Synergy Systems Total Fitness Workout

Cathie Murakami
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Pilates/Core Strength

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This video wins the prize for least imaginative non-descriptive title, but it's actually a fairly decent introductory Pilates routine. Cathie Murakami is an attractive, pleasant, and careful instructor and the exercises she chooses are manageable and non-threatening. The workout was enjoyable enough, but the tape does have its quirks.

For one thing, the actual workout is preceded by ten eternal minutes of chitchat that may have been instructive, but frankly, had me fast-forwarding impatiently in vain search of the exercise part. After about three minutes, I started to worry that the whole tape was like this, and there would never be exercises at all. Finally though, we did get to the routine.

Pilates is known for complicated toys, but I have never seen any used in a plain old mat routine. Cathie uses a towel for assisted crunches and a dynaband for assisted roll-downs. These innovations work surprisingly well. She has you hold the crunch at the top for a very long time, but the towel really does keep the neck relaxed. And the dynaband roll-downs help isolate the lower back and add a stabilizer for balancing.

The pace of the workout was a little bit odd. Cathie frequently pauses between exercises to offer explanations. Or worse, she'll get you into ready position before she stops to talk, and as a result leave you hanging there with nothing to do for a minute. And in most cases, it felt like one rep too many for my pathetic attention span. Maybe Pilates will cure me of this!

Cathie instructs very carefully (in fact, she filled in several gaps of mislearning I had acquired elsewhere) but she has a few verbal patterns that had me cringing. For one thing, she over-subjects things. Where most instructors would say "now twist your pelvis to the right" she says "now you twist your pelvis to the right." And she finishes the exercises with a Firm-style flourish: "that was the spinal twist!"

I feel I will enjoy this tape more in future uses than I did the first time. I will know where to cue the tape to start at the actual workout, for one thing. And I will learn the order of the exercises so I can work ahead when she pauses to give instruction. The workout is very gentle and relaxing, yet effective. However, I could see myself outgrowing it because Cathie offers few clues on how to intensify the modified poses she so competently presents.