If you're an overweight woman who has made a vow to get fit but don't know how to start, Rochelle Rice has written the book for you. This paperback doesn't preach about what's wrong with you or your weight (Rice is a member of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance). Instead, it takes you at whatever size you happen to be and encourages you to stop beating yourself up over failed diets and clothes that no longer fit.
Rice's mission is to help you get moving, firm up weak muscles and take advantage of exercise's numerous benefits: lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced risk of osteoporosis, less stress, better sleep. Given that excess weight can make movement trickier, increasing your chance of injury, Rice begins with simple, basic movements to build strength, improve aerobic capacity, stretch tight muscles and reduce aches and pains. She recommends minimal equipment: a bath towel, an armless chair, a latex exercise band, a ball or bed pillow, and some music to make it all the more enjoyable.
It's refreshing to see photographs of women who are not living skeletons demonstrating the movements that all of us should be incorporating into our days, regardless of our waist-to-hip ratio or body mass index. Rice, who is certified by the American Council on Exercise and belongs to the American Anorexia Bulimia Assn., encourages readers to develop a healthier relationship with food, and she gives them a psychological and spiritual boost with daily affirmations to harness the power of positive thinking.
THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET WORKOUT:
50 Stretches and Exercises Anyone Can Do for a Strong, Graceful and Sculpted Body
Palm Pictures, VHS version, 90 minutes, $14.95; DVD version, $24.95. Available March 27.
Let's face it, few of us are ever going to be able to stretch ourselves into pretzels or extend our legs straight overhead as do the professional ballet dancers in this workout tape from the New York City Ballet. But, with the mellifluous voice-over instructions from ballet master and Danish demigod Peter Martins reminding you to keep your spine straight--and lovely classical music providing background to each low-impact exercise or stretch--you could have a worse time with an exercise tape.
This workout, originally released in book form, was developed by Martins and the ballet company in association with the New York Sports Club. It's offered for credit in New York City public schools and at health clubs nationwide. The problem, however, is that if you lack familiarity with ballet terminology and don't have the book or an instructor in front of you, the very first warmup can leave you feeling lost. Of course, Martins tells you that "the more you practice, the easier it will get." But instructions to "plie slightly, releve and plie back" could be just enough to send you back to the TV mode of your VCR. If you're patient, though, in later sections, Martins does explain the plie (that's a knee bend to civilians), and you figure out that releve means getting up on your toes.
At the very least, this tape could teach you something about posture, loosening up that lower back and strengthening your leg muscles. (The final section, featuring the dancers' personal stories, brings them down to earth.) And at best, you might sign yourself up for a class to get back in touch with your inner ballet dancer, becoming all the more graceful for it.
(The DVD version of the workout includes a personal workout programming option, a visual glossary of ballet terms, a photo gallery from the book, behind-the-scenes footage, and a music selection option so viewers can choose a classical or contemporary soundtrack.)