Review: Turbofire (satisfying my cardio addiction…)
I should start off this post by mentioning that, the first time I was introduced to Chalene Johnson, it was via CLX — which I did *not* like. Chalene annoyed the crap out of me. I did not care for the instruction of compound movements, which can make you prone to injury if done wrong, and she was sooo “Hollywood”, which can grate on me since I live in LALA land. CLX was loaned to me to try out, and I really tried to give it an honest chance. I honestly disliked almost every workout in the set, with the exception of one workout, Burn Intervals. Actually, it wasn’t even the workout I liked — it was the kickboxing intervals of the workout. Chalene’s personality came shining out, the fun out poured with every jab and kick, and I could finally see why people could go ga-ga over Chalene and her previous workouts like Turbo Jam. But I returned CLX to my friend and never thought I’d ever go back to Beachbody again…
…until Turbofire came out.
Ok, actually, I wasn’t even interested in Turbofire when the buzz started. Seriously — Beachbody? The same group that puts more minutes of infomercial than workout on their DVDs? But some vidiots whose opinions I really trust started talking about the workouts… EVERY DAY. It was marketing at its worst (read: most effective) level. You’re sweating with a grin the whole time? You’ve burned more calories than with any other workout? YOU LOST HOW MUCH WEIGHT IN HOW LONG?!?!?
Then, I started to surf the Google and their Youtube for clips. (For some reason, “Coaches” who want to sell items think it would be cool to put themselves up on Youtube exercising to the DVD.) I started to get more and more hooked. I finally found a clip of a live class, and I was, “Whoa! That looks fun!” So, I bit.
And I haven’t been this sweaty ever!! I LOVE IT!
Raving aside, it’s been a great switch in my routine. I had just finished doing a 3.5 STS rotation, so it was nice to focus on cardio conditioning. According to Beachbody’s blurb:
Turbo Fire is an intense new cardio conditioning workout designed and practiced by the famous fitness trainer Chalene Johnson. Chalene will help shape your body with intense fat-burning exercises that have been proven to be 9x more affective the average cardio workout.
From what I can tell, the system combines a variety of kickboxing routines with high intensity interval training, or HiiT. High intensity intervals are an “amped” up version of interval training, an effective workout that utilizes high-intensity bursts with lower overall effort. This raises the basal metabolic rate for the rest of your day. Interval training and especially HiiT are considered to be excellent means to improve cardio capacity by having short bursts in the anaerobic training range. The high intensity intervals last only about a minute, usually, sometimes less, followed by a brief rest period. Turbofire, for the most part, employs the Little Method during “Fire Drills”, where one trains at 60 seconds of intense exercise (at 95% of VO2 max), followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated for 8-12 cycles. (The other method that is popular is the Tabata method, in which one alternates 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise [at 170% of VO2 max] followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 8 cycles.) One of the most attractive aspects of HiiT is the afterburn. The body continues to burn fat, sometimes up to 18 hours after you’ve stopped exercising. By combining HiiT, general interval training, and the cardio burn of kickboxing, Turbofire is an interesting and sweaty program to melt some pounds off your belly during and after your workout.
I only have the basic set right now, so I can just speak to the DVDs in that set, but I have mostly positive things to say. (I do hope to get the Advanced DVDs soon…)
- Fire 30, This workout was the first one I did out of the set, and I was totally in love. Fire 30 has several kickboxing combos of varying intensities, each done on the right and left lead, and you have two Fire Drills (same one, repeated twice). It starts out really fast — literally with three fast feet, alternating between 12 and 9 o’clock — so I can see how some people may feel lost at first. The standout musical theme would be “Play that Funky Music White Boy.” As the title suggests, the workout is done in about 30 mintues.
- Fire 45, This workout is possibly my favorite kickboxing workout of all time (so far), surpassing Cathe Friedrich’s 4 Day Split: Kickbox workout. The music is completely motivating and timed beautifully with all the combos. There was some serious work done with the music and editing on this workout (despite a couple mistakes during the warmup), and it really paid off. Fire 45 has three Fire Drills (two unique ones, and one is done twice). I am seriously drenched in sweat after this workout, and I follow it with a huge grin. My favorite song in the workout would be “Boom, I Got Your Boyfriend.” As the title suggest, the workout is done in about 45 minutes.
- Fire 55EZ, The EZ indicates a small notch down in intensity, but it is still intense. In this workout, you mostly go through varying levels of steady state combos, but there are two fire drills (same one, repeated). There are two “finales” and Chalene claims that the last one is her favorite of all time. I have to say, it’s pretty darn fun. The last time I did this workout, my hair was so soaked it looked like I had taken a shower. The music in this workout is fantastic from start (“Daisy Dukes”) to finish (“Whose House?”) As the name implies, the workout is just under 55 minutes.
- Fire 45EZ, This workout is the EZiest of them all. Fire 45EZ is a straight-up cardio kickboxing class. There are no fire drills in this workout, and the intensity of the combos do not vary up terribly, making this workout the closest thing to a straight-up steady-state cardio workout in the set. I actually find this one to be more mentally demanding than physically, at times. I think I get so used to working towards that one-minute rest that not having a single moment of rest throws me for a loop in the early morning. It is also the easiest on your feet, if you’re concerned about the impact. The workout is completed a little under 45 minutes.
- HiiT 15, This is by far my favorite HiiT. The intervals are shorter, and it’s just jam packed with speed and high impact moves. Before you know it, the 15 minutes is up, and you’re covered in a layer of sweat. There are only three drills, but you do them three times; the time spent in the drills do vary slightly.
- HiiT 20, This is my least-favorite HiiT workout. I didn’t even really think it was a HiiT workout when I first did it. Obviously, intensity it what *you,* the athlete, put into it, but some moves just make you push harder than others. However, during a planned “Inferno Rotation,” one may add HiiT 20 after completing Fire 45… and THAT combo is amazing. You are spent and sweaty at the end and really want to eat something FAST. Again, there are three drills in this workout; two of the fire drills are done twice, and the last drill is done three times. The times in the different drills vary.
- HiiT 25, This HiiT comes closest to the amount of time doing HiiT as Cathe Friedrich’s HiiT Workouts (16-18 minutes). I think it’s a great complete workout to do in a day when you want to get something done in 30 minutes, but make it really count. I like HiiT 15 more, but I feel I really “worked out” when I do HiiT 25 plus Stretch 10. In this workout, there are four drills done twice. The warmup and the cool down are slightly longer than the other HiiT workouts as well.
- Stretch 10, I have to admit, I really like Stretch 10 (though it should be called Stretch 12 because it’s 12 minutes and not 10! That’s a 20% increase! And when you’re strapped for time, it matters!). This stretch is best done after one of the Turbo workouts; I wouldn’t do this cold. My favorite part is when Chalene works on the rotator cuff. I have shoulder issues, and I have to be very careful when throwing so many punches in Turbofire. I’m really happy she gives such great instruction for shoulder stretching… I still need to work on it, but I appreciate it and so should you!
- Stretch 40, I went into this workout telling myself not to get annoyed with Chalene. I tend to find that instructors who teach high-energy aerobics end up pissing the crap out of me during yoga/stretching/flexibility workouts. Part of it has to do with the fact that they change their voices, and I’d rather they use their “normal” voice to tell me how to stretch. Chalene uses her normal voice and goes through a very nice yoga routine. It’s very similar to a class I once took at a gym — eerily similar, actually, in the vinyasa (flow) yoga style. I think I’ll be reaching for it again, even when not doing a TF rotation. I did not care for the music, but I did not hate it, either.
- Tone 30 and Sculpt 30, I understand completely why Chalene put these workouts in the program, but they did not exactly impress me. I think I did some of it and got bored pretty quickly. There are definitely some challenging band moves, but none of them made me go, whoa! I guess I felt so impressed by the cardio workouts in this Turbofire package, I almost felt let down by these workouts. I’ll give them another chance here or there, but I think I have plenty of other toning and sculpting DVDs that satisfy my needs. I have heard that those who do not like Tone 30 and Sculpt 30 could be pleasantly surprised by the advanced DVDs resistance training workouts, so I’m crossing my fingers.
- Core 20, I was going to say that Core 20 was pretty much like Tone and Sculpt 30, but I was reminded through the workout that I have no ab strength at all. The standing core work, though interesting, didn’t do much for me at all. Honestly, most oblique work doesn’t challenge me. I don’t know why, but I seem to have pretty strong obliques… OR I have the worst form ever and I’m not doing the moves correctly. However, when Chalene took us down on the mat, I was in trouble, mostly because we shift from obliques to the middle and lower abs, where I’m totally weak! It’s a good, challenging core workout from that point, and I totally respect it now.
Outside of the specific workout, here are some highlights that touch most every workout.
- Virtually no equipment: Since the system is mostly kick boxing, you just need some good sneakers and some space. For the toning and sculpting exercises, you need a resistance band or tubing, and for the stretch workouts, you may need a mat.
- New To Program Option: Integrated in the workout, Chalene has film of her previewing the moves for the upcoming combos. This option is great for people who may have two left feet and/or can’t remember choreography very well. I’m so used to studying the moves and music ahead of time, it really wasn’t something I used, but I can totally see how it acts a great entryway for people starting the program. Subtitles are also an option, if that may help people figure out what’s coming next.
- THE MUSIC!! Holy crap, they spent a ton on licensing, and it was worth every penny. If you’re not into hip-hop music, the system may not be for you, but if you’re at least open to it, you’ll really appreciate the song selections. On top of the great music, I really appreciated how they used the music to match the choreography. When instructors buy “batch licensing” (for lack of a better word) for a bunch of mixed songs, you can often hear the same song used in different parts of different workouts. It’s a little jarring sometimes… one song in one workout could be used as you warm up, where in another song it coincides with a ricochet off your step. However, in Turbofire, the music usually corresponds to a specific moves. This is particularly true and HELPFUL during the Fire Drills. “Whose House?” often means a squat jump, “Proud Mary” for the quick feet in and out (or Tina Turner move), “You Really Got Me Going” usually indicates leaping from side to side, etc. Essentially, the song helps condition your brain and body to the move. It’s freaking brilliant. Absofreakinlutely brilliant.
- Clock and Intensity bar graph: I wish more workouts incorporated this feature. On the right, you see a countdown clocks so you can tell yourself…ok, I did half of it, I can still do the other half. It helps motivate me to get through the entire workout when things get tough. In addition to the clock, there is a “status bar” that also indicates the intensity of the combo you’re doing. Fire Drills have the highest bars and warmups and cool downs have the lowest. I don’t always agree with the ratings, but it does help you mentally prepare for the next combo.
- Lack of warmups: I have to say, the warmup is hardly a warmup. There are only two “different” warmups in the system for the cardio workouts: one for the Fires and one for the HiiTs. I really had some problems at the beginning with the (lack of) warmups, but after doing it for a couple weeks, it doesn’t seem to bother me as much. I will say this — the first combo does seem to flow from the warmup, so perhaps that’s why it doesn’t bother me too much. If you’re particularly stiff before doing a Turbofire workout, I would really recommend to warm up on your own before doing Chalene’s warmup. I sometimes pop in the workout at 5:30a, so I can be pretty stiff! It’s really important not to do too much when you’re not warm, or you risk injury (as I’ve learned the hard way!).
- Camera angles: I counted at least 2 if not 3 stationary cameras and one moving camera man. The production values are fantastic, and it definitely pays off. I realize only big houses like Beachbody can make this happen without breaking the bank, and I’m really happy that they spent the money on it. They say it’s to make you feel like you’re in the class itself… not sure if I’m changing around the room so much when I’m in class, but it is definitely cool. Chalene is also *very* aware of the cameras, and I appreciate her skill in that regard.
- Commercials and Chaptering: What can I say, it’s Beachbody. You will be bombarded with needless, unwanted advertising after your workout is complete. What makes it particularly aggravating in this system is that you have to hit the forward button a lot after the workout is done in order to get to the stretch sequence, since that’s a completely different option from the title menu. My god, I hate it!! I don’t need to meet the cast after every time I do the workout, I don’t care about Shaun T’s Hip Hop Abs or Insanity, and I’ve seen the Shakeology promotion enough times already! But it’s Beachbody, so what do you exactly expect? Chaptering in the workout itself is OK, though it could be slightly improved in some places. But the commercials! Oh, the horror, the commercials!!
- Modifications and Form: Alee, to the left of Chalene (or to the right of the screen), is a constant throughout the whole series; she shows the low-impact modifications. It’s true that I don’t really watch her, but it’s important to know how to make a move with less impact when your body is asking for it. I do tend to do all the jumps, but perhaps in the moment I realize my leg is bothering me, I’ll quickly revert to a low impact move until it shakes itself out. That’s actually one of the nicest things about kickboxing in general — you really get what you put into it. You can still do a kickboxing workout that’s very hard on a day when you feel tired by putting a less energy into it. Also, I really like Alee’s smile — it lifts me up in a dreary morning, sometimes. Lastly, with the exception of Chalene’s sister Janelle, the other partner exerciser up on the stage usually has super excellent form (Janelle is probably good 80% of the time, but when she’s not, it makes my eyes cringe). Since the system is more about the cardio factor, form is not the most central part of the workouts. Yes, it’s important, but you just don’t throw the best uppercut when you’re doing it quickly to keep your heart rate up. I think I can best draw the example to Cathe’s MMA: Fusion — that entire workout is about form. Your heart rate doesn’t often stay up very high, because you’re more focused on doing every move correctly. In Turbofire, it’s more about doing things right enough to get the benefit of not injuring yourself, but constantly keeping your hands and feet moving. So, if you’re crazy good about your kickboxing form, these workouts may upset you a little bit. If you are a little confused by the moves but want to jump into a more advanced system, try and grab a copy of instructional DVD from Turbo Jam, where Chalene breaks down every move slowly; she did an excellent job teaching her signature moves there, and I was sad to not see it available in the Basic system (or, if it was in the Get Fired Up DVD, I got so bored that I shut it off).
Hopefully, this review provides an honest and well-balanced critique of the basic Turbofire system and will help anyone who is considering buying the system. I welcome all comments and thoughts from any readers as well. If you’re looking for an advanced cardio challenge that incorporates kickboxing and plyometrics, Turbofire may be for you. If you are looking more for a primer into home workouts via kickboxing, I would recommend starting with another system (Turbo Jam, specifically, if you’re interested in Chalene’s franchise, though I’ll be honest, Turbo Jam wasn’t my cup of tea). I will warn you one thing if you do decide to take the plunge and buy Turbofire: it may make all your other kickboxing workouts not as fun anymore! So, buyer beware!! 🙂