Year Released: 2004
Categories: Step Aerobics
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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once in its entirety.
General workout breakdown: This 64-min. step workout has a warm-up (4 min.), step #1 (27 min.), step #2 (19 min.), bonus burn (9 min.), and cooldown / stretch (5 min.). The warm-up walks through sets of basic moves (lots of corner to corner) plus some quick dynamic (what Christi usually calls “rhythmic”) stretching for both the lower and upper body. The first step portion is pretty much regular horizontal stepping, while the second is taught with movements going down from the top of the step rather than stepping up. (Honestly this didn’t change my world view all that much; after a few more times it’ll seem pretty natural. But it was a nice change from the usual.) The bonus burn contains two TIFTs of the first three combos followed by two TIFTs of the three combos taught in the second half. The cool-down has a few more moves, then Christi leads you through lunges to loosen up the inner thighs before holding static stretches for the hip flexors (as well as quadriceps) and hamstrings (as well as calves) plus low back.
Christi combines standard step aerobics moves with a bit of a dancey flair. As always, you’ll often start with basics, hamstring curls, knee lifts, v-steps, turn steps, mambos, cha chas, lunges, stomps, kicks, and other moves which get jazzed up as the routine progresses. Although this isn’t straight up dance, Christi’s ability to match moves to music and make them flow together in a sequence will make you feel almost like you’re dancing.
Christi’s teaching method: Christi always begins with basic steps but quickly layers them, either transforming the moves, changing the order and/or rhythm, or cutting down the number of repetitions. Her style of instruction is to begin with a few counts of basic moves, then layer it up, run through the new variations of the moves a few times, then put them together to take it from the top. She’ll then add on another set of base moves, repeat, and then run through all of the parts of that. She often uses the “watch me” method, demonstrating the next layer as you stay with what you’ve just learned; although she doesn’t often verbally cue what she’s doing until she teaches it to you, she is clear about alerting you to the fact that she’s introducing a change. I appreciate that Christi changes one thing at a time (no throwing whole half or even full combos at you at once) and almost always gives you at least one chance to see and then do it on each side before adding any other changes.
Christi teaches things symmetrically, and she balances out break downs on both sides, more or less. Christi never weaves, or slices and dices, combos; she’ll always do combo #1 on the right (or whatever side she does first), combo #1 on the left, combo #2 on the right, and then combo #2 on the left, and so on.
Because this routine has modifiers, you can eliminate much of the impact and/or pivots if you prefer. Note that in the full version there are some quick spins across the top of the step and some twisty moves on the floor, so be careful if your sneakers like to catch on your step and/or carpet.
Level: I’d recommend this to experienced exercisers at the intermediate through intermediate / advanced level who are comfortable with at the very least moderately complex choreography. It does seem like Christi wants this to be more accessible to less advanced steppers, with both the simple warm-up full of basic stepping tips and the lowered step height plus the inclusion of the modifiers in the more visible middle row, and yet I found this trickier than the step portions of Cardio Collectibles, for example. (For some reason I was expecting this to be on the easier side in terms of choreography, perhaps because Funktional Fitness, released at the same time, is.)
I consider myself an intermediate / advanced in cardio, although I’m more of an intermediate plus when it comes to step, since I’m still working my way through more complex step aerobics workouts. I pick choreography up pretty quickly if it’s broken down and cued well, which is mostly true here. I felt fairly confident with the full choreography after just one run through (again, know I think I’m better than average at picking up – although probably not exactly executing – choreography), although I had trouble with spinning the correct way with the over the step moves and other turns. Yes, I tried to do the full shebang the first time through. I do NOT recommend that to anyone who’s not a Christi fan or choreo hound; you’ll be much less frustrated if you try the base version first and then add in the flourishes. Anyway, with a set of riser tucked under my platform this gave me a solid steady state workout that had me in my moderately to borderline high (?!) zone, according to my heart rate monitor (note that I don’t entirely trust that little thing and think it can read high at times).
Class: 3 women (Jennifer, Tamara, and Theresa) and one man (Forrest, Christi’s brother) join her as she instructs live. Jennifer and Forrest, who are located in the middle row, are the modifiers, while Christi, who’s in the foot, and Jennifer and Tamara, who are in the back, are the “flippers,” who show the full moves. I agree that there are a few more oopsies than normal, especially among the modifiers, who are the folks whom you need the most to nail the routines!
Music: a mix of (remade) vocals (I could name - well, after looking them up - “Everlasting Love,” “Like a Pill” by Pink – this one is very much remade -, and “Louis, Louis”) and instrumentals for everything except the Bonus, during which Christi’s teenaged son, Justin, drums live.
Set: interior studio with parquet floors plus pastel colors and Christi’s name projected onto a curved back wall framed by columns and gauzy white curtains. Justin’s drum set occupies the position of honor in the center along that back side.
I’ve read comments about this set feeling dark. If people hadn’t commented on the shadows that project forward because of the lights in the back I might not have noticed them, actually. I think the fact that Christi and crew wear almost all black contributes to that feeling of darkness.
Production: clear (but not crisp) picture and sound, with the music clearly audible while Christi is speaking. The main camera angle from the front works fine, but there’s one that’s from kind of overhead that’s a bit disconcerting.
This and Funktional Fitness were Christi’s first efforts producing her own videos. Thankfully she’s decluttered and brightened up the set as well as adjusted the camera angles since then.
Equipment: step. As mentioned, Christi and crew only use the platform. I used 1 set of risers and got quite the workout. (If you follow suit, there are a few moves where you’ll have to be sure to pick up your feet.) Make sure you have shoes that won’t get caught on your step or carpet, if relevant.
Space Requirements: You should be able to work comfortably around your step, but you don’t need tons of room. If you can kick out to the side and front plus move around behind comfortably you’re good to go.
DVD Notes: Julie introduces the workout and goes over some guidelines, but fortunately you can hit the main menu to get there sooner. Your options are Warm-Up, Step #1, Step #2, Bonus Burn, Cooldown/ Stretch, MoveMaster, More Christi DVDs, and Credits. Each step portion is chaptered by combination.
Comments: I wasn’t expecting much from this workout, which seems to have gotten kind of a “meh” reception. I won’t argue with those who consider the production, set, slight break from Christi’s normal choreography and set-up, etc., strong enough negatives to trade this away, but as a Christi fan who’s only recently gotten into her step and who’d rather have an all right Christi than some of the other stuff out there that stuff isn’t bothering me and this is a keeper for now. With a little more height to my step than shown I found this gave me a surprisingly intense workout, and the second half does bring something different to the table, even if it’s not quite as revolutionary as advertised.
Christi cues well, focusing on announcing steps ahead of them (which may take some getting used to if you’re used to cuing much closer to or on the move change). She mirror cues, although she doesn’t provide many directional cues after the warm-up, especially for footfalls. I would have liked to have seen her cue the direction of turns, especially for those done over the top of the step or with the back to the TV. For more about her method of teaching see my general workout breakdown comments. Christi is a bit more serious in this workout compared to some of her others, so she doesn’t sing that many cues, but there’s still an attitude of having a good time while working out.
I have four of Christi’s step workouts. I enjoy her signing the cues, choice of music, arm patterns, and creativity. Her workouts make me feel graceful and happy. I love how Christi can keep each workout different. On this one she strays away from her formula of: first part- horizontal step, second part- vertical step. In this workout the step stays parallel to the TV. The DVD includes a Bonus Burn where Christi runs thru all of the combinations non stop.
That said I did trade away my copy of Stepsational. The workout itself was fine. It grew on me the more I did it. I got a good workout from it and I enjoyed the music and the choreography. I just couldn’t get over the production values. I would have been fine with a fuzzy picture, background exercisers that made mistakes more often than normal, and the ‘top’ camera angles. What I couldn’t get used to were the shadows. The lighting on this set is a bit odd and creates lots of shadows. The ‘dancing’ shadows were really distracting and made it hard to see details (since the picture is already fuzzy). In addition the shadows made the set look darker than it really was. I decided to let this one go since Christi will make many more videos that I am sure to love.
I have every Christi Taylor workout except this one and its companion, Funktional Fitness. I received this one, previewed it, and immediately got rid of it. It seems the rumors that she has given up complex choreography are true. The new production company she used for this workout also seems to have some issues to work through.
The set is a large room with a wooden floor and a drum set at the back. The camera is set up in what almost seems like another room, many feet away from Christi. She doesn’t seem to be looking at the camera, or doesn’t know which camera to look at. I could hardly see her face. That REALLY bothered me. The other exercisers may as well have been in another workout, they were so far away.
Everyone does the workout on the step platform, without any risers. For this reason, it could be a good workout for someone who wants to try out Christi’s step. However, the distance between her and the camera might be discouraging for someone who hasn’t tried her other workouts. Her personality doesn’t come across very well, nor do her cues.
The DVD is chaptered into warm up, two step sections, cool down, and a move master. I watched a bit of both step sections, and they looked so boring I didn’t even want to WATCH more, let alone try the workout. I have Christi’s other workouts because I enjoy the music and the smooth, dancy choreography. This one didn’t even look fun. Maybe if I had given it another chance I would have learned otherwise, but the fact that the camera was so far away made me not even want to try.
While I love Christi's personality in her other workouts, I can't specifically comment on her presence in this one, since I previewed just bits of it, then decided to trade it.
This one has grown on me. The first time I did it, all I could think about was how different the set/quality were compared to Christi’s other workouts. The picture is not as clear; the camera angle is funky; and something about the music doesn’t grab me like previous productions (but the music IS good). All this colored my attitude toward the workout, and I was disappointed. Had it been a lesser instructor, I’m sure I would have given up right there, but Christi is my #1, so I did the workout two more times (on different days, of course). Each time, I’ve liked it better. But still . . . there is something I haven’t quite put my finger on that makes me not enjoy this as much as Christi’s other work. I don’t understand it yet, because the choreography is good, and she teaches it well – although I was a little surprised at the number of times she repeats a combo the first time through. She doesn’t TIFT a lot, in fact, she TIFTs just the perfect number of times for me; however, when she’s initially teaching a combo, she repeats it a lot. It wasn’t too much, but it was nearing borderline-too-much. That was a surprise, but didn’t make me like the choreography any less. The music is good, with lots of recognizable songs (such as Louie, Louie). But there is still something that’s keeping me from raving about this, and I haven’t figured it out. In any case, I’m keeping this and will definitely keep doing it. But I’m giving this one a B+ instead of my usual A+. Most of this ranking has to do with the production quality, but part of it is the elusive “fun factor” as well.