CIA 2305: Hi/Low to the Max Plus Athletic Jam

Donna Read
Year Released: 2003

Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance

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Note: The full title as it appears on the DVD cover I have is CIA 2305: Hi/Lo to the Max with Athletic Jams Plus Core Conditioning.

Iím reviewing this workout after doing it 3-4 times, although I may have only done the core portion once.

General workout breakdown: Donna K and Annie have already described this one well, so Iíll just add a few more details.
The total running time for the workout is 74.5 min.
The warm-up (almost 7.5 min.) takes you through a short combo and a few dynamic stretches, mostly for the lower body and low back.
The main cardio portion runs about 45 min., with both halves running 22.5 min. There are 4 combos in each half, but because Donna doesnít do an athletic interval between the first and second combo it feels like there are only three combos (and there are only three intervals). Also, Donna TIFTs (takes it from the top) after youíve learned each combo; as mentioned, however, after the perceived exertion check (at exactly 30 min. into the workout) you never repeat the first half, and she also doesnít splice or weave combos together (meaning youíll always do combo 1 on one side, then on the other, combo 2 on one side, then on the other, etc.). Donna teaches symmetrical combos (meaning you do them on both sides), and she does thing evenly, both for the combos and the intervals.
The cool-down (almost 6 min.) has a tribal beat goiní on as you do simple moves but adding kind of a dance or at least dramatic flair, followed by some standing stretches, primarily for the lower body but also including some for the lower and upper back.
The tough core portion (11.25 min.) is yoga- and Pilates-inspired. Youíll do a plank hold, plank with 1 leg extended, hover (chaturanga or low triceps push-up), childís pose, downward dog, jump through to sitting, v-sit w/ different arm positions, jump back to plank, side plank, v-sit w/ different leg positions, crunch w/ arms overhead & legs extended, arms & legs extended Ė tuck in (a version of the Pilates double leg stretch), bicycle / criss cross w/ extended leg low, and rest w/ knees to chest. Donna repeats many of the exercises, either in a series or individually. Approach with caution if you have wrist, shoulder, or elbow issues (my elbow does NOT like hovers, which is why I havenít felt the urge to do this again).
The stretch (4.5 min.), done on the floor, mixes athletic and yoga-inspired moves to stretch out the lower body and back especially.

Level: Iíd recommend this to high intermediate through low advanced exercisers comfortable with fairly complex choreography.
I consider myself an int. / adv. exerciser who gets complex choreography easily, assuming itís taught well and makes sense, which is true here. I remember finding this pretty tricky and challenging when I was a lower intermediate newer to complex choreography, but when I revisited this again lately after not touching for a long while it was quite doable. In fact, this provided a nice level of challenge when done as is: just enough to push myself a little but not so hard that I feel as if Iíve been run over when I finished.

Class: Sharon Money Twombly and Maria (whom I recognize from a few of Mindy Mylreaís CIA-filmed workouts) join Donna, who instructs live as she does the routine.

Music: upbeat mostly instrumental stuff thatís pretty standard stuff and some of which appears on other videos I have (including some other CIA-filmed workouts). Itís fine, if nothing special, but I agree an even better soundtrack would boost the fun factor here.

Set: the 2003 CIA set with brightly colored mostly plastic-looking furniture and accessories and that Joan Mirů print hung the wrong way (oh, how I wish I could reach through the TV and fix it) plus the Rothko(-esque?) prints along the side wall with the odd swooping cut outs in front.

Production: clear picture and sound, the usual CIA camerawork without anything too fancy or distracting.

Equipment: supportive sneakers for the cardio portion; Donna and crew are barefoot for the core portion and final stretch. Depending upon your floor you may want a mat for the core and stretch segments.

Space Requirements: Well, how much do you have? If you donít have your own dance studio or devote your entire finished basement to exercise, you may find this one eats up all the space you can give it. Iím 5í8Ē and work out in a room with a clear space about 8-10í by about 6-7í, depending upon where I put some stuff. I have to modify by turning things in slightly different directions and reducing my traveling to get this one to fit into that space. In fact, a major reason I got rid of this DVD at one point was because I had slightly less space, so I spent as much effort trying not to bump into stuff as I did trying to complete the workout.
Fortunately the core portion is compact; youíll be able to contain it pretty much to your mat.

DVD Notes: After the CIA intro and generic warnings, the main menu options are Intro to Workout, Mix & Match (Warm-up, Combo #1, Combo #2 & Jam, Combo #3 & Jam, Combo #4 & Jam, Combo #5, Combo #6 & Jam, Combo #7 & Jam, Combo #8 & Jam, Cool-Down, Core Strength & Abs, and Stretch), Bio & Program Content, Contact, NUGENIX, and Credits.

Comments: This is one DVD Iíve traded away and then reacquired. Of that fairly select group, this is one of the few Iíve kept the second time around. Why did I originally get rid of it? Iíve already confessed that space was a big concern the first time around. It still is, but I now have a little more space and a little more knowledge on how to squeeze a workout into my room. A second reason was that this was very challenging for me, thanks to the intervals. Iíve found this is actually just about the right level for me at this point in my fitness journey, and itís the intervals that keep me working hard. And a third reason was that I was a little disappointed in the choreography. I got this one after I worked through all of Christi Taylorís hi/lo and was desperate for more. Donnaís workout just lacked the fun factor Christiís did, partly due to her choreography not being as dancified, for lack of a better term, and part due to her more generic soundtrack. And like Annie I didnít care for having the choreography interrupted by those hard, boring athletic intervals. Now, however, even though I still love Christiís stuff and havenít found anything that compares, I have grown to appreciate other instructorsí individual styles more. Iíve also gotten used to floor workouts with intervals in them; my choices for hi/lo, especially hi/lo with any intensity, would be even more limited if I avoided all those with intervals.
What inspired me to reacquire this one? Well, I realized that I may have been too hasty in getting rid of it, especially since it was just beyond my current level of fitness when I had it and because there was nothing I really disliked about it. Another issue is that initially it hadnít come cheap, and I didnít feel I was getting my moneyís worth out of it. So I didnít go out looking for this one with traderís remorse, willing to pay anything to get it back. I reacquired it during a super sale, with a price that made it hard to resist giving this a second chance.
One reason I hang onto this one is because new hi/lo releases with any sort of interesting choreography combined with decent instruction and intensity have slowed to a trickle. As a hi/lo lover and choreo hound I know Iíll regret parting with this one in the hopes that something even better comes along because the odds of that happening shrink with each passing year, it seems. Boo!

I did this workout the other week after doing Amy Bentoís two older hi/lo workouts, and I see a lot of similarities between them, with a more straight up aerobics plus athletic moves take on hi/lo (well, Donna with her mambos and cha chas isnít all that athletic, especially in comparison to Amy, whoíll also throw kickboxing moves into the mix) interspersed with higher intensity intervals of simple athletic moves. With Donna no longer putting out hi/lo videos (a shame, really), Amy seems her natural heir. Donna breaks down and cues a little more than Amy, although not excessively so (at least, IMHO), so this might be a good one to try for those who have some of Amyís workouts but arenít yet feeling confident with this type of workout. Donna TIFTs more than Amy, however, but sheís not as excessive of a TIFTer as some (but admittedly Iím not the best judge of TIFTing overload because I like it). Donnaís workout felt a small notch less intense when done as is in comparison to Amyís average level of intensity (although the hi/lo portion of Amyís Hi-Lo Dome Challenge actually feels roughly comparable to Donnaís), so again this would be a good one for someone working up to Amyís. Also, if you can fit this into your space youíll be able to do the same with Amyís.

Instructor Comments:
Donna cues well and mirror cues. She does a professional job and keeps the focus on the workout while still showing a little personality and seeming natural on camera. I rather like that she keeps her outfit pretty simple and functional here (gray tank, black pants, white sneakers) so as not to compete with her choreography Ė or the set. It fits with her understated ďletís do the workout we came to doĒ attitude while instructing.



Donna teaches a high/low workout interspersed with "athletic jams" which are brief sprints between choreography segments to give your brain a break and let you get your heart rate way up. The workout is divided into two parts: combos 1-4 and then combos 5-8. After you get done with 1-4, you don't do them anymore in the second part. I love Donna's step workouts, and I wasn't sure I was going to like this high/low workout as much, but I am happy to say it's every bit as good as her step. In fact, I love the workout -- except for the jams. I find the athletic jams a nuisance that break the flow of the high/low choreography. I have the DVD and was hoping for a menu option to exclude the jams, but no luck. So I either just do them or fast-forward through them. The high/low choreography is excellent. It's complicated enough to stay interesting, but not so complicated that you're stumbling all over the place. And Donna teaches it very well. The music is so-so, nothing to get excited about. If this workout were put to some good music, it would rival the best of Christi Taylor. Grade A.

Annie S.


I took her class at CIA and wasn't really looking forward to this workout because it didn't grab me there. But, it was only a couple of combos, I was tired and not that into learning new choreo and there is nothing worse than doing hi/lo with a bunch of people and bumping into them constantly. Big difference doing the workout fresh. Even the combo that didn't grab me there was fun and enabled you to go big. THere are six combos, which are divided into sections of three and three. Finish the first three and never see them again style. IN between combos, she does athletic drills to get your HR up. Come to think of it, the whole thing is set up exactly like STep This Way, minus the splicing (though I found myself really wishing she would splice; why didn't she?). The combos were fun but not difficult to learn and Donna does not break them up ad nauseum, but moves through at a good clip. The intensity is up there, in par with Christi and I averaged the same HR with this as with Mindy's Awesome Intervals. SHe follows with a fun little cooldown (the warm-up was nice, too, just enough to get you warm and not too long) and stretch, followed by some core and abdominal work using yoga and Pilates. This was tough and neither Sharon or Maria showed any modifications (and they looked like they might have liked to!). End with a really nice stretch.Definitely a keeper, and when it comes to quality hi/lo, there aren't too many of those.

Instructor Comments:
Donna is very low-key and friendly in this workout; I really liked her.

Donna Kahwaty