Charting life's circuitous path

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Review: Kristi Yamaguchi’s Power Workout DVD

Power Workout by Kristi Yamaguchi


(Image from Amazon)

Beginning Observations:  I found this dvd in my rather small library tucked between the many walking for fitness dvds (I really ought to try one of those out – I mean, how do they work exactly?).  I don’t keep up with pop culture or celebrities, so I can’t tell you what she’s been up to since her Olympic days, but she looked bright, happy and fit on the cover.  It helped that the dvd boasted circuit workouts – I love circuit and interval workouts and I try to do a few tough ones weekly.  I needed something fresh, so I picked it up.  Couldn’t hurt to see, right?

Overall Response:  Well, actually, it did hurt.  My arms and legs were quite a bit sore the day after, and that, for me, was a good sign.  I’ve been exercising consistently for a couple of years now and your body does reach a stage where a lot of the routines you used to do don’t seem as effective anymore.  Where once I panted, now I only breathe more deeply.  Trippy feet have leveled out and can execute the moves more smoothly.  All good news, of course, but I like to feel challenged now and then, so I was thrilled that this dvd left me remembering it the next day.

The 3 circuits printed on the dvd are actually more like 3 types of exercises: aerobic, strength and abs.  You rotate through two of the types (aerobic and strength) multiple times and then end on ab and back exercises.  Each rotation is a few minutes long and each one contains different levels of exertion.  Want to do high impact?  Great! Follow along with Kristi. Want something lighter?  Sure!  Follow along with the trainer.  It allows for adjustment that some dvds leave out and which I appreciated (I tend to opt for the high impact, so it’s good that they offer you that option).

There isn’t a lot of extra talking and the trainer (Erin) guides you through each exercise so you can do them correctly.  The lighting is bright, the setting is cozy enough, the music is just this side of peppy, and Kristi smiles all the way through.  Okay, so I know that she can do this routine and probably more without breaking a sweat, but it feels real when she’s struggling along with you as you try to complete the triceps exercises.

My only complaint is that it doesn’t let you customize it beyond selecting a section, but that’s okay.  Generally I want to do it all and if not, it’s easy enough to stop (ain’t that the truth!).

Rating:  5 stars.

This is definitely a good one to keep in your own library.  My copy definitely gets its own rotation throughout the month and I enjoy it each time.

(As with everything on my blog, I’m not paid crumbs for anything I write. Course, if they offered me cake… 😉 )

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Review: Rael Pilates System 7 & Fat Burning Pilates

Rael Pilates System 7

Image from Amazon

Fat Burning Pilates by Kathy Smith

Image from Amazon

Beginning Observations:

The Kathy Smith DVD was the first exercise DVD that I had checked out at the library and tried (this was back in January).  The photos on the front are a bit silly again (I don’t know what she’s trying to do in the center photo), and the back of the DVD promised2 pilates routines and a “fat burning breakthrough” routine.  I liked the combination of routines involved and I felt hopeful that I could rely on this DVD for a multitude of exercise sessions.

The Rael DVD seemed very professional – the main image incorporated an instructor and student holding a pilates pose and it promised “expert” instruction and even “high definition” viewing.  I had never heard of the instructor Rael Isacowitz, but the back of the DVD promised a “Pilates Master” of 25 years who had a

clear, soothing, one-on-one coaching style.

I grabbed this DVD with hopes that it would supplement the Kathy Smith pilates DVD and give me more moves.

Overall Response:

I love pilates.  I hadn’t heard of it before, and I was glad that I was unaware of such stellar recommendations from celebrities such as this:

“Now I have muscles of steel and could easily deal with giving birth.” – Hugh Grant

Grant trying to be funny is a painful thing. I view most exercise or diet recommendations from celebrities as dubious at best.  My belief is that they are most likely to recommend something that promises quick results with little regard to the actual effects on the body.

However, after having tried the two routines on the Kathy Smith DVD I am now a firm believer that pilates is essential to any exercise routine.  The focus on stabilizing the “core” and “engaging the powerhouse” meant that my abs and central body muscles were getting close attention.  I could really feel it the first few times and now I feel more in control of my movements and the individual muscle groups involved.  Not to mention the poses are actually fun to do.

The Kathy Smith DVD includes two routines: Pilates for the abs and Pilates for the lower body.  Both routines are about 30 minutes long and both routines begin with the basics.  At first, I found the repetition of the breathing and set-up routines at the beginning of each routine a bit tedious, but now I use it to focus and get my body ready.  Kathy Smith is an excellent instructor and details each move clearly.  I only had to watch it once to get it and afterward I could focus on my body with vocal cues from Kathy.  This is wonderful since you don’t want to be looking up at your screen all of the time.  She also has an assistant who demonstrates more advanced moves if you become really good.

The fat burning breakthrough routine is a step routine.  I am a newbie at exercising so I only own a few sets of weights and comfy shoes.  I don’t own a step or any other fancy equipment.  I began the routine with skepticism since I wasn’t sure if I could follow along without a step.  They do provide one member of the team who is without a step, but the camera person never focuses on them for long enough for you to pick up on the alternate steps (not to mention their moves are so different from Kathy’s that my feet became dangerously entangled trying to keep it straight).   I gave up mid-way and I’ve yet to try it again due to my confusion.  If I ever get a step, then I’ll try the routine and change my review.

I popped the Rael Pilates DVD in today and tried out the routine.  I was very disappointed.  The routine is only about 24 minutes long and it comprises of a series of poses all jumbled together and quickly executed.

I also found Rael to be annoying.  The routine begins with breathing and during this time we’re instructed to relax.  Unfortunately, Rael’s voice is so grating and loud that I felt like he was more drill instructor than “soothing” coach.  Even if I were able to ignore his demands, his method of instruction involved alluding to the steps within the pose rather than walking you through it clearly.  I had to really watch the DVD and ignore his commands since I found them distracting. This meant that I couldn’t focus on the actual pose because I never knew when he was adapting it to a new one.

Once I finished the routine, I felt like I hadn’t done anything at all.  I liked how some of the poses were modified from the ones Kathy shows us, but the overall routine left me unsatisfied.  I was also unclear as to why this was “System 7”  and his other DVDs are “System 17” and “System 27” – there must be some logic to the numbering but the DVD doesn’t tell you.  They include an interview of the man himself, but this only provides you with some background on Joseph Pilates and why Rael does the routines.  I can’t believe that they only give you less than half the poses that Kathy Smith does but for more money.

Rael Pilates System 7 DVD Rating: 1 star

This seems to be more hype than anything else.  I wish the poses flowed together instead of feeling disjointed.  I also found his method of “handling” the student a bit disturbing (who knows – I’ve yet to go to a gym so perhaps his method of instruction is normal).

Fat Burning Pilates DVD Rating: 5 stars (pilates sections), 1 star (fat burning breakthrough)

The two pilates routines are wonderful.  I now do both routines together for an hour of pilates, and I can do them without working up a sweat (this is excellent for days when I have to exercise in the evening rather than the morning).  The poses flow together and they target two areas of the body that always need work.

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Review: Cardio Knockout

Cardio Knockout by Kathy Smith

Image from Amazon

Beginning Observations:

I like how “active” this cover is – it seems to focus more on the workout than what you’ll look like after the workout.  As with my last review on the Super Slimdown Circuit, I dislike it when the workout focuses primarily on the results (you’ll look beautiful!!) and not on the actual benefits involved (stronger muscles, greater control, etc).

I initially picked this up because my sister-in-law does kickboxing.  I’ve always thought that it would be fun to try and seeing as how I would never go to a gym or dojo to do so, I snagged this “stay at home and embarrass yourself in front of your fid” approach instead. (Go here for more of my initial reaction and my fid’s reaction.)

Also, I’ve read news stories where a woman got herself out of a dangerous situation using boxing and kickboxing techniques.  I doubt I’d ever get to the point where I’d overpower an attacker, but I at least want to have the ability to hold them off and maybe even do some damage.  My stellar ability to do a perfect squat wouldn’t impress them into submission.

This DVD boasts

Three of Kathy’s most best selling workouts including Kickboxing Aerobox and Tai Chi.

This sounded perfect!  For one, another family member does tai chi and she swears by it.  Apparently, it’s good for balance, focus, and flexibility without being overpowering.  I wanted to add another routine to my yoga routines in the evening, so I thought this would be great.  3 for 1!

Overall Response:

Not as great as I had hoped.

For one, the tai chi section was only 15 minutes max and it was very basic.  We went through some “tai chi inspired stretches” for about 5 minutes (with one instructor) and then it went directly to the tai chi part with very little introduction (none, actually) or instruction (very little – you mostly follow along by watching and repeating and it’s led by a different instructor).  I felt very unsatisfied by the end, and I think I’ll look elsewhere for a more proper routine.  This was too much like an add-on.

The first workout is the aerobox. This is FANTASTIC.  I love this workout.  It really works the muscles and it teaches you all of the basic boxing moves while at the same time incorporating an aerobic element.  When you do this properly (imagining that there really is an opponent you’re hitting), your muscles will be sore the next day (or two days, in my case).   It also incorporates some jump roping that looks easy but is really difficult.  Kathy Smith’s advice is to “not use a jump rope” if it’s too hard. Ha!  That’s what I was doing anyway.  I don’t have room for one and it’d scare my fid to bits if I started to swing a rope around in the living room.  I wanted to know what I should do if I wasn’t using a jump rope and still found it too hard! (I found it hilarious that during the 3rd jump rope routine Kathy Smith isn’t even doing it!)

The second workout is the kickboxing workout.  (The co-instructor for this one is the man pictured on the front.  The co-instructor for the aerobox workout is a different person.)  I started this routine with really high hopes, but I was disappointed.  I’m not sure if it’s just me or if it’s the routine.

The routine starts with a warm-up that’s fine, but the actual workout is awkward and not as effective as the first one.  I found myself trying it two times (in case the first time was just me being clumsy), but I still found myself just kicking my legs out and that was all.  With your arms, you can put up resistance but that seems to be more difficult with the legs as you perform these moves. My legs did kicks, but that’s all they were.

The DVD does provide a mini-section on leg exercises at the end to develop your kicks more effectively.  In some ways, I wish this was at the beginning since it allows you to perfect the kick and strengthen the muscles before you actually do the routine.  Perhaps I’ll swap the order around and see if it makes much of a difference.

Rating: 2 stars

I really LOVE the aerobox workout but the other two workouts are a miss with me.  If you can get this DVD for cheap or at your local library, then pick it up just for the aerobox workout.  I guarantee you that you’ll feel more capable of delivering punches and that it’ll strengthen your legs and arms. 🙂