Thursday 23 April 2015

Cassey Ho's 'Hot Body Year Round' Review

Price: £14/ $13
Length: 250
Workouts: Full body
Suitable for: Everyone
Rating:   ★★★★★

   I love my workout DVDs. I have 18 of them. Some are various forms of dance, some are yoga, some are kickboxing, others are a combination of all the most effective kinds of exercises squashed together in an insane 30-minute workout. And they're all effective. Having an instructor in front of you performing the moves is extremely helpful as you can see what's expected of you and (usually) knock out the kinks quite quickly. The music is also brilliant and chosen because it boosts your energy in the tough combi-DVDs, or it's calming for yoga, or it's simply the music the choreography was created for. The instructors usually give you tips all the while - "belly button into the spine", "shoulders packed into the spine", "knees behind your toes" and so on - and will usually give you warnings of what not to do and what to look out for on individual moves, as well as just what muscles you're working - and the ever-true fact that too few women are aware of: weights won't build bulk. And then there are the personalities of the different instructors that shine through immediately. Some you love right from the start, and others you have to learn to.
   So it's not surprising that I've never been too inclined to pick up exercise books. Where's the music? The personality? The visual demonstrations? I've bought a few in the past, usually based on reviews from Women's Fitness Magazine, fitness websites or simply Amazon reviews, and not once have I ever been pleasantly surprised. They're just gathering dust at the foot of my bed, if I'm completely honest, and that's why I've never mentioned them on the blog or ever bothered to write a review. Because they're just disappointments. True, I could write a negative review, but the thing is that the books I've bought have been so blah that there's not really been anything of note to say, good or bad.
   And it's for that reason that I am reviewing this book.

   I've been a fan of Cassey Ho for a couple of months now, finding Blogilates and being drawn in by its success and, to be honest, the colourful personality of the blog itself. Since then I've fallen in love with her own personality - perfectly reflected by the look of the blog itself - and bought her Pop Pilates DVD. And, as much as a risk as I knew it was with my past experience with fitness books, I decided to pre-order hers. I was drawn in by the gorgeous cover, I'll admit that, too.

   I. Love. It.
   Cassey Ho's 'Hot Body Year Round' is an exercise book filled with her unique style of pilates - over 120 moves, in fact, and 20 different routines - amazing and clean recipes - not all of which are too complex (I hate complex recipes, especially recipes with half an ingredients list comprised of things I've never heard of, if I can even pronounce) - and tips for keeping motivated and staying on track to achieve your dream body. Her personality shines through in it, too, and the graphics in the book - watercolour washes are my crush right now - reflect it just as well as her blog does. It's a genuinely cheerful go-get-'em book.

   'Year round' isn't just a part of the title. She's tailored the workouts in the book to correspond with our most likely goals for that season - the most obvious of which being summer's bikini body - and broken them into target areas so you know exactly what you're working, and which moves are best if a certain area of your body needs a little extra attention. There's a convenient chart at the front of the book before stepping into Spring that suggests how beginners and intermediate/advanced can pair their workouts with rest days and cardio for optimal results, she also explains vitamins and why we must drink enough water (it might sound obvious, but odds are that none of us are drinking enough, especially as the seasons change and begin to heat up as they are now). But one gorgeous touch she's added to the book's seasonal workouts are the pictures. She's demonstrating the moves in perfect locations - I think she was particularly tactful with winter's choice of location.
   Each season contains five workouts, each focusing on a certain part of the body, and are made up of six moves. They're clearly explained and demonstrated in pictures - yes, even I think so, despite my hate for photographical examples (though I obviously understand the need for them in books) - and certainly more challenging than they look, making them most definitely effective. None of the moves are duplicated in any of the workouts, making each of the 120+ moves unique in the book and subsequently allowing for easier personalisation of the routines should you wish to combine them from different workouts or different seasons.

   Each of the season sections also contain 9-10 seasonal recipes complete with nutritional information including calories, grams of sugar, protein etc, a list of the fruits and veg that are in season and subsequently easier to find in farmers' markets and fresh fruit aisles, and a seasonal 7-day meal plan for breakfast to dinner with snacks in between. Most health websites and magazines - even healthy cookbooks - have a tendancy to leave out nutritional information. Of course, if you're eating clean, watching portion sizes, pairing your food together appropriately and keeping active, such things aren't necessarily required, but it definitely, definitely helps. Calorie-counting is a weakness of mine in particular, but I'm gradually learning that it's also what you eat that counts. A 200 calorie chicken sandwich and a 200 calorie slice of cake aren't the same thing, and making the right choice counts (though that's not to say that cake should be left out in the cold - something Cassey also seems to agree with).

Help & Understanding
   One of my biggest problems with fitness books is the lack of demonstration of the moves - all you have are pictures, so you have to consult Youtube. I'm in the minority - I don't have any kind of smartphone (in truth, I can't tell you where my mobile phone is because I put it somewhere 'safe' a while ago), I don't have a tablet, in fact we only just got wifi. Being a full-time carer, I'm at home all the time. If anyone needs me, the house phone will do, or more likely an email or FB message, if not coming right to my front door. My point is that to access the internet I need to go to the computer, and if I'm exercising I don't want to have to stop and hurry away to another room to google something. However, unlike any other book I've tried to use, Hot Body Year Round doesn't need this! The moves are explained perfectly, and any pilates terminology she uses was explained at the beginning of the book. The pictures are clear and beautiful, and I've had no trouble with the workouts I've tried on an evening so far.
   There are also tips interspersed throughout, and little nuggets of valuable motivational points - such as remembering that you're worth more than the number on a scale. Yes, it's cliché, but I've always said that things become clichés for a reason, and in this case that reason is because it's true. People may be cruel to you because they're unhappy in their own skin - either call you 'fat' because you're overweight, or, alternatively, call you 'fat' because you're clearly not but they want to upset you and make you think that the hard work you've done that they don't believe they're strong enough to do was for nothing.
   She knows just what to say and how to word it. She empowers you by simply reminding you that you're capable of completing these workouts, and when you do complete them, that empowerment comes rushing back. She talks about posture and how large a role that has in looking slimmer - if you hunch over, you don't look confident, but your body also scrunches up. And how important it is to have faith and belief in yourself and to love yourself however you might look. And that everyone has bad days, even people with bodies you may think are flawless. Sometimes your mind is your own worst enemy and will only pick out your flaws. On those days you have to push past it and focus more intensely on your assets - and everyone has assets.

   Cassey's book is genuinely worth writing home about. And blogging about. It's a beautiful-looking book inside and out, it's extremely well-written, the workouts are actually easy to follow (if challenging to perform, but that's personal skill rather than a lack of understanding), the recipes are gorgeous and the personality and motivational properties of the book makes it a winner. I'd never considered the changing seasons to be a new opportunity to "prepare myself for fresh beginnings four times a year", but do you know what? I really, really like that idea. I romanticise the changing seasons and this has fueled that. I love my new year's resolution, and I have no trouble sticking to it, and that brings me closer to my goal, but having new seasons resolutions can help to make more nitty gritty details come to light. The overall goal may not change, but changing seasons offer new opportunities - be that to cook with different seasonal ingredients or the opportunity to try new physical activity like skiing or rock-climbing - that should be embraced. I feel more cheerful and more motivated by that idea alone.

   In short? Buy it. You won't see me give 5 stars to a book again.


  1. I love how her book is sectioned off by seasons.

    1. It makes it really visually gorgeous! I love the simple genius behind it.


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