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Monday, February 24, 2014


Checking out the first three volumes of Tracie Long's LONGEVITY fitness DVD series reminded me of how
I grew up watching the god of fitness, Jack Lalanne, teaching us how to struggle in vain to look one percent of how great he looked, and then later his chipper rival Debbie Drake, who introduced something she called "dancercize" into the fitness mix which we kids found fascinatingly nutty and fun to dance along with.

Still later, "dancercize" would evolve into "aerobicize", and suddenly the biggest audience for these shows was beer-bellied guys with no intention of following along with the strenuous routines.  The shows were now populated by gorgeous model types in tight leotards (like THE TERMINATOR's Bess Motta) who made love to the camera and seemed more interested in showing off their bodies than shaping up ours. 

Nowadays, of course, the fitness game has gotten real again with the success of tapes and DVDs promising "buns of steel" along with tuning up various other body parts.  The most successful of these, a series known as "The Firm", introduced the world to South Carolina native Tracie Long, a no-nonsense fitness instructor who now offers her own line of DVDs (along with associates and fellow "Firm" alumni Stephanie Lasek and Allison Foster) while managing Long Training Studios in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, John.

A 46-year-old mother of two herself, Tracie's chief aim is to help 35+ mothers get back into shape by choreographing her own rigorous workouts designed to tone every muscle, incinerate calories, and get that heart rate going pitter-pat all over the place.  TRACIE LONG LONGEVITY SERIES: DEFINING SHAPE (VOL. 1) gets things started with Tracie's own brand of strength and fitness training in which she pretty much has participants working their butts off nonstop for about 50 minutes. 

Weights are used extensively during this volume which amps up the exertion level considerably and, according to the DVD description, it's designed to help the "hips, butt, inner thighs and shoulders."

The set itself is attractive and functional, with a faux brick wall, a couple of fake windows, a potted fern, a rack of colorful medicine balls, and a painting that looks like an abstract grouping of--what else?--colorful medicine balls.  The simple three-camera coverage and static shots keep things basic  and focus attention on the tasks at hand, while the driving (and suitably monotonous) disco-funk musical backing nudges it all along.

This isn't the kind of aerobicize where you hop around and jog in place while flailing your arms and smiling like a loon.  It's an intensive training session that mixes extended calisthenics-style routines with floor work that includes lots of push-ups, sit-ups, and whatever else Tracie can come up with to work that bod. 

There's no flirting, small talk, funny patter, being bubbly, seducing the camera, or any of the other fluff that some might expect, and no tearful self-esteem speeches.  You come to her when you're ready to work it, and she obliges by putting you through your paces like a benign drill sergeant.

There isn't even any introductory chatter or pep talk--when the DVD starts, the viewer is thrust right into the
action from the git-go and it doesn't let up until Tracie abruptly calls a halt to things during the cool-down stretch and the session ends. 

Tracie (who has no qualms about exhorting viewers with "Okay, it's time to squat!") is attractive in a hunkette sort of way and has a pleasant demeanor, but she's also a super-fit athlete who obviously works out a lot and has more stamina than the Energizer bunny. 

With TRACIE LONG LONGEVITY SERIES: STAYING POWER (VOL. 2), she trades her long pants for shorts (affording us a view of those finely-chiseled legs at last) and finally gets one of those medicine balls off  the rack and into the action. 

As usual, she wastes no time delving into a brisk metabolic-boosting cardio-conditioning workout (I read that somewhere) which, as the handy DVD description informs me, is aimed at "sculpting sexy shoulders, increasing core strength and leaning out" (whatever that means) "through the hips, butt and inner and outer thighs." 

If that's what it's meant to do, then I'm convinced after watching Tracie relentlessly  put us through our paces that it indeed does exactly that.

Seeing her in a tank top and shorts,  it's obvious that Tracie practices what she preaches and has a physique that would have made her Ms. Olympia material a few decades ago and today would probably put her in the running as a top fitness contender. 

Inspired by her football-player father to stop starving herself to lose weight and start exercising, she changed her college major from "pre-med biology"  to "exercise science", and the rest is history. 

It's clear from watching her here, even to the uninitiated such as myself, that she knows her stuff as she drills her virtual students through a non-stop series of exercises each of which has a specific body-shaping purpose.

Things get down to the nitty-gritty on the third DVD in the series, TRACIE LONG LONGEVITY SERIES: STEP FORWARD (VOL. 3), which could very well be the downfall of those who don't possess the "right stuff."  It's the most grueling sweat session yet, and would appear to be totally exhausting for anyone participating at home, which I most definitely am not. 

I've noticed that some hardy reviewers evaluate these workout DVDs by actually working out along with
them.  I, on the other hand, prefer to watch them while eating dinner in the comfort of my recliner and/or playing with my cat.  If, in fact, I were to attempt to partake in this particular gut-busting workout, I would in all likelihood keel over dead as a doornail within the first five minutes.

Tracie, of course, hits the ground running and doesn't stop until the bitter end, using a step-up board most of the time and getting the full use out of this deceptively simple apparatus.  I'm not kidding when I say that this exhausting fitness ordeal would make soldiers in boot camp drop like flies.  It's like calisthenics times a hundred.  The old phrase "I got tired just watching it" would be perfectly applicable in this case. 

One thing's for sure, TRACIE LONG LONGEVITY SERIES: STEP FORWARD is not a workout for beginners--even fitness veterans might find themselves huffing and puffing before it's over.  It's supposed to be good for your legs, which I'm sure it is if you can still walk when you're done.  As for me, if I even thought about doing this one I might end up in traction for six months provided that I actually lived through it.

Each DVD from Shelter Island is in 1.78:1 widescreen with 2.0 sound and contains a workout lasting approximately 50 minutes.  No subtitles.  Also included are "pre-mixes" that combine various segments of the main action in condensed form to concentrate on specific areas of the body. 

Before now, the closest I'd ever come to watching a bonafide fitness video was owning a copy of "Linnea Quigley's Horror Workout."  (Not to mention renting a couple of those "X-ercise" tapes with porn stars fine-tuning some of the more neglected muscle groups.)  But with Tracie Long's LONGEVITY series, I feel as though I've gotten a good look at the state of fitness today with someone who is at the top of her game.


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