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.