Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kicking Butt at Home #1 - The Firm

Trying to come up with an interesting title to make you want to look is always a challenge, especially when it comes to this subject.  In January I wrote a blog called The Post Holiday Body Wars - http://www.blogger.com/posts.g?blogID=3799272942132957706.  Ruining my metabolism by not eating when stressed, the normal issues women face as they age and a choice to nest this last December all combined to make the after-holiday weigh in depressing.  I have always loved going to the gym, but found working from home I never seemed to have great follow through.  This year, I hit the post-Christmas sales and for less than my 3 month membership, picked up 3 home work out DVD collections.  As promised, here is the first review.

There is a huge market for home exercise videos right now, from the 10 Minute Trainer to Insanity to PDX 90.   Some are really way beyond what the normal person should start out with - you're risking some serious consequences.  A dancer for 10 years, I am all too aware of injuries from not training properly and some of these videos should be down the list for when you are back in shape and want to take it to the next level.  I personally feel you also need to have some body awareness.  If you don't know if your weight is over your heels when requested, if you don't know how to keep a pelvic tilt to protect your back and if you don't natually keep your knees over your toes when you do squats, lunges and plies; then you REALLY need to be careful to start with a very simple DVD that moves slowly and clearly reinforces these important details.  And don't be fooled by those that claim you can have significant change in 10 minutes a day - not going to happen.  You need that cardio sustained over a period of time.  I think 40-45 minutes is a good start and can be worked into most lives. 





Two assumptions I made from the start -  variety would be a necessary part of staying motiviated and the workout must be design to fit a small space.  My first purchase was a kit from the Firm (http://www.firmdirect.com/firm/ecs/main/index.html).  This company is definitely focused on supplying a large variety of DVDs and work-out accessories.  This is a business, so don't forget it. It's easy to end up splurging on tons of stuff you may not need.  Even though you spend a bit more, I still the like kits with a variety of DVDs to try out, but you don't need the biggest one. The kit I bought at 40% off after Christmas included 4 DVDs and some hand weights.  There were some things I thought were great and some negatives that bugged me.  One real positive for me was that the work-outs are total body.  What that means is everything is done in combination.  You will be using weights to work the upper body while doing squats or lunges to work the lower body. It addresses strength, cardio and also improves balance by working your core. This is something I have tried to work into my rountine for years and really is the best development in training to come along in awhile. 
Another thing I like is the hand weights.  They are small 1 pound bars with 1 pound weights that screw on each end and hand straps. What I personally recommend is making a set with just 1 weight on each side and a heavier set with 2 weights on each side (the weights screw into each other).  This will give you a 3 pound set and a 5 pound set that will fill most of your needs.  When you need more than five pounds you just use the straps to grab 2 weights in one had.  The negative - the kit I bought came with 4 hand bars, but not enough weights to make the required combination - maybe why it was on sale.  To make the right combination you need 12 weights - and the above photos shows the kit as having 12 - but I would confirm that as my kit didn't have enough. 
There were 4 DVDs in this set and, if you're relatively in shape, only 1 will address your needs.  The Hi-Def Sculp and the Cardio Overdrive are both for introducing you to the program. The issue is, if you've worked out or are in half-way decent shape, you just won't find them enough of a work-out.  They could be used for an off day though.  Hard Core Fusioin is the one I have come to really enjoy.  It is a combination from the 2 and moves quickly back and forth between cardio segments and total body strength work-outs with squats and lungs.  Once I got the additional weights, I found I really started to sweat and the muscles are tired afterwards - both good signs.  I can also make it work in my really small space (although the low overhead light is occasionally an issue). 

As Hard Core Fusion is meant to be used after mastering Hi-Def and Cardio Overdrive, the combined weights they suggest may be too much if you start here.  Be smart and work within your limits.  The negative on this work-out?  There are a few instructor errors they didn't fix that throw you a bit. With today's editing capacilites, that shouldn't happen.  Also, you keep hearing, "If you're starting out just follow..........." and that person is placed on the side and is often off camera.  Last - I'm not a big fan of the aerobics banter.  It's not too bad on the Hard Core Fusion workout, but the last DVD - Cardio Party - is way too RAH RAH let's have fun for me to enjoy.

So some postives and some negatives.  Hard Core Fusion with hand weights is definitely going to be a regular work-out for me.  As I don't believe in crash dieting, I have not lost the weight I could have, but I have dropped a only a few inches and pounds, but have seen a great improvement in strength and balance.  I have 2 more workouts systems I am going to try over the next few months. It will be fun to compare them.  My ultimate goal is to have a few varied workouts to alternate between. 

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