Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hannah Waterman - Body Blitz

I don’t doubt for a moment that Hannah Waterman – daughter of Dennis and third wife of Ian Beale – really did lose all the weight she said she did. I have seen the video evidence after all. Why then does the picture of her on the front of the DVD box look like it was hastily cobbled together in Photoshop?

The face is at the wrong angle; the skin tone doesn’t match and just look at the unconvincing edging round her hair.

Was she hoping that people would purchase her DVD in the spirit of scientific curiosity to determine for themselves if the weight loss really did happen or if it was all part of some fiendish conspiracy?
Other celebrities who have benefitted from Waterman’s workout plan.
Hannah is keen to assure us that her workout is all based on ACTUAL SCIENCE backed up by Martin MacDonald from Loughborough University – the leading centre for Sport Science in Britain. The workout is based on interval training – 15 minutes of which is apparently equivalent to 1 hour of aerobics - a pretty impressive claim given that the workout seems to be full of the same leaping, jogging, bending and stretching that make up half the DVDs I’ve reviewed here.

Hannah is joined by not one but TWO fitness instructors, shouty Elia and quiet Adam. They both appear to be about 15 years old and all three have very sensibly decided to dress in white and fluorescent yellow clothing in case they need to cross any roads on the way home and want to be clearly visible to the traffic in accordance with the guidelines on the Government’s Road Safety website.

Always remember to stop, look, listen and Jesus Christ, that’s a terrifying website.
There’s plenty of uncomfortable flirting between Hannah and her boys, most of which revolves around her physically threatening them in some way. Adam gets to display the easier versions of the workouts while Elia and Hannah show off with the harder ones. By the look on Adam’s face, he isn’t particularly happy about this arrangement. ‘I could have done the hard ones,’ he’s clearly thinking. ‘I’m super-fit. If only Elia hadn’t won that game of stone, paper, scissors just before we started filming.’

Unlike other celebrities who have released workout after being caught by the tabloids daring to look like regular human beings at the beach, Hannah doesn’t keep her old fat self all greyed out and lurking in the background on the DVD cover. Old Hannah looks on admiringly  while - based on her body language – New Hannah is saying ‘Look on but do not come close, woman, lest your fat folds wobble in my general direction.’
They don't have this pair's chemistry, that's for sure.

Not only does the DVD display dozens of pictures of Hannah from the same paparazzi shoot, there's also footage of her doing the exercises at the beginning of the workout regime when she was at her ‘before’ weight of 10 stone something. I can’t decide if this is a positive move or more masochistic self-loathing. It’s hard to tell sometimes. To be fair, it’s enough of an effort to understand a celebrity’s workouts without trying to understand their minds as well.

Best Bit
Adam doesn’t say much but every so often Elia calls on him to explain something like why Interval training is better than other sorts of training. Adam concentrates and then recites his spiel like a kid reading his part in a school assembly. He looks utterly delighted with himself when he’s finished.

This is hot, sweaty and knackering work. It’s probably best to do these sections in twenty minute bursts as recommended rather than try to plough your way through it from beginning to end as I did.

Would I do this workout again ?
You know, it sometimes seems like I do nothing else with my life but watch people from soap operas leap around and bang on about their newfound love of fitness like a particularly tedious co-worker. Then I write it up while simultaneously stuffing bourbon biscuits into my mouth so it doesn’t do me much good in the end. I probably should do this one again; it was reasonably well put together and would probably be quite effective. I won’t though. I’ll watch Tamzin Outhwaite or Natalie Cassidy or some other Eastender in a week or two and it will just feel like I’m doing this one all over again.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Mark Wahlberg – The Marky Mark Workout

In 1993, Mark Wahlberg was known to all as Marky Mark - rapper with the Funky bunch and proud poster boy for Calvin Klein’s underwear.  This workout video, released in that year, was no doubt snapped up by young men everywhere eager to learn how to bench press, work their abs, talk like an idiot and sexually harass attractive women without embarrassment.
Yes, I said video. CLCW is rocking it old school this week.

The video opens with the now award-winning actor pretending to be asleep. One of his many cousins (we’ll be introduced to them later) bursts in and is dismayed to find Marky Mark missing out on the best part of the day.

“Oh Man,” he says. “C’mon cuz. Neil’s downstairs. He’s making some shakes or something, fuckin’ pancakes ... the whole nine yards.”
The prospect of fuckin’ pancakes (and they are the very best kind of pancakes) provides the incentive for Marky  to swing his legs out of bed, pull some tracksuit bottoms over his nice white pants and shout “POW!” at the camera. Because that’s how a rap star starts the day. Oh yes.

 The best bits. This will change your life.
Marky then introduces us to his gang. One of the crew proffers his hand to Marky but our man’s too cool for dat shizzle. “No handshakes on the video” he tells him. You gotta have rules, dude.

Otherwise it's just anarchy.

Marky tells us that although he’s a rapper he’s been into fitness for a while. He says the three most important things are  FORM! FOCUS! and DETERMINATION! The words come up on screen with funky nineties graphic behind them, THAT’s how important they are. On the Video box however it has been changed to FORM, FOCUS and FITNESS. Because of alliteration and shit.

“People always ask me about running around in my underwear and trying to sell my body,” says Marky, “But I’ve accomplished a lot. Why not share with people?”
People always ask me about runnin' around in my underwear and I say "Suck on this, motherfucker."

Wait sweetheart, you were selling your body? I thought you were selling pants. Still, if that’s what it took to keep you in snap-backs and roomy trainers, then I, for one, am not going to judge you.

I’m trying to resist the urge to quote the whole video in full here. It’s just that the little idiot is just so very quotable. All Celebrity Workouts advise you to go at your own pace. Only Marky Mark Wahlberg does it like this:

“You starting where you at. Don’t try and be something you’re not. Everybody has their own game. I’m never gonna look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you know? And someone’s never gonna look like me. Everybody’s beautiful, man. Go out and get yours.”

It’s inspirational is what it is. I may embroider it onto a tea towel or something.

The first half of the video is the Home Workout. He introduces us to his ‘fly’ assistants and proceeds to unashamedly lech after them throughout. At one point he licks his lips and says “I’m gonna figure out a way to spot you” making the word ‘spot’ sound so filthy, that I’m not sure any personal trainers could look their customers in the eye and say it after watching this.

How to impress the ladies
For the second part of the workout, Marky takes us to his gym which is apparently stuffed to the gills with the stars of the TV series “Gladiators”.
Presumably ladies aren’t allowed at Marky’s gym. Having taken the trouble to introduce us to his homeboys at the beginning of the video, we didn’t get to see them again for a while. One guy (I think it was snubbed proffered hand guy) provides workout advise in a voiceover because Marky’s too busy heavy breathing and flirting to give us much instruction.
These sexually awkward moments won't just engineer themselves, you know.
At the gym his buff cousins are on hand to spot him. I lost track of who was who to be honest -  ‘fuckin pancakes’ guy was probably there. I’m not entirely certain if these gentlemen are actually Marky’s cousins in a literal sense. They may be his spiritual cousins. His bruvas from anuva muva, if you will.
It’s not clear what we are supposed to take from watching Mark work out at the gym. I get that he’s too cool to do all his working out at home but I don’t have a gigantic Triceps Pushdown machine in my bedroom. Gyms have their own trainers, don’t they? Did the early 90s see a spate of young men refusing gym inductions and announcing that they knew how to do it all because they watched Marky Mark on television?

At the end of the workout we are invited to admire Marky as he gets into a Jacuzzi with a bunch of ethnically diverse hotties. Because he’s an equal opportunities sleazeball.

Marky loves a jacuzzi
Marky Mark is a massive douchebag from beginning to end. It doesn’t seem worth pulling him up on it though. Wahlberg famously has very murky past indeed full of unprovoked racial attacks and jail terms. Wearing a stupid hat and making sexist remarks are pretty minor offences in comparison. This video is a midpoint between the absolute bastard that was pre-fame Wahlberg and the affable film star who gets drunk and talks nonsense on the Graham Norton show.

Best Bit
The whole thing is a dream come true to be honest. Nonsensical, rambling and a little bit sinister. Oh man, you’d say the next day. I dreamt that guy from Ted was talking like a rapper and hanging out with Wolf from Gladiator last night. What the hell had I been eating?

Wahlberg in much less weird circumstances.
Worst Bit
The Nutrition section. Marky harangues his fat mate and then talks protein with a nutritionist. We never see his fat mate again so miss out on a Damascene conversion as he eschews his enormous comedy  plate of food in favour of Marky Mark’s diet plan.

All I picked up on here was that Marky’s has got it into his head that egg whites are a good thing and his nutritionist was careful not to disabuse him of the notion. They were hamstrung by only being able to mention foods that were (a) healthy and (b) not sissy. The nutritionist mentioned cottage cheese at one point which I think was a mistake. Marky Mark don’t eat no girl food.

Weirdest Bit
One of the Machines at the gym was called the Ham Tractor machine.

It didn't look like this.
Difficulty Level
Ridiculously difficult. He starts off by doing push-ups balancing on three chairs. Why use the chairs at all? They looked like a slip hazard to me. It’s a wonder health and safety allowed it.

Would I do this workout again?
No but I am pleased to have seen it this one time. I am now going to lock it away in a secure lead-lined box for retrieval by future generations who will be able to take comfort in the fact that Inter-Galactic Supreme President Wahlberg was but a mortal man. A man with abs like the Giants Causeway and the ability to shout “POW!” repeatedly and without irony but a  mortal man none-the-less.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Strictly Come Dancing - Strictly Fit


“Strictly Come Dancing” is a stupid name for a television series, isn’t it? I appreciate that the programme makers are paying homage to the classic ballroom dancing show “Come Dancing” while trying to funky it up a little with a Strictly Ballroom reference. It still makes no sense, though. I imagine someone scribbled the name on a whiteboard in one of the early development meetings with a cheery “Obviously, it’ll be something less lame than that. We’ll come back to it later.” Only they never did. And now we’re stuck with it.

Come Dancing. When it was done properly. By women who made their own dresses.
One of the many cash-in opportunities Strictly has provided us with, along with sellout tours, audio CDs and a Glitzy Glamour Sticker Book, are a bunch of Workout DVDs.

This one appears from the cover to be called “Strictly Come Dancing Strictly Fit Dance Fit” A catchy title and no mistake. It features three of the professional dancers from the show – Natalie Lowe, Ola Jordan and Artem Chigvintsev.
They divvy up the dance routines between them so that Natalie takes care of the Samba, Artem does the Paso Doble and Ola does the Cha Cha Cha. All three presenters band together for the Jive section and there is also a warm-up and cool-down. I appreciate that they are trying to link back to real dances that they do on the television shows. However, seeing Artem do the Paso Doble with a bunch of sullen looking extras just reminds you of him doing the same dance under happier circumstances.

One of the Artem’s backing guys really did seem to be giving him evils through the routine. I imagined there was some kind of messy break-up between them. To be honest, I assumed that all the performers in that section were entangled in some kind of complicated love pentagon.

Love's a Complicated Thing
The dance routines seem to be taking place in the foyer of an old theatre and there are a troupe of background dancers who have clearly been given instructions not to upstage or out-smile our main guys. (Natalie in particular is the smiliest person on the planet. It’s exhausting just looking at her.) These may be the only instructions the dancers were given as they don’t seem very clear on their moves a lot of the time and may be doing it for the first time here. Which I suppose put them in the same position as me. Only with talent. And grace. And a much lower BMI.

The DVD comes with no intros and no extras. Which was odd and certainly doesn’t make my life any easier. Even more disappointing was the complete absence of the ‘Studio Sessions’ segment mentioned on the box. We’re promised a ‘high intensity dance practise session’ to do once we’ve got the hang of the routines.
Make no mistake, I hadn’t got the hang of the routines at all, but I’m highly sceptical that the DVD actually knew that. This section was nowhere to be seen. Not in the Main Menu, Not in the Workout Menu and not under the Dance Glossary section. I even started clicking the arrow button around randomly in case it was hidden Easter-Egg style somewhere. I have a strong mind to write to the BBC and see what they have to say for themselves.

Best Bit
Ola’s delightful Polish accent. She has a wonderful sing-song inflection and counts along to the moves by saying “ta ta ta”. (Which sounds a lot lovelier than it looks written down.) Best of all, every so often her accent goes a little bit cockney. She’s like an Eastern European princess who’s been hanging around with the Slater sisters too much. Which I suppose is a pretty fair depiction of her life on Strictly.

Worst Bit.
I know I’m always going on about Plinky Plonky music but the half-hearted ring-tones that make up the soundtrack to this DVD deserve some kind of special award. Our dancers were clearly busting their moves in a silent studio and the muzak was added on post-production. Presumably by the tea boy after he had accidentally erased the original soundtrack in a comedy slapstick fashion. The soundtrack bears no relation to the rhythm of the dances or the type of dance being performed. Using Latin American music for the Cha Cha Cha is apparently so passé these days.

The menu gives you the option to do the work out without the presenter’s instructions and just the music. In case you really loathe yourself and feel you have to be punished for something. Incidentally, you can achieve the same effect with any of the DVDs in your collection by simply hitting the mute button and then phoning an organisation and asking to be put on hold.
Difficulty Level
To be fair, the dance moves are simply and patiently explained. It’s almost like they expect the viewer to be an incompetent idiot. Which I found very useful.

Would I do this Workout Again
Only to discover the secret of accessing that bloody Studio Session. Maybe there's a special cheat code. I may put the DVD back in the machine again just so I can start desperately pressing the up down buttons on the remote control in the forlorn hope that the Mythical Dance Session will be revealed. If it it ever is, there is a just the teeniest chance it may be a bit of an anti-climax.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Linda Barker - Simple Yoga

Linda Barker is a celebrity Interior Designer. She is most famous for TV Series “Changing Rooms” in which two neighbours would perform a makeover of one another’s living rooms. This usually involved building some shit out of MDF and gluing bits of fabric to the wall. I don’t know about you but that’s the sort of essential qualification I look for when sourcing a yoga instructor.

If you are wondering what drew Linda to yoga, on the back of the DVD box there is the following credit: “Candles from Linda Barker’s range from Arran Aromatics”. This probably explains the existence this workout DVD. She has to shift those candles somehow.
Inside the mind of Linda Barker
Barker starts the workout by introducing us to her trainer Izzi Valenti from the British Wheel of Yoga. Now don’t get too fond of Izzi – that is all you are going to see of her. From then on, Linda Barker is on her own. Although to be fair there is both Voiceover-Linda and Yogaing-Linda so it feels like we’ve got a double act.
Don't get too comfy there, Izzi. Your bus is in ten minutes.
The first section is “Lying Postures”. Voiceover-Linda encourages us to relax and then asks “How do you feel right now?”
I’m very well, thanks, Linda. Nice of you to ask.
She then gets us to visit each part of our body and to encourage the mind and body to unite before asking “What’s going on in your mind right now?”
Well funny, you should ask that Linda. I’m actually lying here trying to think of something to say about your yoga workout for CLCW.
“Acknowledge any thoughts and then decide – quite consciously – for the hour or so, all thoughts can be left aside.”
Well that’s a nice idea, but if I do that I won’t have anything to write up, do you see? And then where will be? In a world bereft of a shiny new CLCW write-up that’s where.
“You will be absolutely absorbed in  your yoga practise. Centred, Focused, Non-Judgemental and in the present moment”
Woah. Hold on there, Linda. Non-Judgemental? How the hell’s that going to work? I think we may have to re-think the parameters of our relationship.
I was quite conflicted at this point
There are eight different sections on this DVD – Warms Up, Lying Postures, Sitting Postures, Standing Postures, Kneeling Postures, Breathing Exercises, Sun Sequence and Moon Sequence.
Mostly it’s lovely. You stretch and bend and centre your breathing and do that standing on one leg thing like on the front of the Wii Fit box.
Or the Tree Pose as it’s more properly known.
“Think of the quality of your tree” Linda said soothingly at which point I lost my balance. It’s fair to say my tree is not a high quality tree.
This is my tree.
 Sometimes the instructions were a little confusing. For one exercise we were instructed to lie on our backs with our knees bent. Linda said “Imagine your body is on the ground floor of a four storey block”. Which was fair enough. If there’s one thing I’m good at while lying on the floor it’s imagining I’m lying on the floor in slightly – but not completely – different circumstances.
She then complicated it by saying, “On your next inhalation, raise your buttocks to the first floor”. Wait a minute. If my body is lying on the ground floor, what are my buttocks doing going up to the first floor? Are they travelling independently? Am I supposed to be imagining that my buttocks have broken free the tyranny of the rest of my body and decided to strike out on their own?
I suspect that Linda really wanted to imagine that my whole body was the four-story building and my buttocks were a sort of arse elevator free to stop of the first, second, third or fourth floor as directed. In which case she should have said so in the first place and not just expected my arse to change character mid-way through the exercise.
Best Bit
The exercises were clear and easy to understand even if they weren’t easy to do. (I maintain that nobody can do the plank. Any video evidence to the contrary is just cunning computer trickery. Like Pixar movies. Or the Moon Landing.) Voiceover-Linda’s voice is soothing and calming to listen to. Which is odd because Yogaing-Linda’s is a bit irritating.
Worst Bit
I didn’t see those damn candles anywhere. I assume they were in the Moon Sequence bit because that was at night but those things in the front are fire bowls not candles and those look like lights in the background. Where are they? I had been looking forward to them ever since I read about them on the back of the box. I can’t even go on the website to check what I should be looking for as the DVD was made 10 years ago. The Arran Aromatics web page doesn’t mention Linda Barker so there was presumably an almighty feud of some sort and now the descendents of Arran and the descendents of Barker are sworn enemies.
These are not candles!
Difficulty Level
Linda doesn’t use the word ‘difficult’, she uses the word ‘strong’. When she tells you the next one is ‘a strong pose’ you know some serious shit is going down.
Would I do this work out again?
I really do like Yoga. There’s a lot of emphasis on stretching and feeling content which is the sort of workout my cat would approve of. I like the ridiculously difficult poses as well (apart from the plank) and who knows, one day I may even manage to do one. Of course I’m all hyped up on yoga at the moment so it might just be the positive energy talking.