Test Drive: The Huffington Post Canada's Living team will try out something that has sparked our curiosity, and as long as we live to tell the tale, we'll let you know all about it.
Test Drive Subject: Tracy Anderson's workout (in promotion for Galaxy S5 and Gear Fit)
What It Is: The Tracy Anderson part of the equation has been pretty difficult to avoid in the past few years. Best known as Gwyneth Paltrow's trainer and all-around BFF, she's released dozens of workout DVDs, and is the literal definition of a pint-sized powerhouse. Seriously, the woman is 5'0" and all muscle, not to mention a mom to a 15-year-old boy and a 22-month-old girl.
The Galaxy S5 is Samsung's newest smartphone, and Gear Fit is a smartwatch that acts as a pedometer and tracks your sleep patterns, among other things. Meant to capitalize on the intersection of fitness and technology, the device gauges your heart rate (via a sensor) and gives you feedback on how hard you've worked.
Price: $229 for the Galaxy S5; $199 for Gear Fit. DVDs range from $15 to $90. Tracy Anderson experience — priceless.
Trying It Out: Tracy jumped right into the 35-minute aerobic and strength-training workout, which took place in a room with the heat turned up (more on that later). The warm-up felt surprisingly casual, almost spontaneous, with arms flailing every which way and a focus on literally making us sweat.
She then moved on to an arms workout with three-pound weights, which basically consisted of doing every arm exercise you've ever learned really quickly over the course of one fast-tempo song. It was challenging, to be sure (I can barely lift my arms today), but it was also a little confusing. Was I doing the move correctly? Which muscle was I working? Would I injure myself? It didn't seem to matter, as it was over almost as quickly as it began.
Next came the butt portion of the workout, which went on for what felt like forever. Doing moves that included everything from your regular "get in a cat position and lift your leg like a dog" to a complicated pose that went something like "shoulder on the mat, hip in the air, crouch like an insect and LIFT," this was serious exercise for the glutes and legs and made it rather difficult to walk down stairs today.
I should note that the description above is completely mine, as Tracy just did the moves and expected us to follow along.
Lastly came my favourite portion — a short dance routine that looked really simple but had me sweating more than is polite to admit in public.
Our Thoughts: Now about that heated room mentioned above, this is part of Tracy's method. She says the higher temperature pressures your thermoregulating system to access more of the brain's help, and make you work muscles you wouldn't otherwise. That's also why she switches up her moves so regularly, and does things most people haven't seen before (see above-mentioned insect pose) — to help build new neural pathways.
Tracy also had us take our heart rates (using the Samsungs, of course) before, during and after the workout to demonstrate how hard we'd exercised. As she put it, "The good thing about seeing [your heart rate] and watching that is that not only do you see that your body is operating and you're actually moving and you're doing something, you're using your brain's connection to the body. You're firing more muscles than you ever could just running over and over and over."
So did the workout feel different than any other workout I've ever done? Honestly, it did. Not necessarily because I thought I was accessing my brain more, but because it felt like it focused more on full body movement than singling out specific muscles, which I've always found to be the case in group settings. And it was fun, in a "what is she going to do next" kind of way, and plus, I can't resist a dance routine. (Conveniently, Tracy's next DVD, "Unleash Your Inner Pop Star" is all about that kind of workout.)
The Warning: As I mentioned, there wasn't a ton of instruction about how to do the moves or corrections if you were doing them incorrectly. I'm guessing the DVDs go a bit slowly and are a bit more explanatory, but if you do have the chance to do a live Tracy Anderson class, be prepared to jump right in and just go for it.
And you will look a bit stupid. As Tracy said after the warm-up, "Don't judge yourself, and don't judge your neighbours." You really won't want to.
Tips: Lose whatever preconceived notions you may have of Tracy before working out with her, whether virtually or in real life. She's not the type to yell, and she's not the type to insist you do something perfectly — instead, she seems to expect that you'll want the best for yourself, and you kind of can't help but follow suit.
She did mention the potential of opening up a gym in Toronto eventually, but noted both she's a perfectionist and needs time to sort out the details.
And as far as her recommendations for healthy living go, Tracy says you should work out six days a week, because "you have to take care of your body all the time." And don't assume she's all about the raw diet either. "I was raw for a year and I didn't have my period for seven months," she told me. "As soon as I started eating meat again, I got my period back."
What she does advocate is having your blood taken so you know which foods you're sensitive to and cause you inflammation. For her part, she's allergic to avocados, coconuts, cranberries — not the most expected foods!
Have you done any of Tracy's workouts, either live or on DVD? Let us know what you thought in the comments below:
ALSO — Other things the Huffington Post Canada Living team has tested:
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