Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wii got sass

When it comes to Amusements of Tomorrow, Today, I'm kind of an old fuddy-duddy. Case in point, I just last night did a Wii. (That's what you do, right? You "do a Wii"?) My friend brought over her console along with "Just Dance," and for the first time since...ever?...I enjoyed a video game made in the 21st century. (Angry Birds doesn't count.) It juiced my raspberries.

At the risk of sounding horribly behind-the-times and stating the obvious, here's the gist of "Just Dance": There are bunch of routines to real songs (mostly original tracks, with some quality covers), and each is led by a CGI dancer that seems to have been motion-captured from a real dancer. The CGI dancers wear amusing costumes appropriate to the songs. It's a surprisingly decent workout, as long as you don't take (long) breaks. The menu ranks each dance routine by difficulty and intensity, so it's possible to engineer an hour-long sweat-fest simply by choosing the harder selections -- such as this aerobics-inspired number:

Or this '90s jam:

Fun, right? 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Minnie Mouse goes to Rio

VIDEO: "Dance and Be Fit: Carnaval," (Acacia, 2010)
STYLE: Dance aerobics
INTENSITY: Overall, moderate to somewhat heavy, but can be scaled up or down by the viewer
STRUCTURE: Warm-up, 5 minutes; three cardio segments, 12 minutes each; cool-down, 5 minutes
GIST: Very nearly derailed by awful cuing, but too much fun and too good a cardio workout to not try

So, as promised, I'm gearing up for Mardi Gras by checking out Carnival-themed workouts, and because it's available streaming on Hulu (score!), I started with this offering from the "Dance and Be Fit" series:

If it looks kinda corny, well, it is! Corny-cool. Presenter Kimberly Miguel Mullen is -- sorry, Kimberlys of the world -- very much a Kimberly. She's got an ever-present cheerleader smile and a high-pitched peppy voice that prompted my dad, who was within earshot as I did this video at my parents' house, to ask, "Are you working out with Minnie Mouse?"

But Kimberly brought the goods. I got loose. I laughed frequently. I got sweaty and pumped up, which inspired me to keep pushing and do everything full-out for maximum effect. And, with 36 minutes of continuous cardio (minus the short commercial breaks on the Hulu version), it was good enough for a Saturday's work. Silly + sweaty works for me, especially with moves like these:

Isolated hip circles and pelvic pops with arms outstretched. Great, effective warm-up.  

Running and blasting into a side-kick. "EXPLOOOODE!" Kimberly says. 
I felt these explosions in my butt the next morning.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Baby she will she be your motivation

So, Kelly Rowlands's ab workout looks serious. Like, ow ow ow omg motherf*****CHiagerrgh;[U832 WHEN WILL IT END serious. 

Which is great! It's called "Sexy Abs with Kelly Rowland," part of a "Hollywood Trainer" series that I'm just now realizing exists, and it seems like an Abs of Steel for the Ciara era. (Btw, could Ciara please make a workout video? Like, why has't she already?)

The video was released this past December, and judging from the reviews, it's kicking ass and taking names: 30 minutes, short warm-up and cool-down but otherwise all ab-sculpting agony. And eventually, with practice, ecstasy? 

In a perfect world I'd buy this immediately, add it 3x a week to my Carnival body prep master plan and emerge Mardi Gras Day like some ripped, unhinged lovechild of the Cheshire Cat and an Amazon. In real life...let's shoot for once a week and see what happens?

Here's some behind-the-scenes ish:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In preparation for Bloaty Gras

In most of the U.S., that means...funnel cake? Tilt-o-whirl? That HBO show?

In New Orleans, it means...

Carnival is the season of Mardi Gras, lasting from Twelfth Night/Epiphany/Three Kings' Day/January 6 until Fat Tuesday, (which is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the kickoff to Lent, which is when you swear off vices 'til Easter, which is why you have to binge on them ahead of time -- behold, Mardi Gras in its entirety, expertly explained in a parenthetical run-on!). Carnival means king cake (above) and protracted mirth (above above) and drinking a lot, possibly out of someone's bag o' wine teats (above above above). It means Popeyes and so much dancing and naps in random people's houses and glitter all over your house. It means bloating and wearing revealing clothing anyway. 

In Brazil, it means YOU BETTA WORRRK, as this New York Times article illustrates. Because marathon samba dancing in teeny weeny outfits is the order of the day, some folks go through rigorous boot camp-style training in the weeks and months leading up to the five big days of Carnival (Friday through Fat Tuesday).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Get your nails done, put on a onesie, stroke your belly, take a nap.

When I heard from a tipster that Marie Osmond has a workout video, my snarkal cortex started humming: Republican primaries! Mitt Romney! Mormons! Timeliness! But then I saw a clip of it -- "Marie Osmond: Exercises for Mothers-To-Be" -- and it was four minutes of magic.

I love this video so. much. It says, "I'm pregnant and I'm floating on a cloud of contentedness and motherly love, but I also want a pastel-rainbow room with my name in giant cursive letters where I can wear onesies and talk to my fetus and take naps." I'm sure there are plenty chicks out there for whom that's like "omg BARF" and that is a-ok (choice trumps!), but srsly -- a "ME N MAH BOO" room?  Judging by the recent trend in feministy gals coming out of the closet about their love of Mormon mommy blogs (guilty), I don't think I'm the alone here in feeling, deep down, "gimme."

Moving on. There is so much to cover. Ok, so the music is amazing, most especially at :40 when the camera zooms out to reveal her mustard-colored maternity jumpsuit and the music swells as if to say YOU GUYS THIS LADY IS CREATING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING AS WE SPEAK AND CAN WE JUST MARVEL AS SHE WALKS DOWN THOSE STEPS?? 

"Hi, I'm Marie Osmond and I'm basically Mother Earth incarnate right now. You might be in the same 
way too, which so very exciting! Yay us. Like my sassy blazer? Well it's not actually a blazer..."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

If I could turn back time...I'd have bought this when it was cheaper.

YOU GUYS. You guys. Cher has a workout video. OF COURSE SHE DOES! 

She has two workout videos, actually, both under the arbitrarily word-smooshing brand CherFitness: "Body Confidence," (above), and "A New Attitude," (below). Which is fitting since, at the time of these vids' releases (1992 and 1991, respectively), Cher was very much riding the comeback success of a new attitude and a new, shockingly body-confident look. Remember the duct-tape-n-leather-jacket number in "If I Could Turn Back Time"? (As if you couldn't.) Well her outfit in "Body Confidence" is a total self-referencing homage to that get-up. OF COURSE IT IS! 


Amazon is charging an absurd $30ish for each of these videos -- somehow they have the VHS "in stock"? Huh. Can't imagine they were priced this way back in the day. Whatever the case, I'ma get a hold of this shit and do it in full and report back to you. Why? Because I'm strong enough

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. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tracy Anderson's no-fun middle school sleepover workout

VIDEO: "Tracy Anderson Beginner Dance Cardio" (Bubi and Babe Exercise Inc., 2010)
STYLE: Dance aerobics
STRUCTURE: Intro; short warm-up; four routines in 10- to 15-minute sections; cool-down
GIST: The routines themselves are pretty good, but they're undermined in so many dazzling ways, from chintzy production values to Tracy's own blandness, that all I can only summarize thusly: It sucks.

Remember in 6th grade, when you and your friends would have sleepovers and eat pizza and bake brownies and watch Romeo + Juliet for the 46th time, and at some point someone would be like, "OMG guys, let's make up a dance and record it like a real music video!" And you'd put on Ace of Base or the Now and Then soundtrack and get maybe 16 counts down before the whole thing dissolved into hastily-flung criticisms, arguments and tears?

Well, if a) y'all had actually finished the video, and b) you'd shot it in a Pilates studio with someone's overconfident boyfriend operating the camera, it would look more or less like "Tracy Anderson Beginner Dance Cardio."

This is for a British version of the U.S. videos, but it's the same footage. 
The fact that this title is currently out of print in the U.S. yet only 2 years old is telling.

This video could have been good, but it's not. As a trainer to GOOPy Gwyneth Paltrow, shimmying Shakira and ever-calcifying Madonna, Tracy Anderson had some serious blonde buzz behind her with  this video. (Both Gwynny and Shakira talk sugar about her on the video jacket.) But apparently that wasn't enough to get Anderson a decent production budget, because it's put together with as much craftsmanship as my Stay Awake-fueled PowerPoint presentations from freshman year of college. Specifically, I'm talkin bout:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sweatin to the...Public Radio?

Oh hi. Been a minute. It''s 2012, isn't it? Yeah. Wow. Sorry I've been absent for a tick. When not eating Christmas cookies and hammy black eyed peas and sweet potato biscuits and dad's gumbo and this cray-cray cake into sublime yuletide oblivion, I've been turning as much of the sucrose into sweat as possible.

So here we are -- the new year. Resolutions! Fresh starts! Detoxing! (At least until Carnival, which, oh hello, officially starts today.) All good ideas. And in as sure a sign of the apocalypse as any, NPR this morning got into the exercise advice game, with a sorta-obvs/sorta-kewl piece on the efficacy of working out to music. Yes, readers! In case you weren't aware, peppy music can make working out more fun. You could even say it...pumps you up?

But srsly, the piece was interesting because it brought in Science to explain that "When you are perceiving very rhythmic sounds, particularly those that are used in music, these sounds engage the areas in networks of the brain that allow us to move and in particular synchronize different muscle groups. It's this privileged link between the auditory system and the motor system."

The key is BPM (beats per minute). You may not think you like Matrixy industrial, or Clublandy house or, if you're Michele Norris, John Philip Sousa. But if it's uptempo, constant and loud enough to push your heart rate up, you're likely to feel pretty pumped up in spite of your best attempts to keep on hatin, say, La Bouche. (Which...why would anyone hate La Bouche?) It's why Ministry of Sound has a successful line of "Running Trax" compilations engineered according to BPM.

When I think fitness, NPR doesn't exactly spring to mind. But their Sweatin' to NPR website seems to have a semi-earnest collection of different workout mixes for different moods. There's a kickboxing mix (five very different songs, but I can see what they were going for); an 80s mix (super basic, but I appreciate the goofy inclusion of "Oh Yeah"); and a "Work Out, Make Out" mix, which...whatever, sure.

I've cycled through several workout mixes of my own over the years; next week I'll post some top selections from playlists past. But I can say without a doubt that to this day, I never run harder or get more La Femme Nikita fierce than when my iPod shuffles me some Prodigy "Smack My Bitch Up." Is that played out? 90s chaff? Who cares. Try it.