Review of Leisa Hart’s Fit Mama Prenatal Workout

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

This morning I did Leisa Hart’s Fit Mama for the first time. Let’s face it, there’s a need for this kind of program. While there are countless prenatal yoga and pilates DVDs out there, there aren’t quite so many available with cardio workouts. And sometimes cardio is really what you need — not so much to lose weight (obviously), but to get a bit of energy and warm up the muscles in a way that stretches alone don’t accomplish.

In case you can’t tell, you’re supposed to be sexy now.

And, you know, I got it for five bucks at the local Half Price Books.

Having spent almost an hour in Leisa Hart’s company today, I’m pretty much speechless. On the one hand, there are some truly good things about this video. It did get me warmed up, it wasn’t too hard to follow along, the stretching section had a few moves I haven’t seen on other programs (including a very useful stretch for targeting the sciatic nerve), and there were a couple of abdominal exercises that were creative. Also, in the bonus section there is little video with a short stretch program that can be done standing, with a chair. This strikes me as valuable for those of us with desk jobs, who might really feel the need to incorporate a little extra movement into the day. I haven’t watched the labor prep/movements bonus video, but that may be useful too.

But who can say no to a sciatic stretch?

On the ooooooother hand… (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). Oh lordy, is this video ever annoying. The salsa cardio section is not too bad, but it is quite repetitive. Hart has the idiotic cardio instructor habit of “encouraging” her audience with phrases such as, “Sexy!” “I see what you’re doing there!” “Put a bit of hip into it!” “Sassy!” “Can you be sexy when you’re pregnant?” (Wait, did I hear that last one correctly?)

I mean, really. How sexy can I look when I’m six months pregnant and doing the cardio vid version of salsa in yoga pants in the middle of my living room? Why do I even have to look sexy during this?

Move forward to the so-called “yoga” segment. This section of the program looks like a cardio instructor saw photos of yoga moves in a magazine and assumed they were actually stills from a very active practice. There are only a few positions, and each one involves bouncing in place. Rinse, repeat. Hart demonstrates her yoga cred by constantly mentioning “deep breaths.” Except, instead of taking the slow, deep breaths typical of yoga, she blows out in the loudest and most off-putting manner imaginable. I don’t think this woman has ever been near a yoga class in her life.

So what to say in the end? The video has some real benefits, it gets your blood moving, and the stretches are not bad. (Not complete — nothing for neck or shoulders — but not bad.) If you can enter a zen state where you just enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of it, you will probably get something out of it. I can’t imagine putting myself through the fake “yoga” workout again, but I would do the fake salsa and the stretching segment. At a fiver, it wasn’t a bad purchase, but it’s not a program to chase down.


Review of Gypsy Clark’s Cardio Go-Go Dance

As I said in the last post, I’m not really one for jumping around. This means that doing cardio is really a challenge, one I (occasionally) try to meet by doing some kind of dance-based workout.

A few days ago I tried Crunch’s Cardio Go-Go Dance for the first time. I have one negative thing to say about this video, and a number of positive remarks, so I’ll begin with the negative: the Gypsy Clark’s high-pitched, grainy voice kind of drives me nuts. Now, after forty minutes of hearing it and having endorphins coursing through my body, I no longer had a nails-on-chalkboard reaction to it, but oh were the first ten minutes ever hard.

Now for the positive: first of all, this is the first Crunch dance-based DVD I’ve done that actually felt like dancing. I don’t know what it is about cardio-style dancing, but that cha-cha and that hip-hop never seem anywhere close to the real thing. There’s something so weirdly controlled, so robotic, about cardio instructors’ dance movements. It’s like someone took my croissant and made it whole-grain. I’m sure it’s better for me, but it tastes funny.

That said, I’ve grown to like them, even Marie Forleo in all her strangeness. I’d rather do a fake cha cha than twenty jumping jacks. But Cardio Go-Go Dance actually feels like dancing. It’s only one kind of dance for the full DVD (no medley of “Latin heat” or whatever), and a lot of the moves felt like what I might do naturally in a club.

What I expected even less was this: so many of the movements were bellydance movements! Chest lifts and shimmies, hip bumps and lifts, omis, and so on. The mood and the music are completely different, but I think the video would be a great way for bellydancers to do some cardio that would warm up exactly the muscles they use, but with a wholly different vibe.

Finally, I really liked the fact that the backup dancers/exercisers varied in the way they performed, or danced, the movements. In fact, some of them did the movements in a more dancey, if not as intense, way than Gypsy Clark. Watching them I got a sense of how the video could be done more as a dance warmup than as a typical cardio workout.

Quickie Review of Balletone – Center Moves

I picked up Balletone – Center Moves a few days ago at Half Price Books, and was disappointed when I got home to find it had been poorly reviewed on Amazon. Too fast, they said, too many unexplained ballet movements.

Well, since I have no background in ballet, and I am the *worst* at moving quickly or anything like, well, center moves, I worried. But I did the video yesterday anyway, and was delighted to find it a really graceful, dancey cardio workout, which had me gleefully moving and stretching for a sweaty forty minutes.

Balletone Center Moves standing ballet exercise

Actually, there are very few ballet terms used in this video, and those that are are explained. The workout is basically composed of a series of movements which are gradually added on and rehearsed, until by the end you find yourself doing an entire little routine. In that sense, it can be a bit boring, since you do the same movements many, many times over. However, that’s also a chance to learn the movements better, and to get to the point (if not on the first viewing, then on the second) where you don’t have to think about them anymore.

Balletone – Center Moves also incorporates little strength moves (especially leg lifts) and side stretches into the routine. This does mean that you don’t have non-stop movement, but you do get to work on balance, which is also part of being fit.

In short, I liked it, I can see myself doing this video again with pleasure, and I think it’s a great companion to the more static ballet-based workout programs.

Quickie Review: MaDonna Grimes’ Urban Street Heat

Let’s face it: the ultimate test of a workout video is whether you want to keep doing it.

MaDonna Grimes’ Urban Street Heat has the tight structure of a typical cardio dance workout: she adds on a move at a time, adds arms and styling after the footwork, and repeats the whole thing from the top. To help you remember the choreography even further, Grimes gives each move a name that she can call out.

While I’m not sure that I’d pull out many of these moves in a club, they’re definitely “dancier” than those of other cardio dance workouts. Enough of them are doable the first time around, and enough of them are hard enough, either because of the arm work or because of their speed, that you can still grow into the program. Still, the most important thing is that the workout is *fun*. Grimes is sassy, teasing the male dancers in her group. The dancing requires your entire body, which makes it hard to sleepwalk through it. You’ll break a sweat, but the entire workout is short enough to fit in your schedule and leave you energized rather than tired. And, after doing the video twice, I find that I’m still looking forward to the next time.

Quickie Review: Marie Forleo’s Cardio Dance Blast

At first, Cardio Dance Blast seems pretty cheesy — the moves are a little silly, and Marie Forleo likes to give themed encouragements along the lines of, “You’re on the island, mon!”

Still, it’s very well-structured, and it’s perhaps that same cheesiness that makes it fun to work along with. Aside from an effective warm-up and cool-down, there are six dance segments. Each one starts with a simple move, builds on that with more moves, until you have a mini-choreography. You then do each move in the entire choreography twice, and finally, the whole choreo with only one rep of each move. Forleo always introduces the basic footwork, then adds stylizations like twists or hip bumps, then arm work, and finally chest or head stylizations. This is makes it easy to pick up the moves, and you can work at your level.

The variety of dancers/exercisers in the background is really nice. Some are more into the dancing, some have less athletic bodies, some do smaller or imperfect versions of the moves.

I tend to find cardio boring, but Cardio Dance Blast is a great way to stay mentally as well as physically engaged throughout a workout.