The Workout I Love (But Also Drives Me a Little Nuts)

When you’re working full time, it can be tough to fit in workouts, much less ones longer than 30 minutes. Since I started working from home, I’ve definitely been working out more in general—I’ve gone from 4 days a week on average to closer to 6. And while most of my workouts, apart from when I’m teaching Zumba, tend to stay around that 30-minute mark, the exception most weeks is a DVD I have a serious love-hate relationship with: Body by Simone.

I will start by saying that Body by Simone is an incredible workout. I try to do the full body workout on the Signature Classes DVD, which is roughly an hour long, at least once a week. Created by Simone de la Rue, a former professional dancer, the method is rooted in dance and in developing the long, lean, toned body of a dancer, which seems to be the look most women are chasing these days, including me. Simone has studios in New York City and in California, and I first learned about her because the method is reportedly beloved by celebrities like Jennifer Garner, Chrissy Teigen and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. So I’d been eager to try it for a while, but it was hard for me to devote an hour to a workout, until the last couple months.

First, the things I love about it. The Full Body workout is broken up into segments: one dance cardio song, upper body, another dance cardio, lower body, a third dance cardio, and then core. I’ve never been one to break up my workouts much, to do legs one day, arms the next day, etc. I want to hit every part of my body every time, and this absolutely does that. The arms segment uses three-pound weights and very high reps, which is great for me, because I tend to bulk up easily if I go too high with weight. The lower body segment is all on the ground, isolating the different areas of the thighs and butt that women want to tone. The core portion is split between plank work and what she calls “ab work”, which is done from a lying down position. The cardio pieces are absolutely killer. I like to say that they are just jumping up and down for 4 minutes disguised as dance, because that’s how they feel. I consider myself in pretty good shape, and the first time I did this workout I couldn’t get through all three cardio songs without pausing for breath. I can do them now, but I’m still breathing heavily for the majority of the song. To be honest, I’m still nervous to try the other workout on the DVD, which is just Dance Cardio, because I can’t imagine doing an entire hour of songs like this. There’s no way that would be fun. Simone, who leads the workout, is adorable, with her Australian accent and her super bendy body. By the time I’ve finished this workout, I feel like I’ve been pushed to my max, but I also feel incredibly accomplished and like I might actually be able to achieve the svelte, toned figures of the women in the video. So judging the workout strictly on its merits as exercise, it is incredible.

It’s when you get into some of the other aspects of the workout and the DVD itself that the frustration comes in. When I’m doing a workout video, I like it when it looks like the people in the video are struggling a bit too. Sure, I want them to be in perfect, aspirational shape, but I also want them to be out of breath when I am. This is one of the things I love about Beachbody. In the programs I’ve done through there, it just feels like they happened to film these people’s training session, which makes it more relatable. Body by Simone, though, is the opposite. Simone tells you at the beginning of the video that she is joined by her top trainers, which is the first red flag, because that means they are all going to know what’s coming even when you, as the viewer, don’t. They have smiles plastered on their faces the entire time, and they don’t appear to struggle at all, while I’m huffing and puffing in my living room. I will say, Simone does sweat, and she acknowledges a couple times that the workout is very advanced. But the four trainers feel more like fitness robots than people.

Now, the exercises themselves. I would never have done it, so I’m not going to suggest it, but it definitely would have been helpful to just watch the entire video once before I did it the first time. That would have told me that there are no water breaks and no pauses for explanations of the exercises, which was a little infuriating the first couple times. So if you have this on the TV, keep the remote handy, especially after the cardio segments—you’re going to need some water, and she doesn’t give you any time to drink some. There are also a few times, twice in the lower body segment and once in the core segment, where Simone says that we are going to do a series of exercises multiple times, and if you’re a beginner to do fewer. Having the option to personalize your workout to your fitness level is a great one, but having the entire workout as just an hour long video makes it tough. I feel like it would have been awesome if it were broken up into individual video segments instead. That way, if you wanted to do the entire hour with all the reps you could, but if you wanted to only do one set of the lower body exercises you could do so, then press a button to jump to the next part.

If you do want to try this workout, here are some tips:

  • If you need a breather during a cardio song, take it. The songs are longer than you think they are. The only one that doesn’t feel super long is the third and final one.
  • By the time you get to the plank segment, your body will be very tired. However, I was surprised to discover that there are actually a reasonable number of breaks in this bit. So even if you’re burning, try not to come down. You’ll just be frustrated (at least I was), by how few reps were left before the break.
  • There are some more advanced versions of some of the exercises. Try them for a few reps just to see how you do—I’ve found that this is a good way to judge if you’re getting fitter and better at the workout, if adding this tweak gets easier over time.

The final verdict:  If you’re familiar with the types of exercises in these dance-inspired workouts, you’re going to love this. If you want a lean, toned yet feminine body, you’re going to love this. If super thin and super fit women make you feel less than, you probably won’t like it. If you enjoy kicking your own butt, like I do, you’re going to love it. If you’re frustrated by a lack of direction and too-fast transitions, you’re going to want to pull your hair out the first 3 or 4 times you try this. But you still should, because there’s a reason Body by Simone is so popular. It will absolutely help you reach your fitness goals!

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