Sunday, November 06, 2011

Firm & Burn with Ann & Dona

"We're going to do three dance based aerobic routines that are simple and effective," Jane Fonda declares in the 35 second intro to her new Jane Fonda Workout Firm & Burn. Right away, we were both thinking of "The killing of a video industry (Dona)" and how dance intricate and intensive the Jane Fonda Walk Out suddenly revolved around when you switched from the beginner Walk Out to the advanced.

So we played around with the DVD first. We checked out the feature "About Aerobic Exercise" in which Jane provides you with a number of medical facts that explain why aerobic exercise is good for you.

"Do you know that the heart is a muscle?" Jane asks. "It's about the size of your fist. You exercise it by getting more blood pumping through it. This is what helps keep both the heart and lungs from becoming rigid. We must keep the heart, lungs and arteries from thickening, narrowing and getting less elastic so they can better transfer more oxygen into the blood and pump more oxygen carrying blood from the chest throughout the rest of the body."

There's a 22 minute, 45 second meditation section as well which has an introduction/overview of meditation and then Jane leads you in 18 minutes of meditation. In the extras, you get Jane discussing the Walk Out and her Fit & Strong. Those were the first she recorded for the DVD market (this is the third). Best of all, she provides subtitles. Subtitles say "welcome" to everyone and on our DVDs, they were available in English or Spanish.

Having explored the extras, it was time to get started. In the warm up, Jane introduced the six other people working out with her and noted the music combo performing live for the workout. The warm up included the mambo, warning us that Jane might get a little too dancey for our taste. But it was a basic warm up that wasn't overly complicated. Rating: A+

Jane Fonda's Firm and Burn

This is interactive workout in that you decide what you want to do. After the warm up, you may choose to do all three workouts -- Doo-Wop, Latin and Old-School Funk -- or you may choose to just do one or just do two. (Each of the three last ten minutes.) You can even choose to go into the cool down if you'd prefer.

Doo-Wop involves a step that one of us (Dona) could not get from the DVD. The other (Ann) knew it from her grandfather and was able to talk her through it. Which brings up several important points. First, when demonstrating a step, it's helpful to show it from more than one angle since the video is one-dimensional and not three. Second, when starting a new workout, it's always better if you have someone else to start it with you. Among the steps, you do the rocking horse which Jane, kindly, informs us probably wasn't done on many dance floors. We were picturing parents and grandparents doing this move in a dance hall and just not seeing it. It's a simple workout step that you can immediately feel toning in your hips, legs and buttocks. Not everything was so simple. When you take four steps forward, for example, you may wonder, "Does Jane think we all have a dance studio in our homes?" We both had to take it at an angle to cover the distance she and the others do in the video. (While the Walk Out was recorded on a set that looked like a living room, the Firm & Burn workout takes place in on a set that looks like an exercise set.) Then there was the hand jive. Our problem there? "Slap, slap, clap, clap, scissor, scissor." We instead just scissored. One of us was doing the DVD while her husband slept and the other was doing it while her husband and newborn were sleeping. Neither of us was going to be clapping and slapping. Again we had to wonder, "Does Jane think we all have a dance studio in our homes?" Those weren't major problems and we made easy adjustments for both. Rating: A-.

Latin is a pain in the ass. And we didn't realize why at first. C.I. told us: There's no beginners. There's not. The DVD doesn't have a beginners and an advanced section. A beginners section would have moved slower to allow us to catch on from the start. In the Latin section, we especially felt like we'd be thrown into the deep end of the pool. It took about three times doing this section before we felt we had it down. Adaptation? Jane loves the "cha-cha." You can simplify that by just stepping. And by the fourth and fifth viewing, we noted that from time to time, the other six working out didn't always cha-cha either. They'd just step. Especially true of the only man in the group. We felt like some people, Bonnie, for example, were doing a lower-impact version but that was never stated in any segment of the disc. The six joining Jane, by the way, were of various body types and that was encouraging. We especially loved Bonnie who struggled in the cool down section with a stretch making us feel better about the times we struggled. Rating: B+.

Old-School Funk was our favorite. There wasn't a step we struggled with. (And, to be clear, "struggle" means fancy footwork, not a move that left us winded.) This was fun and changed up often enough that we didn't wonder, "Are we almost done?" But it also reminded us how all three sections actually reminded us of dances Shirley MacLaine does in her night club act. Even in the first time doing the Firm & Burn workout, despite working up a sweat in the previous two sections and doing so in this one as well, the routine was so much fun that there was no temptation to cut our eyes to a clock or ask, "Is this thing almost over already?" At the end of the Old-School Funk, Jane says, "I hope you had fun." We did. Rating: A+.

Jane reminds you at the end of each of the workout sections (Latin, Doo-Wop and Old-School Funk) to be sure and do the Cool Down. Like the Warm Up, the Cool Down is five minutes. So to do the Warm Up, Cool Down and one workout will take 20 minutes. To do all three workouts with the Warm Up and Cool Down will take 40 minutes. These are hard times. Some videos tell you something is X but you do it and wonder why you're five minutes late for showering? How did you get behind? That's because the times aren't really what they tell you. There may, for example, be a ten minute workout segment but they talk at the beginning or at the end and tack on extra time.

When we told people we were hoping to review Jane's newest workout, we'd usually get a lot of questions. Which indicated to us both that there's a lot of interest in the workout and also that there's not been enough getting the word out on the latest DVD. That's a shame because the exercise and fitness set know about it but it's the group that may have stopped working out or may be using an older DVD or even a videotape that would probably really enjoy this workout. It's the most basic one Jane's done since her videotape days.

A number of friends and family ended up grabbing the DVD because they knew we were planning to write about it. The biggest surprise to us was a grandmother (Dona's) who did the Cool Down for two weeks and then added the Warm Up. She hopes to add one of the workouts shortly. But this has been a big deal for her and we're both very proud of her.

She asked us to point out that she had to adapt a step in the Cool Down. She has carpel tunnel in her left arm and tennis elbow on the right. She cannot intertwine her hands behind her back for the chest press without being in intense pain. So she does the chest press by not interlacing her fingers or her hands behind her back. The Cool Down works on balance and, honestly, we didn't give that much thought. But for a grandmother who was using the Cool Down to ease back into a more active lifestyle, the balance work was not just important, it was rewarding. She told us that she felt like she could feel a difference the morning after her first Cool Down in the way she carried her core but thought she might be making too much of it. After a week, she says, there was no mistaking that it was really making a huge difference.

"I really felt bad," she said, "just doing the Cool Down. I wanted to go straight to the workout but I knew I couldn't handle it right away and needed to go slowly. Once I really felt the huge difference in my core from the Cool Down, I knew I was getting results and didn't worry anymore about the rate at which I got to the actual workout." We give the Cool Down an A+ rating.

The music combo gets an A+ rating as well. How nice it was to hear music played by people as opposed to synthesizers or just beats. Jane Fonda Prime Time: Firm & Burn is available from Amazon on December 6th (as is her Trim, Tone & Flex). You can't order it online from Target right now; however, Target's been selling it in their stores since September. And Target has a better in-store price than what Amazon is currently listing it for.

Remember the subtitles? Those really are important. In this community, Hilda, who is deaf, does the weekly newsletter Hilda's Mix. And she e-mailed us with a thought she hoped we'd end on, "Yes, I can watch a DVD workout and learn the steps and be sort of a part of the experience. But only sort of because I have no idea what's being said. Firm & Burn's subtitles let me be part of the party. I wouldn't have known important instructions like not to raise my knee too high or that Jane's boyfriend is singing with the band or that we were doing John Travolta steps or anything. A whole conversation was taking place and without subtitles, those of us with hearing issues aren't fully invited to participate. I enjoy this workout but I give it an A++ just for having subtitles. That's nothing minor to me or to millions of other Americans."
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