I hate exercise. I really hate it. I'd rather read or play my mmorpg games. But last July, I noticed that my muscles were creaking and stiffening up after sitting too long. Even walking was getting a little uncomfortable. Something had to be done, even a lazy person like myself had to admit this fact.
So I opened up my Dvd treasure chest, dug around inside and pulled out my exercise videos. Yes, even a lazy bones like myself has a fitness library. They were remnants of my younger days when I tried to be fit. So many videos of fitness regimens past. Even some that were still on VHS tapes and could no longer be used (no more VHS player). I also hunted around and gathered up my hand weights.
However at that point, I didn't want to end up in failure like so many fitness attempts in the past. I decided I had to take into account my naturally unmotivated spirit towards physical fitness. In the past, I always thought I could overcome my aversion to exercise. But this time I decided to be realistic and practical.
First practical thought - I don't want to exercise. So how does a person who doesn't want to exercise go about exercising?
I looked at my exercise Dvds, dividing the programs that I enjoyed and the ones I suffered through dutifully. First I noticed a pattern, the programs that had a strong dance element I loved more than just aerobic/weight lifting programs. This is no doubt due to the fact that I loved to dance as a young person and took many hours of dance classes as a teen/20 something.
That led to my second practical thought - due to my dance mania as a young person, my knees are shot. Which exercise tapes would not exacerbate my knee problems?
All aerobic tapes, requiring me to hop around like a rabbit on a sugar freak out, were put on a permanent no use pile.
Third Practical thought - My muscles have a tendency to bulk out. Which tapes will not cause me to look like the Incredible Hulk?
I know around the internet there are fitness sites that state it is impossible for women to build bulky muscles. Well, I must be the exception to the rule, because I do bulk out. Way back when, I undertook a weight lifting regimen. Which oddly enough, lasted longer than most of my exercise regimens. But then I stopped, not because I hated it but because my body became bulky. My shoulders were huge and my leg muscles were thick. Unlike the women shown in the Dvd programs and weight lifting books, weight lifting did not make me willowy but bulldogish. I also noticed that weight lifting did not make me curvy but created a more boxy, almost masculine look on me. Not attractive.
Why? I really don't know but I have my suspicions. The first suspicion about my horrible weight lifting results, I'm short. We short women have more battles to fight in the fitness game. Taller women can get away with a bit more due to their naturally longer body line. The petite ones lack that advantage. Therefore any kind of gain of fat or muscle looks more extreme on small women. While weight lifting, my shorter body line showed muscle growth as bulk. There was nowhere for it to hide since my legs were not long and my trunk was narrow. My second suspicion regarding muscle bulk is due to genetics/hormones. Some people are just genetically predisposed to grow muscle easily. Some people may have more testosterone in their systems that help quicker muscle growth (even women have testosterone in their systems). I must be one of the few women who is genetically or hormonally predisposed to muscle growth.
However I noticed not all my exercise programs caused this runaway muscular look. While I was dancing, all that work I did in dance class did not translate into bulky muscles. The main difference between strength building in dance class and weight lifting was stretching. More attention is paid to stretching in dancing than weight lifting. In fact, most of my dance instructors were fanatical about stretching. Now I know why, it was to combat muscle bulk.
I put away all my Dvds that contained weight lifting or heavy weight lifting elements.
That left me with the following programs from my collection and a few new ones that I've added to my repetoire. I've been exercising regularly since July with no signs of boredom or feeling as if I'm engaging in some kind of self torture.
The Lotte Berk Method Collection
The Lotte Berk exercise programs were made a few years back before Lydia Bach closed all of her LB studios. Bach based her technique on dance/exercise classes that she studied with Lotte Berk herself. Unfortunately Bach retired, closed her studios and all we have now are a few wonderful exercise programs that are worth their weight in gold.
The collection comprises of 4 thirty minute programs: Basic Essentials, Muscle Eats Fat, High Round Assets, Hip Hugger Abs. These programs are quick, interesting and concentrate on strength building though isometric work. The programs also have a strong stretch component that stops muscles from bulking but encouraging them to grow lengthwise. I started my exercise program with Basic Essentials which is a great beginner introduction to the Lotte Berk method. Since I'm an honest lazy person, I exercised with Basic Essentials (no other dvd programs) for the first month. I couldn't get into 60 minute programs but 30 minutes every other day was reasonable.
Miraculously I noticed results after the first two sessions. Immediately my arms showed a graceful definition and my leg muscles became tight and long. My muscles which were so creaky and stiff became rejuvenated with no sign of fatigue. It was fantastic plus I enjoyed the shortness of the program. Some people may find the instructors a little grating but I never had problems with any of them. So 30 minutes is just enough time to spend listening to their chatting.
Important note, these exercises are highly isometic and concentrate on small movements paired with good body form. If you don't concentrate, you won't be strengthing your muscles. It is perfectly possible to complete it without doing any kind of exercise at all. So pay attention to any and all instructions.
Towards the end of my first month of exercise, I was yearning to step up it up a notch with a longer program. Unfortunately there were no 60 minute Lotte Berk programs created because the studio shut down.
I did read a lot of good reviews regarding Mary Helen Bowers Ballet Beautiful program. It sounded exciting, so I ordered the 60 minute Dvd and Ballet Blasts Dvd from the Ballet Beautiful website.
This workout is tough. It is a various mix of ballet based exercises with a sprinkling of influence from Lotte Berk and Pilates. The workout is more geared to working the muscles until burnout then stretching. Bowers stretches at the end of every set. She does work quick, so this is really not a good program for the true beginner. As with the Lotte Berk method, I noticed quick results with this workout. The leg exercises added a longer look to my legs even more so than the Lotte Berk tapes. The arm section, called swan arms, is also fun. It consists of waving your arms as if in the ballet Swan Lake. The exercise looks deceptively easy, but you soon find out how hard it is to defy gravity. Bowers is a charming personality and I never found her grating as an instructor. Unlike other programs the music accompaniment has a classical influence. It is more like being in a ballet class than an exercise class. Its soothing which is not the case for many exercise programs.
There are just two caveats I have about this exercise Dvd. The first is that I would have liked a little more attention paid to beginners with modification instructions. Bowers does give a few, but usually they are done mid-set not at the beginning of the set. My second ties into the first, is that some of the exercises are tough for people with bad knees and/or bad backs. Modification instructions on how to avoid leg or back discomfort would have been helpful. In regards to my weak knees, I move at my own pace and pay a lot of attention to the alignment of my legs while using this program. There are many times I need to stop and adjust.
All in all this is a very enjoyable workout and I recommend it.
While enjoying my Lotte Berk and Ballet Beautiful exercise Dvds, I was reminded of how much I loved Callanetics years ago. Callanetics is one of the early offshoots from the Lotte Berk method. Callan Pinckney, Callanetics creator, slowed the Lotte Berk method further and added even more stretch segments.
I only had this exercise program on VHS. I searched for it on Amazon and discovered that the old Pinckney programs were basically out of print and there were new updated versions of the program available. I loved the original, so I found it through a reseller on Amazon.
The program was just as enjoyable as I remembered. It is also amazingly lo-fi for a fitness production. None of the students in the program are model types but they are in amazing shape. I guarantee there will be at least one of them who will be close to your body type and an inspiration to work toward. It is also an amusing look back at 80's exercise clothing.
The exercises are heavily Lotte Berk influenced but they are modified to include more isometric work. It is also geared to include all types of exercise fans, including people with bad knees and bad backs. There is an almost religious attention to stretching.
I use this program when I feel like working slow but still get a good muscle strengthing workout.
Like Callanetics, Physique 57 is another Lotte Berk offshoot. As much as I love the Lotte Berk tapes, they are never going to be aerobic exercises. And since I loathe aerobic dance, step class, running etc because of my bad knees, I needed something to get my heart rate up.
I've read and watched a lot of good reviews regarding the Physique 57 workout. They had me intrigued. Also I admired the creators being upfront about their program being a variation on the Lotte Berk method. Something that isn't mentioned in other LB inspired programs (including Callanetics).
First I purchased the book about the technique and read it cover to cover. Unlike Callanetics which slowed down the LB method, Physique 57 took the opposite approach. P57 revs up the exercises moving quickly and steadily from exercise to exercise in order to make it more aerobic. Like Ballet Beautiful, it also works the muscles to burnout. It looked like a good program, and after much debate I invested in the full set of videos with a bonus exercise P57 exercise ball.
The workout is so hard and tough but it is fun. Even at almost 60 minutes, the original full body workout moves quickly and is never boring. I enjoyed the variations on the LB method. Tanya Becker is thorough with her instructions. However she is a very enthusiastic instructor. I didn't mind her chatter during the program but she does have the potential to drive some people batty. Personally while struggling, cursing, and sweating during this workout I enjoyed Becker's goofy persona.
I've just started this program so I can't attest to how effective it is now. I will say that I love the aerobic nature of the workout. I enjoy the fast pace which is a contrast to the rest of my workout library. The only caveat I have with this program is that due its revved up nature, the LB stretching element has been minimized to the smallest degree. Unlike the Lotte Berk method videos, Callanetics, and BB programs which include a stretch after every set, P57 moves the stretches until after a group of connected sets. This was done to keep up the aerobic nature, no doubt. However, due to this minimized approach to stretching, this program does have the potential to cause people prone to muscle bulk to become bulky. I'll be paying attention to this possibility right now and I'm only using the P57 videos twice a week interspersed with my other programs.
The above video is not the official Tanya Becker full workout, but it does show a good demonstration of what the real workout entails.
Anyone can do the above workouts and get good results, even guys. But remember the workouts don't cause muscle bulk. Like in women, the stretching element will lengthen muscles in men. For guys, think more in the body type of movie stars like Bruce Lee or Matt Damon in the Bourne series. Definitely not in the Schwarzenegger zone.
That is my exercise program right now. I feel better, healthier and definitely have lost that horrific sound of my muscles creaking like a rusty hinge. And I definitely no longer feel so guilty sitting and playing my favorite games like Guild Wars 2.
Labels: Callanetics, exercise, fitness, health, Lotte Berk, Physique57