Pilates is one of the long-standing, proven ways to improve all-over muscle tone and lose excess weight. Physical fitness is critical for overall health, but it’s easy to shift priorities to life, work, kids and all that other stuff, and then forget to give the necessary attention to personal health. I’ve done that. I constantly put other things ahead of my health in priority, despite a lifelong affinity for exercise and healthy food. As a result, I ended up with 245 pounds packed on to my 5’6″ frame. Workout videos are a great way to get back into the swing of things, and by chance I came across Crunch: Fat-burning Pilates with instructor Ellen Barrett.
Workout videos have always helped me push myself a little more during at-home workouts, so I added in Billy Blanks’ Original Tae-Bo Workouts along with a change in eating habits and the addition of daily walks. For the record, there’s a ton of great things to say about Billy Blanks, and I do love those workouts. The first ten pounds came off easily, then another five pounds followed within a couple of months. I just didn’t feel like certain target areas were getting worked quite enough.
I added in Gaiam’s Total Body Cross-Train Kit, which combines a resistance cord and balance disk with three specialized 20-minute workouts led by Tanja Djelevic. That’s also totally awesome. Within a week I saw drastic differences in the tone of my arms and legs, and within two weeks even my poor, neglected abs started showing a positive difference. I did Tae-Bo twice a week and Gaiam twice a week, but – I’ll admit, the sameness got boring. I’d dropped 35 pounds and several pant sizes at that point, but needed to branch out a bit and add in a bit more stretching and flexibility.
I’d heard that my much-loved Gaiam workouts incorporate Pilates-type exercises, so I decided that more Pilates ought to be perfect. I needed something fast-paced that would continue my muscle toning, and that would hopefully help get rid of stubborn belly fat. Crunch: Fat-Burning Pilates came into my sites, and I don’t think I could have found a better addition to my routine.
This DVD consists of about 20 minutes of standing, cardiovascular exercise combined with about 20 minutes of traditional Pilates mat work. Throughout the workouts, Barrett constantly reinforces proper breathing and posture, as well as safe ways to transition into more advanced exercises. A person in the group demonstrates alternate exercises at some points, scaling the exercise either up or down in difficulty.
This is an energetic workout led be an equally energetic instructor. Barrett has a pleasant, upbeat style and positive attitude. Thankfully, her energy and speech are tempered enough not to get annoying – I spent my childhood listening to Richard Simmons on Sweatin’ to the Oldies, so I know the other extreme. Sorry, Richard, but…seriously.
The workouts themselves are well-balanced, working all of the major muscle groups and interspersing muscle-relaxing exercises to prevent tight muscles and post-workout soreness. The entire cardio workout focuses on keeping the core strong, and the mat work has extra emphasis on the abs. For women who are still seeing and feeling the effects of having a baby (even years after actually having the baby) like myself, these extra abdominal workouts may be difficult, but absolutely necessary and appreciated.
There is very little I did not like about this DVD. The music stays pretty much the same throughout, but it has a good beat and doesn’t add in the kind of techno-type flair that, frankly, can get really annoying after a while. There is a small learning curve involved, especially if you have had no previous Pilates experience. It should be easy enough to catch on within a couple of workouts. The only truly negative thing is the tendency to switch the camera over to the drummer right before an exercise change. By the time the camera goes back to the main group of people, you’re already behind until you have the whole thing memorized.
I have to say, I don’t think it gets much better than this for my personal requirements. I do have a weak left knee from an old injury and chronic sciatica on the same side. None of the exercises bothered my knee; however, the leg circles and leg taps during the mat work on the left side were fairly rough on the sciatic nerve. That gets better as I get stronger, but it’s definitely something to be aware of when you’re just starting out if you have similar challenges.
Overall, you’ll find variety and challenge in these workouts, and they can definitely keep you engaged through a lot of replays. I’m now 190 pounds — down from 245 — and still going, and wear a size 10 in jeans down from 18. Now yoga is gradually pulling me away from video workouts, but this is an awesome option when you’re still discovering how to give your body what it needs.