Stick it to Me!

10.29.07: Getting Amped at home with Billy Blanks


For lots and lots and lots of reasons, I haven't been able to get to the gym a whole lot recently. You probably know how it is: Overfull schedules, work, babysitters, playtimes, errands, more work, more errands, cooking, feeding, story time, more cooking and feeding, appointments, etc. Life. (Oh my god, did I write this before? These days—they are starting to feel all the same! Are they the same day? Oh my god!)

The gym is still my oasis, and I should make time for it more often than I do. But the fact of the matter is that right now I don't, and I won't. A trip there and back—with prep, travel, and shower time factored in—costs me two hours, minimum, which is hard to justify. What's more, I simply don't want to—Truman, at 18 months, is Mr. Fun. Theoretically, at least, I want to be with him as much as I can.

So I finally gave up on my endless procrastination, and in to the idea that I'm going to have to workout more at home, where I can squeeze in a few moves during Truman's free play without him even noticing a thing. That's fine with him—he doesn't care if I'm heaving and sweaty. He only cares if I'm gone entirely.

So I went out to Target to pick up a fitness video or two. I remembered that LaReine had strongly recommended Billy Blanks' Boot Camp videos, and thought of those, but then—lo!—something new! Billy Blanks Taebo Amped, a fancy boxed set with four videos and an expandable weighted bar. Fun—like a workout video and a toy all in one. I'm a sucker for such newfangled ideas, and gobbled it up. I handed over my $39.95, and headed home to reap the cardio blasting, core strengthening, and full-body toning benefits.

It is, as all Billy Blanks workouts are, fun, inspiring, and exhausting. I love Taebo videos, because they keep me moving but they never do any one thing too long—just as I feel that I'm about to collapse, that I can't keep doing whatever it is one more second (knee lifts, say, or uppercuts), Billy takes a little minibreak, then moves on to the next thing.

Plus, he's inspiring. I dig all the positive talk. I can feel the love pouring off the guy—he wants me to be a better version of myself, he knows I can do it! More importantly, he knows I know I can do it! And I can. I look at him, I see him sweating, I hear him saying I have to give a little to get a little, and I believe him. So I do it—I give.

The Amped videos, with the expandable and contractible bar, are especially fun. The weight is pretty negligible—at three pounds, it does add a challenge. But more important to me, it adds pleasure. I think I've simply learned from my male child the pleasures of flinging a stick around—it's fun, a little wild, a little primal. Combined with otherwise boring and repetitive movements, it's like a tribal dance. I love it.

Truman, too, likes the Taebo Amped videos. He appreciates the fact that they endlessly count aloud from one to eight—the louder, the more enthusiastically, the better. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight—YAY! ALRIGHT! WHOO! This positive reinforcement for successful counting is right in line with his worldview, and reinforces the messages he receives in his other TV viewing, such as "Sesame Street" and "Yo Gabba Gabba."

He also seems to really like the action, too, and tries to imitate the moves, which is just funny. He'll often run to the screen, watch for a second, then run over to the corner and spin himself silly until he falls down. Billy Blanks can have that effect on you.

I'm very glad I found an exercise video Truman and I can enjoy together. The only downside—if you haven't already guessed it—is that we often do battle over who gets the stick. I try to keep control over it, because I want it, and because as I mentioned, it is weighted. But it's also quite well padded, so I do forfeit control to the T-man now and again (the Amped series has good instruction for barless moves, too, so I don't have to lose my rhythm just because I've lost my tool). It gives Truman a total thrill to have the bar, if only for a moment or two. As for me, I try to consider leaping over to save a lamp from getting whacked is just another cardio benefit...

Hillari Dowdle is kicking and punching the air in her family room even as you read this column. Contact her at hillari.dowdle.