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Three of the most popular forum threads:
Thoughts on the 1990s "Classic Firm" videos
Instructors you find really annoying
Favorite ways to eat more veggies
Some videos use these little weighted balls. They seem so light; do they really do anything?
A. Absolutely! These baseball-size balls are called "toning balls," and
they can be very deceiving. Toning balls are available in various weight levels (e.g. two, three or five pounds).
You wouldn't think they'd add much of a challenge. But these
"little" weights can get real heavy, real fast.
For example, toning balls are often used in
the more advanced Pilates workouts.
They boost intensity while also challenging your strength and stability. The weights promote increased toning while still allowing you to control the movement and focus on proper alignment. Their added resistance not only forces your core to work harder, it also engages your upper body (for a deeper, more efficient workout).
Let's talk about intensifying a basic Pilates ab curl with a toning
ball in each hand.
Start your ab curl and remain in the curl position. Extend the toning balls
forward out in front of you, shoulders down and back. Raise the balls up for two, down for two
(or out to the side for two, back for two). Do eight reps of each. The result? You've done a classic Pilates move. But this simple variation
is definitely harder. It significantly increases the core and shoulder engagement.
You may also see toning balls used during traditional strength workouts. The lighter weights are much safer
for high rep/high speed movements (or isometric or stability exercises).
For example, a basic straight-arm lateral raise with a three-pound weight may not seem like much. But try this:
Put a toning ball in each hand, palms up. Perform 10 straight-arm, shoulder-height lateral raises. Then,
without resting, perform 10 half raises (halfway down and back up). Now, with your arms parallel to the floor, continue with 10 arm circles. Finally, stabilize and pulse it up for 10. Bring it down. I
guarantee your shoulders will be burning!
Light toning balls are
also often used during cardio workouts. They boost the aerobic intensity while adding a subtle upper-body-toning element. But, because of their light weight, you can still maintain a fast pace without over-extending your arms.
Finally, small resistances
are beneficial for beginners or
people recovering from an injury. Of course, as you get stronger, you can increase the balls' weight... or move up to heavier dumbbells.
So, don't be fooled by those little balls. Give them a try. Even the
small ones can accomplish great things. Here are a few weighted ball videos:
Pilates Power Ball Sculpt,
Sansone's Ultimate Collection,
Giorgi's Ab Blast, Karen
Voight's Great Weighted Workout
and Callanetics Evolution.
It's summer: Swimsuits & shorts are here!
New videos by Michelle Dozois, Kelly Coffey, Tracey Mallett, Exhale and more
Michelle Dozois has three new programs.
Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn Remix features intervals of faster and slower aerobic movements.
Peak 10 Cardio Strength Remix has a similar format, only it includes both aerobics and toning sequences. Michelle's
Body Fit 360 is completely different. It's a flowing mix of dance, Pilates, toning and stretch.
Kelly Coffey-Meyer also has three new
"30 Minutes to Fitness" workouts.
Body Shop uses two sets of dumbbells
to precisely target every muscle group.
Total Body Kickbox includes a pure cardio series and an aero/tone workout.
Your Healthy Back
has two easy-to-follow programs designed to prevent or relieve back pain.
Tracey Mallett's Ballet Booty Barre is a dancer-style workout that
targets your glutes from every possible angle.
5-DVD Zumba Exhilarate Kit is
the current Zumba infomercial series. It combines fat-blasting Latin dance with high-energy Latin music. This
all-new set also includes two Zumba Toning Sticks.
Core Fusion Barre Basics for Beginners is the latest from Exhale. It features seven easy-to-schedule short segments. Five sections are barrework; two are Pilates matwork.
Bollywood fans will love the two new Bhangra sets.
Doonya Bollywood Dance is a 3-DVD set that includes both pure aerobics and aerobics-with-toning workouts.
Bellyfit Elements is
a 5-DVD series that combines bellydance, Bollywood, yoga and traditional fitness exercises.
Tara Lee has two new
Elements of Yoga: Air
& Water Flow is a fluid set of well-chosen postures.
Elements of Yoga: Fire Dynamic is designed to
"build heat and fire in the body" (the setting even includes flaming fire pits!).
Aimee Nicotera also released two new DVDs.
Take 20! has three compact
workouts: cardio, toning and stretch. Her
2x2 Conditioning is a varied
series of aero/tone intervals.
Addicted to Sweat, by Madonna's personal trainer, is a fast-paced cardio
There are also two
"Classic Firm" re-releases from 1998 and 1999.
5 Day Abs and
More 5 Day Abs both feature short segments of varied ab-focused exercises.
See ALL the new videos.
Shiva Rea, the world-renowned yoga instructor, has such an unusual name that we just had to ask...
"My father named me. He was an art school student inspired by the image of Shiva's
'cosmic dance.' As a child, I wasn't very comfortable with that name. I finally came to appreciate it much later
during my studies in India (where many people are named
'Shiva'). I began going deeper into yoga and having my own realizations of our incredible
'dancing universe.' Sure, many people roll their eyes when I tell them my name
— they think I took the name myself (or that it is a little 'woo woo').
But my name has had a profound effect on my understanding of life as
How did you get started doing yoga?
"As a child, I was really into dance (my own dance). I was always creating dances, plays and songs. Then I got deep into sports during junior high and high school (team captain, most-valuable-player — the whole shebang).
began yoga when I found a book about zen. Later, I found another
book on the entire yoga practice, including asanas from the Himalayan
Institute. Then I traveled to India and studied for a year at Delhi
University. When I came back, I wanted to share what I had experienced."
Do you still travel a lot?
"Yes. I started young. It began when I was 13 years old and my grandparents rented an apartment in London. Then I went to study art history in Florence, Italy when I was 16. After high school, I lived in Kenya for a year and a half doing volunteer work in village development.
"I've been a global citizen ever since! That lead to my undergraduate and graduate work at UCLA in
'World Arts and Cultures.' I
did anthropology fieldwork in Africa, India, Nepal, Jamaica and Bali. I still lead retreats to sacred places in the world. I feel there is an extraordinary shift of consciousness that effects every aspect of our life when we realize we travel on
'spaceship earth' (sharing one sky, one earth plus the air we breathe and the water we drink). We really have one shared destiny. We all live
'downstream' from each other so how each of us lives effects the whole."
All true... But,
if yoga is universal, how do you respond to someone with a strong Christian faith
who may have concerns about its religious overtones?
"Yoga is about spiritus — the Latin word for breath. Breath is the essence of yoga. Your personal faith and beliefs will only grow stronger as you deepen that relationship. I have respect for all of the world's
spiritual paths. In fact, we have great diversity in our
teacher-training programs — Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, Jewish, Celtic
finally, tell us about your personal life. "I live where we can sleep outside under the stars and really feel the power of nature. I have a wonderful family and life-partner. I'm a mother. And like all mothers, I work to maintain the
'dance' of householder life. I never quite feel 'caught up' with all my friends and passions. But I do feel 100% committed to living yoga as my main practice.
Also, I must get outside everyday whether it's kayaking, cycling or just a meditative walk. I also lie around a lot to relax!"
11 of Shiva's workouts.
And enter our sweepstakes to win Michelle Dozois' two newest Peak 10
Sometimes there is a little too much to love.
These "love handles" are actually excess adipose tissue that builds
up above the external oblique muscles. Unfortunately, at this time of year, there is just no place to hide. A two-piece swimsuit is impossible. And even if you're wearing the perfect pair of jeans, the excess fat may overflow your waistline (the dreaded
The solution? A balanced combination of cardiovascular exercise and total-body strength training. Okay, so that's a great recommendation for general toning. But, for this particular problem, you can also add some external oblique-specific exercises to help speed
up the reshaping process. Here are a few to get you started:
Side Planks. Every plank position works the entire core. But side planks place a particular emphasis on the obliques (because you're primarily using those external obliques to stabilize your body in the proper position). Side planks can be done in
a traditional position on the palm of the hand, or on the forearm. For an even greater challenge, try a side hip dip variation — dip your hip toward the floor and then back up to straight spine.
Standing Knee to Elbow Crunches. Grab a light hand weight or a toning ball. Hold the weight in your right hand. Put your body weight on your left foot (knee slightly bent) and tap the right toe out to the side. Bring the right elbow down toward the side of the body while simultaneously lifting the right knee. Meet in the middle and crunch.
Or, for an advanced version, barely tap the toe in between reps.
Weighted Side Bends. Choose a medium-to-heavy
dumbbell and hold it in your right hand. Stand shoulder-width apart in a square stance with knees slightly bent and shoulders down and back. Place your left hand behind your head, elbow wide. Using the right leg as a guide, lower the weight down
(close to the leg) for two and then back up for two. Repeat. To increase the range of motion — and the benefits — pass center during the
"up" phase and side crunch to the left, leading with the left elbow.
For these movement-based exercises, start with just one set of 8 to 12 repetitions. Keep working up to two and three sets as you get stronger. Begin with a 15-second side plank hold. Then, increase your plank duration in 15-second increments
(until you reach a goal of one minute). PS. Don't forget to work all
exercises on both sides of your body.
Some oblique-targeted exercises are:
Katami's Ab Lab,
Gilad's Phenomenal Abs & Core,
Austin's Shrink Belly Fat
and Star Trainer: Ab Blast
Exercise is better than weight loss for long life
Exercise extends your lifespan, whether you're overweight or not. Even a
"moderate level" of physical activity results in an average 3.5 year longer life. That's the conclusion of new research published in the journal Plos Medicine.
The more surprising finding is that exercise appears to be more important than body mass. In fact, even overweight or obese people who exercise
at even a moderate intensity live longer than
"average weight" people who don't work out.
The study's author summarized the results as "This finding may convince currently inactive persons that a modest level of physical activity is
But, of course, all you video exercisers who are reading this newsletter already knew that!