Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cringing Away the Pounds

So, now that every other woman on the planet has discovered Wii fit, I'm finally walking away the pounds with Leslie Sansone. My mother and sisters liked this video workout, and my nieces gave me the DVD for Christmas a couple of years ago, but I Jane Fonda-ed and Richard Simmons-ed myself out a number of years ago and have been somewhat wary of exercise videos ever since. (Note: this does not mean I haven't bought things I've found on sale at -- where else? -- super bookstores with the best of intent. Belly-dancing-that's-impossible-without-a-real-instructor, anyone? Yoga-that's-likewise, oh, and requires you to keep your eyes on a video while closing them in your various poses? Not to mention hosts who are extraordinarily annoying?)

All right, that last sentence should not be parenthetical. The problem with every single exercise video I've ever watched is annoying hosts (even Jane Fonda, whom I enjoy as an actor, was an extremely annoying exercise video host). Those that may not be so annoying in the beginning manage to become so after multiple viewings. That joke that really wasn't funny the first time, becomes (upon the 20th retelling of it), one that makes me want to hurl dumb bells at the TV screen, as it predictably pops up at exactly the same moment, in exactly the same voice, that chipper voice that is encouraging me to keep it up for a mere 1002 more agonizing repetitions, as it did last time. (At least when your Uncle Fred tells the same joke over and over again, the context changes, and his expression probably does, too.)

Walk Away the Pounds, so far, is tolerable. It will be something I can do if Lancaster County presents me with real winter weather this year, and I can't get out to walk and jog. I'm familiarizing myself with it. Maybe I will soon be at a point at which I can mute it (take that, you annoying jokes) and just do the moves while listening to my own music on our CD player, and I won't get sick of it.

Then again, maybe not. Is anyone else out there familiar with exercise videos? Could you please verify for me whether or not it's my imagination or if the "class members" are just recycled androids who've been used over and over since the 1980s (with updated hair and clothes, of course). First of all, there is the woman who looks like a female Adonis. We're supposed to believe that doing this little 45-minute workout with 1-lb weights has given her those biceps and that stomach. When questioned by our Happy Host, she earnestly tells us (while nodding her head in time to the music) how wonderful all these repetitions are for building muscle.

Speaking of earnest, there's Ms. Earnest. She nods knowingly and oh-so-seriously at everything Happy Host has to say while squatting and kicking and r-e-a-c-hing. She might volunteer the information that she can really feel her thighs burning. What she won't do is disagree with anything anyone says. Occasionally, she remembers this is supposed to be fun and shines us her pearly whites (amazing how they all have exactly the same pearly-white, perfectly straight smile, isn't it?).

Then there is Token Mother. She just gave birth two days ago, and look at her, keeping it up, keeping those muscles so firm. Can you believe she just gave birth? Let's give it up for her. And now we can all discuss our children and talk about how important it is to keep fit, so we can keep up with them (in fact, so important is it to keep fit that maybe we should ignore our kids in order to do so).

Perhaps Token Mother is working out beside Token Everywoman. Token Everywoman is the only one in the video who doesn't look like she's anorexic (well, besides Ms. Female Adonis, who looks like she's on steroids). In other words, she looks like you and me. She's got normal-sized thighs. Her stomach is roomy enough that you wouldn't think she was pregnant were she to swallow a blueberry. She's a bit shorter than the others (perhaps jokes are cracked about her height). She's the one chosen to demonstrate modified versions of all the moves (you know, less taxing moves, because we normal women probably can't handle this vigorous workout). There's one way she differs from you and me, though. She's not cynical, nor is she sarcastic. She is chipper -- her head flaunting a bright headband or bandana or some such thing -- as she, taking a cue from Ms. Earnest and nodding her head, assures us that these modified versions of the exercises will still burn calories. (We other Everywomen might cynically question that claim, but then we might get a chipper little smack, so we keep quiet.)

I musn't forget Token Male. He's there, you know, somewhere, most likely in the back. Don't worry. He isn't an Adonis. He doesn't distract you as you step to the side for the 500th time, while wondering when that 1-mile marker, or 20-minute or whatever it happens to be, is going to flash across the bottom of the screen. No, he's there to put up happily with all the female cracks, maybe to make fun of his buddies who are sitting on couches working on their beer belllies while he works on his muscles. Perhaps he's in the back so he can keep an eye on Ms. Female Adonis's tight little butt.

Still, with this particular video, I'm managing to put up with all these people. I mean, live classes have annoying people in them, too, people I've wished had never seen me sweat. At least these people smiling and nodding at me can't see me when I lose my balance and go crashing into the couch. The exercises, for the most part, aren't too horrendous, and I can ignore the bits of the video that make me cringe, as they never last too long. I can probably keep doing it. I've been doing it twice a week for three weeks and have yet to give up on it.

Buoyed by the fact that I'm sort of sticking to this one, I decide to check out some of the other exercise videos I have in my buy-and-never-watch collection. Besides the aforementioned belly dancing and yoga, there's "Denise Austin's Shrink Your Female Fat Zones." I slip it into the DVD player and press "play."

Okay, you very well might disagree with me if you happen to know me (or happen to have been paying attention while reading this post), but I tend to think that I'm at least somewhat mellow when it comes to other people, accepting them as they are; that I have extremely high rates of tolerance and forgiveness; that my annoyance rate is somewere close to zero. Oh. My. God. Am I ever wrong about myself if this little exercise video is any indication. Quick. Someone create The Golden Annoying Awards and let me be a judge. Denise Austin would win hands down. Trust me. Anyone who could last through this entire video -- all that "target your tough spots" and "shrinking that fat for a beautiful body" in her breathy voice while she insists you engage in movements I'm positive our bodies were never made to attempt (at least, not over and over again like that), acting as though she is doing nothing more taxing than breathing -- deserves to win the Golden Mellow Award. I didn't last ten minutes.

Lesson learned? Not all exercise videos (despite employing the same androids) are created equal. The best a person can do is to find one that's not too obnoxious to help get her through the winter months. Someone, please tell me: will things improve if I ever take the time machine to the 21st-century and discover Wii fit?


Unknown said...

LOL - i've heard good things about walk away the pounds, too - but you are SO right about the same stereotypes showing up in every video. I am pretty devoted the gym and live classes...I like the social interaction...but I do wish I had some of these videos around for deep winter. I might look into this one!

Rebecca H. said...

Funny! I've never tried a fitness video and am unlikely to start, especially after reading this. Surely they would understand that if they tell jokes, those jokes are going to get annoying really fast, and wouldn't they allow for that by ... not telling jokes? Or maybe they know that people will give up on the videos before too long and so don't bother thinking very far ahead. That seems pretty likely. My answer to this is to exercise outdoors no matter what the weather is like -- surely that's better than listening to the same old stupid jokes? Of course, that depends on how bad one's winter is ...

ZoesMom said...

I have one of those Leslie Sansone videos too. It is one of the few exercise videos I've ever bought because since the days of Jane Fonda, I've detested them. I feel more self-conscious working out at home than I do at a gym. I don't know why. Anyway, Leslie Sansone wasn't too bad. (I would probably still do it once in awhile if we hadn't re-arranged our TV room leaving no room for working out. There is a lot of room for snacks on our extra large coffee table though!) I think the boredom factor is also why there are about 2000 different Leslie Sansone videos to choose from.

Did you know there are lots of exercise videos available free online so if you get bored with this, you can probably find something else. Free and no purchase of a Wii.

Stefanie said...

Oh, how yoy made me laugh! I had the Jane Fonda workout too back in the day. And when step aerobics became popular I bought a step and video to go with it. I didn't last long with that because of the annoying Happy Host and the Androids. I have not tried another since.

I have heard Wii fit is great exercise and hard and unless you have a sense of humor you can quickly become demoralized, especially when it adds fat to your avatar based on the information you put in about yourself. Someone told me it calls you tubby too but as I have never used a Wii let alone Wii fit, I can't verify this.

litlove said...

Hilarious! And you are talking straight to my heart. I can never manage to get myself to an exercise class so I often think a video would do. However, I also tried Jane Fonda and learned how impossible it was to follow what she was doing when upside down, stretching away from the screen or looking backwards over one shoulder. And it was impossible to keep up. I keep vacillating over getting a wii. I'm afraid it might live in the cupboard forever more...

Emily Barton said...

Court, if you can stand the monotony, I think Leslie Sansone is probably a good bet for deep winter when getting to the gym sounds like a monumental hassle.

Dorr, exercising outside is definitely the way to go, well, unless there's ice all around, and you're one who is prone to slipping and breaking bones...

ZM, thanks for the tip about online exercise videos. I've done some research and have already found a couple of good ones.

Stef, I think I'll stick with Cringing Away the Pounds with Leslie rather than Wii Fit. I'm not quite sure my sense of humor would hold up while exercising, because I hate it so.

Litlove, well, if you do get one, and it manages to find its way outside the cupboard, let me know what you think.