Fit or fad? Tracy Anderson

I’ve been meaning to do a review of Tracy Anderson and her workout DVDs for ages, but I wanted to wait until I’d been doing it for a bit longer than two days before talking about it! I’ve been doing a combination of her Mat Workout, Total Cardio and Dance Cardio DVDs for three weeks now, so I thought I’d do a bit of a check in, in case anyone is interested in trying Tracy out.

Tracy Anderson seems to be an extraordinarily controversial figure (literally!) in the fitness world. Those who like her worship her with an almost cult-like fervour, while her doubters think she’s some sort of spawn of Satan. It’s difficult to find unbiased reviews. The attention is hugely on Tracy Anderson as a person, as opposed to her method. Anyway, so far, I’ve found her method to be extremely effective and with quick results. It’s tough, and certainly not to everybody’s taste. I’m going to walk you through the positives and negatives of what I’ve found so far. The things that I like might be things you’d hate, but it’ll at least leave you better informed.

The Good

  • I like Tracy Anderson. She’s a welcome contrast from all fitness instructors with rictus smiles, grinning like they’re having THE BEST TIME EVER working out. Tracy just gets on with the workout. Sometimes she gives a tiny smile when she’s doing a particularly difficult move, but that’s it.
  • People have criticised her for having perfectly waved hair and nice workout outfits, but this is another thing I like. She doesn’t look like a scruff in a tracksuit, but she equally doesn’t look like some of those awful girls in legwarmers and leotards who do those Ministry of Sound workouts.
  • For the Mat workout and the Dance Cardio, Tracy has no back up dancers/exercisers. I love this, because I never see the point of having other people doing the workout on screen.
  • Somehow, it seems to be the perfect toughness for me. You do a certain amount of reps, and just as you’re getting tired, Tracy suddenly changes the angle and you’re working a different muscle.
  • She doesn’t burble on! This, again, is something she’s been picked up on. People say she’s a ‘terrible teacher’, and that it feels like invading her own ‘personal performance’. Well, I love it. I learn by watching, not by listening. Tracy wants you to do these DVDs 5-6 times a week, and seriously – if you had to keep hearing the same patter over and over, you’d go mad.
  • I’ve seen results insanely quickly. In just over two weeks, I’ve lost about 5 ½ lbs. That in itself is good, but actually, it’s the inch loss and body reshaping I’m most excited about. I think I’d lost something insane like 4 inches overall in that short time, which shows I’m not just losing water weight. I can really see a difference in my thighs, stomach and arms. I’ve NEVER been able to do much about my thighs, so this is pretty miraculous in itself.
  • I like Tracy’s philosophy. I love the fact that she wants to help you attain a feminine shape instead of what she calls ‘the typical shape seen in women’s fitness’; i.e. bulked up muscular arms, solid thighs, a six pack. This suits me down to the ground: I’ve often been told by people that I’m ‘slim but with curves’, and I didn’t want to wreck the lines of my body with bulky muscles. She doesn’t want you lifting more than 3lbs, and again, I love this. She gets you to do a lot of reps from different angles, so really pulling in the ‘accessory muscles’, meaning your arms get thinner as opposed to more muscular. This is precisely what I want, but I know some girls will recoil in horror at that. Each to their own, I say.
  • The Dance Cardio and Total Cardio DVDs are tricky to learn. Each features a handful of ‘combinations’, and there is absolutely no way you can just pop it in and learn it all in the first go. You actually have to work on it; which means breaking it right down and learning one routine at a time. I learn one then practice it over and over again, to my own music. This is GREAT for me, as it reminds me of when I danced. I used to love doing routines over and over again, learning them inside out. It also means you get so much mileage out of her DVDs. You don’t just watch them a couple of times, you could be learning new stuff for months.
  • Tracy pouts a lot. People seem to hate this. I’m a pouter myself, and having watched myself workout in the mirror this morning, I am definitely doing a Tracy Anderson approved frowny pout. Be proud, fellow pouters!
  • For the Dance Cardio DVD, you can choose to watch the routines from the back or from the front. That means you don’t have to watch it and keep mirroring her moves! You can just breeze through.

The Bad

  • The diet element. Tracy claims that she ‘can’t guarantee any results’ unless you’re following her diet plan too. This diet plan advocates things like pureed spinach as lunch, bans things like oils and spices, and has been estimated to provide 700 calories a day. This is pretty obscene considering you might be burning 600 calories a day from the two hours of working out she wants you to do. 700 calories means that your body is well and truly in starvation mode, and when you come crashing off the Tracy method (as you inevitably will), you’re going to pile on the pounds. I personally follow my own sensible diet. I refuse to go under 1200 calories. I’ve got ‘form’ when it comes to disordered eating, and I know that 700 cals per day will spell disaster for me.
  • Ouch! My knees! Tracy’s cardio is seriously hard on the joints. In the last week, I’ve been lying in bed at night, my knees absolutely aching. I do her workouts in proper dance trainers, which minimise the shock to my joints, so the fact that they STILL hurt is worrying. Her routines involve a seriously crazy amount of jumping. I’m still working on my stamina, so I tend to ‘mark through’ the routines a lot, and tone it down. If you’re above a certain weight or age, this is going to wreck you. I’m continuing because my body used to be fine with all this stuff, back in the days of dance and physical theatre, so I know I’ll adapt eventually.
  • Excuse me? I do a jumping jack and then WHAT? The routines are seriously, seriously complicated. Professional dancers have stated that they can’t follow them. The part of my brain that can learn routines is kicking back in, but slowly. For now, I just take them apart and keep repeating them over and over. If you don’t have the patience for this and just want to do a routine and forget about it, don’t buy these. She also sometimes seems to change moves slightly when she switches from learning the routine to performing it. Wowza.
  • The time it takes: Tracy wants you to work out for two hours a day. As I’m working from home right now, I can fit this round my day. If you go out to work or you have kids, good luck. It’s not a forgiving schedule.

So ultimately, I dig her controversial philosophy, I love the workouts, I like Tracy, and the results for me have spoken for themselves. And sure – of course you’d see results from any workout you were doing this much, but I really believe that Tracy’s routines are giving me the shape I want. They’re right for my needs at the moment. HOWEVER, some of the negatives could be pretty insurmountable. If you’ve got a history of injury, steer clear. If you’ve had an eating disorder, stay awaaaay from the diet plan. Actually, everybody should stay away from the diet plan. If you’re pushed for time, don’t bother. If your brain isn’t quick to pick up dance routines, run away screaming.

If you’re still interested, find Tracy’s DVDs on Amazon or Ebay. If you’ve got Lovefilm, they’re also on there, and I think that’s the perfect way to try before you buy. Likewise, pop her name into Youtube and you’ll find examples of her routines. Let me know how you get on!

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Healthy living: End of Week 1

With the zeal of anyone who has just started a new healthy eating/exercising plan, I raced through the week with few problems. There is no week easier than the first week when you’re changing your habits, as I’m sure most of you will know. Actually, the first couple of weeks are usually pretty golden. You’re evangelical about your new eating plan, and you tell anyone who will listen that they’ve ‘really got to try’ it, it’s ‘already made such a huge difference’. ‘Sugar? You know, you reeeeally shouldn’t eat that’, etc etc. You become a diet bore. You tend to see results quickly, depending on how bad a state you were in before. Everything is glorious, and you’re in a permanent good mood. Come weeks 3/4, it may well be a different story, but hey – let’s stick with week one.

I managed to exercise everyday, focussing on different bits of my body to exercise with Cassey’s POP Pilates videos. Then I’d finish off with 10-20 minutes of cardio. Saturday was an all cardio day, and I rediscovered Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo, a workout video (yes, video) I’d used to get me into shape in my teens. Ah, the sweaty nostalgia of it all. But that’s enough about my personal life, back to the exercising.

I was like a woman possessed – logging my food and exercise every day on MyFitnessPal.com, spending my ‘spare’ (haha) time on researching the best workouts to follow. I’m very happy to be following Cassey and her ‘blogilates’. She’s a lovely cheery presence and puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day. Useful, as I tend to workout in the morning.

Yesterday, I finally paid attention to the name that I’d heard floating around but had never really registered. Tracy Anderson. The great pretender, as some call her, or Gwyneth and Madonna’s personal trainer, to everyone else. She seems to have completely divided the fitness world. She has very strict beliefs, e.g. women shouldn’t lift more than 3lbs if they want to have thin arms. She’s created a form of exercise called ‘dance cardio’, and I’ve been told she tends to give little instruction and smile even less.

The programme of exercise that works for you is a very personal thing, so it was little wonder that I found such a dichotomy of opinion. I’ve danced for a substantial portion of my life, so can pick up routines quite quickly, and I don’t necessarily need a running commentary on it. I also hate doing weights, I really struggle to lift anything very heavy, so that side of things works for me to. The only thing to do was to try it. I looked up some of her free webcasts, along with a routine she did with Nicole Richie, and I absolutely LOVED them. It made me sweat (sorry, disgusting), which I welcomed as Pilates makes me sore but doesn’t yield any perspiration (was that less horrible sounding?!) I enjoyed all the hopping about and twisting round and kicking (sounds like my last date…badoom tish.) I liked Tracy, I found her to be earnest and not nauseatingly false.

So, I’ll be adding about 20 minutes of her to the end of my Pilates for next week, as I felt my cardio was lacking last week. I’ve also purchased the Snog healthy treats cookbook – £7.07 on Ebay as opposed to £17 in Smith’s. I love love love Snog, and it’s a beautiful book – I’ll blog a couple of recipes from it once I’ve tried them, so you can all join in. I’ve got a detox cookery class with Nosh Detox coming up on Thursday too, in South Ken. Should be fun, and I’ll report back on that too. I know it feels anti-instinctive to be doing this health kick now instead of January, but I just see it as getting a head start on my New Year’s Resolutions. I refuse to sit back, make excuses, and get even more unhealthy over the festive period. Let me know if you’re doing anything similar, or if you keep a fitness blog yourself

I promise these self obsessed health blogs won’t be the only thing I talk about these days – I’ve just been super duper busy setting up my jewellery business (nearly there, fingers crossed!), and my free time is either spent writing articles, or visiting spas and fashion events and things. I know, I know. It’s a tough life. But someone’s got to do it.

Big fat healthy Snogs xx

Tracy Anderson, my new queen

Frozen yog - my new ice cream