 inch waist to a 24 inch waist in just 4 weeks.) 

4+ inches every week doesn't seem like "an awesome result" -- it seems frighteningly unhealthy. What about this review:

After 2 pregnancies I got it out and gave it an honest try. I did it 2x per day for 12 weeks and lost a total of 45 inches. I went from a size 24 to a size 16. Unfortunatly [sic] I got pregnant again and had to stop. I gained almost 80 pounds during the last pregnancy, but only went back up to a size 20. I have started again, and I am on my second week and have lost 8 1/2 inches. I have tried everything else, including going to the gym for 2 hours a day, and this has been the only thing that has worked for me. 

There are rules associated with the routine -- has to be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach -- that may have more to do with its efficacy than the exercises themselves. After all, any amount of mild exercise before breaking the fast will jump-start your metabolism and help you burn more calories throughout the day. But is this backcombed madwoman really on to something? I suppose I'll have to wake up to her crazy ass and grimace into the mirror every day for a while to find out. 

The things I do for you...