Monday, March 3, 2003

Exercise tapes stretch, pep up your workouts

Fit City team members help road-test videos

By Llee Sivitz
Enquirer contributor

Ask anyone who buys them: Exercise videos really work - if you do the workouts.

With scores of offerings in video stores, online and in the library, I chose some popular VHS (or DVD) releases and asked some of the Enquirer's Fit City team members and health writer Peggy O'Farrell to help me review them:

In-Home Walking - Power Walk - 4 Miles (United American Video; $19.95) by Leslie Sansone

Fit City team member Helen Fox, 43, of Mason, has been a "diligent walker" for 20 years. She averages a 12-minute-mile pace on her power walks and didn't think this tape would be much of a challenge.

"I was very surprised. I ended up liking this one quite a bit," she says.

Fox uses exercise videos in her workout four to five times a week. But she sees the need to increase her intensity and incorporate other muscle groups in her routine.

This video is divided into four one-mile segments, building up to Mile Four.

"This is what I've been looking for," Fox says. "Mile Four incorporates some weights. I didn't expect it to be so challenging."

Fox envisions going out for a 20-minute walk and then "clicking into the Three and Four Mile workout," rather than doing the whole tape. "It's very nicely organized for someone who only has 15 minutes or who wants to complement (their workout) with other things, " she says.

Pilates for Every Body (Fox Video; $14.95) by Denise Austin

Jim Fox, 51, who is Helen Fox's husband and another team member, says this

video starts with such slow stretches that he wasn't expecting much of a workout. But he was pleasantly surprised.

"It was a total workout for just about every part of the body," he says.

Jim Fox, a runner who does some weight lifting, felt his exercise routine had him "stuck in a rut." He hopes to add different things, like the core strengthening exercises of Pilates, into his workouts to stifle boredom.

"The exercises I've done haven't worked everything from top to bottom, like this tape did ... I'd definitely incorporate it into my routine."

MTV Yoga (Paramount Home Video; $14.95) with Lori Trespicio

Fit City team member Tracy Russell, 41, of College Hill had been thinking about merging yoga into her workout routine. But she wasn't sure about this video.

"It starts out with this lady who is on (the TV show) The Real World and I thought, `This is going to be something for young people, 18 to 25,' so I was a little skeptical ... but I got past that."

Russell says the instructor seems knowledgeable and gives clear instructions.

"This particular tape would help with relaxing and breathing," Russell says. "It seems fairly easy and would be a good stretching video after a workout."

BellyDance Fitness For Weight Loss: Hip Drop Hip Hop (Natural Journeys; $14.98) by Rania

The Enquirer's O'Farrell says preparing for a belly dance workout meant closing the blinds. "Some things, the neighbors don't need to see."

The video includes a workout portion that's about 30 minutes long, plus a short segment featuring Rania doing what she does best: Working those amazing abs in an intense dance routine.

"The workout is fun, though mastering the hip combination takes practice - maybe because I was laughing so hard," O'Farrell says. "But an advanced aerobics exerciser probably wouldn't be very challenged by it; it's short, and not especially intense, although the abs and hips do get a heck of a workout.

"For a beginner like me, or someone bored with the usual Richard Simmons workout, it's a fun challenge that's not too intimidating."

Ropenastics Workout (Ropenastics; $19.95) by David Fisher, "The Rope Warrior"

After trying this tape, all I can say is, "When was the last time you jumped rope? Do you remember what a workout it is?"

This video will bring it all back.

Fisher shows different types of jump ropes and some fancy jumps, then he gets into the 25-minute "cardio intervals" section.

Luckily there are three levels of workout - jump roping "warrior" style, moderate jump roping or jumping without a rope at all.

After trying to keep up with the warrior, I finally put the rope aside and still got a great workout.

(The Pilates cool-down that follows the intense jumping is also quite good.)

Unless you're a master jumper, go through the video the first time without the rope and add it in slowly.

Otherwise, you'll spend your time untangling your feet and won't get a workout. I definitely would do this again - after buying a better rope.

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