Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates

Runtime: 35 minutes
Ellen Barrett

Pick Your Poison

Clearly the last few weeks of man-led workouts have been hit or miss, so I’m going back to one of my favorite female instructors – Ellen Barrett. This week, I’m reviewing her Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates DVD.

Sure, it’s a Pilates workout, so I preemptively hate it, but if anyone can make me enjoy Pilates, it’s Ellen Barrett.

I’m also hoping she can redeem the Pick Your Level format, which seems super cool, but was pretty disappointing in the Walk Your Way Slim workout I reviewed a couple of months ago.

The Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates DVD contains one workout, approximately 32 minutes long. The workout is divided into three sections for the different kinds of Pilates (12 minutes of standing Pilates, 10 minutes of side-lying Pilates, and 8 minutes of mat work), plus a 2-minute stretch at the end.

For me, this is a good way to divide up the workout, spending the least amount of time on mat work, my least favorite kind of Pilates. Not coincidentally, mat work is also the kind of Pilates that makes it the most difficult to see the TV.

The Pick Your Level format here was similar to the other Pick Your Level DVD already reviewed. The Level 1 version of the exercise is shown, and all exercisers do a couple of repetitions. Then the Level 2 version of the exercise is shown, and the Level 2 and 3 exercisers do a couple of repetitions of that, while the Level 1 exerciser continues doing her beginner thing. Then the Level 3 exercise is shown, and each exerciser does the version of the exercise for their level until it is time to switch to the next move.

There are a couple of problems with the Pick Your Level format that not even Barrett can overcome. The first is something that concerns the advanced exercisers (so it’s completely irrelevant to me): by the time the Level 3 exercise is shown, it is almost time to move on to the next move. So, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time for those people to exercise at an advanced level.

The second problem is more concerning, in my opinion: when it is time to explain the Level 2 version of the exercise, the instructor is busy talking about that, and the camera pans to the Level 2 exerciser. If you are not already solid on what you’re supposed to be doing at Level 1, you could be in trouble.

This problem came up for me several times during this workout. Usually it was that there was some switching from left side to right side that I missed while Barrett was busy explaining the Level 2 and 3 versions.

There were also a few times where I effectively tuned her out so I could concentrate on doing my Level 1 exercise … to the point where I didn’t even notice when we switched to a new move.

The Pick Your Level concept holds such promise for catering to exercisers at all skill levels, but I don’t think the format delivers on the promise. While the camera operator could help out by keeping all three exercisers in the frame at all times, the instructor can hardly be expected to describe all three versions of the exercise at once.

So the beginners are left without enough guidance, and the advanced exercisers are forever waiting for their instructions to arrive.

That having been said, I thought the workout moves themselves were pretty good. Barrett made some really creative choices, as far as the Pilates exercises she chose and the modifications she made to create three different difficulty levels for each move. It almost felt like, well, like something that wasn’t odious Pilates.

I was especially pleased with this workout’s accessibility to beginners. With a lot of Pilates workouts, the beginner modifications seem like a condescending option offered to people who really have no business doing the workout in the first place (and it feels even worse when you are too chubby and inflexible to do the moves even with the modifications).

That was not the case here. There was only one move I couldn’t do at all (the Rollup, of course). I didn’t spend any time during the workout feeling like all the air had been compressed out of my lungs (which is typical of Pilates workouts in my experience). The Level 1 exercises were challenging, but doable (except the Rollup, of course).

If the DVD had been packaged as three separate workouts, so I could focus solely on the beginner moves, and eventually work my way up to trying the intermediate workout, I would have been totally on board.

Even as a single workout, I think with a few more run-throughs, I’ll know the workout well enough that I can anticipate those Level 1 moves that are not continuously shown on-camera.

This workout is not destined to be one of my favorites, but it is the best Pilates DVD I’ve found to date, so it will stay in my collection, at least until I find the elusive non-odious Pilates workout.

Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates on April 19, 2015 rated 3.0 of 5

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