Review of Annette Fletcher’s Perfect in Ten: Stretch

[Note: Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for Annette Fletcher’s Prenatal Stretch & Strengthening before June 1, 2012!]

Being a new mother means suffering through all sorts of aches and pains: lower back, shoulders, neck (from looking down adoringly at my son, of course), you name it. The natural answer to this should be, of course, yoga. And I have several postnatal yoga videos to work with, but so far, I’m still not really ready to take on a proper yoga workout. So I decided to give Annette Fletcher’s Perfect in Ten: Stretch a go.

I was particularly motivated by the fact that the video is split up into ten-minute segments. I don’t have enormous chunks of time to myself these days, so I wanted to start something I could do in bits if I happened to be interrupted. (And of course, I was.) The video is broken up into the following chunks:

1. Upper Body, Back and Hips
2. Hips and Legs
3. Sedentary Lifestyle Relief
4. Sports Stretch
5. Intense Stretch

Chapters 1 and 2 really flow into each other — do them back to back and you’ll have some decent stretching for your entire body. Chapter 3 stands well on its own, as it has you do stretches while sitting in a chair. This would be perfect as a quick ten-minute stretch to do at work.

Chapter 4 contains stretches targeted for particular sports, such as tennis, golf, and running. However, it’s not a full stretching program on its own, so you’re best off learning the stretches useful to you and then doing them on the field. Finally, Chapter 5 has some deeper, mostly yoga-based stretches.

When I do a program like Perfect in Ten: Stretch, I typically ask myself several questions: How effective is the program, especially in ten-minute segments? How new to me are the moves? And, if the moves are not particularly innovative, is the way they are sequenced particularly interesting or good?

Effectiveness: When I’m really tense, ten minutes of stretching doesn’t do very much. It’s better than nothing, but won’t get me really relaxed. I think Chapter 3 is good on its own, as it is easy to do in one location and is perfectly designed as a little break. The other chapters have you move between standing, mat work, and wall-based work. (There is plenty of time for these changes, but I don’t have a lot of spare wall space, so I tend to be frustrated by extensive use of wall space in exercise videos.) Doing 1 and 2 together is good for basic, head-to-toe stretching. I did the entire video, with an interruption, and I found that doing all 50 minutes or so really was effective, deeply relaxing, and relieved all sorts of pain.

Novelty: Most of the stretches, especially in the first three segments, are ones I recognized, though there were some surprises. Annette uses a lot of gentle twisting moves, which I also liked. I thought the sports stretch and intense stretch chapters were the most interesting. Sports stretch has a shoulder stretch (pictured) that a former yoga teacher of mine had us do, and which is truly wonderful if done right — I’m glad to have it on video.

Sequencing: Despite the fact that the chapters are themed, Perfect in Ten: Stretch works as a whole. It starts with super gentle stretches, continues to slightly more intense one, and builds up to deep stretches. If you have a regular yoga practice, you will probably not find Perfect in Ten: Stretch challenging enough. But if you don’t, or you’re trying to build up to yoga but are inflexible or suffering from pain, you might find the video just the thing for slowly easing into yoga-type stretches.

I’ve previously reviewed some of Annette Fletcher’s DVDs for World Dance New York here and here. The more I work with her stuff, the more I like her. She has a calm, matter-of-fact demeanor I find soothing. Her cueing is detailed, precise, and allows you enough time to move from one position to another. (I noticed one missed cue in the whole video.) And I feel better and stronger once I’m done working with her videos. They’re just plain solid.

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Review of Annette Fletcher’s Prenatal Stretch & Strengthening

If anyone had told me that pregnancy would make me more likely to exercise — and not just to obsessively buy workout DVDs but to use them too — I would have called them crazy. After all, how could the discomfort of a growing belly make me more energetic? It turns out that at least when it comes to light, yoga/pilates/stretching type workouts, the small aches of pregnancy actually make working out a must!

Stretch with movement

There seem to be a ton of prenatal videos out there (I have about 13, and will try to review them all!), and one of the newest is Annette Fletcher’s Prenatal Stretch and Strengthening. I received a review copy from World Dance New York, and I wager I’m one of the few people to have used this program already! When I first received it, I did the warm-up, lying down moves, and final stretches. It was a weeknight and I was too tired to go for the standing moves too! But today I had a chance to work with the whole program.

After all the introductions (easily skippable), the main program consists of:

Warm Up
Full Body Movements
Standing Exercises
Deep Stretches

No times are given for these segments either on the box or on the menu, which I would have liked so I could time my workout. However, the entire workout is about an hour long.

Annette Fletcher does some classic floor pilates, but well supported

The moves are basically pilates with a bit of yoga thrown in. The only props are two yoga blankets that Annette folds in various positions to support the poses. Nothing is particularly taxing — only in a few of the lying leg exercises are you likely to feel any kind of burn, and warrior poses are held long enough to strengthen but not to the point of exhaustion. The program is great for stretching your entire body while also working on some strength, but moderately enough that you don’t really notice. (I could tell that my endurance had improved by the second use of the video however!)

What I really liked:

– Annette is clear and not annoyingly peppy.
– A number of the positions combine stretching with gentle movement, which really helped me to relax.
– Time is spent on the neck and shoulders — you wouldn’t think these get particularly tense during pregnancy, but they do.
– Some unusual positions or combinations of positions.
– Generally good cueing. For example, there is one adjustment she has you do during a forward lunge that is simply perfect for getting the right stretch.
– An exercise for working on Kegel muscles that is about as clear as such exercises get, considering that it can’t really be viewed on a DVD!

What I didn’t like:

– I know it’s more pilates than yoga, but I missed having a relaxation segment at the end. Then again, it was easy to just turn the computer off and do my own.
– There are a few moments where Annette gives safety cues for knees (“if your knees are uncomfortable, do this”) while the exercise is underway. These guidelines should be introduced right at the start.

Overall, I think the video offers a complete, accessible workout program that tones and stretches without causing discomfort at any point. It’s not broken down by trimester, but Annette offers gradations of difficulty for many of the exercises. I’ve already done it twice in one week, and can see myself returning to it throughout pregnancy and afterward.

Quickie Review: Annette Fletcher’s Perfect in Ten Pilates

Annette Fletcher’s Perfect in Ten: Pilates is a nice little whole-body workout, including light warmup and stretching.

First, a clarification: there are five segments. I suppose that the first one wasn’t advertised as a workout segment since it’s more of a warmup, but it does consist of pilates moves. Also, doing all five segments adds up to about 57 minutes of exercise. Somewhere, the math is off.

Fletcher is straightforward and clear — no perky encouragements here. I like that every single move and breath are cued. I also like that, for tougher moves, she will have you do a preparatory movement sequence, and that she sometimes shows modifications. (This is especially the case for ab work.)

The movements are indeed difficult, especially to do precisely. Still, except for the abs section, I can’t say I really felt much of a burn. Doing the arm, leg and glute work felt more like pleasant stretching than strength training. I’ve had a more intense workout from other pilates programs.

All in all, I’ll probably do the program again, though probably when I want a wake-up and stretching regimen with some mild strength training.