Video Fitness

CIA 9704: Two Workouts with a Vengeance

Franny Benedetto

Franny Benedetto of Boston Marathon (CIA 7005) returns with a vengeance with this 90-minute workout, consisting of 35 tough minutes each of hi-lo and step followed by a cooldown and very brief (not worth doing) abs. Both segments feature power drills in the middle to jack your heartrate up. As on Boston Marathon, the step segment outshines the hi-lo, in this case by several thousand watts. The awesome first combo includes a reverse-V-over the step, knee up, knee straddle and a "pogo straddle". It took me awhile to learn but it was well worth it! Franny keeps on delivering super new steps, and the power drill consists of repeated, turning jump-squats across the length of the step that will set your legs on fire. The soundtrack really fires me up also - dance hits including Wannabe, Call Me, Like a Prayer and a disco version of Unbreak My Heart. The hi-lo isn't bad, but it isn't among my faves. I think it's mainly because Franny spends too much time on one foot before switching to the other. It also takes up lots of room and I had a hard time adapting it. But it's not hard to learn, and Franny includes boxing and running-in-place drills to burn extra fat. If you liked Franny in Boston Marathon, or just want another dancy, kick-butt step workout to add to your collection, this is a great choice. I give the step a big A+, the hi-lo a B.

Instructor comments: Franny's attitude is that of a personal trainer rather than a perky cheerleader. She's a Reebok Master Instructor, and it shows - professional, down-to-earth and down-to-business, like a Karen Voight with East Coast sass.

Sue Bryant

I got this workout simply because I LOVE the Boston Marathon. She's creative and fun; but I would have to say that this is not a good as the previous tape. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good tape; just not great. The first section is hi/lo. I like the choreography in this, with 1 exception. She puts a *drill* in the middle of the routine. she says it's a break in the choreography. I don't like the break. It's boxer's hop with punches and then fast steps in place. It just doesn't fit. I like choreograhpy;that's why I bought the tape. Anyway, it's short and easily ignored. Franny also concentrates to much on the right side. I almost feel *lopsided* from learning the moves on the right and then you only do the left side a few times.

Next section is step. She uses slower tempo music than what I'm used to. The moves aren't too difficult to learn and not too dancy. Her cueing is very good(maybe that's why I can learn the moves so quickly)

All in all, it's a nice video to have. The intensity is scaled way down compared to Boston Marathon and it's use will probably for those days when you want a *relaxing, yet fun* video. I give it a "B".

Instructor comments:Franny is the energetic and fun.


As an instructor myself, when I embark on learning a new video I don't want to waste unnecessary time (because I have so little of it for my own personal workouts) learning the steps due to poor cuing and instruction. I know an instructor is good if I can get every move on the first, or at least the first couple, of attempts. Franny excels in this area; her cuing is right on and what you don't get the first time you will by watching it first, then trying it out (things can look trickier than they really are in mirror-image orientation).

The hi/lo segment contains a lot of fun moves. It's very dancy but not hard to learn. Other reviews mention they felt lopsided or unbalanced because the left lead wasn't done often enough and I also got this impression. However, in real-time many instructors will balance out their combinations equally between right and left leads and teach them that way as well. On video, and especially CIAs which are geared for instructors (many of whom don't need a lot of breakdown and instruction), I can see where the repetition would be eliminated.

The step segment is absolutely fantastic! The moves and music flow so well together, and the fact that she uses a slower tempo (I'm Step Reebok certified too and prefer to teach at slower tempos) really enables you to use full range of motion and power. Franny deserves a huge A+ for this choreography jam!

I live in the Boston area, and Franny is a Boston-based instructor. I hope to get to one of her workshops soon and workout with her live and in person!

Instructor comments: Franny is one the few instructors on video who doesn't whoop, holler, or make stupid, irritating comments and idle banter. It feels like a workout for grown-ups!

Roberta Kagno

Franny starts out with a 10 minute invigorating warm-up with fun moves. She then goes into 36 minutes of easy-to-learn hi/low aerobics. She does boxing moves and plyometrics which really gets your heartrate up. I guess this is an interval training type of workout. She follows with 36 minutes of step. At first I was fumbling along trying to do the pogo step but after two times around, I mastered it. She does squats, lunges across the step, a pendulum move on the side of the step (not across like Cathe), cha chas, pivots, the 'controversial' reverse turn step, the double time move over the step (like Donna Read in 9701). Time flew by with this tape. I really had a fun time, and Franny is great on all her videos. The ab section is too short, so I popped in Firm's five-day abs to finish my workout for the day. I highly recommend this tape for the intermediate-advanced exerciser.

Instructor comments: Franny is an excellent instructor. I have all her CIA tapes and always enjoy her routines.

MaryAnn Parker

This is two workouts of 36 minutes each, plus a warmup, cooldown, and some abs, bringing the total workout to 92 minutes.

The first part is high/low, followed by step. The choreography is great and also a lot of fun. I like the music from her Boston Marathon tape better, but this music is not bad at all. However, if the BM music were added to this tape, I think it would be one of those "whooping" workouts for those of us inclined to make some noise!

The choreography is advanced, and the intensity is intermediate/advanced. Depending on how much power you want to put into the movements, the intensity can easily be advanced.

This video is going to be on my favorites list for a long, long time. I have such a good time with it. Grade A.

Instructor comments: Franny is AWESOME. I really look forward to doing her workouts. They're so much fun, and her teaching and cueing are excellent.

Annie S.

I am new to step and was hesitant to try any CIA videos but after reading such rave reviews, I decided to give it a try. I am one of the few who prefers hi/lo to step. I really like the hi/lo segment and I especially liked the drills thrown in. I get bored with choreography sometimes and need that diversion. It also makes it more challenging and gets my heart rate up. I am still learning the step part and sometimes get frustrated and shut it off. But like I said, I am fairly new to step so I guess I don't catch on as quickly and after doing the hi/lo, I'm a bit fatigued and not as into it. But all in all, --definately a keeper and definately worth the purchase.


The workout is pretty much explained in the previous reviews so I will just add my comments. I absolutely love this video! This was my first foray into hi/lo and I found that I could follow this routine easily. Don't get me wrong its still complex, but I think Franny even posted one time on the forum that she tries to make her choreography complex but doable and I have to say it is exactly that. I love the drills thrown in to give us a break once in a while, and I absolutely love the step section on this video. I even like the ab section but I wish it were longer. It seems as though the tape got cut off or something before the abs were finished which is only a minor detail. This is an absolute must-do tape I reserve for the weekend.

Instructor comments: I hope she does lots more videos. She's one of a small group of instructors that I can follow very easily. For someone slightly choreography impaired, this says alot!

Wendy M

I was sorely disappointed with this video (especially since it cost $24.95). After reading all the wonderful reviews, I expected a tremendous video. As mentioned by others, the choreography was complex, but I found it boring and much too repetitive. If you like adding on to steps you've already done and then going 'back to the top', you will like this video. If you're easily bored and prefer several small sections of different choreographies , then I think you would be ungratified with this tape.

Also, no where did anyone mention (not in reviews, nor in the Collage Video guide) that this tape requires one to travel across the room. (I normally only do step aerobics, so I don't know if hi/lo aerobics always require so much room.) If you don't have a larger workout area, you will curse quite a bit during some of the moves in the first section.

The step portion of the tape was better than the hi/lo aerobics, although the "shuffle-shuffle" move was highly annoying.

I give this video a C.

Instructor comments: Her cueing is okay. I didn't find it as precise as other instructors, such as Keli Roberts.

Kelli B.
June 28, 1998

Now that I have finally mastered the steps on this tape, let me just say that I love it! I am not a fan of hi/lo, so my comments relate to the step portion of the workout. It took a few times and many rewinds to get the reverse V step-pogo sequence down, but now that I've got it, it is so much fun! Franny's drill with jump squats over the board are deadly and push my heart rate even higher than many Cathe tapes - this is one tough section! The rest of the tape is slower paced and generally lower impact than Cathe, but challenging nonetheless. That it is only 36 minutes of step means it is perfect for combining with strength training for a complete body workout!

Instructor comments: Franny is fun, creative, and excels at cuing. Her more moderate pace, however, does not mean lower intensity! Love her personality - and her Boston accent!

Nancy P.

In the past, I have tried CIA videos (pre 9000) and came away with a bad taste in my mouth! Well, my opinion has changed since I tried 9704! The music is awesome, Franny makes you feel she is right there with you. She also has some great moves, not just run-of-the-mill moves. I really like the way she keeps going back to the top. I feel like we are rehearsing and when we put it all's SHOWTIME!

As a Cathe and Firm diehard, I was wary at trying a CIA but with the great reviews of some of the tapes, I decided to try one.

Without a doubt, Franny's newest tape will be on my shelf in no time since I had such a ball with 9704!

Instructor comments: Franny is great! She cues well, her moves flow together wonderfully and she rocks! She's friendly and has a "let's get to it" attitude. I want her to make more tapes!

lesia english

I've seen a lot of people asking about CIA videos recently, so I thought I'd share my experience trying CIA 9704 for the first time (Two Workouts with a Vengence with Franny).

I got this tape about a month ago, but I hate learning new stuff so Iíve been putting it off. I tried the hi/lo (which is not my most favorite thing to do) as an add on to another tape a while ago. I liked it, but I didn't finish the whole 36 minute segment. Tonight, I decided to try the step portion.

I started by warming up with Cathe Frederich's Step Jam because I thought Franny would start right in asuming you did the hi/lo segment already (like Cathe does in MIC). I probably could have skipped the warm up because Franny starts out pretty slow. I also could have probably gone up to 8" on my step (I usually step at 6" for most of Cathe's tape and 8" on any other). But after about 14 minutes, my heart rate started to get right up there.

I have to say I am VERY impressed with Franny's cueing. I even got the Pogo thing on the 2nd try! I was having a great time and was even able to add a little more impact on several of the moves. I did have a little bit of a problem with the pendulum across the short way on the step. I'm used to Cathe's move all the way across the length. I actually ended up tripping and almost turning my step over (that made my heart rate soar!). After a few more tries, I ended up substituting a step knee hop, which worked out really well. I loved the turning jump squats. Those really worked me!

Bottom line - this tape is a keeper, even if only for the step portion. Franny kept things interesting but lower impact than most of Cathe's tapes (which I appreciated, but I ended up adding some myself). I was surprised to find that I caught on to 95% of the tape the first time through! I would say if you are an experienced stepper (especially if you've done some Cathe Frederich tapes because some of the moves were very similiar), you'll have no problem with this one and it'll add a little variety to your collection.

Tami Skelton

This video has been reviewed extensively already, and I agree with most of the good and bad comments about the workouts. There is definitely too much taking-it-from-the-top in the hi/lo and it is very unbalanced towards the right lead. It is not a perfect tape, and the choreography is not super complex, but I continue to be drawn to this tape on occasion. I think it is partly because the music is fun and different than on any other tape I own, and also because I just really like Franny.

Anyway, the reason I bother posting a review of a tape so heavily reviewed is just to show how I have improved my enjoyment of the tape. I have found that if I skip the first 25 minutes from the hi/low section and just do the last 10 minutes, I can get a terrific 60+ minute workout. I do the warm-up and fast-forward until I get to the part where she starts teaching the final 32 count combo. This combo is taught in a balanced manner, and then you get to run through the entire routine which is not that complex and easy to pick up (if you have tried the hi/low before of course.) When you go into the step routine, your heart-rate will probably go down a bit, because it definitely starts out slow, but she picks up the intensity and impact fairly soon, and overall it ends up being a pretty good workout.

I cannot bring myself to do the entire hi/low routine anymore, but doing the last 10 minutes is great because it makes the workout longer than if I just did the step and I get a taste of the choreography without getting complete bored with that first combo.

Instructor comments: I love working out with Franny. Her cueing is pretty good. However, I have to admit I got very confused when I first started working out with her, and she said "walk, walk". I kept thinking I needed to take more steps than were necessary and I struggled with the reverse-v combo until I realized you just had to turn to the other corner. Once I learned her style though I think she does a good job. I like her choreography also - dancy and intense.

Lisa C.


I really enjoyed this whole video, despite a few glitches in the workout. The hi/lo combo and step combos are interesting, well-taught, well-cued and at the low end of advanced level as far as intensity goes. Because neither is super long -- just a little more than 30 minutes -- the "taking it from the top" (TIFTing) doesn't get tedious, as it so often can with CIAs. Done in its entirety, this is a full 90-minute workout, but you could break it up into 2 different workouts of about 45 minutes each. I like the versatility of that.

Good things: (1) I love the music in this video, which is Dynamix, but has more vocals and some songs I haven't heard on my other tapes.
(2) The hi/lo choreography is just the right level of complexity for me -- plenty of dancy moves like pivots, spins and mambos, but peppered with simple, intense moves such as jacks and boxer shuffles to keep your heart rate up and keep you on the beat.
(3) I enjoy the step choreography a LOT. It is more complex than the hi/lo, but I find step easier to learn, so again, it presented just the right mental challenge.
(4)I like the way that Franny starts out working the lower portion of the abs during her abdominal section at the end of the tape.

Bad things: (1)Franny repeats the right lead WAY too many times during the middle portion of the hi/lo.
(2) And the video ends abruptly right in the middle of Franny's ab workout! You're just starting to do crunches for the upper abs and .. fade to credits.

For your frame of reference, I'm an advanced level exerciser as far as intensity and getting better at complex choreography, but this has only come through practice, not inherent ability. My favorite hi/lo workouts are Christi Taylors Happy Hour Hi/Lo, Greg Twombly's 9003, Franny's 9905 and Cathe F's Maximum Intensity Cardio.

Instructor comments: Franny is very likable and at ease with the camera. Her style is at the athletic end of the dancy spectrum -- if that makes sense to you. For some reason, I can just picture Franny as a cheerleader. She's not perky or hyper, I think it's just her build and the way she moves. You can tell she LOVES sharing her workouts with us. And she makes me forget that she's in a video, I feel as if I'm taking a live class with her. (Complete with a boo-boo or two, but you can't help but like her for it.)

Daphne M


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