Sunday, 26 May 2013

Natalie Cassidy – Then & Now Workout

Natalie Cassidy's Then and Now Workout
Natalie Cassidy is the 5th Eastenders actress workout to be featured on C-List Celebrity Workouts. She follows in the illustrious footsteps of Barbara Windsor, Jessie Wallace, Hannah Waterman and Charlie Brooks. It is a time honoured traditions for residents of Albert Square to don their lycra and share 60 minutes of themselves leaping about a bit with the world.

 If you consult your Cut-Out-and-Keep* Workout-Releasing Eastenders Actors Knowledge Sheet you can see that we haven’t even hit the halfway mark yet.

C-List Celebrity Workout's exclusive Workout-Releasing Eastenders Actors Knowledge Sheet
*Don’t really try to cut this out of your computer screen. That wouldn’t end well.

There’s some serious work ahead of us and six more workouts to get through before we can call “house!” on our Eastenders  bingo card. That’s assuming more Eastenders actors don’t release workout DVDs in the meantime. I suspect I would be powerless to stop them.
Natalie Cassidy

Not that I’d want to of, course.  I vote June Brown does one next. Or AdamWoodyatt.

Eastenders' Adam Woodyatt wearing football kit and looking smiley
You know, that dream could be closer than we realise.

Natalie teamed up with Charlie Brooks’ fitness instructor, Dee Thresher for this workout which was released in 2007, a couple of years after Charlie’s “Before and After” workout.

Dee is clearly not one to mess with a tried and tested formula. The workout is almost completely identical to the previous one. Including the footage of Natalie’s first workout and lots of close up foot action as she steps on the scales. All Dee’s signature moves are here: the box-step, the side-to-side skippy thing , lots of pelvis action. The whole thing’s too dance-y for my liking. She acts like it’s going to be all no-nonsense aerobic stuffs and then drops a choreographed dance sequence on you.

The sections are named things like SWEAT! and PUNCH! I was looking forward to the PUNCH section as I love a bit of pretend violence, me. Rather than getting stuck into imaginary fist fights, Dee has us skipping about like cheerleaders.
 Natalie Cassidy and Dee Thresher do some boxing-style exercises
Street-fighting. Dee Thresher style.
Natalie and Dee seem to get on pretty well. Although, at one point Dee remarks to Natalie, “Let’s see if we can wipe that smile off your face.”

“You’ll have a job” responds Nat who then makes it her personal mission to SMILE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE for the rest of the workout. She looks completely deranged. It was lovely to watch.
Natalie Cassidy smiles a lot

Natalie delivers the classic celebrity workout line : “If I can do it – anyone can!” I wish I had been  keeping count of which celebrities have come out with those exact words. I reckon it’s all of them apart from Mark Wahlberg so far.

Best Bit
The exercise studio is  somewhere in London overlooking the Shell Mex building and the London Eye. It’s quite exciting. It’s the first C-List Celebrity Workout that looks like it might actually be taking place in the real world.

Natalie Cassidy and Dee Thresher exercise with views of London behind them
Tops of buildings! Some Flags!
Genuinely the most excited I've been about anything in a workout DVD ever.

It ought to be possible to identify the building that this is being filmed in based on the view from the window. I will try and work it out and then incorporate it into a CLCW walking tour. It’ll be great. I need a few more sites of historical C-List Celebrity Workout Importance first. Then I’ll organise a group of us to go round each one and do some appropriate fitness routines at each location.

Worst Bit
Sure you promise extras, Natalie Cassidy’s Then & Now Workout DVD, but what do you actually deliver? An “Eating Plan” which just consists of some words on the screen and barest outline of a healthy eating plan.
Natalie Cassidy Then and Now Workout Eating Plan

OK. Seems reasonable.
Natalie Cassidy Then and Now Workout Eating Plan - Treats

Wait, you haven’t said how often I can have these. I’m guessing about five or six times a day, right?
Luckily Natalie did a whole programme on how to eat for the BBC so don’t panic. Apparently living for a week on just maple syrup and water can make you feel a bit giddy.  You might want to make a note of that for future reference.

Weirdest Bit
“So Long, Sonja!” says the back of the DVD box. Who the hell is Sonja and why are we are saying goodbye to her?  I am presuming that they don’t mean Natalie’s Eastenders character, Sonia Fowler because surely whoever was writing the bit of bumph on the back of the box would have put in the cursory amount of research necessary to spell the name properly. Perhaps they’re talking about Queen Sonja of Norway. She might have been going off on a trip somewhere at the time.

Natalie Cassidy Then and Now Workout - Back of DVD box

Difficulty Level
This was far too complicated for me. I’m not here to memorise a dance routine, Dee. Just show me some squats and tell me to get on with it.

Would I do this workout again?
No. As I said it is almost identical to Charlie Brooks’  Before & After Workout. However, I do have the next Dee Thresher/Eastenders Actor mash-up to look forward to – Leticia Dean’s “Lean Routine”. I bet I can’t do that one either.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lizzie Webb – Lizzie & Joggy Bear

Lizzie and Joggy Bear Video Cover
Lizzie Webb - or “Mad Lizzie” if you want to use her gangster name - was the Keep Fit expert on TV-AM during the late eighties and early nineties. Joggy Bear was her co-presenter, youth ambassador and adopted son.
It’s a bit uncomfortable watching the interaction between Lizzie and Joggy on this video. I don’t doubt for a minute that Lizzie Webb loves Joggy dearly but I fear that their relationship isn’t entirely healthy,

Lizzie is clearly trying to tick all the Caring Parent boxes. She bakes cakes and makes sure Joggy brushes his teeth every morning. They have a lovely house in a leafy English village somewhere.
There’s a hint of emotional abuse about the relationship though. Throughout the workout, there is a constant barrage of criticism from Lizzie to Joggy. She tells him off for the state of his fairly tidy bedroom, huffily clearing some toys away and telling Joggy that he’ll trip over them and break his neck.  They’re on a table. The woman’s risk awareness is completely messed up.

Lizzie and Joggy Bear Video Back Cover

 She makes continual references to Joggy’s weight. I know this is a fitness DVD and everything but give the poor guy a break, Lizzie.  “Look at that tummy! Joggy can’t even find his waist!” she shouts insensitively. She asks him to get off his bed telling him that it can barely contain his weight and says that he is getting so fat from eating sweets that they will need to do the exercises double-time.
The words of the theme tune tell us:  “Joggy Bear you’re the happiest bear we know” but I suppose it’s all relative. If you don’t know any other bears, then the one bear in your acquaintance will be the happiest.

Joggy really doesn’t seem happy. He spends a lot of time gesticulating behind Lizzie’s back. It’s hard to tell exactly what gestures he is trying to do with his paws because he might as well be wearing oven gloves. If Lizzie asks him to do something, he goes into an unresponsive sulk.
Lizzie Webb and Joggy Bear wear bright yellow nineties-style tracksuits
Everyone in the early 90s dressed like Nice Guy Eddie in Reservoir Dogs. It was the law.
At the end of the video, Lizzie reads a story from “Joggy’s Story Book”. It’s a rambling, baggy tale about how Joggy Bear went to see the band “Bruno & The Brunettes”.  It hasn’t picked up any literary awards.

The story, however, does raise a worrying question. How old is Joggy Bear, exactly?
His bedroom is decorated like a nursery with alphabet charts and a teddy bear shaped activity toy. There’s a height chart which only goes up to Joggy’s midriff. He is considerably taller than the adult he lives with.

Lizzie Webb and Joggy Bear
 Not pictured: undercurrent of despair
In the story, Joggy goes a gig, meets up with Lulu who is clearly his girlfriend and then comes home unaccompanied late at night and lets himself in. The story is presented as something that happened in the recent past. Lizzie, tellingly, doesn’t appear in the story.

I think we have to face the reality that Joggy isn’t really a child. He is a young adult being forced to fulfil the role of a child by his domineering parent, unwilling – or unable – to accept the truth. It’s like Timothy Lumsden in ‘Sorry’. Or the guy in that Ian McEwan short story who sleeps in a cot and is spoon-fed by his mother until he is 17.

This is what life will be like when you're 42, Joggy. Think on.

Unable to stand up for himself, Joggy merely mumbles and groans and does rude paw gestures behind Lizzie back.

The anger is obviously bubbling under the surface.  During one of their morning warm-ups Lizzie has Joggy doing some boxing moves. Goaded beyond endurance by her shouts of “You can do better!” and “hit harder!”, Joggy smacks Lizzie in the face causing her to lose consciousness. She got off lightly, really. A single swipe from a Brown Bear can be deadly to humans. There have been cases where humans have had their heads completely crunched by bear bite. And they probably weren’t even telling them to tidy their bedroom at the time.

Joggy Bear punches Lizzie Webb in the face
See kids, this is how you do violence properly.

Best Bit
Each section of the workout takes place on a consecutive day of the week. Monday through Friday we see Joggy Bear confined to the house with only Mad Lizzie for company. It is a bit of a relief come Saturday to see Joggy leave the house and go to his dance lesson.

We’ll gloss over the fact that its run by Lizzie and taking place at “Lizzie’s Dancing Studio” and  despite the fact that she’s clearly been running this business venture for a while, this is the first time that Joggy has been permitted to attend. We’ll also gloss over the fact that as soon as they arrive, Lizzie says to the class, “Sorry I’m late but it wasn’t my fault” while looking pointedly at Joggy.
Lizzie Webb and Joggy Bear at Lizzie's Dancing School
Behave yourself Joggy. You don't want to have to go in the cellar again, do you?
I just think it’s nice that he got to spend some time out of the house with maybe the chance to make some new friends. Not best friends, of course.  We all know, a boy’s best friend is his mother.

Would I do this Workout Again?
Oh yeah, there was a workout in here somewhere, I forgot. It got lost amongst the familial dysfunction. I don’t think I can face stepping into the dark world of Bear and Webb again.

You know, Lizzie hasn’t been on television for a while, now. Perhaps Joggy finally had enough and pulled her head off.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Coleen Nolan – Disco Burn

Coleen Nolan's Disco Burn DVD Cover
“Are you IN THE MOOD for fat-burning?” asks the blurb at the front of the DVD box. Because Coleen was one of the Nolans, see? Who had a hit with “I’m IN THE MOOD for dancing”. Do you see what they did there? How they have cleverly linked the two things together?

But “Wait a minute” I hear you say in that plaintive – yet melodic – way you probably have, “Surely ‘fat-burning’ and ‘dancing’ aren’t the same things at all?” Oh, ho ho ho, you crazy foolish reader. I laugh in your ill-informed face.

Because if there is one thing Coleen Nolan has taught me (and I haven’t done the maths but ‘one’ does seem a plausible total number of things Coleen Nolan has taught me) it’s that fat burning and dancing like you are out with your mates at the discotheque are, in fact, totally the same thing!

Coleen says in her introduction that the workout is “like a night out with your friends when you’ve hit the dancefloor. Only without the sore feet because we’ll be wearing our trainers.”

There are a plethora of funky dance moves here to be sure but there are also times when Coleen is doing lunges, weight-lifting  and those leg-bendy exercises while holding onto the back of a chair. She must get some very strange looks at Flares.

Coleen is joined by Mikey Smith, an adorably chirpy fitness trainer who is both teeny-tiny and incredibly well-muscled. He looks like a Masters of The Universe action figure.
Masters of the Universe action figure
Like this fellow but without the fetching hat.

There are seven sections – including aerobics, toning, and core exercises which include some awesomely named moves such as the ‘Jiggly Squat’, the ‘Funky Squat’ and the ‘Travolta’.  But really this DVD is ALL about the music.

There is a fantastic collection of old-timey disco hits. It’s basically all the songs wedding DJs play to try to encourage people onto the dancefloor. There’s Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘ I Will Survive’, Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ and of course the Nolan’s ‘I’m In the Mood for Dancing’. Because there would have been protests in the street had that one been left off. There are 15 proper songs in their proper original versions. It makes you wonder why so many other workout DVDs are so utterly appalling in this regard.

Child playing toy keyboard
How Celebrity Workout DVD soundtracks are normally put together.
The song quality take a bit of a nosedive towards the end of the DVD which turns out to be because there are three Nolan’s songs which are not “I’m In the Mood for Dancing” and are therefore completely unrecognisable.

To be fair, you can’t expect the whole soundtrack to be of this quality:
 There is almost TOO MUCH cool here

The decision was clearly made to spend the budget on the music rights rather than set dressing. No jaunts off to Miami for Coleen. This was without question the right decision but it does leave us with a set that’s eerily stark in its minimalism.

There is no furniture, no floor, no walls. Just an expanse of whiteness and Coleen’s name in massive red letters.

Coleen Nolan Disco Burn
Have you seen that bit in the Twilight Zone Movie with the kid who can control everything with the power of his brain? After wreaking badness, he uses his power to make everything disappear entirely and his teacher and he are left standing alone in the middle of nothingness. Coleen’s workout DVD is a bit like this. It looks like she has whisked Mikey away somewhere where he can spend the rest of eternity with her, her big red name and a selection of awesome dance tunes.

Twilight Zone The Movie
Right, it's just us now. Let's do some disco aerobics.
Worst Bit
Quite a few of the moves seemed to involve clicking your fingers as you did them. Now, I can’t click my fingers. Never been able to. I’ve managed to move on with my live and scratch together some kind of existence despite this disability. I was worried here that my lack of finger-clicking ability meant that I wasn’t doing this workout as fully as I might have been. My index fingers haven’t felt the burn.

Weirdest Bit
The second aerobic section is titled “Disco Aerobic Inferno” and while The Trammps’ ‘Disco Inferno’ is one of the songs on the soundtrack, bizarrely it features in a completely different section. What on earth was going on in the planning meetings for this DVD? Did they even have a spreadsheet?
Business Meeting with flipchart
See, Coleen. This is what professionalism looks like.

Difficulty Level
There was a lot of skipping about and dainty footwork which I couldn't really get the hang of. I would be laughed off any 70s disco dancefloor. Even if I wasn't doing sit-ups at the time.

Would I do this workout again?
 I think so. There’s a lot to be said for leaping about to groovy  70s disco hits. Coleen followed up this DVD with one entitled “Let’s get Physical” which includes an 80s soundtrack. Logically the next one should have a 1990s theme – perhaps a Grunge Workout with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana on the soundtrack. You could do cool down stretches to “Rape Me”.

I think she should return to the 1970s though and have a funk themed one. Call it “Are you IN THE MOOD to get funky?” and incorporate all the following dance moves.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Nell McAndrew – Maximum Impact

Nell McAndrew’s Maximum Impact Workout is, according to the box, “filmed in the exotic Miami”. Don’t get too excited though, any fans of The Miami out there. All you get to see are some steps and the edge of a swimming pool. Granted they are very nice steps. They know how to put steps together in The Miami.
The Miami. Come for the sunshine. Stay for the steps.
Glamour model and Yorkshire Water spokesperson, Nell is joined by her fitness instructor, Liam Duffy and three other workout buddies. No-one other than Nell gets an introduction – or even a close up – on this DVD. Luckily,  I had plenty of time to stare at them while I was doing this workout and I think I have figured out each of their back stories.
Liam Duffy masquerades as a fitness instructor and is using Nell McAndrew’s workout DVD as a cover for his gang of top international villains – Bailey, Carla and Tammy Mae. The rest of the gang refer to Nell as ‘The Duchess’. They are planning a heist of Ann Hamilton’s The Capacity of Absorption at the Miami Art Museum

Bailey, here, is the world’s foremost  security expert and lock picker. He could get into the most heavily guarded room in under 4 seconds using a cell phone battery and a paper clip. He used to work for the CIA but switched sides when he realised that he only wanted to look out for the most important person in his life. Himself.

This is Tammy Mae. Don’t be fooled by her wide smile and sugar-sweet appearance. Tammy might spend her days planning bake sales and helping out at little league, but after dusk she’s a ruthless knife expert and assassin. She’d slit a man’s throat in a heartbeat and she wouldn’t stop smiling while she did it.
Carla is the brains of the outfit. She is also the world’s best explosives airport. You want a bang big enough to bring down the Miami Tower concealed in a lipstick case? Carla will sort you out. She doesn’t say much but when she does, you can be sure you need to listen.
Disappointingly the DVD credits reveal that their names are actually Michael, Heather and Michele. I’m sure I got the rest of the information right, though.

The gang at work
Best Bit
Liam’s pretty stern throughout however he does break character at one point and say “Ooh good tune” when the repetitive beats which make up the soundtrack changed to slightly different repetitive beats. It’s nice to know that he’s enjoying himself.

Worst Bit
There is only one DVD extra on here – a “Behind the Scenes” look at the making of this workout. Why do celebrities think that we want to see how they put their workout DVDs things together?

We know how it works - people turn up put up some lights, put the camera thingies together and film a celebrity in shorts. They then flog the result in Asda for £9.99.

It’s not the Matrix. No-one’s watching Maximum Impact wondering how on earth they managed to do that effect where Nell lifted her leg slightly in the air. And if you were then you are going to be disappointed here. This extra is about 30 seconds long and basically looks like camera phone footage of Nell wandering around set. She does eat a banana at one point. That’s a highlight.
This isn't part of the DVD extras.
Difficulty Level.
Oh my god, this was difficult. There are four sections – warm up, interval training, resistance routine and floor work and Liam and Nell work you pretty hard in all of them. I was a big mound of sweaty, heavy-breathing exhaustion by the end of this. Which is, I suppose, the point of these things. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.

Marathon running is not required as part of the workout

There are no beginner’s options available here. No “Follow Tammy Mae here if you can’t do the difficult moves.” As far as Liam is considered, it’s Shape Up or Ship Out. Or you could take the third option – attempt to do all the moves but do them really, really badly – which is what I went for.

Would I do this workout again?
You know I think I actually might do with this one. The punishing routines and the glamour of The Miami is calling me back.

Nell McAndrew used to be the model for Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. I am not too sure what this entails but I presume it involves jumping from high ledges, running around archaeological sites and having to take on monsters in one-to-one combat. No wonder she's so fit.

Nell does baffling Euro-telly, looks baffled.

My arms are actually hurting as I type this. See, Anne Diamond? You just didn’t offer me enough pain.