Sunday, 27 January 2013

Chantelle Houghton – Chantelle’s Boot Camp Workout

Chantelle Houghton appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006 pretending to be a celebrity when she actually wasn’t. She managed to fool the other celebrities who presumably (a) hadn’t heard of many the other ‘celebs’ either and (b) didn’t give much of a fuck in any case.

Following a task where they had to rank each other in terms of famousness – Chantelle romped in 9th out-famousing both Preston and Maggot.

Maggot can still presumably get on a bus without fear of being mobbed. And poor Preston is now best known for his brief marriage to Chantelle. It’s true what they say about fame. She’s a fickle wossname and no mistake.

Chantelle went on to win Celebrity Big Brother despite not actually being one. This allowed her to embark on exciting new projects like glamour modelling and supporting the animal charity PETA.

As a vegetarian, I feel I should approve of this advert but I just can't bring myself to do so.
This, however, I heartily endorse. Animals should be removed from circuses. And replaced with washed-up Reality TV stars.

In 2010, now a legitimate celebrity – because that’s how these things work apparently – Chantelle entered the Big Brother house again for Ultimate Big Brother.

Riding high on the crest of public recognition once again, she released this workout video.
The DVD front cover shows how Chantelle shed the flab via the age old method of holding her belly in and cracking a smile.

Not to mention changing into a pink push-up bra and matching knickers and dying her hair blonde. Weirdly none of these techniques are demonstrated on the DVD although there was a voucher for La Senza which expired in June 2011. If only I hadn’t been nineteen months too late, I could have done the workout in a La Senza bra and immersed myself in the full Chantelle experience.

The full Chantelle Experience

Chantelle is aided in her workout by Ben Poole from the No.1 Boot Camp. (That’s their name by the way, I haven’t carried out an independent study of Boot Camps and ranked them accordingly.) No.1 Boot Camp carry out residential fitness courses which Chantelle completed before releasing the DVD. She describes the Workout as “Boot Camp, but without the mud!”

Boot Camp with the mud.

In her introduction Chantelle says “Honestly, I’m just a normal girl who has to exercise and eat healthily to stay in shape.” Which is reassuring for anyone who thought she might be a cyborg.

She tells that the motivation for deciding to get into shape was that someone asked her if she was pregnant “when obviously I wasn’t”. Since she really doesn’t look as though she’s carrying any extra weight, I think it may have been something other than her belly size that triggered the question . Maybe she was eating gherkins and ice cream at 3 o’clock in the morning while flicking through a Baby Bjorn catalogue.

Chantelle with her daughter and a genuine celebrity.
She wasn't pregnant with this baby at the time of the workout. That all happened later.

 Trainer Ben’s hardly a one-man charisma party but he gets the job done. This workout is relentlessly dull and repetitive which may well be the definition of a boot camp workout. The warm-up is literally ten minutes of jogging on the spot.

Chantelle’s input is minimal and in a slight variation on the norm, our celebrity is the go-to person for the easier workout version while Ben demonstrates the harder versions. At the beginning of the Upper Body workout Chantelle tells us that is will get rid of our bingo wings. She then says it again at the end. She has clearly been instructed not to speak at all apart from her carefully scripted sentence at either end of the workout.

Would I do this workout again?
The workouts are dull. The trainer is dull. Chantelle is dull. I honestly think I may be the only person in the world who has watched this DVD from beginning to end. I bet even Chantelle’s mum hasn’t bothered. I can’t think of a single reason to subject myself to it again.

Worst Bit
We’re back to plinky-plonky music which in this case reminded me of playing the PS One game “Mary Kate and Ashley’s Magical Mystery Mall”.

Pixellated Olsen Twins showing more natural screen presence than Chantelle

Best Bit.
There wasn’t one. Even buying the DVD was an exercise in disappointment. I shelled out £3 in HMV for this workout. Three whole pounds! You can almost buy a cup of coffee for that. I then discovered that Poundland practically had a whole shelf of the damn things,

Supporting both HMV and Chantelle’s media career at one stroke could be considered an act of benevolence, of course, but I’m not sure either one is worth saving.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Cindy Crawford – Shape Your Body

 This workout was first released in 1992. Presumably on VHS or by means of a zoetrope. This is probably why there are no extras on the DVD. We didn’t need extras in 1992. We just sat dumbstruck in front of the magical moving pictures, occasionally shaking the television to see if the tiny people fell out.
Apparently, though, we did know how to make excellent workout videos in 1992. And when I say ‘we’ I mean people other than me obviously. In 1992 I was too busy dying my hair purple and getting drunk on snakebite and black.

Cindy Crawford’s workout is amazing. She introduces us to our trainer Radu Teodorescu at the beginning and tells us “Everyone thinks that I have the perfect body because I model swimsuits”

 I have no idea why anyone would think that.

The workout begins on a beach with Radu giving the instructions off-screen. He sounds like a cross between Steve Zissou and Pepe le Pew. The whole sequence is surreal yet mesmerising.

 Radu also sounds like he’s telling Cindy to move her arms “Upridee, Downbridown”. For which I respect him.

When it switches to the studio, it is a little disappointing to see Radu in person. I prefer him as a disembodied cartoon voiceover. He’s tough with Cindy too. “If he counts too fast, don’t let him rush you” Cindy tells us at one point. In response to this Radu picks up the speed and ensures that Cindy does not get to rest for a second. It’s like the bit where the demanding dance instructor bullies the ingĂ©nue ballerina in every ballet movie you’ve ever seen.

“I said, ‘Upridee, Downbridown’ godammit!”

Either that or the whole video is an extended training montage from an inspirational underdog movie . Crawford carries out her workout on top of a building with sirens blaring in the background. Now she’s in a basement! Now she’s on the beach! She’s just a plucky girl trying to pursue her dreams of becoming a supermodel aided only by the cranky French janitor who works in her apartment.

The DVD contains two 40 minute workouts and a 10 minute Jump-Start Mini Workout. The Mini Workout is terribly casual. Cindy wears cut-off jeans and no shoes. Radu is nowhere to be seen. (Or heard.) Maybe this is Cindy’s idea of slacking off when Radu’s nipped out for a coffee and a pain au chocolat.

"Great, he's not here! Time for some sit-ups."
The whole thing is marvellous. It’s been put together and produced with care and attention. Not something I can say about any of the other workout DVDs I have reviewed so far. The hastily cobbled-together shit put out by soap stars and reality tv has-beens is going to look even more slapdash after this. I wish I’d watched this one at the very beginning. I could have hated Nadia’s Latino Dance workout even more than I already did.
Difficulty Level.
This was incredibly difficult and, to be fair, Cindy doesn’t pretend otherwise. There’s no perky whooping here like she’s Jordan or Jessie Wallace or something. This is work. We are not here to enjoy ourselves.

And if doing eight hundred crunches, lunges, sit-ups and the like is the price you have to pay to look like this then so be it.
Disclaimer: Doing Cindy Crawford’s workout video will almost certainly not result in you looking like this.

Best Bit
I could go on about Cindy Crawford’s luscious honeyed golden looks and how she looks like a Disney Princess made flesh and how her smiles probably cure terminally ill children but, you know, I think I may have a bit of a girl-crush on Cindy and I should probably tone it down a bit.

Instead I’ll concentrate on the soundtrack. This is the third DVD in a row which has featured proper songs – rather than anodyne plinky-plonky lift music. It is the first workout DVD, however, which has featured songs I actually want to listen to. Stuff I have on my spotify playlist, no less. More than half of it is by Primal Scream which is an enormous improvement on the Pussycat Dolls.
Would I do this workout again?
I feel like someone who’s been drinking meths out of a brown paper bag their whole life and then been given a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. I had no idea exercise DVDs could be this way. I may just review Cindy Crawford’s Shape your Body every week from now on.

Of course, if I do decide to do that, the exercises will definitely kill me.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Pussycat Dolls Workout

The first indication that there’s something amiss with the Pussycat Dolls workout is the sticker on the front of the DVD which says “Featuring Nicola Scherzinger”. A cursory amount of research reveals that Nicola Scherzinger is the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. Why is she merely ‘featuring’ on her own DVD?
It’s because – and this may shock you, gentle reader, the Pussycat Dolls workout doesn’t have the actual Pussycat Dolls in it!

Actual Pussycat Dolls
 Not Actual Pussycat Dolls
The Workout is fronted by Robin Antin, creator of the Pussycat Dolls who is joined by Jersey, Jenny and Jamie from the Pussycat Lounge Review and ‘special guest star’ Christina from Girlicious which is, apparently a real band.
It turns out that the Pussycat Dolls are not merely a pop group. They are also a burlesque review, a nightclub and quite possibly a range of pro-biotic yogurts. All created by the scarily toned & sculpted Robin Antin. I imagine this took place in a lab somewhere in much the same way Professor Utonium created the Powerpuff girls.

In fact to hear Antin talk about her ‘journey’ in the DVD extras, it appears she invented the whole concept of attractive women moving around in time to music altogether. This elicited much delight and amazement amongst her celebrity friends. You know cool famous people? So does Antin. ALL the cool famous people.

From top left: Johnny Depp, Scarlet Johansson, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Christina Applegate, Fergie, Carmen Electra and  Charlize Theron. All BFFs of Robin and namedropped in the DVD extras.
These people are literally always going for pub lunches together and borrowing one another’s lawnmowers.

Nicole Scherzinger does put in an appearance, as promised, in the Buttons performance segment. The DVD is divided into Warm Up, Don’t Cha Breakdown, Don’t Cha Dance, Burlesque Breakdown, Burlesque Dance Workout Buttons Breakdown, Buttons Dance Workout and Cool Down
I'm worried about Nicole's outfit here.
It looks like she's got the gusset from her tights caught on her bra.

In the Breakdown sessions we’re taught a series of dance moves which we then all perform together. Antin asks invites us all to unleash our Inner Pussycat Doll as we perform their “Sassy but Classy” signature moves. “That was amazing everyone! I am so proud of you” Antin exclaims at the end of one of the workouts. It’s almost like she couldn’t see my terrible dancing through the TV screen at all.
Difficulty Level
Well, I still can’t dance. But as far as a strenuous workouts go, this one isn’t. And my threshold for “strenuous” is very low indeed.

Stepping back and forwards, flicking your hair and slapping your arse from time to time doesn’t burn many calories or use muscles you wouldn’t otherwise be using in your daily routine (especially if your daily routine involves a lot of arse slapping.) This pace gets picked up a bit in some of the numbers with some high kicks and some jumping up and down but you might as well just try energetically doing the hovering while wiggling your bum a lot and it would probably have much the same effect.
The girls rock the “Dressing As Characters From The Board Game Cluedo” look.
I like that Robin sees herself as Mrs White.

Weirdest Bit
Antin really does have favourites amongst her girls. For most of the workouts Christina is her golden girl and gets called upon to show the rest of the class how good her stretches, bends and arse aerobics are. “Have you got this? I know Christina’s got this!” yells Antin. As soon as Nicole Scherzinger shows up, though, poor Christina is relegated to the back and Antin’s focuses exclusively on her new Head Cheerleader. It must cause a lot of tension. I’ve changed my mind about wanting to go on a picnic with Antin and her celebrity friends now. I’m not sure I could handle the stress of watching Johnny Depp being played off against Christina Aguilera.

Would I do this workout again?
No. I’m not sure who it’s for really. Although anyone with an appreciation of a well-formed female bottom will find something of interest here.

There's a lot of this sort of thing
Overall, I think the ideal audience is 13 year old girls at sleepovers. They can fit the dance routines in between making friendship bracelets and eating Pringles.

When I grow up, I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars, I wanna have boobies

I just hope they won’t be too disappointed that the actual band isn’t in it. Still, who knows, if they manage to release enough of their Inner Pussycat Doll, they could end up starring in the next one.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Jessie Wallace – Look at Me Now

A  new year, a new set of resolutions and the return of C-List Celebrity Workout. It’s been a while, I grant you, and while this might not be entirely worth the wait, it certainly is a C-List celebrity working out. And that, quite frankly, is all you can really expect.
Jessie Wallace is best known for her portrayal of Kat Moon (nee Slater) in Eastenders. I say best known, I’m not sure your average man in the street would be able to think of anything else she’s been in?

Love Actually? Those Activia yogurt adverts? No, wait a minute...

The DVD cover shows our celeb looking toned and happy beside the almost obligatory paparazzi shot where she’s wearing a swimsuit looking a bit saggy.
Jess has got no time at all for her old fat self. “Just a few months ago, I looked like this.” she tells us before doing the most enormous eyeroll. “Urggh! What a state! I was fat and out of shape.”

I can’t stress enough how much disgust she manages to convey in that “Urggh!”
She then goes on to tell us how she’d ‘ballooned’ to a size 14, explains that merely looking at a picture of herself from 2 months ago, causes her to be violently physically sick and then proposes that all fat people should be rounded up as a kindness to the rest of us and either forced to do Jessie’s Look at Me Now workout or shot. It’s possible some of this was cut for length.

The video appears to be set in an abandoned warehouse primarily used by criminal gangs to hide stolen Neon signs. There’s a massive neon “Me” behind Jessie throughout her workout. I presume the police arrived before the thieves could make off with the “Look”, “At” and “Now” ones.

There are also some massive lights and some tea-making stuff in the background by the looks of it so it’s possible the whole thing is supposed to be backstage on the Eastenders set. IMDB and Wikipedia both refuse to acknowledge this DVD’s existence, let alone give me comprehensive filming locations. I’ll either have to create or just make shit up.
Jess assures us that her diet and exercise plan are “Not a fad thing and not a passing craze.” I’m not sure it’s the celeb’s job to decide that. I don’t think this workout was any kind of craze back in 2009, even a fleeting one.

The workout consists of Warm-Up, Full Body Workout, Boxercise, ‘Legs, Bums, Arms and Abs’ and a Cool Down.
Jessie’s trainer is Paul Ellis, a buff, tattooed, mumbly sort of chap who doesn’t seem over the moon to be there but is prepared to put in a decent days work. In the Warm Up we get our first view of Jessie’s comedy marching which is marvellous sight to behold. At one point Jessie affects what I presume is supposed to be a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice and says “I call this one the Booty Booter?” Eh? Booter?

The Boxercise session was the most fun. It’s always pleasing to do a workout while imagining you’re taking part in a barroom brawl.  There’s one exercise where you simulate grabbing someone by the ears and then breaking their nose with your knee. Mostly it’s just pretending to punch people in the face. And step to the left. Punch! Step to the right. Knife to the kidneys! And rest.
There are a pretty varied bunch of exercise on this DVD and the instructions are straightforward enough. Jessie was quite excitable at times but not Barbara Windosr levels of crazy. She performed the advanced workout while Paul was the go-to guy for beginners. The camera sticks to Jessie pretty closely for a lot of the workouts making following Paul’s instructions a little tricky. Some of the beginner’s exercises could have involved reading the paper and eating ginger biscuits. I have no idea.

I did all the workouts in the workout section and the whole thing took about an hour. There was a “Killer Abs” workout in the Special Features section fronted single-handedly by Paul the trainer. Does Jessie even know this is on here? I skipped this as I am a woman of principal who refuses to do any exercise not endorsed by a celebrity. My abs will simply have to remain non-lethal.
Best Bit

There are proper songs being played during these workouts! With actual lyrics. Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” are included. I’m not a massive Lady Gaga fan, to be honest, but I was hugely excited that it wasn’t just plinky-plonky lift music again. You know what should happen, though? A Lady Gaga workout video with Jessie Wallace doing the music. Who wouldn’t pay good money for 60 minutes of this sort of thing:

Worst Bit

In the ‘Interview; section, Jessie discusses how she was inspired to spread the love and joy of her fitness regime to the world. Basically she was approached by Acme Personal Trainers Inc who asked her if she would like to get a bit fit and then release a celebrity workout DVD. It’s that blatant. She isn’t even pretending that this something she happened to be doing anyway before she hit upon the happy notion of flogging a DVD in time for Christmas. I know this is the way the world works but I feel a bit let down. The magic’s been destroyed.  Another tiny piece of my faith in humanity has crumbled away like when my parents lied to me about taking Tiny Tears to the Doll Hospital.

Why did you stomp on my dreams Jessie?
Difficulty Level
You know I think I was OK with this one. I was following the easy version but I was generally lunging and punching and marching as instructed. I got out of breath in an encouraging rather than scary way and no-one tried to embroil me in a complicated dance routine.

I have to take issue with the lunges though. Paul was very insistent that I not let my knee overshoot my toes. I’m not sure he and Jessie were playing by the same rules.
Would I do this Workout again?

You know what? It’s a new year, a new start and I’m being all positive about things. So why don’t we assume I will.