Denise Austin: Shape Up & Shed Pounds:
Despite popular belief, most of our DVD Talk staff of reviewers is in good shape, many are even in excellent shape. I'm not one of them, and since my other efforts at losing my beer gut have gone by unsuccessfully (maybe I should quit drinking beer ...) I thought this DVD might be my ticket to self respect. Even though this 55-minute workout is touted as a way to "kick-start weight loss," it is Denise Austin who is, in fact, kicking my ass. (OK, I've only done each half of the full workout once, so far, but you get my drift.) Nevertheless, these two "low-impact workouts ... perfect for beginners" are perfectly challenging in all the right ways.
Hopefully from the above you get the idea that I'm not someone who's logged countless hours with varying workout programs. I'm coming from the position of someone who knows virtually nothing about these types of videos. Despite that, (or maybe because of it) I think I'm going to give this one-two punch a serious go. I may even update this review with some results! Though this DVD is clearly meant for and marketed towards women, I believe it can help me and other men, too. The workouts are vigorous and brisk, but won't kill you the first time you do them - they'll almost kill you, but you'll feel good about it anyway. Austin explains each move and routine fairly well while she's demonstrating them, she exhorts you pleasantly to keep going and have fun, and she always seems to know when to correct things you might need to be reminded about, even though she's not there with you personally.
The first 30-minute workout is Low-Impact Cardio. It will likely get you sweating and puffing regardless of your experience level, it might even be a series of short routines you'll want to continue throughout your workout life. That said, you'll need to be on the ball to make it through without making yourself collapse in a laughing heap the first few times. First, Austin is addressing women who want to look sexy and who can move their hips and possibly dance. You'll do well to at least give this a casual run through first, in order to see what you're up against (hint - there are dance steps, real dance steps). You might also break the workout apart into three, four, or five segments to work individually, because the routines tend to be varied, to incorporate moves you've probably never done, to move quickly, and to shift often. Beyond having someone watching you to tell you if you're doing it right, allow yourself time to practice.
Stretch & Tone is a 20-minute workout of yoga-style stretches, rhythmic movement, and other techniques I probably can't pronounce. It would be good to have a mat for this, so your feet don't slide around! (This is pretty important, because sliding around could cause you to pull a muscle or fall and crack your head on the coffee table.) While this workout is certainly less strenuous than the first, it's still brisk and movement oriented. It is likely intended as a cool-down from the first workout, but it's a cool-down that won't send you into dreamland.
I hope you can spend a half-hour up to an hour every day to do these (relatively) easy workouts. I can tell already that they will make a difference. I can feel it in my thighs, I tell you! As previously noted, Austin is going to keep telling you about making your butt sexy, getting rid of 'saddle bags' and in general looking like a hot gal, so if you don't mind hearing that, or swinging your hips and dancing like a sexy mama, your body will certainly thank you! Austin's bedside manner is a little bit vanilla, though I love how she keeps it real by occasionally faltering and checking where her feet are, just as we might do. Since she's reading from cue cards much of the time, she can look a little glassy-eyed as she cheerfully chirps, "you can do it," and, "have fun!" Yet, she keeps things moving, and every time she says, "let me see that smile," I oblige.
Though it will take a little work, most beginners will indeed find this DVD to be a good fit. You'll know you're working out, but it won't kill you. The routines are clearly designed to address pretty much all your muscle groups, (I didn't notice any face exercises, but that's about it) and they are all bolstered by appropriate stretching elements, reminders to breathe, reminders to straighten your back when you should, to tighten your abs when you might be letting them flop, and are interspersed with brief rests. To wit, you can't really get bored with these routines because they are varied, fun, and will do your body good. Plus, guys, Denise and her students are a fine lot to spend time with, if you catch my drift. This is perfect for a solo workout in your family room, just be aware you may sweat profusely all over your floor or carpet - I know.
The 16 X 9 widescreen image does what it needs to by clearly depicting Austin's moves. The picture would have to be pretty rotten for me to complain, as this is 'just a workout DVD,' so I'm not going to complain. It looks good.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio in English is equally sufficient to the task. You can hear Denise (over your own labored breathing and pounding heart) and you can hear the pleasant music in the background.
You may Play All workouts if you want to burn on through, or select your choice of the two. (Personally, I think I'm going to switch workouts every other day for a while.) You may also choose the Music-Only Option for when you've got everything down pat.
These two workouts - 30-minutes of Low-Impact Cardio, and 20-minutes of Stretch & Tone - are indeed perfect for beginners, but that doesn't mean beginners won't be sweating like mo-fos and stumbling around a bit the first few times through. Start slow, study the moves first if you want to be smooth, and give it time. We'll see how I feel after a month of this, but I bet Denise Austin's well-organized, full-body workouts will have me tuned-up quite nicely. They are truly fun, they keep you moving, Austin leads you along nicely, and after a while, the hour or so you spend each day will probably manifest as many extra hours of energy and contentment. Highly Recommended if you're finally ready to get off the couch (or out of your DVD reviewing chair).
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com