Monday, October 6, 2008

Ellen Barrett -- Pilates Fusion Queen

I don't know if Ellen would ever aspire to be a queen, (she's pretty down to earth), but she's definitely found her nitch in the Video Fitness world, instilling that essential mind-body connection. Ellen's workouts are either pure Pilates or have Pilates inspired moves. She incorporates ballet, yoga, strength, and cardio, while keeping the mind engaged with that core center.

Ellen's first video was Crunch Pick Your Spot Pilates. I love this dvd. First of all, the cover art is purple, so that's always a plus in my book! The actual dvd has 3 ten-minute Pilates workouts, working the core, rear end, and thighs. There's also a bonus workout for the total body. It's probably one of the less challenging Pilates dvds that I have. I'd rank it between Beginner and Intermediate. I like doing it on mornings when my energy isn't really high -- where I don't feel like having to work really hard at the Pilates moves, but I still get plenty of benefits.

The dvd menu allows you to pick which of the 3 segments you want to do in any order you desire. If I remember correctly, you can't choose the bonus Total Body segment in with those 3, but I've done it many times just added on at the end (after I get back to the menu again). The pace, music, and Ellen's voice and demeanor make this dvd a joy to do every time. I particularly love doing the Mermaid with her -- it always feels so good and relaxing.

Ellen has several other dvds available. I've done all the Crunch workouts by her. My least favorite is probably Fat Burning Pilates. The style then was to have REALLY low waisted pants and one of the background exerciser's pants were so low that it was distracting (and unattractive) to me. I couldn't get past that.

I've never tried her Self workouts. From what I've read, they're more upper body toning oriented w/weights and I usually use Cathe Friedrich for my upper body work (and like the challenge of Advanced workouts for weights -- hers are Beginner/Intermediate).

I haven't tried Pick Your Level either because I didn't really like the set or the 1, 2, 3 graphics I saw (with different windows for different levels) on the video preview. (Edited to add that my good friend Robin just wrote and told me how much she LOVES this Pilates dvd -- she says there isn't a split screen throughout the workout -- maybe the clip just showed an intro or something. So give it a try. I'm sure I will sometime soon).

You can preview any of these at (You can do a search for Ellen Barrett if my link doesn't work. Sometimes the specific links for Collage just come up as the Home Page).

Crunch Fat Burning Pilates
Crunch Burn & Firm Pilates
Crunch Super Slimdown Pilates/Yoga Blend
Self Slim & Sleek Fast
Self Bikini Ready Fast
Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates
The Studio: Fat Burning Fusion
The Studio: Yogini Workout
The Studio: Slim Sculpt

I've just tried one of The Studio workouts and was really impressed. I'll review it for you now and will hopefully get the other 2 later on to comment on later. (Edited to add I found the Yogini workout on the Ya-Ya Swap, so I should have it to do and review next week).

I did The Studio Fat Burning Fusion this morning. This is the second time I've done it and it's really a gentle, wonderful workout. It's 45 minutes of standing stretches, twists, plie's, ballet leg work, and a variety of flowing moves. I never took dance lessons when I was growing up. I always wished I could take ballet. There are some cues of "first position" or "second position" which are ballet talk, but it's not hard to see what they're doing. None of the ballet leg moves are difficult, but they stem from the core and work the lower body muscles.
If you have knee issues, like I do, you'll want to be cautious on a few moves that have you lunging from side to side or doing a plie' and a twist at the same time. I really watched what I was doing and was fine, but I did have to be mindful of it.

The set is a dance studio and has hardwood floors, wooden floors on the stage behind, and white walls, windows and draperies, with white lattice screens & drapery on the stage. It's very pleasant and peaceful. Ellen and her cast do the workout on yoga mats, but I did mine on the carpet yesterday without a mat and it worked just fine. I did notice a little bit of movement in my feet sliding a few times on plie's, so a mat might be nicer to use. I think I used it the first time -- my only problem with the mat is sometimes it comes up with my foot and interrupts the flow of my movements. Perhaps I need a mat that isn't so sticky. (I actually think I do have a Denise Austin yoga mat that I bought really cheap at Ross -- It isn't as sticky and I don't use it much, but it might work for workouts like this).

The music is gentle -- almost jazz-y. It reminded me of the music on Karen Voight's Streamline Fitness (which is probably my favorite of Karen's).

I will admit that I watched the clock about 14 minutes into it. Ellen is wonderful and the moves felt great, but for some reason, my mind was anxious and wandering. I got past that and enjoyed the rest of the workout.

At the end, I watched the Special Feature where Ellen talks about her Studio workouts -- the concept behind them. There were testimonials by women who come to Ellen's studio to workout with her. Ellen emphasizes that the mind-body connection is key in her workouts to feel and receive the benefits. She also mentioned in her workout and in this feature that the dance/Pilates fusion moves she uses help beautify the female physique. From looking at Ellen and her cast (and testimonials), they all have curvy lean (and toned) figures instead of super firm like you might see in Cathe's workouts.

BTW -- Ellen has a blog called Fit & Fab and writes in it often. Check it out. I've discovered on it that she's into raw food too!

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