Thursday, 12 December 2013

Hips Don't Lie

I thought a follow up to Shut Up and Dance was in order now that I’ve been using the workout DVDs for a couple of months. I appreciate exercise is not the answer and indeed not even an option for everyone, but for those who are interested and able a bit of a first hand review can’t hurt.

To set the scene a little, I took a tumble from a horse aged 13 which did some fairly extensive damage to the muscles in my back, and despite being just about fully recovered I never regained previous levels of flexibility. I also have a twisted pelvis - I always rode with uneven stirrups to compensate for the fact my left hip at rest is naturally somewhat in front of my right. It isn't particularly visible and can only really be spotted if I’m lying on my front, in which it becomes obvious that my right hip doesn’t touch the surface I’m lying on.

All in all I haven’t had particularly fluid hip movement for some years and my flexibility is patchy to say the least. Dance therefore does not come all that naturally, not in the least bit helped by the fact I’m easily confused if my feet have to do something entirely separate to my hands and arms.

You only have to bear witness to how many times I walk into things to be assured that coordination is not my strong suit. It turns out that even the rather strong deterrent of severe allodynia cannot help me to be spatially aware of the furniture; in answer to the usual question yes, it is indeed more than big enough to see. Go away with your logic.


I picked up the two Strictly Come Dancing exercise DVDs directly from the BBC website for £8.99. Amazon and elsewhere sell them separately for about £5 each.

So, in starting out I swiftly found that if you’ve never done any sort of formal dancing before, then of the two DVDs Flavia Cacace and Kelly Brook’s one is probably going to be the best one to start with. Naturally not knowing this I did it the other way round and swiftly stared my own towering ineptitude in the face. Not to be deterred I kept going for a few weeks with the other DVD (Karen Hardy and Erin Boag) and managed to get three of the five routines into rough shape (cha cha, salsa and jive). Flavia and Kelly’s DVD has clearly been tailored more with non-dancers in mind and in treading the line between aerobics and dance probably falls slightly in favour of the former.

A key point – make sure you have plenty of room. Our living room and kitchen are open plan and so I have the width if not quite the length (Must. Learn. To. Take. Smaller. Steps.)

Is it working? Very much so. It’s a much higher cardio workout than you might think and really does move everything – which is why it’s important to do the warm up and cool down routines, a fact reiterated several times by the dancers and in a recorded disclaimer before the menu screen loads. It was extremely daunting at first but now the steps are starting to make more sense (even sometimes with accompanying arm movements!) and I can remember enough to drop the instructional element most of the time.

(Don't be fooled by the butter wouldn't melt expression....)

One thing I discovered relatively early on – do not have your cat in the room when jiving on pain of near certain death. You’d think after thirteen years of watching me bump into and fall over everything in reach Misty would be wise to the fact that me balanced and levering up and down on the ball of one foot whilst kicking backwards at waist height with the other is far too precarious a situation to venture close.  Feline logic clearly leaves a lot to be desired and the situation ended with me in a heap on the floor tangled with the cat, who then proceeded to walk all over me wearing a “This is entirely your fault!” expression.

Pleasantly my flexibility is also improving a fair bit, including my hips which now occasionally manage normal human function. A secondary concern though it may be for me in terms of exercise, I can’t complain that jeans I bought fairly recently are starting to be a little roomier too.

The biggest recommendation I can give though is that it makes me smile. Having never danced like so many of my contemporaries as a child, I didn't expect to pick it up with ease. More surprising still was just how much I enjoy it. The dancers on both DVDs call salsa “feel good” and it really truly is.

And then there’s the music. I’m not generally a fan of pop music, but the tracks for all the workouts are brilliant choices to suit the dance routines. I never thought I’d find myself writing in praise of Black Eyed Peas and Shakira, but credit where it’s due – they’re brilliant songs to dance to.

All in all I’m really pleased with finding these DVDs. I can foresee this taking quite some time to start feeling stale (despite my doing the workouts about three times a week) and I’m so pleased to find that the potential for flexibility and full movement was there in my joints after all, they just needed the right exercise to encourage it.

Hips Don’t Lie, eh Shakira? It appears mine do.

(What I lack in technique I make up for with enthusiasm!)

Wishing you many spoons xxx

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