Health & Fitness

By Tiffany Luning

Ellen Barrett is a busy, busy woman. Yonkers-born Barrett is a certified fitness instructor who owns and operates her own exercise studio in Connecticut, appropriately named The Studio, where she personally teaches several classes a week. In addition to opening her studio, in the past few years she has also developed several videos, including Crunch’s à¼ber-popular Pick-Your-Spot Pilates, Burn and Firm Pilates, and Fat Burning Pilates, and in addition, has written a book entitled Sexy Yoga.

Barrett’s latest endeavors include a new Crunch video, Super SlimDown, released on February 7, as well as a new book, Weights for Weight Loss, released in January.

Super SlimDown, based on a blend of two of today’s most popular fitness disciplines, Pilates and yoga. All you’ll need for this workout are some non-restrictive clothing, a mat, and bare feet. Clocking in at 42 minutes, the DVD begins with standing yoga work and then proceeds to more Pilates-based mat work. The yoga, performed with a dynamic and quick constant flow, kept me from becoming bored as I often do with slower forms of yoga.

Performed are many of the usual suspects: Side Angle, Triangle, Downward-Facing Dog, Dolphin, and something called “Warrior Pulse”. The Pilates sections include series of Leg Circles, Single-Leg Stretches, Teasers, Ballet Criss-Cross, and my favorite, Little Piece of Heaven (is there anything better than stretching your lower back and strengthening your triceps at the same time?). Despite how easy yoga and Pilates appear on the surface, it’s an excellent workout, particularly done at the slightly faster-than-normal speed done here. I felt some muscle soreness the next day, particularly in my legs.

A background participant performs nearly all of the moves on this video in a modified fashion, so there is appropriate guidance for less-experienced fitness folks.
Per usual, Barrett’s cueing is excellent. She consistently reminds you to keep proper form (pull in that core!) and the importance of breathing properly.

As in her other videos, Barrett has a sweet on-camera persona – always encouraging and motivational without being overly chatty or perky.

I love to lift weights. No, really – I love it. I’ll always remember my high school PE class, where the girls were occasionally condemned to the typically-boys-only weight room. The girls moaned and groaned that they didn’t wanna lift weights, that they were gonna get all big and bulky and whine-whine-whine. Not me – weight lifting was something I could actually do, and do well; I found it highly preferable to being beaned in the face with a basketball (which happened, without fail, every year from grades one through twelve).

After high school, any sort of physical fitness I had engaged in fell to the wayside, and I only picked it up again in the past couple of years.

When I began lifting weights again, I realized not only how much I had missed it, but how dramatically it can reshape your body.

Ellen Barrett, of course, knows how vital weight training can be when trying to change your body composition. In her book Weights for Weight Loss, she dispels the usual myths of weight training: fat “turns” to muscle, it’s only for men, lifting weights = Mr. Olympia-esque bulk, and so on. She also explains that adding muscle through weight training leads to greater fat loss with less effort. Hooray!

The book features exercises for all levels of fitness, from beginner to advance. Barrett provides weight-loss programs of 7, 14, or 30-day durations, prescribing which of her training methods to employ on which days of the week (including the essential days of rest and recovery).

Each exercise utilized is clearly explained with step-by-step instructions and photos that show proper technique. An often-overlooked aspect of weight training is breath pattern, but Barrett also includes when to inhale and exhale with each exercise.

She includes modification on many exercises, both to increase the workload for seasoned fitness buffs, and to lessen it for the newcomers.

Barrett features several specialty programs in the book. “The 10-Minute Body Blitz,” is a metabolism-boosting circuit that hits all the major muscle groups.

“The 20-Minute Slow-Motion Chisel” uses maximum weight load at a slow pace to build strength (my personal favorite).

“The 30-Minute Super Sculpt” is a moderately paced muscle-building workout, utilizing heavier weights for three sets in a row.

The final program is “The 40-Minute Cardio/Sculpt Circuit,” where exercises are performed at a fast pace with no rest in between and elevates the heart rate. After all the weight lifting is over, Barrett also provides a myriad of stretches to help your muscles recover and prevent injury. Ahhhhhh.

You can visit Ellen Barrett’s website at www.ellenbarrett.com to get additional information about her videos, books, studio, and even purchase her own Buff Girl Fitness apparel.

Originally published March 2006
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