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Review: Barefoot Cardio, Ellen Barrett

I bought some of Ellen’s workouts a few months ago, but after trying just one of them, I’ve let them sit on the shelf ever since.  Something about Ellen’s style just didn’t appeal me.  The workouts are very gentle and flowing, but at the same time, require that you actually work really hard.  Most people would consider that to be a positive quality in a workout. Instead, I found it bad for my ego.  See, if I’m working hard, I want everyone to know it.  I’m strong!  I’m tough! Anyone happening by my living room should think, “wow, she’s really killing it!  She’s in amazing shape!”  You won’t get that with this workout. Still, I pulled out Barefoot Cardio out yesterday because I’m recovering from a strained muscle, and I’m really glad I did!

This workout is entirely low-impact except for some side-to-side pony hops, which you can modify by stepping in a plié squat from side to side.  Aside from those hops, the cardio effect is achieved by doing standing movements that could be considered toning, except that they are done at a pace that gets your heart rate up.  Moves include repeater knees, arm movements, plié squats, curtsy lunges, and some balance moves where your weight is on one leg, and the other lifts out to the side for a number of reps. You also do relevés up on the toes, and get a nice full range of motion since you’re barefoot.  Because the choreography is simple and the moves are repeated, you have time to experiment with a move to see how it feels to you before really getting into it.  I’d recommend easing into “star arms” (one arm extends up and out, the other down, meet at the center, then switch) if you have any shoulder issues, because that’s kind of an unfamiliar way for the arms to move at such a quick pace. Ellen does a good job with sequencing moves and places challenging ones next to easier ones so you have time to recover.  I found I enjoyed the workout a lot more than I had the first time, and was pleased that after working out with all my other DVD’s for months, it was much easier for me.  Let’s hear it for cross training and variety!

One move requires that you stand in plié position with your heels together and toes out.  Because of my injury, I felt at first that this position was impossible for me.  I couldn’t stand up straight and pull the muscle in!  But I eased into it, and when the plié position came back a few minutes later, I was able to get right into it without pain!   This strained muscle has been bothering me for weeks any time I walk, climb stairs, or just generally live my life.  Yesterday, it hurt before the workout, it hurt during the workout, and it still hurt after the workout. But this morning when I got out bed, (when the muscle usually hurts the most and I limp to the bathroom) it didn’t hurt at all!!  I’m really beyond thrilled.  Thank you Ellen Barrett!  I’ll be doing this DVD daily until I feel totally healed.

Ellen has a relaxed, sweet, and feminine demeanor.  She has two background exercisers with her, one of whom is a dead ringer for Felicity Huffman.  I tried unsuccessfully not to be distracted by that.  (My thought pattern went something like this:  Who is that?  She looks just like some actress.  But which one?  Could it really be that actress?  Wouldn’t they have said something?  It did help the time pass more quickly, though.)   The set is a large open space with white walls, moldings, high ceilings, and big windows.  It’s very pretty, but I found it distracting since it looks exactly like the Great Hall at my college, and I kept expecting an a capella concert to break out.  In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if that happened, since my only real criticism of the workout is the music.  It’s designed to be so inoffensive that it’s actually offensive.  Well, to be fair, it’s just that it’s boring and doesn’t inspire you to move.  I think this workout would be really nice with classical music or some upbeat but relaxed pop songs.  I might try turning off the volume and using my own music at some point.  However, since I feel at the moment that this workout has magical healing properties for me, I don’t want to mess with it at all!

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