(Warning: Some talk of weight loss below.)
I have used a lot of exercise DVDs and Videos, starting with Richard Simmons and stretching forward twenty years to the Roller Derby Workout.
I doubt if there is anyone reading this who needs to be told that exercise videos are rarely body positive. Lots of skinny girls in spandex doing things your body won’t do without even breaking a sweat, meanwhile the leader is screaming at your to move your fat ass and lose weight. And often, even those that try to be body positive usually focus on weight loss. Like Richard Simmons parading his class at the end of his videos while letting you know how much they’ve lost.
The exceptions to that, for me anyway, are HeavyWeight Yoga 2: Change the Image of Yoga (which, full disclosure, is my only yoga DVD) and the Roller Derby Workout. Both of these feel like training to me. The girls in the Roller Derby Workout talk about how the exercise they present will make your muscles strong enough to be a derby girl, which I like. Roller Derby is a generally body positive sport, so while the girls in the video are slim, I never feel like they are pushing me to be.
When I was sent Shapely Girl: Let’s Get Moving with Debra Mazda to review for you, I hoped for another body positive DVD. Especially because where I live, in the mountains where winter stretches into June, I sometimes can’t get outside or even out of my driveway.
Ruby and I put on our yoga pants and tank tops and worked out with Debra Mazda this morning. Here are some general impressions first:
Debra Mazda is adorable without being annoying. I would love to have an actual class with her.
The women in the video class were a nice diverse group who all had giant smiles and looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves.
I was able to complete the program.
The music was non-intrusive.
I only saw one big one. Debra, while being anti-diet and generally body positive, does sporadically encourage you to burn some calories. While this isn’t a huge part of the DVD, it’s there. I would much rather have her tell me to “come on, get stronger.”
Debra lost a significant amount of weight through exercise and has built a fitness career as a result. I felt like her heart was in the right place. She says several times during the DVD and on her website that fitness happens at every size. That message is on her website as well. But it’s right along side a video that features women who have lost weight. She has the opportunity to be revolutionary–to leave weight loss out of the fitness equation all together. And she almost does. But for people who are very sensitive to weight loss messages, there could be some triggering. (I recommend skipping the video on her website if talk of weight loss triggers you.)
Every now and then I come across a resource that could be body positive and fat accepting–except that it throws in a weight-loss message almost as an after thought. As if someone said, you know, more people would buy this if you tell them it will make them thinner, and so they did. But it’s not the main message.
This is an old school dance aerobics DVD and Debra reminds me of a hipper, female Richard Simmons. She wants you to love yourself and enjoy moving your wonderful body. She also brings to mind Susan Powter, but in a toned down way. And, she has big giant steps over both of these 1990s gurus in that she doesn’t advocate dieting. In fact, she has a no-diet contract on her website.
I am fairly uncoordinated and it takes me a long time to get the hang of dance steps. There were a few minutes where I just marched in place because my arms and legs wouldn’t move together that way. For some reason, I really had trouble with the V-step with opening and closing arms. Ruby laughed.
Debra offers some modification, but not much. I would have liked to see more. The whole workout could be done sitting down, using arms only, for people with mobility issues. Or standing with arms or legs only, for those with lower fitness levels. The complicated steps aren’t necessary if you can’t keep up. You can just march in place to keep your heart rate up until that part is done. I think when you’re marketing an exercise DVD to people with larger bodies, it is important to address issues like mobility and differing fitness levels. It seems that in her live classes she does this. I would have loved to have seen one of her class participants doing modified exercises.
One of the problems with aerobics in general, at least in my opinion, is that they are so tightly tied socially and culturally to weight loss. They just are. It’s up to you to decide that whatever movement you do, you’re doing it for reasons other than weight loss. Even when the person teaching you suddenly pops out with “burn those calories, girls.”
I felt this workout in different parts of my legs than I do on the treadmill–especially on the outsides of my thighs and hips. My arms got a harder workout than they are used to. As I was doing the Jane-Fonda-esque arm moves, I thought about how stronger triceps will make me a stronger swimmer. And, I kind of enjoyed the retro-feel of the exercises.
This DVD has an introduction, where Debra spends some time talking about fitness for all bodies. Then there is a 30-ish minute workout. There is an option for a 52 minute workout, which I was going to do today. This longer workout restarts the first workout, minus the warm-up. I decided that 30 minutes were enough, but I thought it was sort of innovative to offer some way to extend the workout if you want to.
There is something called Circle Time, which is basically a short advertisement for Debra’s gym. If you don’t live in Philadelphia, you don’t really need it.
It’s warming up here. Which, believe it or not, means we’ll be getting more snow. (It doesn’t snow much in the dead of winter when it’s very, very cold. We get our heaviest snows in the spring.) I’d do this DVD again on days when I want to train, but can’t get outside or to the gym. I also sometimes just really like to exercise with Ruby, who is a natural athlete and gets real, pure joy out of moving her body. Sometimes she’ll ask me to exercise with her. (She loves the Roller Derby Workout and asks me to put it on at least twice a week.) Being strong enough to keep up with her is way up on the top of the list of benefits to being a Defiant Athlete. She liked the dance parts of this DVD and I can see us just doing that part sometimes for fun.
DISCLOSURE: This DVD was sent free to me for review purposes, however my opinion of it is honest and my own.