If there’s one thing I love it’s a physical challenge. For most of my life I’ve been a very athletic person (with a break of a couple of years after injuring my knee), enjoying such invigorating pastimes as jogging, soccer, sword fighting (not to be confused with fencing), hiking, figure skating and horseback riding. It was a rare day that I didn’t at least take the old bicycle out for a couple of hours, I love exercise and couldn’t have a good day without plenty of it.
Well then came the kid and the grueling hours spent working freight to make sure that kid had plenty of food and diapers which just took all the enjoyment out of physical challenges and pretty soon I was doing exactly what my other half did every night…collapsing on the couch, often with something to eat, and watching TV all evening until bed time. This is not my normal thing and not something I really enjoy, but my energy was thoroughly sapped. Pretty soon I started to gain weight, and of course the first response of so many is to cut back food which was my first big mistake…the more my metabolism slowed down the harder it was to get my exercise in and the more drug-out I got at work.
Last year I quit that job and found a way to replace the income with handcrafts and housecleaning and, finally, had enough energy to realize how disgusted I was with the way my body had ballooned. I suddenly found myself weighing over 220 pounds at 5’6″ with very little muscle tone left, and suddenly not working freight had thrown some more pounds onto my frame. Now I’m not a small person, broad-shouldered and muscular enough to receive some nasty jabs from classmates in high school who found me less-than-feminine, but even though people told me they’d never guess me at 220 I knew I had to take some drastic measures to re-achieve the body I’d always enjoyed and somehow find a way back to my much-loved physical pastimes.
I’d previously tried Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo workouts and really enjoyed them so I ordered a set of the original workouts and worked out with a friend three times a week. It helped a bit, my muscles started showing shape again and my flexibility improved a bit, but it was missing something…after three months of religiously working out three days a week and walking at least a mile on off days I’d only lost ten pounds and had no noticeable change in my measurements except a half an inch off my thigh. Besides that, I wanted something more vigorous than walking on the off days that might just speed up the weight loss and toning process.
To solve my metabolism and eating problems I got myself on the Cinch Inch Loss Plan from Shaklee, which increased my energy a good tenfold and did start me to shrinking. Now to put that energy to use! My other half requested that, in light of our current living situation in a shoebox of a house, I find an exercise aid that could “be shoved in a closet if need be”. One of my keenest wishes is to get back into figure skating (not influenced in the least by the significant other laughing at me when I told him I used to skate…) so I went looking for a good balance disk since my aforementioned knee injury left my leg slightly crooked and I need to work with my new center of balance a lot before I get back on the ice; my search turned up the Total Body Crosstrain Kit from Gaiam. I’ve heard some really good things about other Gaiam products, and at $30.00 from Amazon for a kit that includes a resistance cord (another item on the list for my “closet gym”), a rubberized inflatable balance disk, three 20-minute workouts on a single DVD and a pump for the disk I decided it was worth the risk.
If you’re not familiar with balance disks, they’re items about the same diameter as a dinner plate and around three inches thick when inflated. The disk should still be a bit soft when inflated so that it shifts when you stand on it. The resistance cord is a long elastic cord covered in fabric with heavy-duty handles on both ends with foam grips. Ok, so you might be seeing a few workout possibilities already with this simple set, I know I saw a few…but nothing like what the 20-minute workouts had in mind!
The DVD includes the Lower Body, Upper Body and Abs workouts. Each workout runs just about 20 minutes and the DVD will go straight into the next so you can string them together if you want to. I figured “of course I’ll want to string them together! I’ve been doing 45-minute Tae Bo workouts and still wanting more!” but…suffice to say I was wrong.
This is probably my favorite of the workouts, possibly because it’s the easiest for me to do. Swedish-born Tanja Djelevic leads the exercises in a fun, upbeat way that may seem a little cheesy in the beginning but trust me, in ten minutes you’ll appreciate the encouragement! This workout uses the disk only and incorporates some basic ballet exercises and squats done with one foot atop the disk through most of the workout for maximum work (if you’ve never tried a balance disk before, try it, you’ll be amazed how much it adds to the workout).
Despite the amount of work the muscles are made to do the workout is surprisingly easy and keeps moving along well enough that I usually don’t have much chance to realize I’m getting tired until I step off the disk at the end and my muscles are quivering from the work.
If you hate the extra fat on your upper arms and back this is your workout! This uses both the cord and disk and is styled more like a gym workout than the Lower Body one was, incorporating biceps curls and various stretches and twists done with the help of the resistance band. My arms are finally toning up! This is a major area I found to be lacking with my previous workout and had a lot of annoying “extra” on my arms and on my back around the shoulder blades which is finally disappearing at a rapid rate thanks to this workout.
Join me in a heartfelt “Aaargh!” for this workout! Ok, so maybe it’s just me…but if you’re having trouble with the abs at all this will zap them pretty quick. Now the baby (who is two years old now, how’s that for procrastination?) pretty much wrecked my abs but until I tried this workout I didn’t realize just how much I’d lost. I still can’t do this workout very well because it puts a lot of work on those abs and even the instructor is shaking through a lot of this workout. Not for the fainthearted, but the Upper Body workout can help you ease into this one.
What I think now!
The Total Body Crosstrain workouts were put together with women and their problem spots in mind, but men can sure get a lot out of this one too! Granted, I think something like the Tae Bo workouts would probably be sufficient for most men I know but if you’ve got specific areas you’d like to see stronger this is an excellent investment.
From day one I felt some pretty nice results in my major muscles and I know it’s going to be a long time before these workouts cease to challenge me. Now, one month later, I’m seeing some awesome results in inches (not so much in pounds, but those really aren’t important at this point) and my losses every two weeks that I’ve been measuring for Cinch have been much more marked this last month so it’s obviously doing quite a bit of good. So far I’ve gone from a 44″ waist to a 38″, speeding along back to my preferred 28-30″!
I aim to do one 20-minute workout every day so each one gets done twice a week (I take a break on Sunday) and have succeeded in stringing together the Ab workout and the Lower Body workout but it sure makes me sweat, for most people in most fitness levels one workout will be plenty for one day, trust me on this.
I can’t say much for the durability of the equipment yet (the review will be updated periodically to report on this) but I can say that that little disk has put up with over 200lbs. leaning and stomping on it every day and it’s showing absolutely no signs of wear.
Overall if you’re restricted to a “closet gym” like I am this is probably the best investment I’ve ever found. There are some better balance aids out there, but for the price I don’t think this disk can be beat and it definitely adds an unprecedented element of work to the workout by forcing you to use your core muscles to keep your balance as you work so you get the maximum benefit for your time. Regardless of your fitness level you can get a lot of benefit from this kit and you just might be surprised how much you can actually do and how fast it’ll get your body in the shape you want it.