Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Rhythmics" Mood Board

So, "Rhythmics" continues to be the best thing ever in all the world of sass. I feel cosmically bonded to it.

I still work out to it from time to time, even though some of the moves rely on such a crazy level of flexibility that I overshoot it and wind up with a knotty back or a janky leg. I don't care.

But "Rhythmics" is about so much more than the choreography. It is an experience for all senses—

sets filled with giant flowers, ribbon drapes, and luminescent bubbles . . . 

interesting staging . . . 

(seriously, look at these artful arrangements of bods; somebody loved this job) . . . 

mood ring lighting . . . 

 and harmonica-kissed krautrock to butt exercises like this.

I return to this enchanted, golden temple when I need inspiration and understanding.

These fancy side plankers know what I'm talking about. 

Gathering these pixelated jewels is like making a mood board . . .

or collecting cool beetles.

It gives me a sense of order in the world . . . 

and renewed faith in mankind.

"Rhythmics" is my lucky star.

 The end.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Richard Simmons, November Salve

November is 30 days long, but it is a long slog. November is the month when everyone realizes, "Crap! Time is passing! The year is almost dead! WE ARE ALMOST DEAD! Come, let us do all the things there are to do before our branches are bare."

At least that's how it goes down in my head. November gets the festive-o-meter ratcheting up, but as much as the Christmas commercials come out earlier and earlier, no one starts easing back on deadlines or workloads due to holiday parties and travel plans until that last Wednesday-Thursday (and, if you're lucky, -Friday) in November. Until then, you betta work, bitch.

So yeah, I'm busy. Nobody cares, which is as it should be, but still. Deadlines on deadlines on deadlines. Actually, that video does a pretty good job of describing the situation, except instead of wearing trashy couture I've got my boring office shoes and battalion of blazers.

Soooooo, this is all a roundabout crazy-lady way of saying thank god for Richard Simmons being around to keep things weird. He's second to RuPaul in living out the mantra to not take life too seriously, and he visited New Orleans recently, popping up in all sorts of places.

On stage with the Pinettes Brass Band, with orange hair!

On Bourbon Street, with purple hair!

He makes November better.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dance Aerobics: "The Craft" Edition

I was going to start off saying that Halloween is the least fitness-related of holidays, but compared with Thanksgiving, Christmas . . . pretty much all of them — they're all excuses to eat a lot, have parties and be distracted from the interminable drudgery of life ticking away.

Cutting-edge clip art because I am great at blogging.

Yeah! So the real news is that I've been teaching dance aerobics recently, living the dream, and back in September I put together a bitchin playlist for Halloween week. I mean, haven't you yearned to go to a group fitness class where the teacher kills the lights, has everyone smear fake blood on themselves and leads choreographed exercises to gothy synthpop? 

Dance Aerobics: The Craft Edition was not meant to be IRL, as my studio suspended our normal schedule for the week, but the playlist came in handy for my dance team's Halloween parade gig. (In New Orleans, grown-ups can be on dance teams.) The parade being for neighborhood folks and families and all, I cut out the weirder / more abrasive stuff — yes to "Weird Science," no to Skinny Puppy.


(Sorry. They are pretty scary.)

You might not think sass and Nine Inch Nails are capable of agreeably cohabiting your senses, but they go together like pumpkin spice lattes and overworked moms.  

Happy Halloween! Enjoy the tunes.

Warm-up w/ my favorite princes of darkness

Getting warmer and weirder . . .

Spooky squats and lunges

Cardio time. She's a glamazon! Be afraid.

Kinda corny, but I couldn't resist.

Angsty aerobics. Why isn't this already a thing?

Werking a sexual-tormentor vibe as the cardio builds to its apex . . .

And then, I dunno, running around like insane people.

(You might think you hate this song, but that's actually scientifically impossible.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hemalayaa's Pooch Palace

VIDEO: "Hemalayaa: Beautiful Belly" (Acacia 2008)
STYLE: Dance-based cardio/toning
INTENSITY: Light to moderate
STRUCTURE: 5-minute warm-up + three 12-minute dance/toning segments
GIST: Great for a light cardio day; quality abs work via dance, Pilates and stretching

Good ol' Hemalayaa. She knows what girls like. What girls like: a colorful, beautifully appointed, lit-from-the-heavens temple-palace designated specifically for self-love -- which ostensibly involves prancing, shimmying, crunching, planking, sweating and stretching but clearly could also include journaling, daydreaming, singing to yourself in the style of Tori Amos and masturbating (all one in the same, really). Hemalayaa offers viewers the fantasy of supreme body confidence, a strong core and non-tacky throw pillows in a room of one's own. And when you're working on your midsection -- that evergreen villain, the subject of so many winces in the mirror and whinges to girlfriends -- you may as well indulge in some make-believe. 

"Beautiful Belly" is one of my favorite Hemalayaa titles. Even at full run time, it's short (42 minutes); but while it's relaxing and light in the cardio department, it seriously targets the abs. Here's a little tour:

The warm-up is hilarious and fun. The music, aforementioned set and Hemalayaa herself ply orientalist clichés of exoticism and sensuality, but I find them harmless because Hemalayaa's personality and conviction come through so strongly. The warm-up involves lots of wide arm circles (see image above), gentle lunges with overhead arm circles and fast high-stepping (below). It's effective, gets you in the mood to work out. 

Then we get into the main segments, titled Workout 1 (and 2 and 3). Don't fall for the pandering labels. These are not workouts on their own. If you want an actual workout, you need to do all three. Two minimum, if you're a fitness beginner. 

Each segment is designed to be a circuit, with a cardio portion and a toning portion. The cardio includes funky knee raises (above) and variations, and the toning in Workout 1 features this totally fabulous move (below), wherein you get into a wide plank and then pump your pelvis up and down. Hawt.

Now we're in the second segment, which has you do this hair-flipping, booty-popping thing:

And then you werk some Pilates stuff. This is what'll have you smarting the next day.

I love this series of core work and chest/shoulder openers. They're all done seated halfway on a pillow, giving your pelvic floor some extra support so that you can focus on straightening your spine and doing the movements efficiently. 

Here's this bhangra kick. If you work on keeping your torso stable, it's harder than it looks. 

Oh man. This plank series is tough but rewarding. 

When I was really into this video, several years ago, I went on a business trip and was put up in a tiny room. I was set on doing this video at the end of a long day of sitting in meetings, bored-eating and watching myself bloat. So strong was the pull of Hemalayaa, I used an unoccupied corner of the motel lobby, garnering some strange looks from the couple staff members and patrons who spotted me. But I didn't care! I was in Hemalayaa's palace, where a pooch is precious. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jessica Smith, "Ballet Burn" and How I Lost My Fear of YouTube Workouts

So maybe YouTube fitness vlogs aren't so incomprehensible? I'm way behind the times on seeking out these free online offerings -- too busy using YouTube to chase clips of existing DVDs and (the real treasure) VHS tapes. Case in point: when I was craving a ballet class the other day but wouldn't have been able to get to one in time, I started googling for a free barre soundtrack, which I think is a thing? I know they have these CDs for ballet classes but I guess you're supposed to have an actual teacher giving you the combinations. Anyway, instead I found something far more useful but comparably effective as a workout.

"Ballet Burn," available in full above, is one of many workout videos by YouTube fitness maven Jessica Smith. Clocking in at just under an hour, it's perfect for anyone who wants ballet-style conditioning. You're not going to get much in the way of traditional ballet instruction, but she gives clear, concise information for each exercise as well as overall basic technique.

I like this chick's style: no forced perkiness, no shouting or babbling, no hamming it up for the camera. She's competent and casual, like working out with your fitness-instructor friend who is also a gentle shut-in and can't share her gift in public because of crippling social anxiety from that terrible freak kettleball accident 10 years ago. Only with you and her French bulldog there can she leave those memories behind and find an outlet for the passion that not so much rages but burbles inside her.

The routine starts off with some balletic cardio and goes through a series of leg lift variations, arm/leg combos, plié variations, and stretches. She finds interesting and fun ways to incorporate tendus, dégagés, battements, arabesques, and ports de bras. Her ports de bras exercises in particular are fantastic, as she brings in 3-lb hand weights to condition the arms as they go through first, second and fifth positions. My biceps were so sore the next day, but adding the extra weight really helped me focus on keeping my core stable while giving my arms full range of motion.

Speaking of soreness, DAT ASS. If you're up on your PureBarre or Callanetics, you'll probably have an easier time than I did with the glute-heavy stuff. I can do squats and pliés all the livelong day, but bring in stuff that works the gluteus medius (lesser-known glute that sits on the top and side of each butt-check) and I'm cursing the world in short order. The first time I did this video, my butt basically gave out near the end. Was like "nope, no thank you, not gonna do it and you can't make me." 

But(t)! I'm glad I found my way to Jessica's neatly appointed living room. I'll definitely be trying some of her other videos, and who knows -- I may even venture further into the YouTube fitness frontier.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Richard Simmons, Rebooted

Watch out, world! Richard Simmons is comin for yer youngs. Not content to occupy a cozy, largely untouched but small niche in the pop culture landscape for decades, Richard Simmons is angling for a viral revival. He's got a youth-oriented branding consultant plugging him into the world of YouTube fitness vlogs -- a home-fitness genre I view with fascination and an odd sense of dread, as damp and impenetrable as the rainforest in Aguirre, Wrath of God. (Wow, that description jumped off the subtlety cliff quickly.)

Well good for him. The man is nothing if not enthusiastic and game for anything, even allowing his 65-year-old, short-shorted frame to be plunked down in what looks and sounds like a Ministry of Sound video. Based on the clip, it seems to involve him shouting with a mixture of encouragement and panic.

Anyway, I've got my eye on you, Workout Wednesdays. I've never done a full Richard Simmons video, which is highly negligible of me. I've reordered my Netflix queue to remedy that. In the meantime, here's this promo video Simmons did with the gentle-hearted ADD kids over at Buzzfeed. Who knew he had such a fierce bitch-face?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Turbo Jam Fat-Blasting Turbo Time

VIDEO: "Turbo Jam: Fat Blaster" (Beachbody, 2006)
STYLE: Cardio kickboxing with high-intensity intervals
INTENSITY: Low to high
STRUCTURE: Short warm-up and cool-down bookending ~25 mins of dance-inflected cardio kickboxing; four "turbo" intervals; 30 mins total
GIST: Fun, fast, and good for repeat viewing; perfect for days when you're short on time

It occurred to me that I should probably post more straightforward workout video reviews. It can't all be celebrity squat-thrusting and bizarre Slavic odes to Depeche Mode around here. Sometimes you just need a decent workout video to get you through another day of barely not being a lazy slob.

This is Chalene Johnson. She is more than the person jovially grimacing on the cover of this "Turbo Jam Fat Blaster" 30-minute, effective and fun video. She is a "fitness personality" at the helm of a whole little exercise/self-improvement empire that encompasses a gazillion Turbo Jam videos, a kickboxing-class franchise called Turbo Kick, an annual "you go, girl!" retreat called Camp Do More, and probably a bunch of other stuff I don't know about. She's really tan, works a ponytail like Toni Basil in full "Mickey" mode, and knows how to get some calorie burn out of a half hour. 

"Turbo Jam Fat Blaster" seems to be a shorter, more interval-heavy sampler from her longer workouts. It's all the "turbo" sections from her other titles, first done at low intensity and then in "turbo" mode. There's a lot of turboing going on in general, whether you're riding a pony . . .

. . . jumping up in the air like you just do care (about your physical fitness and desire to live a full, sexy, meaningful life) . . . 

. . . or ferociously stamping the ground with both feet, because WE ARE TURBO-TAXING OUR BODIES IN AN AWESOME, HIGH-INTENSITY WAY RIGHT NOW.

This is the first Turbo Jam workout video I've gotten through -- not because they're difficult but because Chalene's turbocharged style -- as seen in a couple other titles I tried -- didn't really get me going. 

That said, I really enjoyed this workout: the choreography is fairly easy but not too easy to pick up and comes at you without any dilly-dally, making it good for repeat viewings. The moves are a fun blend of kickboxing and dancey flair. Chalene is high-energy, but that's the nature of her game, boo. Deal with it, and enjoy the quality sweat sesh.

Also, boobs. Damn near every woman in this video has big ol' fake titties. I guess that's what you do in L.A.