It's a gloomy, chilly, rainy afternoon and I haven't found the motivation to go to the gym, so I decide to embark on a little experiment: get a complete workout via ExerciseTV. I've used their programming (which my cable company provides for free) sporadically in the past, mainly to try the workouts taught by Biggest Loser trainers Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper. And since I often encourage clients and readers to take advantage of this resource, I figure, why not give it a try myself? Most of the workouts offered run 20 minutes or less, so I opt to do 3 workouts back to back to get a full cardio-strength-core experience.
I want to start with cardio to get my heart rate up and muscles warmed, so after briefly scanning the Cardio listings I settle on something called Quick Cardio ABC, which has a 20-minute runtime. Instructor Tracey Mallett, a peppy blonde Australian whose name is emblazoned on the studio wall, calls her workout "Cardio Quick Blast." Whichever. It turns out to be 3 6-minute segments led by Tracey with the accompaniment of a miniature army of fitness clones, all clad in white tank tops and black yoga pants. I admit I'm drawn in by Tracey's accent, as she tells me to bay-oonce an invisible ball or reminds me to mow-oove the boday! But the slightly blurry picture quality and zoomed-out shot cause me to feel disconnected from the action, despite Tracey's buoyant energy. I'm almost immediately uninspired and not getting a challenge, so I go looking for something a little more intense.
I'm thinking kickboxing is the way to go: if there's any workout I wouldn't mind doing in my living room, this is it. But there doesn't seem to be much selection. (I see TaeBo, which is the WORST---I tried it once and there wasn't so much punching as listening to Billy Blanks espouse his philosophy. No thank you.) Finally I decide to try Natalie Uko's Kickbox Booty Core, which despite its name actually sounds pretty straightforward. Like all ExerciseTV instructors, Natalie begins by explaining what the workout entails. She's oddly robotic in front of the camera and I'm a little worried. Once she begins the workout, however, she's more relaxed, and we settle into a basic routine of jabs and crosses. It's not long before I realize that this seemingly simple routine is all over the place. We switch from a minute or two of punches to a kick/jumping jack/squat kick combo that feels like she made it up on the spot, do an awkward interval of these (I pretty much do jumping jacks the whole time, just to keep moving), and then move on to glutes and legs. I had kinda hoped there'd be more than 4 minutes of kickboxing in this workout. I give up after 10 minutes total and decide to try a core workout. I can't imagine anything involving lying on the floor will be that bad.
Next stop: ABSolutely Amazing. Oh, I get it, you're making a pun. Instructor Marian Shannon, a lean blonde with a sunny Southern accent, begins by telling her story. Marian, who's been featured on Oprah, is a mom/exotic dancer turned personal trainer whose abs Oprah loves. Because Oprah loves her abs so much and ExerciseTV saw her on the show, they gave her her own show, which consists of her doing variations on crunches while repeating the word "awesome." "Annnnd, up...awesome...3...4...awesome...chest to ceiling...awesome...squeeze...awesome..." I can't take this.
I try one final option, Tamilee Webb's I Want Those Abs. Tamilee flaunts her six-pack as she promises a workout that will feature her favorite "lab-tested" exercises. Whatever that means. We start with some old-fashioned aerobic-y stretching moves and then get down on the floor. I'm already thinking everything about this is dated: the moves, the music, Tamilee. Soon I realize that we won't be doing anything but crunches for 15 minutes---a dated technique---so I abandon Tamilee with no regrets. I may want your abs but I don't want your workout.
So my foray into ExerciseTV was a bit of a disappointment. Clearly it's not for everyone---certainly not for me---but that doesn't mean it can't be a valuable resource for many. Anyway, I'm not sure I'll be back. Unless it's to work out with Bob and Jillian.