Top Trainers: Dance

I love dancing.  My best experiences in high school were in my African dance class, and one-on-one sessions with a friend who’s “fluent” in tribal belly dance.  After graduating high school, I tried several different classes and discovered that I’m not a dancer.  My feet are really uncoordinated, so the simplest turns feel confusing.  I really don’t like staring at my body in the mirror while doing the same movement again and again, trying to do it better each time.  And my brain is bored with choreography before my body even understands the first couple of steps.

When I tried some “Just Dance!” style classes and DVDs, I just felt frustrated.  The movements aren’t broken down enough for me to get them, so I feel like I’m flopping around the room.  I eventually gave up on trying to find a good dance practice and just stuck with the fitness trainers I liked.

Recently, I stumbled across the online BUTI (pronounced like “booty”) workouts.  About 40 minutes each, they’re a fast-paced combination of yoga, dance, and plyometrics.  The movements are creative, doable modifications and combinations of simple yoga, circuit training, and African dance moves.  The movements are constantly changing but Bizzie’s cuing is clear so it feels natural instead of jarring.  She gives just the right amount of description and reminders on form.  Her attitude is between Kathryn Budig and Jillian Michaels – she’s positive and calm while having a certain intense and genuinely encouraging trainer energy.

The dance aspects of the workouts are what really impress me – the movements are challenging in the ways that drills are challenging, minus the boring repetition.  In addition to becoming stronger and more flexible, I can feel myself getting better at all the isolations (moving just one body part at a time).  African dance and belly dance are both extremely isolation-heavy, so that’s what I really want to work on.  To help keep the whole body working, Bizzie combines these isolations with isometric holds (like staying in a lunge, squat, or pushup position).  Instead of feeling awkward, the dance moves make the exercise moves feel more organic and creative.

Plus, the workouts are totally killer.  Bizzie’s workouts are on the same level as Jillian’s, and that’s the biggest compliment I can give a trainer.

Before each of the three Youtube workouts, Bizzie breaks down a very short choreography.  Each piece is unique to its own workout.  About halfway through the workout, she runs through the whole choreography a couple of times before moving on to the rest of the workout.  They’re a nice mini-break, and are perfect for people like me who want a little choreography to practice without the pressure of it being the whole workout.

The Youtube workouts are also sponsored by a brand of tea which Bizzie promotes in the first bit of the video.  Fast-forward to 00:39 for the short choreography breakdown, or 1:17 for the workout:

Her other workouts are Sweetly Twisted, Sweet & Spicy, Toning-Based Workout #1, and Toning-Based Workout #2.  She also has a 3 DVD Set and a subscription to her online classes available on her website.

One of the first things I noticed was how much hip and pelvis movement there is.  I had a moment of hesitation, because I feel like fitness is often manipulated by the media into “Another Way To Be Sexy!” instead of another way to nurture yourself.  External “sexiness” is prioritized over the body’s internal experience.  Then as I did the workout, I noticed how good it felt to stretch out that area of my body and how fun the workout was as a whole.  Bizzie never talks about being sexy or looking good in a club.  She’s encouraging and supportive, holding the space for you to tune into your body and enjoy challenging it.

What kinds of dance do you love?  Who are some of your favorite instructors?

Top Trainers: Online Workouts

Yoga: Kathryn Budig

Yoga and I usually don’t get along – I’m not very flexible and get bored very easily.  The poses that I’m supposed to “relax and breathe into” just hurt and agitate me.  By the end, I’m in a worse mood than when I started.

Kathryn and her routines are somehow different.  I got her Aim True Yoga DVD (now on sale for only $7 on Amazon!) almost a year ago, and it’s since been the only yoga workout I do.  Kathryn’s instruction is very clear and detailed using everyday language.  Her voice is energetic without being condescending or fake-perky.  The beautifully lit, gently colorful environment is very pleasing to the eye.  There’s enough pause to feel each stretch and just before I start to feel bored or fatigued we’re already moving into the next stance or movement.  That, combined with the changing camera angles, keeps me engaged.  There are two routines: a 20 minute beginner’s routine (my favorite) and a 40 minute intermediate/advanced routine.  Here’s a 5 minute video sample:

If any of you want to try a full yoga workout with Kathryn, she’s made a few 20 minute routines for Gaiam and posted them online.  Here’s her “Move & Sweat” routine, designed to help raise the heartrate:

Her other online routines include Twist and Detox, Strengthen Your Core, Arm Balances, Inversion Essentials, and Gentle Yoga Flow.  She also has an extremely useful 9 minute instructional pose guide.

Getting Sweaty – Keli Roberts and Jillian Michaels

The very first workout video I ever did was Keli Roberts’s Your Best Body: Abs.  I immediately liked her gentle, highly detailed instruction.  She has a genuine sweetness and I love her Australian accent.  Her routines are straightforward without any complicated choreography, but have a variety of moves.  Her Breakthrough Upper Body and Core DVD is actually a good toning-based workout for the whole body:

Generally, most of her workouts are kickboxing, step, toning, and cardio/toning.  Her one online workout is a 40 minute shadowboxing workout (I don’t have her weighted glove belt so I hold very light weights):

Jillian Michaels is a fitness goddess.  Her workouts are challenging at a level I’ve never experienced before.  I didn’t watch the reality show that got her famous, but I listened to her podcast, eventually got all her DVDs, and developed a mega girl-crush.  She has a very intense personality with an edge that Kathryn and Keli definitely don’t have.  She’s intense in exactly the ways my mom is, so that’s part of why I respond so well to her style.  And her workouts are truly killer, with moves like weighted burpees and scorpion pushups.  Her workouts are always in circuits with no rests.  She uses a multitude of techniques, including Active Recovery (following an intense cardio move with a simple toning move so the heart rate comes down but the body is still working) and Peripheral Heart Action (doing upper body moves immediately after lower body moves and vice versa, so the heart is constantly working hard to send blood all over the body), to make her workouts the beasts they are.  Her cuing is solid, and her cocky attitude makes me laugh.  My current favorite is Hard Body, her newest release.  Generally, I prefer her newer stuff because there’s an even greater variety of moves and she seems like she’s having more fun.  Plus, Hard Body has a live DJ in the room! (even though he’s not in the preview):

7 of Jillian’s other workouts are online.  Here are the click-through links, organized by type and then in order of release date (newest first):

Cardio/Tone (whole body): Rip:60 (made for the company’s product, but can be creatively modified), Banish Fat Boost Metabolism, 30 Day Shred: Levels 3, 2, and 1Cardio Kickbox

Cardio/Tone (abs and lower body): Killer Abs: Level 1, Six Week Six Pack: Level 1

Yoga: Yoga Meltdown: Level 1

I also wanted to cover dance DVDs but it will have to wait until the next post…

Who are your favorite fitness trainers?  Which are some of your favorite workouts?

Lovely Tunes: Des’ree

Heard this song on the radio today and remembered enjoying it on the radio in the 90s.  Her voice is so even and soothing, with a nice motivating rhythm, like a song that would be nice to wake up to.

What kind of songs have you been listening to lately?