Review: Lisa Johnson Fitness DVDs

February 18, 2013 by Michelle

As part of my goal to get back into fitness, I’ve been back in the saddle – as it were – in going to the gym.  I love the gym and my classes there, but some days I don’t have the time or ability to make it to a class, so I’ve been looking for an alternative when that happens.  Lisa Johnson asked me to review two of her fitness DVDs, and that was the perfect fit for me.

Body Physica Intense DVD Modern Pilates DVD covers

Lisa Johnson is a popular fitness blogger, and she also has a Pilates studio in Boston where she’s been a trainer since 1998.  This isn’t a fad for her, and it shows in her DVDs.  The two DVDs are the first that she’s put out – one is Pilates mat workout and the other an all over workout in ten minute segments.  Modern Pilates was a little bit daunting to me, only because I’ve only done Pilates a few times.  Much of a yoga lover as I am – and fortunately the two are somewhat related – the gyms I’ve belonged to have never had Pilates workouts.  I wanted to try it, however, as I love the philosophy behind Pilates done properly of lengthening and strengthening.  And the fact that – for this version anyway – the only additional equipment you need is a mat is that much more attractive (much as I’d love to have a reformer in my living room, with the personal trainer to boot).

I was pleased to see that Lisa included variations for practitioners who are beginner through advanced within the DVD.  She has three models (including herself) doing the workout, one doing the modifications for beginners, Lisa doing the intermediate variation, and a third model doing the advanced modifications.  I will admit that the DVD went through the workout fast.  For a 50 minute routine, there was a lot packed in there.  And that’s good, although this is not a workout that I will feel comfortable doing the second or even the third time.  As someone new to Pilates, I need to digest the motions, even with my background in yoga and other forms of working out.  I’m ok with that.

My only real concern is that as a beginner, I really don’t know what I’m doing.  I could be doing the moves all wrong because I don’t know what they are supposed to feel like due to my lack of experience.  I know with a good yoga instructor who verified that I was doing each move properly, I quickly figured out when I was in a position wrong or when I was tensing a wrong muscle.  I think I would be better off attending a few “real” Pilates classes with someone who can be hands on for me before getting serious about this DVD.  And because I am a beginner, I can’t speak to the efficacy of the more advanced variations, but they definitely existed and looked significantly more challenging than what I was doing!

I’ve done Lisa’s Body Physica: Intense DVD more often, simply because I feel more comfortable with it.  Again, it has beginner, intermediate, and advanced variations (primarily based on the amount of time you do each exercise, although some also have form variations) with models demonstrating each one.  This DVD is broken down into four ten minute workouts, each targeting a specific set of positions – a standing series, a ballet workout, floor exercises, and a sweat fest.  The DVD is set up so that you can choose to do one portion of the DVD if you have ten minutes or all four sections one after the other if you have more time to dedicate to your workout.

A mat is helpful for the floor series – and that’s something I have on hand, though it definitely isn’t necessary – but beyond that, the only equipment you truly need is a chair for the ballet series, which was easy to scoot from the kitchen.  I found the workout easy to follow, and Lisa’s variations meant that I could make it easier or more difficult as I went along.  I found that even when I tried this DVD when I was just getting back into working out (two or so weeks in), I could do the intermediate or advanced variation for most of the DVD, with only a few places where I needed to stop earlier.

As I’ve gotten more fit over the past weeks, I can now go through the entire DVD and do the advanced series without being sore the next day.  I almost wish that there was more variation in form to make some of the exercises more difficult, although I know that I could incorporate a resistance band or free weights into many of the exercises that would make them adequately challenging.  I’d like to see Lisa suggest this as an option, as well.

Lisa herself is perky without being cloyingly cheerful, which I appreciate.  I want someone who appears to enjoy the exercise but can still carry on a conversation while doing so – someone to cheer me on and give me counts for how much time I have left or what’s coming next.  She does a good job of cuing and demonstrating moves prior to starting a sequence, which initially gave me some time to breathe and now I use that as extra time to continue with the previous exercise in the circuit – or grab a drink of water.

I will always prefer a class – and after working out to Lisa’s fitness DVDs, I wish I lived in Boston so that I could attend her classes – but it’s nice to know that I have an alternative at home that isn’t focused just on cardio.  My weakness is in ignoring strength training, and both Modern Pilates and Body Physica: Intense incorporate plenty of exercises that don’t just get my heart rate up but also build muscle.

You can purchase Lisa’s DVDs for $19.99 apiece, either as a digital download or as a DVD from her website – or you can buy them both for $34.99 and save a few dollars.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received the two Lisa Johnson DVDs as described above for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions remain my own.


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