Desert Island Dozen

Two Lefts Can Make a Right

I’ve been writing this Two Left Feet blog for a year now – 52 different DVDs reviewed for uncoordinated exercisers like me. Now I feel like it’s time to look back and review the reviews.

Despite all the new workouts I tried this year, there are a handful of DVDs that I keep going back to over and over again. So what is it that makes a workout a keeper for those that are coordinationally challenged?

I looked at my Desert Island Dozen workouts – the ones that have stayed in my regular rotation for some time, and that I would take with me to the proverbial desert island.

I came up with four main factors that distinguished these dozen workouts from the many terrible or just so-so workouts I’ve tried.

The first factor is: Choreography. This seems like a no-brainer. I’ve talked incessantly about how difficult choreography can trip up those with two left feet.

Simple choreography is a must, and one of the best examples of this in my Desert Island Dozen is Leslie Sansone’s 5 Day Slim Down. The whole workout revolves around four simple steps: walking, side steps, kicks, and knee lifts. If you can keep track of these four steps, you’re set.

No choreography is another great option, and what has less choreography than meditation? All you have to remember to do is breathe in and out when you’re told. Barbara Biziou’s Momentary Meditations is my go-to meditation DVD, for working out the mind as well as the body.

Slow choreography can allow you to have a little more complexity in the movements, as you have plenty of time to catch up if you get off track. Scott Cole’s tai chi workouts are some of my favorites for slow choreography, including his Discover Tai Chi: AM/PM Workouts. I was even able to do the parts of the workout that had no instruction, because it moves so slowly.

This brings us to the second factor: Instruction. If you can’t figure out how to do the workout, you’re going to be frustrated every time you attempt it.

Patricia Moreno’s Kickbox Yoga Fusion is a challenging workout, but what really saves it is Moreno’s ability to break down the moves into simple steps, explain the technique, and then put those steps together into a full workout.

Teaching good form is also important – how are you supposed to be positioned? Where will you feel it if you’re doing the move correctly? Minna Lessig’s One Minute Workout is perfect for this. Each minute of exercise is preceded by Lessig demonstrating the movement and explaining which muscles are being worked.

When choreography is involved, good cuing is essential. Just as important as teaching the moves is teaching the sequence of moves – it’s much less frustrating if you know what’s coming up next. Nobody can beat Amy Dixon for cuing, and her Total Workout in Ten! is no exception. It’s always clear what move is coming up and when you will start it.

The third factor is: Modifcations. Not everyone has the strength, flexibility, or coordination to do the moves exactly as the instructor does. It’s good to have plenty of options for modifying the moves, so you can do them safely and successfully.

Sara Ivanhoe’s Candlelight Yoga gets bonus points for its handling of modifications. Not only is there one exerciser showing ‘official’ modifications, but the workout features a number of different exercisers with different skill levels. There is a guy in the back of the room who is particularly helpful in showing proper form for those that are less flexible.

Modifications aren’t much good if you can’t see them. Ellen Barrett’s Express Belly Blast gets extra bang for its buck by modifying ab exercises so they are done while standing. Ab exercises are traditionally done lying down, but doing them while upright makes it much easier to see the instructor and follow what’s going on.

Get Moving With Chris Freytag shows each exercise in the workout at three different levels of fitness, which is great in that you can grow with the DVD as your skills improve. I especially like Freytag’s beginner-friendly attitude: rather than framing them as modifications that beginners have to do, she uses the beginner level as the baseline, and invites more advanced exercisers to challenge themselves with more advanced variations. It’s a subtle shift in attitude that makes a big difference.

Which brings us to our fourth factor: Attitude. If the instructor takes a negative or punitive stance in their workout, it’s not going to be any fun to do. A positive, laid-back attitude is key.

Attitude covers a pretty broad spectrum. I don’t like an instructor that’s too perky, or too much like a drill sergeant. Sometimes it’s something totally unexpected that motivates me to do a workout. For example, Kendell Hogan’s Total Resculpt. It’s a decent enough workout, but the real reason I keep coming back to it is Hogan’s deep rumbly voice. Hey, whatever gets you moving, right?

I’m a big fan of instructors and workouts that don’t take themselves too seriously. If they’re laid back, I can be laid back about how I can’t do everything perfectly. Case in point: George Foreman’s Walk and Box. This is a ‘silly fun’ workout DVD (my favorite category of workouts), great for days when you just don’t feel like working out.

In the same vein, I like instructors and workouts that encourage you to do what’s right for you. Misty Tripoli’s Body Groove set embodies this attitude. Throughout all five workouts in the set, she encourages you to do your own thing. It’s very liberating, and the idea that I’m not doing it ‘wrong’ keeps me coming back for more.

All of my Desert Island Dozen workout DVDs maximize my chances of ‘getting it right’ in their workouts (some of them by redefining what ‘right’ is).

If you look for DVDs with the right kind of choreography, instruction, modifications, and attitude, you can build your own Desert Island Dozen of workout DVDs that make exercise more accessible to you. Even with two left feet, you can still get it right.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *