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As the weather cools and the rain falls, we hole up inside. That doesn't mean you have to stop exercising. Here are some pocket reviews of a few exercise videos, courtesy of readers:
"Stott Pilates Fitness Circle Challenge" ($14.95, www.stottpilates.com)
This 35-minute running time is great for a Pilates workout. You get a full-body workout and can fit it easily into even a busy day.
There is no aerobic element or impact to the fitness-circle tape. It targets deep muscles and engages the abdominals like no other body-conditioning tapes I have done.
Moira Stott, the developer of Stott Pilates, starts her warm-up with learning proper breathing and getting the air deep into the abdominals. She then does lower- and upper-body work with the circle to help us learn to activate the many layers of the abdominals. She continues with hip rolls, leg extensions and cat stretches.
The last portion uses the circle to draw the shoulders down the back and then to relax the neck. By the time you are warm, your stomach, back and spine feel very connected. The total time of the warm-up was 10 minutes.
Moira gives many form pointers and uses close camera angles so we never feel lost. She speaks as she performs the workout, and you always know what is expected. She gives breathing cues and always has a visual picture painted about how your body should be moving. The music is piano-based and is in the background, yet is calming and contributes to the Pilates feel.
It is not too long, yet gives you an elongated and very worked-out feeling. The fitness circle adds a nice dimension for those who are already familiar with Pilates, but is not off-limits for a newcomer.
- Paula Ferris
"Sacred Yoga Practice: Vinyasa Flow Pure Power with Rainbeau Mars" ($14.98, www.naturaljourneys.com)
This is a short, fun yoga workout, but not for beginners. I would not recommend this workout to those looking for a video demonstrating traditional, relaxing yoga. It is fairly vigorous and requires some strength. The workout uses a lot of "downward dog" and other moves requiring back muscles. I needed to pause the video and rest once or twice in the middle to help counterbalance and stretch my back because it was beginning to feel sore.
The workout is about 32 minutes on active yoga and about 3 minutes at the end lying flat on your back relaxing and reflecting. The short length is nice on days when you would like to be able to fit in a yoga workout, but don't have 45 minutes to an hour to do so.
The narration and demonstrations by Rainbeau Mars are easy to follow. The main problem I had is that she demonstrates all the moves by herself. At several points, she suggests easier variations in case you are not as flexible or have areas of tightness. While helpful, she moves from the regular pose to the easier variation and then back quickly to the regular pose.
By the time I would lift up my head to see the easier variation, she had already moved on. It would be more helpful if there was a second person doing the workout with her, doing the easier variations.
- Amy Wright
"African Dance Workout with Debra Bono" ($19.95, www.bodybgood.com)
This was my first-ever exercise video, and it was a great one to start with. Since the level was intermediate/advanced and I'd never done this before, there was no way I could keep up with her on the first viewing, but I LOVED the steps.
I really like this style of dance and music (African/Caribbean rhythms), so even though I was frustrated at my lack of coordination at first, I decided to just do the step series that I managed to master. Then repeat it when Bono was doing the parts I hadn't yet learned.
You can practice a small series of steps over and over while Bono adds new parts. It helps to "lock in" a short series, because she just keeps building on the initial steps and if you don't know those, you'll get lost pretty quickly.
Watching Bono go through the steps, it doesn't look aerobic, but it sure was. You can do the moves in a low, smooth way, as Bono does, or add some "jump" to it, as one of her background dancers does. You can do the dance by just doing the foot movements. So it's possible to raise or lower the cardio effects to match your fitness level.
The 56-minute video has a 3-minute cool-down and a 5-minute upper-body workout, which is a nice way to ease out of the dance segment. I add time to the upper-body segment so I can get more of a workout for those muscles.
- Nancy Grandjean
(Richard Seven is a staff reporter at The Seattle Times. He is filling in for Molly Martin, who is on a six-month leave of absence. Send questions on workouts, equipment or nutrition to him at: Pacific Northwest magazine, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111, or e-mail email@example.com.)
(c) 2003, The Seattle Times. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.