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This DVD is one of three new releases from Gaiam which feature Trudie Styler, wife of the musician Sting, in a workout led by James D'Silva (sometimes known as a "fitness trainer to the stars" due to his previous work with Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and others). Cardio Dance Flow is set against the backdrop of Styler's and Sting's beautiful Tuscan villa. The music (as one might guess) is provided by Sting: soft, instrumental selections from his Songs from the Labyrinth album. The Main Menu of the DVD offers the following options: Warm-Up -- Cardio Dance Workout -- Express Workout -- Stretch Workout -- Bonus Materials. The Bonus Materials section includes interviews with Styler, Sting, and D'Silva (each about 6 minutes long), a Footwork Tutorial segment, and finally, the Making of Sting's Album, If On a Winter's Night.... Unfortunately the tutorial is not truly instructional, as it is taught by D'Silva via voiceover (I have never seen this in a tutorial before!), and he is simply doing a slightly slowed down version of the cardio routine.
The Warm-Up, Cardio Dance Workout, and Express Workout are all taught by D'Silva via voiceover as well; each of these segments is chaptered separately. The Warm-Up is just under 7 minutes long and shows D'Silva alone in an indoor setting. He performs a gentle series of standing-in-place moves such as prancing, relevés, side stretches, forward bends, arm circles, static side lunges, warrior 2, reverse warrior, and arabesque. For the 22.5-minute Cardio Dance Workout, D'Silva and Styler are exercising together on a patio outdoors (note: D'Silva is barefoot, but Styler is wearing what appears to be soft dance slippers). This workout also begins with prancing, and D'Silva incorporates many basic ballet terms, from utilizing fifth position to adding a développé series to the end of the routine. As with the warm-up, D'Silva starts off rather gently here, stepping side-to-side and cuing either foot-to-ankle or foot-to-knee; he combines this with side and forward bends, providing what feels like an extended warm-up. Eventually (about 6 minutes into the routine), D'Silva begins to up the cardio challenge a bit, adding knee lifts and quick side-side-side-side hops. Not only was this portion of the workout fun, but it also was the one interval that was truly aerobic. In the next section, D'Silva incorporates pliés and knee lifts—these moved a bit slower, but he continued to alternate with the faster side-to-side hops. Following this, however, he moves into a sequence in which he stands in place to perform a plié, warrior 2, side stretch, reverse warrior, and warrior 2, repeating on the second side. This series felt more appropriate to a final cool-down, not the middle of a cardio workout! D'Silva does continue to introduce new cardio moves, including a side-to-side gallop and a more complex "side-font-side, side-back-side," but this is also the point in which he inserts the développé series, which felt more like toning than cardio work. All of the above sequences are repeated several times. For the last few minutes of the workout, D'Silva returns to prancing, performed from both a parallel and a turned out position. He concludes as he began, with side and front stretches.
The Express Workout is just over 11 minutes long. It contains the exact same footage as the Cardio Dance Workout, but it has been seamlessly reduced. Although shorter, is more cardio-intensive, as it skips most of the slower, extended warm-up series and jumps right in with the faster-paced moves. However, it does still include two rounds of the développé series. The Stretch Workout, which is just under 26 minutes, utilizes a foam roller to provide myofascial release, or deep tissue massage. (Note: the roller is a must-have piece of equipment for this segment; any substitutions are not likely to be the appropriate size or density to provide the desired massage effect.) D'Silva is featured alone for this segment, and he uses the roller in various positions, beginning with it under the back of the neck for a series of neck stretches. Next, he moves to lying vertically on the roller, continuing the upper body work with shoulder circles, arm reaches, and torso hugs. Moving into the lower body, D'Silva performs pelvic tilts, balance work, and some brief abs crunches. He then switches the roller to under the hips for additional pelvic tilts as well as leg lifts. Coming to a seated position, D'Silva rolls out the hamstrings. After that, he places the roller under the shoulder blades for some additional upper body work. Then it's back to seated, stretching the arms behind you to roll out the forearms. D'Silva concludes by rolling the hips and thighs (first side-lying, then face-down) as well as some brief additional rolling of the forearms, finishing the stretch by resting in child's pose.
I feel very conflicted about this DVD. Portions of the cardio dance were definitely enjoyable, and my heart rate did go up at times. Overall, however, I did not find it to be a sufficient aerobic workout. Rather than simply cardio dance, I would describe the routine to be a more uneven mismatch of dance-y cardio, ballet, and yoga. Furthermore, having a separately chaptered warm-up was awkward and completely unnecessary here given that the main workout begins so slowly. The foam roller stretch segment is much more successful, as D'Silva does a very nice job of hitting all of the major muscle groups and includes some particularly nice moves for the often-tight areas of the neck, shoulders, and upper back. However, some consumers may be disappointed to find that the need for a foam roller is not mentioned anywhere on the DVD case. In conclusion, this DVD might appeal to someone who simply wants a fun, fusion-type workout, but I would be more hesitant to recommend it to someone hoping for more of an aerobic benefit.
© 2010 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students