Friday, 30 March 2012

The Wide Bride Strikes Back

        It’s that time again, readers. I’ve put on my sweatpants, poured myself a cold glass of orange squash and pulled up my legwarmers. I’m all ready to get warmed up and jiggle about in front of my lounge windows so I can fit into a nice white dress. Thank goodness this isn’t a video blog.

        Since the workouts I covered in last week’s blog were mostly aerobic, I decided to seek out something different. My search took me to the local discount video store, a veritable fitness vid treasure trove.

(Under £5 online/HMV)

        Yes, I know. Just hear me out.
Although the title of this DVD contains the words ‘pussycat’ and ‘dolls’, like so many merchandised DVDs, the glitzy gyrating girl-posse are barely featured. Instead, the workouts are helmed by Robin Antin, choreographer and the brains behind the PCD outfit.
Since this DVD came out relatively early in the group’s career (I understand there is now a sequel), the routines cover two songs: ‘Don’t Cha’ and ‘Buttons’. In a nutshell, these could be re-titled “Up-Tempo Boastful Lead Single” and “Gritty Bhangra-Styled Gyrate-o-fest”. The workouts, or ‘routines’ are broken down into a practice and performance run of each song, with a bonus ‘Burlesque’ section in the middle.
The first routine covers ‘Up-Temp’… sorry, ‘Don’t Cha’. Robin takes you through the moves one step at a time, stopping to recap the whole routine whenever you learn a new move. The collection of moves spans familiar dance/aerobics standards such as the lunge and box steps, and before you know it you’ve built up a fluid eight-bar dance routine. Both routines are tough yet rewarding, and your heart is constantly pumping. My face is flushing too, and not just because I’m hot – as you’d expect from a group named ‘Pussycat Dolls’, some of the moves are quite sultry!
For the Burlesque section in the middle, you’ll need a feather boa, a scarf, or a tie. All of the moves in this section involve flinging your prop around (please, I'll make the jokes) so if you’re pushed for space, take a moment to move all breakable trinkets out of the way. This section took a little more skill as well as a dollop of sauciness - if you’re easily embarrassed or have voyeuristic neighbours, perhaps skip this.
GOOD: It’s fun, and it gets you moving in ways you probably hadn’t encountered before. As it’s dance-based, you need a fair amount of co-ordination and flexibility, but because the routine is short and repeated so often, you’ll pick most of it up.
BAD: At one point, Robin suggests you wear high heels during your workout – I didn’t, simply because it seemed very dangerous! The moves get progressively trickier, requiring more agility and stamina so you might end up only using parts of the video.
UGLY: If you really can’t stand the Pussycat Dolls, you should know better than to buy this video (even though they’re barely in it).
THE LOWDOWN: It’s a good workout to have in your collection, simply because it provides a nice change from aerobics. The burlesque moves are fun and flirty, and the routines are easy to pick up. However, since the routines are so short (for example, the ‘Don’t Cha’ routine is one chorus long) you may get bored. Keep it on your shelf, but buy something else to go with it too.

(Less than £5 online/

I like musical theatre (big surprise), so I was delighted to find this DVD. In case you’re not familiar with the concept of Fame, a group of rag-tag misfits get a scholarship to a performing arts school and go on to achieve varying amounts of success. So how would this translate into a fitness video? Well, you’d assume there’d be a lot of dancing.
You’d be right: there are a LOT of dancers. If they’re not gyrating behind daft-named instructor K9 (no, not this one), they’re loitering dead-eyed in the background, like awkwardly posed shop mannequins. It’s a bit off-putting.
I’m going to be honest: I spent no more than ten minutes on this video. The warm up was comprehensive, until it got to the point where I had to lower myself to the ground to stretch – I knew there and then that it wasn’t going to happen without an accident occurring.
The next sections followed the same mould as the Pussycat Dolls’ videos: putting together a routine, and then performing it. Unlike PCD however, suddenly I was launched into moves with barely any explanation. They were too quick and too close together, and to make any sense of them I’d have had to pause the DVD and rewind it every five seconds. I struggled on for about five minutes, but after repeatedly kicking myself in the shin and swearing, I had to give up.
GOOD: It boasts an impressive repertoire of moves, including a stretching and ballet section I spotted in the intro that might have been good if I’d managed to get there.
BAD: Definitely not for anyone who isn’t already a very competent dancer, to the point where injury might occur.
UGLY: It was kind of a waste of money for me. Routines went by too quickly, and I just couldn't co-ordinate myself quickly enough. Admittedly, the amount of quizzical and annoyed expressions I pulled probably qualified as a facial muscles workout.
THE LOWDOWN: I can’t state enough – NOT A BEGINNER’S DVD. If you want to buy it and keep it back then feel free, but believe me when I say you need to be a very competent and flexible dancer to feel the benefit of this video.

(Under £3 online/

“Bellydancing?” I said to myself when I found this DVD. “Heh, my belly already dances when I run, thanks very much. I’ll give this a miss.”
“Go on,” said another voice in my head. “Give it a go. What have you got to lose – except about three stone?”
Once I’d finished creeping out the other people in the store by talking to myself in silly voices, I bit the bullet and bought the DVD.
At home, the doubt crept in again. With a name like The Goddess Workout and led by a woman called Dolphina, I was afraid it would be new-agey and fluffy, more about chakras than cardio. As the DVD started up, I was somewhat relieved to see it was set in a quiet studio with no backup dancers.
As we started warming up, I discovered muscles that I didn’t even know I had. Dolphina told me to clear my mind and make the workout an extension of ‘me time’. Fluffy as that sounded, I found that the more relaxed I was the easier it was to do the moves. I have limited movement in one of my hips, but she explained that a lot of people are naturally lop-sided and thus may find it easier to flex one side than the other.
Unless you’d tried it before, you wouldn’t think that bellydancing could work up a sweat and get your heart racing, but it really did. The workout loosened up my normally stiff back and hips, making the afternoon walk I went on later that day a lot easier. It was also a lot of fun! I hadn’t yet encountered a workout that I enjoyed so much. I kept going for 35 minutes, which seemed to go past in a heartbeat.
GOOD: Really fun, moves are easy and well explained. Dolphina (probably a pseudonym) is a pleasant instructor and puts together easy routines. You’ll feel the benefit of this workout.
BAD: Much like the Pussycat Dolls workout, you’ll know it’s not your sort of thing just by looking at the cover…but then, look how wrong my judgment of it was!
UGLY: I honestly can’t think of anything to put here.
THE LOWDOWN: If you’re looking for something different in a workout, try this. It works out the whole body as well as being relaxing at times. 

I feel I should point out that after a fortnight of trying these workouts at least once a day teamed with sensible eating, I've lost a surprising 9lbs. After the next Wide Bride installment, I'll be doing a roundup of my healthy eating plan as well as a guide to putting together a realistic workout regime. If you've found a fitness video you want me to try, leave it in the comments below - no challenge too ridiculous!  

Please note: Again, I didn't do all of these in one afternoon, and you shouldn't either. You should also consult your doctor before trying out any strenuous activity, changing your diet, or attempting homemade liposuction with a Henry hoover, a steak knife and a binbag. If they say yes to that, for the love of Aisha, change doctors.

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