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Maintaining Fitness Through Tae-Bo

Tae-Bo Combines Boxing and Motivation For Fitness Results

Tae-Bo – the fitness system that combines boxing, Tae Kwon Do and aerobics – exercises your body from the inside out, combining motivational speeches with a hard-hitting workout. Billy Blanks, its charismatic founder, says in his videos, "I tell people in my class, 'When you're working out, who are you looking at in the mirror? Are you looking just at the outside? Or, are you looking at the inside? If you're just looking at the outside then your five senses can deceive you and you'll never change.'"

What Is Tae-Bo?

"Tae" refers to the leg and foot, for the kicks and lower body workout, and "Bo" refers to the boxing moves and upper body punches that are an integral part of the explosive, high-energy workout. It's a repetitive action of punches and kicks that relates as well to self-defense as it does to confidence and fitness.

Ross Marchesanzo, an instructor at Family Fitness in Kitchener, Ontario, believes that Tae-Bo is the best way to maintain fitness. He teaches boxercise, which is similar to Tae-Bo. "Most people don't realize how much energy and technique is involved in throwing a punch," he says, adding that tightening up the abs (all four levels), bending and twisting makes the punch powerful and the workout hard.

Marchesanzo has 15 years of martial arts experience. He says technique is the most important part of the workout. "I've had people feel faint or dizzy, but never an injury in my class. I know people who have broken bones during a workout and I blame the instructor." The repetitive workout focuses on skill and balance. "Think about your stance, concentrate on how you want to move."

Benefits of Tae-Bo

The good news is that anyone can do Tae-Bo by modifying movements and working at his or her own pace. Young and old, men and women, seem to like what they see in Billy Blanks. However, it's not a quick fix and can take weeks before any improvement is noted. Marchesanzo holds beginners back until he's sure they can handle the quick movements. He lets them practice on stance while they slowly work their way into a routine. "Be careful and patient, learn to focus and pay attention to technique," says Marchesanzo.

Where you do the videos and what you wear are also important. Wear loose clothing, exercise on a wooden or carpeted floor and drink plenty of water before and after the workout.

Jenny Sherman, a 42-year-old Tae-Bo enthusiast, owns a few videos that she uses to work out regularly. "I like to run but some days my joints aren't up to that much jarring, and Tae-Bo gives me a different but equally challenging session," she says. It is a full body workout and Blanks encourages his viewers to continue moving even if they can't work through the exercise. He motivates and challenges his viewers to do their best and take that extra step towards total well-being.

According to the official Tae-Bo site, "Discipline yourself to do Tae-Bo and the rest falls into place." Although the site has many success stories about women and men losing great amounts of weight, don't be fooled. Fat weighs 75 percent less than muscle. So, if you stick with the routine and workout more than three times a week, expect to lose inches but not necessarily weight.

Sherman believes anything that helps you stand a little straighter and keep your head up will work on all aspects of your life. "If you're happy with yourself, people behave differently around you," she says. The key with this, or any exercise program, is sticking with it and believing in yourself. Marchesanzo agrees saying he's seen women "look and act" more confident after a workout. "After a workout like that you know you are in control of your life and your body," he says.

Is There a Down Side to Tae-Bo?

"It involves a lot of twisting at the waist, which I don't like," says Stephanie Whitts, a 55-year-old self-proclaimed acrobatics buff. Whitts thinks it's a fad. However, Tae-Bo has been around for many years, but the celebrity personality of Billy Blanks has pushed it into the spotlight recently.

For some, the workouts are too intense. "I think it's something many will throw themselves into and out of quickly," says 28-year-old Liz Waters. Waters prefers to go to the gym for the warm ups offered before and after a session. She finds Blanks videos "monotone and spacey" with too much pep talk. Waters agrees the lure of Tae-Bo is Blanks himself. "Most guys just can't imagine hopping around to music with Richard Simmons or some girl in spandex. The strong macho guy thing sucks them in," says Waters.

Blanks is a seven-time world karate champion and 36-time gold medal champion in international competition. He holds a seventh degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, the dominant Korean version of karate, and black belts in five other forms of karate. His videos hit the top 50 chart in 1999 – the only fitness videos to ever achieve that.

Videos can be fun but doing a program like this without the benefit of an instructor also can be dangerous. Standing in front of a television is not the same as someone putting his hands on your hips and adjusting your stance. "I walk around moving people and showing them how to correct their technique," says Marchesanzo.

So are you ready for the workout? Grab your water bottle and shorts and head to the nearest gym or video store. Go into it expecting results, and you'll get them!

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