DVDs, Apps & Media


Disclosure: Merrithew Health & Fitness sponsored Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World Convention for several years, and I am thankful for their sponsorship and for the programming they provided. The prizes for this giveaway were provided to me by Merrithew Health & Fitness as part of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest with no strings, no compensation, and no requirements (e.g I was not asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or do anything else). The entire contents of this post, including all words and opinions, are my own honest opinions.

Hey, it’s time to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas! “Wait,” you may be asking, “wasn’t Christmas yesterday?” Indeed, it was! The Twelve Days of Christmas are actually the twelve days in between Christmas (the First Day of Christmas) and the day Christians celebrate as the day the magi (the three wise men/three kings) arrived, also called Epiphany. Traditionally, the last of the twelve days was the day you took down the Christmas decorations (I swear, I am not making this up). You know Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night? That’s about the twelfth night of Christmas. But enough of the history lesson…On the SECOND day of Christmas, I offer you this review and giveaway!

Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite (image from Merrithew website)

The Pilates Fitness Circle. If you’ve ever looked at a Pilates Fitness Circle and thought, “that’s a weird gadget that I can’t imagine doing much for me,” I’m with you—I used to think the same thing. (Pilates Fitness Circle Resistance Ring is a trademark of Merrithew Health and Fitness. You may also have seen a similar gadget called by another name: Pilates ring, magic circle, exercise circle, exercise ring.) Even in my Pilates classes, the Fitness Circle was largely used to help with body placement and awareness. It never occurred to me that the Fitness Circle had a role to play in athletic conditioning.

Workout. I took the DVD “Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle” for a test drive, using the Fitness Circle lite. (The Merrithew Fitness Circle also comes in two other models, flex and Pro. Flex provides less resistance and has a unique handle design that differs from the lite and the Pro. Pro is similar in design to lite, but is made of steel instead of plastic; as a result, the price for the Pro is $65.00 while the price for the lite is $34.99. It’s also a bit heavier than the lite.)  This workout is part of Merrithew’s CORE line, focused on athletic conditioning and performance training, so it is not strictly Pilates. According to Moira Merrithew, who introduces the workout, the 27 exercises in the workout are focused on strength, alignment, and efficient biomechanics. I now have an entirely new outlook on the Fitness Circle (and I’m glad I have one of my own!).

Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle (image from Merrithew website)

The workout is led by John Garey, a Master Instructor Trainer for Merrithew Health and Fitness. Two additional Merrithew Instructor Trainers (meaning they train teachers to teach the classes) demonstrate all of the exercises. John’s instruction is clear and detailed, carefully explaining body positioning and movement step-by-step. If you have never done any Pilates or mat-work style exercise before, you’re in good hands with John—just follow his instructions. Of course it is a video, so if you miss an instruction, you can take a look at the movement on the screen and follow along. That said, if these exercises are new to you, there are some exercises you may have a difficult time performing at the same tempo/speed as the DVD. I found this true of the hinge-back with rotation exercise.

The warm-up uses the Fitness Circle to assist with some stretches that may already be familiar to you. Throughout the workout, the Fitness Circle acts as a replacement for a yoga strap in some stretches, which limits both the range of motion (in a good way—making the stretch more stable) and the amount of tension on the wrists and forearms.

DVD and Fitness Circle lite
CORE Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle (and a Fitness Circle lite)

I was skeptical of the “Level of Difficulty” rating, which is four out of five. That is, until about five minutes into the workout, when there is a series of kneeling hinge-backs that incorporate the Fitness Circle. (A “hinge-back” from the kneeling position involves keeping everything from your knees to the top of your head in a line, and taking that line straight back to a 45 degree angle.) Holy quads and abs! Several of the exercises involve using the Fitness Circle either between your ankles (pressing in on the Fitness Circle) or with both feet inside the Fitness Circle (pressing out). I found these more difficult than they looked, as one of my legs is clearly bossier than the other! I enjoyed the variations on classic Pilates exercises, including a modified version of The Hundred and a version of Shoulder Bridge where you press one arm behind you on the Fitness Circle.

What really kicked my butt, however, were the single leg bridge variations. The gist of the exercise is to press up into a bridge pose, then lift one leg while pressing the Fitness Circle into that leg. My other hamstring was ON FIRE. So much so that I couldn’t do even half of the set on either leg. WHOA.

While I am currently not at my optimal level of fitness, I found this DVD very accessible with an appropriate level of challenge. Given my experience teaching yoga to very muscular men, I strongly suspect that serious athletes (like CrossFit junkies) would find at least parts of this program very useful in conditioning smaller muscles that don’t get much love during a typical workout, such as the multifidus, and for the range of motion and movement principles.

Brand new to Pilates type movements? The DVD includes a tutorial on the Five Basic Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, and Head & Cervical [spine] Placement).

Merrithew yellow soft hand weights
Soft hand weights can be incorporated into many yoga and Pilates exercises

Merrithew also offers additional DVDs that use the Fitness Circle as the only prop, including Fitness Circle Flow, the Fitness Circle Challenge, Power Paced Fitness Circle, and Precision & Control: Pilates with the Fitness Circle. If you prefer a workout that incorporates a reformer or more props, you can find more titles on the Merrithew website. Finally, there are a variety of other brands/companies/individuals that produce video content that incorporates the Fitness Circle and you can find many other options online.




This prize pack includes:

  • Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite in black (MSRP $34.99)
  • Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle DVD (MSRP $16.95)
  • Merrithew Soft Dumbbells 1.65 pound each (MSRP $23.99)
  • Miscellaneous treats and surprises
Bain's cat checks out the goodies
Professor Nick Sterling has thoroughly inspected the prizes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To some extent, fitness conventions meet your stereotypical expectations: lots of spandex, fit bodies, water bottles, and health food. Most people there are into fitness, even if they don’t embody the public’s perception of what a regular gym-go-er looks like, so they are pretty comfortable.  The people who usually look the most ill-at-ease are staffing booths inside the expo area. If the Las Vegas tech conventions are famous for beautiful, outgoing “booth bunnies” whose extroverted nature and interesting outfits draw you into their booths but don’t actually use the tech they are promoting, the LA fitness conventions have their analogue: introverted engineering geek types who create the software and tech devices fitness people use, but don’t understand. IDEA was no exception. Most of the tech-related booths had a semi-shy programmer guy who looked like he’d jump out of his skin if one more fit female approached.

Arya Farzin was not one of those guys. Mr. Farzin is fit and friendly, and was eager to show me the app he and his partner Joseph Phillips created, The Fitness Games.  He explained to me that you can use the app to create challenges, including a running challenge where you complete in real time.  It is immediately available in the App Store and on Google Play. After a quick demo, I immediately downloaded the free version and started to play with it. After IDEA, I was lucky enough to be selected to receive the expanded premium version for free in exchange for this review.  (I already knew I’d like it, so I applied to review it as soon as I saw the announcement.)  You can start with the free version, and then select the upgrades that you find most worthwhile, from individual workouts to packages.  A few features make this app unique and definitely worth owning.

Pre-made workouts, with instruction. From the home screen, you can choose a workout category (strength, full body, cardiovascular, or cross training). Then you choose a workout (there appear to be hundreds, but I did not actually count, and the app tells me there are really sixteen workouts, but over 250 exercises).  Each workout has a list of moves, and each move is broken down into multiple photos and includes a video.  For example, the “squat jack” move includes a photo of both phases of the move (the standing phase and the squat phase), much like you would find it printed in a magazine, but there is also a brief video showing a few repetitions of the move.  If you are new to working out, or want to learn some new exercises, this app is a great resource. If you are intermediate or more experienced, you can skip the tutorials but rely on the app for a balanced workout with a variety of movements.

Challenges! After you select a workout, you can chose to challenge yourself (just do the workout) or turn it into a little competition between you and a friend (or other nearby users, or even a worldwide challenge!). Starting a workout begins the timer, and challenges are based on time.  If you are a competitive person by nature, the challenge option is for you! If you don’t have friends who are using the app, go get some!

Community.  Can’t talk any of your friends into joining The Fitness Games? (Seriously, the Platinum version is like $2–way less expensive than a personal trainer, single class, or fitness DVD!) Head over to the app’s Facebook page and make some new friends! To make and keep a habit, you need positive reinforcement. Creating a healthy lifestyle can be really difficult if no one in your immediate social circle supports you. (Need a friend? I’m TrainWithBain.) You can upload gym selfies and videos, and post comments on your workouts.

Workout creation option. Have a specific goal in mind? Want to work on a specific body part only? Create your own workout! Select exercises, put them in order, and you’re on the way to creating your own custom challenge. I’m sure the app’s creators didn’t intend this, but it is a great resource for group ex instructors. Recently I subbed a class at my club called “BodyWorx,” which is a full-body multi-modality workout. I used the app’s “Create Own Workout” option to organize the exercises and design my class.  (Sneaky, no?)

Flexibility. You can do the pre-set workouts in any gym. Many of the exercises are bodyweight or can be done with free weights, others require a pull-up bar. Remember you can modify any workout with the “Create Own Workout” option.

I’ve got a few dozen fitness, workout, and running apps on my iPhone. This is the only app that combines instruction with social media and a competition.

Ready to Play?? The Fitness Games website
Have you tried The Fitness Games? What is your favorite aspect?