Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Kick to the Back: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Embrace the Jam

Since the flyover states get exposed to trends about 20 years after the coastal states (Missouri just discovered Jordache jeans and recreational cocaine use...exciting!), I hadn't really heard of Turbo Jam until just recently, even though it's apparently been around for at least a decade. I mentioned in a previous post that my mother gives away a substantial portion of her disposable income to, which is the parent company of a bunch of TV infomercial exercise video sets. Perhaps you've been sitting at home, brushing Flamin' Hot Cheetos crumbs off your chest and flipping between Golden Girls and Judge Joe Brown (it's okay to admit it now...we've all been there and we've all had the grimy, orange stained fingertips to prove it) and you've come across the somewhat painful rap stylings of Shawn T during a "Hip Hop Abs" commercial? That's the same company.

Anyway, being the proficient exercise dilettante that I am, I had tried every Beachbody exercise program available and hadn't really fallen in love with anything. Everything on there is great, and I really appreciate how Beachbody makes sure to market only really quality videos that can produce significant results, but there was never any Holy Grail of exercise for me on there. Until now. At least I hope.

Turbo Jam has been around for a long time, and its original incarnation was as a kickboxing/dance class taught in some small gyms around Orange County, CA. The creator of this program is named Chalene Johnson, and originally I avoided Turbo Jam because I was fairly certain I would hate her guts. She looked like a miniature version of Denise Austin and everyone on her infomercial was always hopping and smiling and looking like they...enjoyed life. Gross. What eventually finally persuaded me was the number of success stories on Beachbody who used TJ as their primary workout. I very reluctantly obtained copies of a few of her videos, and now I'm pretty much hooked. It helps that I am a total hermit during the winter and would very happily hide in my house with some canned soup and HBO until April if I could, so not having to drive to the gym is a huge bonus for me.

Here's kind of a breakdown on what it's like and why I lurve it:

What You Get: The basic set comes with five workouts on two DVDs. Chalene bases her choreography on 11 specific moves that she details in the introductory workout, "Learn and Burn". The meat of the DVD is the "Cardio Party", which is the 45 minute kickboxing/dance workout. In my research online, most people say it counts as moderate to high impact exercise, and the Beachbody claims it can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour. The other long workout in the set is called "Turbo Sculpt", and it includes free weights and other weight-bearing exercises for 40 minutes of toning plus low-impact cardio. The final two additional videos in the set are a 20-minute quick workout and a 20-minute ab toning workout. Also, every video has modifications to make it either high impact or low impact, depending on your fitness level and preference.
There's some extra footage where you can get cast biographies and watch an interview with Chalene. Beachbody offers the starter set for $57.95+shipping, but of course you can get it from Amazon or eBay for a lot less. Turbo Jam has recently come out with a "Maximum Results" series that is exactly the same except they send you weighted gloves along with the shipment. Don't be fooled into paying their price for them, as you can buy the cheaper set and get gloves at a sporting goods store much more cheaply.

Schedule: Since I'm now trying to get all my exercise solely from workout videos, I combine stuff to make sure I'm getting an equal balance between cardio and toning. My plan is to work out six days a week, with an off day on Monday and a light day on Thursday (the nights where I travel to my second job). I usually combine Cardio Party with Ab Jam, and Turbo Sculpt with the 20 Minute Jam as a warm-up. On Thursdays I try to get in either 20 Minute, Ab or both if I have time. If you order the full package from Beachbody, they will send a recommended schedule for both sedentary and active exercisers, so that may help you if you decide to jump in with this.

Extra Information: There are a bunch more TJ products available, including extra Cardio Parties and some different options for circuit training and toning. They're all available on Beachbody and on the other sites I've already mentioned. Also, if you're located in a large city with a pretty decent gym, it is likely that the live Turbo Jam classes are already being held there. They're called Turbo Kick, and they are exactly the same thing as TJ. My gym offers Turbo Kick plus a Turbo Sculpt session back to back once a week. It might be a good idea to go to meet other enthusiasts or to get help on moves, form, etc.

Why I Love It: It's just really freaking fun. It's like Jazzercise but with better music, or like Taebo without the impending feeling of death. Seriously, every single kickboxing or just plain aerobics video I've ever tried has made me feel worked out and completely exhausted. TJ makes me feel worked out and uplifted, and I'm not the kind of person who gets uplifted very easily. The music is awesome...lots of old school hip hop and rap and Chalene edits each track herself to make the moves fit the music. I cannot tell you how many videos I've shoved to the back of my shelf because the music was either shitty or it didn't line up with the choreography.

Another reason why I love this is because Chalene and the cast seem to transcend the stereotype of typical aerobics video people. Sure, they smile too much, (I once tried to maintain a frozen grin for as long as one of the featured exercisers did and I had to stop because my gums were drying out and I wanted to bitchslap myself) and there's some unnecessary hamming at the camera and there's this one horribly awkward older lady who makes my eyes bleed when she tries to get her freak on, but for the most part they're pretty cool. There's a good range of ages and body types and at least two of them lost a significant amount of weight with TJ before they became instructors. Chalene, of course, is the star of the program and as much as I wanted to hate her initially, watch a tiny blonde woman from Orange County jumping around to LL Cool J and talking she's straight outta Compton is pretty endearing, and I personally think her running commentary makes the workouts go much faster than they would've without it. Her counts and cues are like 99% right on, her explanations are great, and she's inspirational without being saccharine, and I appreciate that.

Some Caveats: If you are a person who gives up on exercise videos quickly because it takes too long to learn the moves, this might not be for you. I'm a pretty coordinated person, so I tend to gravitate towards videos that change up the choreography a lot, but I know a few people who hate it for that very reason. It also might not be an ideal workout for people with knee or back trouble. I hurt both my knees and my back pretty badly in a work injury several years ago, and I definitely feel twinges while I'm working out with TJ now. Chalene offers a lot of tips and reminders for avoiding that, but if you're really really weak down there, I'd stay away. Finally, if you don't like a little bit of silliness during your workout, then this might not be good, as Chalene spends a lot of time being goofy and encouraging the at-home exerciser to do the same.

The only single thing I've found that I really don't like about TJ is the "Turbo Sculpt", partly because it's HARD and I start dripping sweat during the warmup and I'm embarrassed that I fall over when I do lunges and sometimes I tell Chalene and the awkward lady to suck it after I've done that and then my cats give me disapproving looks, but mostly because it lacks the same sort of exuberance that the other videos have. I think it's probably unavoidable, since it moves at a much slower pace and is entirely based around weight training. Somehow it just seems interminably long compared to Cardio Party, and it's disappointing when Chalene stops being Chalene and lapses into the run of the mill aerobics instructor cadence for Turbo Sculpt. It's a very, very minor issue, though, and I use Turbo Sculpt regularly despite it.

Bottom Line:
I'm addicted, and the majority of people who try it end up that way, too. I can't wait to get my hands on the other videos, even though I doubt I'll get tired of the original ones soon. I'll report back on if it actually reduces the size of my ass in a month or so, but even if it wasn't a phenomenal calorie burner, I'd still probably use it to burn off stress and have fun. I've included links to some shorter segments of the workouts below in case you want to check it out.

Kickin' Core Turbo Jam Ball Workout

The Elite 11 Moves

Turbo Kick Success Story

Turbo Jam Success Stories

Happy Balloon Ascension Day, by the way.


elasticwaist said...

this post made me laugh so, so hard. thank you!

Erin said...

I bought it! Ordered it from I can't wait to get it and try it. I think my kids will like to go along with it too! Thank you for this post, it made me smile and also gave me some much needed motivation.

The Cakehole said...

I bought this from ebay recently and am just waiting for it to arrive, I'm really looking forward to trying it out.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like fun! I wonder if my library has it to try before dishing out the $$.

Also "Taebo without the impending feeling of death." made me snort my water. Thanks. :D

Comrade GoGo said...

Oh sweet cracker sandwich, this cracked my shit up! Especially the part about Denise Austen, as I endured many of her workout videos when I was a teenager. ("Don't forget to breathe!" Oh, shut your pie-hole, Denise!!)

TurboJam sounds pretty sweet. It's kind of a bummer that my living room is the size of a hamster habitat.

psychsarah said...

This is my first time reading your blog (thanks to a link from Elastic Waist) and I will totally be back. I laughed aloud as I read this, and it totally makes me want to try Turbo Jam. I've been thinking it looked cool for months, but have not actually gotten around to ordering it. Thanks for the realistic and balanced review. I'm sold!

PS I can't stomach Denise Austin either! What's with that breathy voice and canned commentary?