Sweat Express IIKari Anderson
Year Released: 2011
Categories: Floor Aerobics/Hi-Lo/Dance
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I love it! It has choreography, but not too difficult to learn. Easy enough to actually get a workout instead of just stumbling through a workout. I also like how it has choreo for each individual song so you can stop after any song, making a shorter or longer workout. And the music is great.06/01/2012
I'm reviewing this workout after doing it a few times. I'm no dancer and have two left feet, but I really like this workout! There's something about the music and the dances that keeps me going even when I had only set out to do a few songs. Kari is encouraging, and as the previous reviewer said, her emphasis on fun makes the workout fun.
I have to follow her modifications for working out on carpet, and they work really well.
After a few times, I find the more I let go and just follow what Kari is doing, the easier the dances become. This is my current favorite dance workout!
I recommend this workout to people who like choreography and are looking for something fun and not too intense. It's great after a stressful day.
I agree that Kari's cuing is a bit late at times and she will introduce a move when you are doing it, but on the other hand, she offers helpful tips for those of us working out on carpet. Her mood and approach to the workout make it about having fun, not doing it perfectly. Eventually, if you enjoy it, you will get it right!
I’m reviewing this workout after doing it twice.
General workout breakdown: This 57.5 min. dance workout is definitely full of “mood lifting movement.”
Kari has divided this into “All Aboard the SXII” (15.5 min.), three songs that gradually build up in intensity, “Cruising the Rails” (almost 23.5 min.), five songs at the same level of intensity for some good steady state cardio, “The ‘Bullet’ Train” (9.5 min.), two songs that take things up a notch, and “Arrival,” one song that serves as a cool-down dance (almost 4 min.) and a final song of graceful moves and static stretches to leave you feeling refreshed before resuming your day (just over 5 min.).
Each song has its own combo or two, but after you’re done with a combo it’s gone, never to reappear (so that means no TIFTing, or taking it from the top, putting everything into one big routine). The combos are just long enough to make it feel worth the effort to learn and do them as a dance but are definitely never too long. Things are repeated just enough but never too much (there was really only one combo I feel I could do with one less repetition of, but there were plenty I could have done another repetition or two of). Kari does everything symmetrically, meaning you’ll do on the right what you do on the left, although she doesn’t usually spend the same amount of time building things up on the second side. Some songs have two to three blocks that become one combo, but when Kari adds them together she does them as introduced rather than weaving them together (so you do block A on the right, block A on the left, block B on the right and left, and block C on the right, then on left, rather than block A on the right, B, C on the right, and vice versa). Sometimes Kari will throw in a completely unrelated move between combos or at the end of a song; while this seems like it’s just for fun, it’s actually a nice way to clear your mind before the next combo. And be prepared for a few strike a pose ta-das at the end of songs.
Kari’s style draws from a wide range of dance influences. You won’t be learning how to dance for a competition, the club, or a performance; instead, this is about the joy of movement. If you’re sick of dance workouts that overrely on cha chas and mambos, Kari is your woman. And you won’t find any lunges, squats, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees, etc. Besides the marches and step taps in between moves, Kari does a good number of grapevines. And there are some box steps, repeaters, and jump switches (“cross country ski” or “ski jacks”), plus some kicks get in there, but other than that it’s really all dance all the time. You’ll shake, bump, and circle the hips, shimmy the shoulders, etc., but it’s all in the name of having fun rather than being sexy or whatever. (But would you expect anything less from graceful, tasteful Kari?)
I like that the first song, the warm-up, takes you through dynamic movements and introduces a few steps you’ll see again later rather than trying to teach you a complicated combo and make you hold static stretches. The cool-down dance is a lot of fun; it may be my favorite segment on here. I really like the final stretch: Not only does Kari stretch the calves, hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads, but she does some nice fluid moves to open up the sides of the torso and low back, upper back, and chest; even if you’re not as prone as I am to holding tension in your upper body you’ll walk away feeling great.
Level: I’d recommend this to intermediate exercisers comfortable with decently complex dancey choreography. More beg./int. choreo hounds can choose to do as many songs as they’d like at one time, working up to the full thing. Those who normally work out at high int. on up level will find this great for active recovery or lighter intensity days.
I’m normally an int./adv. exerciser, but with some recent health issues I’m working out at a more solidly intermediate level these days. I do love choreography, including choreography with TIFTing, but sometimes I don’t want to bother having to keep a bunch of combos in my head. With this one I feel like I get in some enjoyable activity at a moderate level, and I’m fine with that. I do sweat when I’m doing this, but I’m a sweater to begin with; with this my shirt is damp, not soaked. So for me this isn’t an express train to Sweatsville, but it sure is an enjoyable journey to Happytown. The second time through I found this even more fun than the first, and the time just flew by.
This is definitely much more my style of dance. I'm not naturally a great dancer, and despite the fact that I pick up hi/lo choreography easily executing true dance moves leaves me scratching my head. This sort of dancey flair is up my alley.
I was able to get even the trickiest moves by the second or third run-throughs of each move the first time through, but it’ll take another time or two before I’m comfortable enough that I can really go all out with the moves. I don't think that will be typical for everyone, however, as Kari doesn't break down moves verbally, but I do think this is surprisingly doable, as long as you’re OK with watching Kari to figure out the exact footfall patterns and things like that.
Class: Kari, who instructs live as she does the whole routine, with 2 women, one of whom is Kari’s daughter. The background exercisers are well rehearsed and don’t distract any attention from Kari. With a few brief exceptions, they all do the same thing rather than show the previous layer or another variation to be used as a modification, and often it’s Kari who shows the alternative option.
Music: a mix of upbeat, uptempo songs, many of which have vocals. Somehow the variety, ranging from pop (one of the later songs, “Deep Into Your Eyes,” sounds kind of boy band-like, and the vocals in “Walking Away” during the final stretch resemble Sarah McLachlan’s) to Latin (“Lambada” and “Oye”) to funk (“Funkey”) to even a little contemporary gospel (“Amazing Grace”), works rather than becomes a jumbled mess. Although I personally wouldn’t buy the CD to listen to on my own time, I’ll argue this is one of the better fitness video soundtracks out there (I rather like the “Beautiful Life” song).
Set: big, bright, open studio with wood floors and neutrally colored walls (although I do like the black frames around the “door” at the back). One wall has “windows,” and the pattern on the other wall looks like the reflection of windows on a skyscraper, giving this a slightly uptown feel.
Production: clear picture and sound. The music is just a hair quieter than Kari’s voice, meaning you can hear both without having to crank the volume way up. I had no problems with the way this was shot, although I wouldn’t have minded if they had moved up a few steps for the main straight on shot.
Equipment: sneakers. If, like me, you’re on carpet, I recommend dance sneakers (or that old pair of sneakers over whose toebox you’ve put a piece of slick tape).
Space Requirements: You should be able to grapevine to each side and take 8 steps from the back of your space to the front. At 5’8” I didn’t have to work that hard to fit this into my workout space, which I can’t extend beyond 5’ or so front to back and 8’ side to side, but I can’t imagine squeezing it into anything significantly smaller.
DVD Notes: The main menu pops right up with the Introduction (which ends with a sweet dedication to Kari’s parents), the Workout (I love how this launches right into the first move – all of the introductory stuff is in the introduction), and Chapters (this meticulously chaptered by song).
Comments: I don’t have the original Sweat Express (since I don’t have a VHS player), so I can’t compare the two. But I’d definitely be interested in a Sweat Express III.
In a funny sort of way I feel Sweat Express II is the next step from Petra Kolber's dance videos (PK Grooves, 321 Dance, Just Dance). They’re both dance workouts with some good ol’ fashioned aerobics in their lineage, to some extent in the moves (Petra’s more so than Kari’s) but mainly in the way they’re taught (rather than the typical dance instruction of teaching stuff at half time, doing it at tempo, with lots of down time in between, leaving you dancing but not necessarily sweating). That said, SXII is a little more complex than Petra’s offerings, primarily because Kari plays with rhythm a bit more than Petra and has some moves done at a slightly faster tempo. So if you’ve conquered Petra’s offerings and are looking for more, especially if the TIFTing is what you like least about Petra’s workouts, definitely check this one out.
Kari looks and moves fantastic, as if she’s never taken a hiatus from making videos. (Seriously, what’s her secret? Even in high def it doesn’t look like she’s aged a day since her last set of releases.) She’s always the professional while being relaxed and natural on camera, having a great time as she leads, so expect some laughs and “Yeah-ahs.” Her cuing isn’t as helpful for someone brand new to the routine – she doesn’t do a lot of verbal breakdown, although she provides some hints for some of the trickier moves, and she sometimes doesn’t announce a move until you’re doing it – but does work better once you have some familiarity with it. She mirror cues.