Friday, April 20, 2012

Again with the "Rhythmics" love?

YES, dear readers. I can't stop. I've been doing "Ритмика" (still trying to figure out how to pronounce it -- any Russian speakers out there?) every day this week. It's freaking fantastic. I've explained why before, here and here, but mostly it just came out like WEWWHWE;H;NACNAC OMG OMG OMGOMG LOVE!!!!!!

Instead of trying again (and inevitably failing) to capture its essence, today I'll focus on the majestical art direction on this show. However chintzy some of the episodes end up looking, the people behind this show knew how to take a couple lean bodies, put them in nature or against a weird conceptual set, and produce some HUMAN BODY HIGH DRAMA. Behold:

Isn't that last one beautiful? Way to turn an ugly-carpeted studio into a perfect picture of post-workout serenity. It doesn't hurt that the dancers are flawless specimens who probably spent their adolescence hyperextending their limbs in rhythmic gymnastics training camps. But they went through all that just so we could feel behooved to work out. How 'bout that!

Oh, and the GIFs. THE GIFs, PEOPLE. They're ripe for the picking. I'll have a fresh basket of 'em next time we take a ramble through "Ритмика." I know you can't wait.

Monday, April 16, 2012


STYLE: Hula dance for beginners
INTENSITY: Mild to moderate
STRUCTURE: 35 min. total; 5-min. warm-up and cool-down; 25 minutes cardio/toning through short combinations that introduce and build on basic steps.
GIST: Nice mommy-n-me workout; relaxing; cardio value is mild, but it's great for working on core strength. Major caveat: there's no real explanation of proper technique, which is crucial to getting any good out of this video.

Here's a nice little workout that probably won't change your life, but is perfect for doing with your mom on a weekend visit home, just after pedicure time and right before cocktail hour. 

My mom loves Hawaii -- who doesn't? -- but does not love exercise videos. She prefers clear and present motivation, like a dog to walk or a flesh-and-blood instructor to follow. So on my trip home for Easter, I was interested to see if this "Island Girl" hula workout would float her boat. 

At a compact 35 minutes and devoid of any music that encourages fist-pumping, it got mom on board, but it was grounded heavily enough in the lower abdominals to give me a clear focus and challenge. Nearly every movement is done in a half-squat, with knees bent and center of gravity lowered. Instructor Kili adds deeper pliés and lunges to get the thighs working, but even the simplest movements, such as a side-to-side step, remain in that half-chair pose.

And that's where my main criticism of the video resides: Kili is a nicely laidback instructor, but she does not communicate the importance of posture and technique in keeping that basic pose, which is the foundation for practically every movement in the video. She should have explained how to brace the pelvic floor and lower abs while keeping the chest lifted, rather than simply bending one's knees. My mom, who's not as familiar with core training, said she had mild shin splints by the end of the video, because she was transferring her weight toward the front onto her knees, rather than back and down, into her heels and pelvic floor. A thorough explanation of the proper technique at the beginning of the workout could have helped prevent that from happening.

With that said, though, this video is enjoyable and incredibly relaxing. It has a serene, gorgeous setting and gentle music that's neither intrusive nor boring. Add to that a refrain of core-powered hip swaying, which instructor Kili describes quite literally as "the motion of the ocean," and it's the closest you can come to napping in a hammock while working out.

The movements are all fairly simple, such as mildly stylized torso twists and tendus, but a couple were tricky enough to send me and my mom giggling at our efforts -- namely, lele 'uwehe, a combination of a tendu and a twerk that Kili seemed to relish cuing with a gleeful "Lele 'uweheeee!" (That's definitely not as fun to read or write than it is to say out loud, so you'll have to try it on your own.)

By the end of the video, I felt warm and glowy and firmed-up in the tummy. My mom felt worked-out and ready for a shower and a margarita. Did Island Girl change her opinion of workout videos? Not much, she said, but that's ok -- I'm interested enough for the both of us. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sass Wasteland

On this Good Friday/first night of Pesach, I wanted to keep it simple with something truly bad and pass over-able. Naturally, I turned to the fiery manic chasm that is Judi Sheppard Missett, founder and star of Jazzercize and its videos. If Judi Sheppard Missett were a drink, she'd be everclear and diet Red Bull, and if the above clip were a method of ingestion, it'd be those booze tampons the olds kept freaking out about a couple years ago. 

The maker of this clip is TV Carnage, the pop culture wasteland decoupage trolls responsible for keeping you slack-jawed and glued to your hip dive bar's TV at three in the morning. I checked out their website, and what do you know, they recently released their first volume dedicated to workout videos

STARS ALIGNING! Here's another preview:

"Ever hear of aerobics?" Smooth.

I'm almost afraid to order the whole volume. It contains multitudes. The Judi Sheppard Missett alone is enough to work you over like a Lars Von Trier film in miniature. I've only recently begun seriously scanning for odd workouts on VHS -- still working on the analog-to-digital transfer stuff; it's more than my poor laptop can handle -- but I always suspected there lurked in charity store bins across the nation untold expanses of workout video detritus. Glad this important anthropological work exists and is enriching the record of human existence.

PS - If you want to further understand the raw unyieldingness of Judi Sheppard Missett, Google image search her name. The eyes...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sass N Ass Down Under

You ready for some meta-sass realness? I wasn't. But here it is. 

I was looking for a clip, any clip, of this other Ministry of Sound video I want to review, and I came across this totally endearing video of four girls, 2 tween + 2 passing-for-18, doing the Deanne Berry classic "Pump It Up: Ultimate Dance Workout." They sound Australian, so let's just say they're Australian. And what they have created is something of a rarity, even for the Internet: a video of people working out to a workout video. Boom. (There are lots of videos of people doing the P90X series, but I consider those separate from this, because P90X actively encourages user imitation videos. It's all part of their bag, plus it gives them a trove of content to mine for infomercials. Shrewd move, P90X.)

This, though, is pure. These girls are just OWNING this whole "girls' night" (and/or babysitting?) workout party in a way that makes me want to melt with them. I, too, understand the need for a bit of theatricality and lady-friend compatriots. My friends and I had weekly "Sass N Ass" workout-video sessions for a hot minute, and I've been saved many times from the clutches of end-of-the-workday entropy by a friend down for buddy-buddy fit time. 

And the costumes! Sometimes, in order to move one's ponderous ass around at high bpm, you need that extra boost that only a fierce workoutfit can bring. The two younger girls on the right look age-appropriate in their little pleated skirts and awkward stances, while the Fast Times hot girls on the left are turning out the exact look Deanne and her dancers sport in the real video. That, my friends, is what's up. 

And they filmed it all and stuck it up on the internet! With an adorable DIY title card for each segment, even! 

Women are programmed to be hypercritical of their bodies, and women's gyms often market male-free or even mirror-free environments (::cough cough:: Curves) to create a safe space free of judgment -- ostensibly from others, but really from one's self. These Aussie lasses don't. give. a. what. They probably finished their workout, got cleaned up, ordered a pizza, watched their shits-n-giggles video and were like, omg we're such dorks but we're also awesome? so why the hell not, let's show it to the WORLD! 

And now I'm blogging about it. Once they find this and we get in touch and become pen pals and make a collaborative bi-hemispheral meta-sass video together, the circle will be complete and another internet angel will get its wings. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

World of Ритмика

What is there to say about this other than noises I'm insufficient in expressing onomatopoetically? 

"Rhymics," or "Ритмика," the Soviet Russian half-hour TV fitness program I first examined here, has become a part of me. Since Friday, I have spent several hours with this show, maybe 40% actually doing it and the rest just watching in awe. Of THINGS LIKE THIS:

I almost can't handle it, you guys. So much going on here that's cranking my gears: krautrocky electropop, lithe n' limber ballerina bodies with perfect carriage and insanely innate-looking epaulement, cry-worthy workoutfits, every kind of set known to man, ballet-meets-b-boy (or meets Russian folk dance, or meets military training) choreography, collector-geek cred, delightful weirdness and, dare I say, sex appeal. I mean --