Walk on to Total Fitness

P.J. O'Clair, Moira Stott Merrithew
Year Released: 2005

Categories: Walking Aerobics

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This DVD contains one 33-min. walking workout which PJ says equates to about 2 miles (if you were to walk forward at the pace established in the workout).
Moira leads the introductory segment (4 min.), which is done standing still. You breathe, drop your shoulders away from your ears, do scapular protraction and rotraction, mobilize the shoulders with shoulder rolls, bent slightly forward to engage abdominals and then do mini cat stretch, before rolling up to standing for stretching the neck.
The workout itself (29 min.) begins with simple marching in place with feet together and then slightly wider, pumping the arms forward and back. This is done for about 5-6 minutes and serves as the moving warm-up. Other moves include a heel dig with arm pull back, lunge back with arm push, cross kick with arm swing, knee lift with arm reach up, step touch with arm reach out, and squat. PJ focuses almost exclusively on squats and walking for about 8 minutes toward the end of the workout. The cool-down lasts only about 2-3 minutes, doing the moves a little smaller and ending with some little pulses. The ending stretches just cover the hamstrings and glutes / hips; with all of that marching I definitely needed to add on some stretches for the hip flexors, quadriceps, and calves.
There is no choreography here; you march in place until PJ counts you down to a move change, and you only do one move at a time before going back to walking. The workout is done at a steady pace. I couldn’t really tell from the music if there was any change in pace, but if there is it’s very subtle, as I felt the change in intensity during the warm-up and cool-down came more from gradually increasing or decreasing the range of motion.

Level: Stott rates this a 1 out of 5 (with 1 being appropriate for beginners and 5 the most advanced), and I’d agree. I’d recommend this to beginners through intermediates. Beginners may be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of form instruction at first, but there are some good tips here that are not given as clearly and specifically in other walking workouts, especially for moves like the squat. Intermediates can boost the intensity by exaggerating moves, adding impact (e.g. doing squat jumps instead of stepping in and out of the squat), wearing a weighted vest or belt, or holding light hand weights (1-2, maybe 3, pounds in each hand).
I consider myself an intermediate / advanced exerciser, and I was surprised that my average heart rate made it up to the low end of my lower target heart rate (you know, the bottem edge of the mythical “fat burning zone”), since the dance workouts I had been doing earlier in the week had failed to reach even that. I suspect I could nudge it up a bit more by adding weights, but even then this isn’t going to be as intense for me as some of other walking workouts I have.

Class: 3 women and 1 man join PJ and Moira, who instruct live.

Music: bland piano which is pleasant and upbeat but not the energetic tunes one would expect or need for this type of workout. The music is quieter than PJ and Moira’s voices, too.

Set: bright interior set of wood and white, with white gauzy curtains over windows looking onto nothing. Furniture, including a table with a bowl of fruit and a pitcher of water, and fitness props are artfully arranged around the sides.

Production: very clear picture and sound, helpful camera angles, and smooth editing.

Equipment: just sneakers.

Space Requirements: This is very compact. If you can take one big step to each side and one small step forward and back you have enough room.

DVD Notes: I have one of the dual language DVDs, which adds an extra step to getting this silly DVD to play the workout. First you have to choose your language (English or French), then you have to wait for the initial warning screen to come and go, and then you have to agree to the disclaimer. Once you’ve done that, there’s a commercial for Stott products, which you can skip, and the standard Stott intro, which you can’t. Finally you get to the main menu, where your options are Getting Started (What You’ll Need, DVD Tips, and Warnings / Cautions), Audio Options (Instruction On or Instruction Off – This DVD really, really needs an instruction only option so you can play your own music), Workout Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, Head & Cervical Placement, and Play All), The Workout, Chapter Selections (Moira’s Intro, Warm-Up, and Walking Pilates Cardio Workout), and Special Features (Bonus! Try the Next Level, which here is Walk on to Weight Loss; Stott Pilates equipment, Meet the instructor, Get in touch, Stott Pilates education, and Other Stott Pilates video titles).

Comments: I don’t have the next one in the series, Walk on to Weight Loss, so I can’t do a direct comparison of the two, although from reading reviews (including Sandra’s great one here at VF) and watching the preview clip on the DVD and on Stott Pilates’ website I can say that Weight Loss is longer and has a few more moves, including a few designed to be a little more intense. It is rated a 2 out of 5.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect much from this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. The obvious drawbacks are the uninspiring music and the boredom factor of alternating between squats and walking for almost 10 minutes, but on the plus side I felt the deliberate arm movements coordinated with the lower body movements and the emphasis on moving with precision added surprising intensity.

How does this compare with Leslie Sansone? Well, I’m not a Leslie expert as I’ve only tried 21 of hers, give or take a few (remember she has well over 100 titles!), and I only use walking videos from time to time rather than as a regular part of my routine. But I think I’m familiar enough with her style to do a comparison… There’s not a world of difference between the two. Leslie would be a better choice if you need some enthusiasm, especially if you don’t mind a little silliness now and then, and Leslie’s tune selection, although not as diverse as it could or should be, is an improvement over Stott’s snore-inducing Nordstrom’s pianist soundtrack. Leslie also provides a little more real world encouragement by featuring actual people who’ve lost weight on her programs and a range of shapes and sizes and ages. PJ, on the other hand, is a better cuer, as she’s more consistent with her cues and more precise with her form instruction. I like PJ’s controlled, precise arm movements better than Leslie’s sometimes “Hey, let’s do this!” type of arms, and the organizer in me likes having specific arms matched up with specific foot patterns.
Leslie has her own “Pilates walk” out now: 3 Mile Slim & Sleek Walk, which is just under 45 minutes and meant to serve as the equivalent of 3 miles. Leslie’s Pilates walk feels like it has a greater variety of moves, including some jogging, because she alternates between them more often, plus she does have an extra ~15 min. Leslie also incorporates some lower body strengthening via squats, although she throws in some leg lifts for good measure, too. Believe it or not, it’s Leslie who talks about Pilates during the walk; Moira and PJ incorporate Pilates principles but otherwise focus on the walking, whereas Leslie talks about how her style of walking owes something to her Pilates teacher training. Even though I like PJ’s demeanor and style, if I had to choose between the two I’d take the Leslie without much hesitation, as it’s easily more intense and adaptable for me, especially since it has chapters for the individual “miles.”

Instructor Comments:
PJ is the main instructor; Moira just leads the opening segment (which she cues for her right and left, not the viewer’s) and makes a few comments here and there in the workout itself. Both instructors have positive, professional yet approachable, and pleasant personalities; it’s safe to say they’re pretty low key, too. PJ focuses almost exclusively on cuing the workout, counting you down to move changes (usually she goes from 4), providing form tips and reminders, and giving encouragement. She also talks about the benefits of exercise, although I take her claims as a guidelines rather than absolute truths for everyone (such as burning 100 calories / mile – so many variables go into this that each individual is going to have different numbers, even the same person on different days).
How does PJ compare to other walking instructors? Well, she’s less excitable and chatty than Leslie Sansone plus a better cuer, she’s more athletic (i.e. no talk about energy into the universe) and natural in her speech than Debbie Rocker, and she’s not quite having the grand ol’ time Petra Kolber and George Foreman are. If you need some spark or spunk to motivate you, she may not be your first choice. But if you need a break from the others, she’s a good option.