The Last Step

Petra Kolber
Year Released: 2011

Categories: Step Aerobics

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Petra Kolber leads what she says will be her last step aerobics workout. It's unfortunate because I really enjoyed this step workout and would love to see her continue making more of them.

There is no separate warm up. As seems to be the trend these days, she starts right into the first combination taking a little bit of time to do some dynamic stretching, but quickly moving into the body of the workout.

There are six combinations altogether. They start out very basic, but she very quickly layers on the complexity. She tells you that you donít have to do the complex stuff and says you can follow Giusy, one of the background exercisers, but since sheís often not visible, thatís almost impossible to do. There are so many changes and layers of complexity that itís very hard to stay with the basic moves while watching Petra. By the time she gets done with all of her variations, the basic moves are long forgotten and the modifier (when you can see her) doesnít keep things all that simple. Because of this, I would not recommend this workout for someone who does not enjoy a fair amount of complexity in their step routines.

You have to like choreography to enjoy this workout. Itís a steady state cardio workout without blasts or intervals. You basically learn one combination after the other. The DVD is chaptered into workout one (the first three combinations) and workout two (the second three). Thereís also a separate chapter where all combinations are done one after the other, and an ending chapter that is labeled as a cool down, but is actually a short yoga style stretch using the step as a prop.

If you do the workout uninterrupted, she teaches the first three combinations and then TIFTs (takes it from the top) them together. She also does a weave where she does all three combinations on the right and then the left. She does the same thing after the second three combinations, and then does one final TIFT of all six of them. I donít mind this approach, but know that there are some who do. It does lengthen the workout, and I will fast forward through them when I need to finish up more quickly. You can easily just do one of the sections if you donít have time for an hour long workout, since thereís a good chapter menu. If you do the whole thing, it's slightly over an hour.

If you like choreographed step with some impact, but not too much, I recommend this one.

Instructor Comments:
I have the greatest admiration for Petra. She is a cancer survivor who has beaten the odds and continued her fitness career. She seems sincere and genuine. Sheís a creative choreographer and cues very well. My only lament is that she says she isnít going to make any more step workouts.

Jane P


Iím reviewing this workout after doing it once.

General workout breakdown: This steady state step aerobics workout runs just over 65 min.
- Warm-up (about 4.5 min.)
Petra teaches the base patterns for what will become the first combo, and she also includes some dynamic moves to warm up in particular the hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves.
- Combos (first three = about 23.5 min.; second three = about 24.5 min.; TIFTing of all six combos = just under 7 min.)
Petra begins each combo with a simple base pattern onto which she layers changes and variations, which she often reminds you are just options, until she ends up with the full combo. All combos are tapless, meaning no tap switches but instead moves like a knee up to change leads, and symmetrical, meaning youíll build them up equally on the right and left. The base patterns often include basics, repeater knees, hamstring curls, stomps, and marches; these become some of Petraís favorites moves, including box step (x3 in one combo, but Iíll give her that indulgence since thatís really their only appearance), mambo pivot, stomp the bug, corkscrew, and of course Elvis. I thought Petraís choreography was a good level of interesting, with the possible exception of the third combo, which to me felt like it never really came together as coherently as it could have. You will do a step kick or step side leg lift corner to corner in between some run-throughs, but thereís not a lot of down time here.
The combos are taught separately. After the first three combos, Petra does one TIFT (taking it from the top) as learned (combo #1 on both sides, combo #2 on both sides, combo #3 on both sides), then one TIFT ďcut in halfĒ (i.e. weaving the combos, so combo #1 on one side, combo #2 on the other, combo #3 on the first, and vice versa). She repeats that for the second three combos, and then TIFTs for all six together, again once as learned and once woven together. Me likey! (OK, so Iíve been posting reviews asking Petra to do this. Youíre welcome / Iím sorry! :-D) But if you donít like TIFTing, you can just hit the ďnextĒ button on your remote and move onto the next section.
There is very little impact here. Youíll probably finding yourself hopping to unload the knee, and you might add some oomph to the alternating lunge straddles or the revolving door, but thatís about it. I would caution those who have knees very sensitive to torque to approach this one with caution, especially if youíre on carpet; you may want to preview this to figure out how to minimize some of the quick partial pivots and directional changes.
- Cool Down (just over 5.5 min.)
In this yoga-inspired segment Petra has you do modified half sun salutes, move between plank and downward-facing dog (pedaling the feet) with hands on the step, perform several lunge variations (wide-legged lunge for more of a groin/inner thigh stretch, a narrower stance lunge with a twist, and a modified crescent lunge), do whatís commonly called ďequal angle pose,Ē and come onto the step for several calf stretches paired with a chest opening stretch. Iím the type of person who does yoga when she wants to do yoga, so I can take or leave these types of cool-downs, although this one is nice and done at an unrushed pace. I do miss having an actual cardio-based cool-down between the final TIFT and the stretch, however.

Level: Iíd recommend this to intermediate on up steppers comfortable with decently complex choreography. This is for those who are looking for interesting choreography over heart-pumping intensity.
I normally work out at an intermediate / advanced level but am working back up to there from a more intermediate level. I decided to do my first spin on just the platform, and I neednít have: this one would have been doable both in terms of choreography and challenge on one pair of risers even my first time through. Iíll get a nice hourís worth of moderate steady state cardio workout out of this one.
I pick up step choreography quickly if it flows together well enough and is taught competently, so I had little trouble with this one. I need one more time through to polish off a few things, especially the TIFTs, but I was very comfortable with all of the steps by the end of my first time through. I think the 4th and 6th combos had the moves that took the longest for me to get, and then only in the final layer or two when directional changes figured in.

Class: 1 women (Giusy, well known to Michelle Dozois fans), who serves as the modifier (but not quite as much as I expected), and 1 man join Petra, who does the full routine while instructing live.

Music: upbeat pop-type music with vocals, although the cool-down has a jazzier feel.

Set: bright interior studio with wood floors, a door onto a wall with some brightly colored art, and a ďwindowĒ on one side and a wall with a projected spiral bubble image on the other. The dťcor fits Petraís sunshiney, bubbly personality well.

Production: clear picture and sound. The camera angles arenít distracting, but I wouldnít have minded if they had been just a tad closer to make it easier to see which foot was doing what.

Equipment: Petra and company use a full-sized club step with one set of risers. (I bet youíd have no problems with the smaller home version of the step, as there arenít any moves which really require the full-sized stepís full width or length.) Make sure your sneakers can turn on your step and on your carpet, if relevant.

Space Requirements: Youíll need some space around your step: you should be able to move around comfortably with both feet on the floor in front of and especially behind your step, and youíll need to be able to take three small to medium steps off each side. At 5í8Ē and with a full-sized step in the middle of my space thatís just over 5í deep by 7-8í wide, I had enough room but wouldnít have wanted to have much less.

DVD Notes: Your main menu options are Introduction, Play All, Step Express Workout 1 [warm-up through combo 3], Step Express Workout 2 [combos 4-6], Just the Combinations, and Cool Down. So thereís no separate chapter for the warm-up, nor are there separate chapters for each combo or the TIFTs at the end of each half.

Comments: Yes, this is called ďThe Last StepĒ for a reason: itís the last step video Petra intends to put out. She noted in a recent Collage Video interview that she doesnít have the opportunity to teach step any more. (Apparently my gym isnít the only one thatís phased out step classesÖ) I canít say Iím happy about this; as someone who was relatively late to the step party (I havenít been stepping for more than 4-5 years) and who likes steady state cardio full of fun choreography Iím sad to see this long-standing trend and its sister, hi/lo or floor aerobics, die out, with beloved instructors one after another hanging up their Rykas. Iím starting to come to terms with the fact that Petra is also leaving step behind, but while I donít blame her for making a point to say good-bye to a style of exercise sheís been doing for so long, Iím with those who wouldnít have minded if she had made less of a big deal out of it (maybe just the title and a mention in the introduction).

Itís been a bit since Iíve done Petraís three step workouts preceding The Last Step Ė Step Select; PK Step; and Step Moves, New Grooves Ė but I feel like The Last Step is the most complex of the bunch. It just feels like Petra layers to another level or two (or maybe even three at some points) compared to the others. Petra also introduces some moves here that havenít appeared in the previous three, although she indicates that those who have been stepping with her longer may have seen them before, and seems to have greater variety from finished combo to finished combo. Perhaps because of the focus on choreography, I wouldnít be surprised if others also found The Last Step was one of, if not the one with, the lowest intensity out of the four. Some of the combos spent some time on the floor (although fortunately Petra never loses sight of the fact that this is a *step* workout, because you will be working on and off the step more than youíll be working around the step, unlike some other step videos I have), and some of the combos have some moves that seem like gussied up marches, which just arenít going to be as intense. All that said, I like the other three, and I like this one. I smiled just as much during this one as I did during the others. On days when I feel like embracing being a choreo hound, this will be one of my favorites out of that bunch; on days when I want a little less mental involvement, itíll be one of my lesser favorites from the group.

Moderately challenging, lower impact, steady state step with interesting choreography thatís not complex just for complexityís sake with a charismatic instructor who stresses fitness and fun Ė this is my kind of workout. Itís a real shame there will be so few new ones like it.

Instructor Comments:
Petra cues well here, in advance of moves pretty consistently and with some good directional cues. My only complaints about her cuing: she doesnít really cue in a way that indicates the moves with a slightly different rhythm and could be clearer about the footfall pattern, specifically which foot comes off first, on most of the more involved on/off step moves.
Petra is, as always, upbeat and encouraging, supportive of efforts to have a good time while working toward health and fitness goals. Yes, she makes some comments about how things have changed since her earlier step workouts and mentions more than once that this is her last step workout (although she doesnít dwell on this constantly, more like half a dozen mentions during the course of the hour). I think if I hadnít been expecting those comments I would have been more likely to complain about them, but since we vented about them on the forum before I bought my copy they didnít seem as many as I was fearing. And I guess if I were to do this video a lot in a short period of time Iíd find those comments and some of Petraís other little self-deprecating jokes irritating the thirtieth time through. But as someone who rotates through a large collection of videos I feel that thereís nothing here I canít live with during my occasional Petra step kicks. Besides, Iíd rather have Petra joke about how many kind of technology we use to do workout videos now than what I consider more inane comments about being sexy, burning carbs vs. fat, making that tummy go away, etc.