Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Game-Changers, Extreme Workouts, and the "Macho-ing" of , well, EVERYTHING

10 years ago I was in a touring production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  We toured to schools around L.A., performing for students.  There were 7 of us in the cast, plus 2 stage managers.  I had just discovered I was pregnant for the second time, and had HORRIBLE morning sickness.  To the point where I kept an air sickness bag backstage, just in case. Luckily it never came to that.
After our last performance we all went out for lunch, during which the 2 stage managers revealed they were guinea pigs for a new workout program called "Slim in 6." We chatted a bit, and then I promptly forgot about it.
Fast-forward 2 years: I was now a full-time SAHM with a 1 year-old and a 3 1/2 year old who'd just been diagnosed with autism.  Hubby was on tour this time, but, unlike me, he had to be in San Diego for 3 months.  Although I had a membership to the Y, the babysitters there were wussy and my daughter was a screamer, so I needed to find a home workout program. I remembered working out to Kathy Smith tapes a few years earlier & enjoying them, so I googled her. Turns out she had a new, multi-workout program through a company called Beachbody.  I'd never heard of them, but I liked her, so I ordered it.  And enjoyed it very much.  A few months later I ordered Yoga Booty Ballet, again from Beachbody, and then Slim Series.  Which, lo and behold, was the follow-up to Slim in 6, the program my Shakespeare buddies had done.
I faithfully logged all my workouts on the web site, joined chat rooms, and happily got sucked into All Things Beachbody.

Over the years I've tried various programs.  Some more successfully than others.  Power 90 was dull, as much as I loved Tony Horton's sense of humor.  I tried P90X multiple times, and kept hurting  myself until I finally packed it in, packed it up, and sold it on Amazon.  Insanity was just that, especially with my knees and, um, inability to find a sports bra strong enough (even my Enell didn't do the job!) Chalene Extreme bothered me because the emphasis wasn't on getting strong, it was on losing weight and "looking fabulous in that tank top!"  Because that's the ONLY reason women work out, right?

I still have Slim Series, Slim in 6, and YBB. And some of  my older Kathy Smith DVDs, as well.  I keep returning to them.  Because I enjoy them, and they work.  PART of the reason I work out is, yes, to look good.  And when I did YBB/Slim Series back in 2005 I was in FANTASTIC shape. PLUS, I could lift both kids without struggle.

I like Beachbody.  I think they put out good products.  And there's no denying that P90X changed DVD workouts for good.  Until it came along, most workout DVDs were marketed toward women and featured smiling, leotard-clad, chirpy instructors.  (WHY they think we liked that is STILL beyond me.  Sure the workouts were often great, but the presentation was severely lacking).  P90X, with it's warehouse atmosphere, dim-but-effective lighting, and extreme exercises, was geared toward the guys first and foremost.  It even started chipping away at the idea that yoga isn't for men by including a 90-minute, ultra-intense power yoga workout.
Insanity followed that theme.  Instead of a warehouse, it's a high school gymnasium, where participants proudly show off their puddles of sweat (Um, like, gross?) and the infomercial places an actor in their midst, playing the guy who isn't giving it his all and, as a result, is asked to LEAVE!

And there's the rub.  The most popular workouts now on Beachbody are P90X, Insanity, and all their sequels.  And that's fine.  I have NO quarrel with anyone who does the workouts & enjoys them.  But these are the programs (along with Shakeology) that are getting ALL the attention.
The other day on Twitter, Debbie Siebers (who created S in 6 and SS) was asked why she wasn't at Disneyland with the rest of the Beachbody folks. Apparently there was some big Beachbody blowout with the creators, head honchos, instructors, etc.  Turns out she wasn't invited. Her DVDs are still popular, they still sell, 10 years on.  There are others like me, who keep returning to her workouts because we enjoy them. There's no jumping around, no jerky movements, but the ol' heart rate still gets up there, and the muscles pop out.
Which makes me wonder if Beachbody is abandoning the instructors who helped them become successful in their early years in order to focus on the popular kids.
Between this and "The Biggest Loser," in which sweet Bob has become cranky, yelly Bob, I have to wonder about the future of the fitness industry.  Particularly as the general population ages.  When I was teaching Pilates, many of my clients were older, while others were people coming off of injuries.  They liked my classes because they could actually do them.  I always gave modifications. I didn't force anyone to do anything that went beyond the land of challenging and across the border into painful/damaging. And I always felt badly because, while they paid the same rates as everyone else at the gym, their class options were severely limited.

I worry that this emphasis on pushing oneself to the extreme is not only going to cause multiple injuries, but is leaving a big segment of the population behind.  And many of those who are left are the ones who most need to move.  Folks with arthritis, or, like me, can't jump around the way they used to.  People who are too self-conscious for the gym, or simply don't have the stamina for the extreme workouts and wonder why they should even bother since they can't do it anyway. Why is Beachbody (seemingly) discouraging the majority of us from working out?

We've gone from one extreme to another, it seems.  From those cheery, smiling women encouraging us to "go for the burn" to shirtless, 9-packed dudes whipping us into a frenzy and not letting up until we've vomited out our Shakeology breakfast.
Let me be clear: I have nothing against Shaun T (who's flippin' ADORABLE, btw) or Tony Horton.  In fact, Tony's Ho Ala Ke Keno workout is one of the best I've ever done, and they don't even use weights! And, as I've said, I love his goofball-ness.  I would TOTALLY hang out with him! And the women in P90X and Insanity are badass!
I just believe there need to be alternatives to the 6-day-per-week-, all-out programs.  And since Beachbody is a leader in the home fitness industry, they have a real opportunity here to make programs that are accessible to everyone.  Hell, they don't even have to create them, they already have them!  But those programs are being shunted off to the side.  If you ask me, that's short-sighted, and not great marketing.

I was looking  at a Rachel Cosgrove DVD set online the other day, and couldn't help but notice that the set-up was almost identical to P90X.  Which made a me a bit wary. I like her. Her workouts are tough, but you can go at your own pace.  And she emphasizes strength for women, which not a lot of trainers do. I hope her DVD series, which is her first-ever, isn't going to change all of that. I hope she doesn't feel pressured to become a female Tony Horton.  That she is allowed to be who she is.  There's only one Tony Horton, and only one Rachel Cosgrove. Why should they have to be clones?

As always, feel free to disagree.  This is simply my opinion, and my own frustration.


Cindy said...

I do find my options at the gym becoming more and more limited. I get the impression that somebody at my fitness level is supposed to do Auqufit and that is it Whenevr the new schedules come out I find more bootcamp and less cardio for all. I wouldn't have a problem with this if that was what the majority of customers wanted but I'm not sure that that is the case.
I work best in a group fitness environment so it has me looking for another gym and not finding many options. I may have to pay by the class at a number of specialized gyms.

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Geosomin said...

Yeah, I noticed that as well. At the gym here thankfully the instructors have made more of an effort to make the classes more moderate (when they show up that is). There are a few instructors know for being more hard core, but they are starting to focus on functional fitness and I like that. It's more inclusive and makes it more fun and less intimidating. I personally love bootcamp, not all the time and it's not for everyone...and I've come to realise I don't need to be super extreme to stay healthy. I think my workouts are pretty intense a few times a week which is enough for me. I don't want to develop an unhealthy approach to exercise. It's tricky since starting from base level the improvements come fast and hard but after a while you reach a certain level and it's good to just mix it up but be happy with your health and fitness. To not try and beat yourself up cuz you're not running a marathon or doing extreme sports all the time. Sheesh, we're so hard on ourselves sometimes!

"I'm good enough" has been my mantra lately :)