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This DVD features actress Lisa Whelchel, best-known from her days of playing rich girl Blair Warner on the 80s sitcom "The Facts of Life." In her 5-minute introduction, she notes that she does enjoy exercise but that she wants to be healthy. She maintains that she understands the limitations and excuses faced by the average woman, citing her own struggles with plantar fasciitis and lower back pain. Given this, she emphasizes that she is offering this fitness routine for everyday women. Furthermore, rather than lead the workouts herself, she is just another everyday woman performing the exercises, whereas one of her "oldest and dearest friends," Janice Clark, a personal fitness trainer and "corrective exercise specialist," is the featured instructor.
The Main Menu of this DVD offers the following options: Introduction -- Workout Options -- Personal Training Tips -- Biographies -- Also from Acacia -- Credits. "Training Tips" opens a submenu of tutorials featuring Whelchel and Clark one-on-one; the selections here are Play All (17 min.) -- Body Alignment (7 min.) -- Core (5 min.) -- Breathing (5 min.).
Workout Options also brings up its own submenu as follows:
PLAY ALL (44 min.)
(Warm-Up plus Workout 1 plus Workout 2 plus Cool-Down)
WORKOUT 1 (15 min.)
with Warm-Up and Cool-Down (24 min.)
WORKOUT 2 (20 min.)
with Warm-Up and Cool-Down (29 min.)
For each routine, Clark instructs live with Whelchel and two other exercisers, Jackie and Loree, in the background. Whelchel explains that the exercises are performed at three levels: Jackie does the "foundation" move, she herself (Lisa) demonstrates the "next step, and Loree offers the "challenge" version. Equipment needed for this workout includes two sets of dumbbells (for the "next step" level and above), an optional chair for balance, and a mat for the floorwork. I have described each of the segments in greater detail below.
WARM-UP (5.5 min.)
For this sequence, Clark begins standing with the hands on the thighs for belly breathing. She then performs flowing movements such as arm swings and moves into a nice series of dynamic stretches, including a standing hip flexor/hip stretch. She concludes with a stretch for the shoulders.
WORKOUT 1 (15 min.)
Clark states that it is important to activate the core to begin, so she moves to the floor for several holds of elbow plank. The group stays on the floor but comes to their backs for a few sets of bridge work. Returning to standing, there is a repeater knee series performed on either side. The lighter weights (2-4 lbs.) are used for a squat with a rhomboid pinch, a standing cobra, and then a combination that starts as a bicep curl, moves into an overhead press, and eventually combines the two moves, adding a squat. (Clark called this a "cardio" sequence, but it didn't quite raise the heart rate to aerobic levels.) Moving on to the heavier weights (5-10 lbs.), Clark returns to the floor for a chest press, then comes back to standing for a bent-over row, repeating this series. She concludes the first workout with a short set of squat jumps, which did briefly raise the heart rate.
WORKOUT 2 (20 min.)
Clark starts the second workout with side plank, performing clams between sides. Moving to all-fours, she continues to work the core with a set of balance holds. Then the group comes to standing for a front/side lunge series followed by a side-to-side skater step. Picking up the weights, Clark cues deadlifts, adding rotational punches to the corners between sets. The next sequence involves raising the weights to the side in a "T" and to the front in a "V," and then combining these arm movements with a front and side lunge, respectively. Putting the weights down and grabbing the chair, Clark demonstrates leg lifts and leg extensions to the side. She picks the weights back up for punches front but puts them down again to do side kicks. She finishes the workout with punches, including uppercuts and alternating punch/rows with single knees.
COOL-DOWN (3 min.)
Clark begins with a hip flexor stretch, offering the option of performing this standing or kneeling. Next is a standing side stretch which also targets the IT band, and Clark finishes with a standing neck stretch. Although few in number, the stretches are held for a nice amount of time.
Overall, this DVD provides some nice options for its intended audience of "everyday" women—that is, women who are short on time, who may have some physical limitations, and who have not been exercising regularly to date. Being able to choose one of three workouts (e.g., 1, 2, or both together) is a nice option, as is the choice to follow different levels of intensity. However, there are a few negatives about this routine. Having the warm-up and cool-down chaptered separately is not really ideal for beginning exercisers, who might be inclined to skip these important segments. Also, although I thought that Clark did a good job with her instruction, I was less impressed with her sequencing of the exercises, particularly the frequent moving down to the floor and back up again (especially challenging for those who are overweight, those with blood pressure issues, etc.). However, the main liability of this DVD was probably Whelchel herself. During the routines, she frequently chimes in with goofy comments (e.g., "reaching for the cookies!") which I found to be a distraction rather than any benefit.
In summary, this DVD is likely to hold the most appeal for those wanting to gently ease into an exercise routine; if you are a fan of Lisa Whelchel, so much the better.
© 2014 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.