Chicago, IL

The Most Effective Workout You Probably Never Hear Of

Sherry McGuinn

Prepare to burn like a house afire.

My inner thighs are twitching like someone who just had the lay of her life. I wish I could say that was the case, but alas, it’s not. Instead, I just completed what is probably one of the more grueling workouts I’ve ever done. Grueling, yet utterly satisfying.

I should begin by telling you that Amazon Prime is my buddy. Especially during these dark days when I find myself devoid of story ideas, as well as hope. Everything you never knew you needed, nor wanted, all in one place and in most instances, only a day away. Talk about instant gratification!

Normally, I spend a lot of time scrolling through beauty products like body washes and lotions, “age-reversing creams,” supplements, exotic foods, and the like. I also love reading reviews for workout DVDs. I have a ton of them and admittedly, many are gathering dust as I write this. I do have my favorites, though, like Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred. As my friend Sterling Page refers to Michaels, she is a “demon” but the good kind who will whip you into shape in twenty minutes if you stick with the program.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was searching for a new workout — the days are long and boring after all — I happened upon an 80s “classic” that I dimly recall hearing about back in the day but never explored. It’s called “Callanetics,” and after reading review after breathless review, I decided I had to have it! I purchased the original, sixty-minute version.

Created by Callan Pinckney, a former Georgia debutante turned humble backpacker with a one-way ticket to the world at large, Callanetics is a mix of yoga, pilates, and barre (although you don’t need one). With that said, it’s still its own beast. And let me tell you, it hurts so good.

As the description states, Callanetics is a series of small, gentle, precise motions consistently applied that activate the body’s largest, most powerful muscles to quickly tighten hips, buttocks, inner and outer thighs; flatten the tummy; lift the bust and firm underarms and tone the entire body.

The movements may be “gentle,” but oh, wow, you will feel each and every one. Basically, the workout consists of stretching out every part of your body, combined with small, barely-there pulses that activate the deep muscles in your legs, arms, abs, and everywhere to lengthen, tighten, and tone, without adding bulk. That’s the part I like the best because I find that so many exercises, squats included, bulk-up the legs. If you want the long, lean, look, this workout is for you.

I know what you may be thinking: “This sounds way too easy. How can it be effective?” I promise, and I’m someone who works out daily, this shit is hard! Your entire body will be trembling like you just had the orgasm of your life, without, you know…having sex.

As stated, the original Callanetics workout is one-hour long, but, after you master the movements, you can probably do the whole thing in thirty to forty-five minutes. And there’s a lot of talking. Pinckney is a great trainer and explains every move to a T while cautioning us to go at our own pace and also shows modifications where necessary. I find these helpful, as I can’t sit back on my heels, for example, to complete the thigh stretches at the end of the workout, so I modify by doing them on my knees and I still feel the burn.

In a couple of the exercises, Pinckney and her team, both men and women, use a barre, but you can use a chair a sofa, or any piece of furniture that will allow you to rest your leg on it.

A note on the two men in the video: I was riveted by their pelvic rotations. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

In between exercises, Pinckney also shows before, during, and after pics of one of her top students who literally raised her ass and smoothed-out stretch marks by doing the workout religiously.

Tiny, little pulses. Micro-movements ranging from one-quarter to one-half inch in length. Holy crap. The first time I did the workout, and I completed the whole thing, every muscle in my body was, like, ZING! “Where the hell have you been all my life?”

People with back and/or knee problems can also benefit from Callanetics as there is no high-impact, jumping around like in a Jillian video, for example. In fact, Pinckney created the movements in Callanetics to alleviate her own, significant, back, and knee problems. Also, she was born with curvature of the spine and feet that were severely turned in. Both conditions were virtually reversed by her creation.

The stretches done before and after the workout will ease the kinks out of your lower back, neck, and shoulders. Definitely expect to feel sore after your first couple of session but I’m finding that diminishing as I go forward. But I still feel that I’ve worked every muscle, every tendon. There’s a pleasant “after-tingle” that I love, like a full-body rush.

Pinckney promises results after ten hours or ten sessions. I’ve worked out with the Callanetics DVD four times now and I can already feel a change in my body. I’m feeling muscles on the outside of my thighs — saddlebag territory — that I never felt before. And I’ve lost nearly five pounds. Of course, that could change tomorrow depending upon the amount of sodium I ingest, today.

I do the workout every other day and on the off days, either work out with the demon or devise my own routine comprised of cardio and strength training.

I plan to keep this up because I’m excited to see what my body can achieve. Here’s an unexpected benefit: I find I’m drinking less as I don’t want a hangover to interfere with my working out! “Pulsing and puking” do not jive.

A word about the look of the DVD. Pure 80s, leotards, lip gloss, and all. But once you get beyond that, you’ll be golden. It’s kind of fun, actually, and the music is really soothing. I appreciate that, especially, because I find the background music in most workout DVDs and those online, to be appalling.

Don’t you agree? Whoever produces these videos has shit for brains.“How about a little R&B or rock or even classical music for Chrissake to keep things interesting?”

Anyway, back to Callanetics. A word about Callan Pinckney. Obviously a “mature” woman in the DVD, she is gorgeous with a body a ballerina would die for. She also sports a faux, British accent which is hilarious! Instead of “fast,” she says “fhaast.” Instead of “again,” “agaane.” You know what I mean.

That said, she is utterly charming and believable. As I said, I find both the workout and Pinckney herself to be very soothing. As my anxiety is through the roof these days, I plan to keep at this. In fact, I like the original Callanetics so much that I also purchased the “beginners” workout which is thirty-minutes long and breaks down the moves in greater detail.

Folks, if you’re struggling with Pandemic Pudge and bored with your normal exercise routine, or if you’re just looking to start one, give Callanetics a shot. This is a workout you’ll actually look forward to doing. If I’m seeing results after four hours imagine what you can do.

Callan Pinckney, a citizen of the world and exercise guru died in 2012 at the age of seventy-two. Cause of death, nowhere to be found, at least online, cloaking this once-vibrant icon in a shroud of mystery that she probably would have poo-poohed.

Do yourself a huge favor and try Callanetics just once. I’m pretty sure you’ll want to do it “agaane” and “agaane.”

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL

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