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Michelle McManus The Lifeplan Review

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by Chris McEneany Jan 21, 2007

    To coin a phrase from Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne, “Stop smiling. It's not a joke.”

    For it is, indeed, true. I am about to review Michelle McManus' new exercise/fitness DVD, entitled The Lifeplan. In a stop-gap between some new blisteringly hot HD and Blu-ray titles, the powers that be over at AV Towers have, in their infinite wisdom, selected me from a shortlist of, well ... just me, to digest, dissect, and then critically discuss the merits of the ex-Pop Idol Diva's weight-loss and body-conditioning regime. A strict course of cardio, muscle-toning and dieting that saw the Scottish lardie - I mean lassie - lose a staggering 10 stone under the expert and, no doubt, long-suffering tutelage of personal trainer Dax Moy.

    Why, oh why couldn't it have been Jennifer Ellison's DVD instead?

    Now, at first glance, this may seem like something totally out of my league. Yet, whilst this is no Gladiator, Jaws or King Kong for me to wax lyrical over for twenty or so pages, I am, in fact, heavily involved with fitness training, and have been since about the age of fourteen. I practice Tae Kwon Do and circuit train regularly, I run (here, there and everywhere it seems) and I lift a lot of weights too. And, after being trained by the best in the business - the Royal Marines - I even became a fitness instructor, myself, so I know a fair bit about this lark which gives me quite a solid and extensive background with which to judge the merits of Michelle's routine. Plucked from obscurity she may have been, but a bubbly personality, a fair bit of vocal talent and a lot of courage saw her winning the Pop Idol contest in 2004. But, to go alongside her dream come true of achieving a No.1 album and single (I got all this from the promotional blurb, folks - I'm not a fan), she turned her attention to another lifelong ambition ... to shed that blubber. And, make no mistake, she has certainly gone some way to radically altering her shape and, from the evidence I witnessed on this disc, there could come a time when she might even rival the likes of ... ooh, I don't know, maybe Jennifer Ellison. If she keeps the fitness regime up, of course, and stays out of the larder.

    “Always thinking about the abdominals ... and the bum.”

    Dax Moy makes his innermost feelings clear right from the start.

    Set within some dreamy, bright Ikea showroom the two commence the full body workout with genuine enthusiasm. Dax is a right natterer, but then he needs to be. You can sense that this is a real routine just by the way he motor-mouths his way through it, trying to keep everything real-time so that those watching can keep up and finish alongside them, whilst not getting confused over what bit goes where and for how many times. He is encouraging and clear - except for the odd stutter here and there - and he certainly knows his stuff. A good point he emphasises - which is just as important for men as it is for the ladies - is about maintaining the correct posture, and he makes sure to mention this a fair few times. The basics are covered in the Integrated Movement Training, Power Circuit and Dumbell Matrix sections at the start, and then maximised through three Core Circuits. These sections also act as chapters. And, at the end of it all, Michelle talks us through her former pie-eating dietary ways in a section called The Elimination Diet, during which good old Dax teaches her the error of her ways and informs us all on the best nutritional guide to healthy eating.

    “The bum is always moving backwards - which is important.”

    These things are a cliché and a fad for the industry at large and unless the punters use them correctly and stick with them they will just end up with a 50p sticker on them in the next car boot sale. But the essential thing is that for the few who do follow the instructions and subsequently keep to the routines, impressive results are unavoidable. For people who don't fancy going to the gym - or just can't afford to - this type of thing is a marvellous way of getting into shape at times that suit the individual. Nothing is as effective as your own personal drive and determination, however. Not even the best personal trainer in the world (I'll give you my card, Miss Ellison - there's a few parts I feel you may have neglected, luv) can make you lose weight, get fit or build muscle unless you really want to.

    “We need to get the bum involved.”

    Persistent, isn't he?

    But there are two dangers to these DVDs. The first, and most obvious, is that they are a Christmas gift or part of a New Years resolution that will be promptly forgotten about once all those good intentions waste away. The second though is the more damaging. This is when the punter progresses through the routines detailed on the disc and then simply gets bored of the same old thing after their body has gotten used to them. This workout may be called the Lifeplan but after a few weeks of adhering to this discipline, despite the increased repetitions that Dax prescribes to keep moving ahead, you will reach a point of no further gains, and this is where apathy and defeatism sets in. Thus, the thing to remember is that this routine, along with all the other celebrity workouts on the shelves, is merely a foundation that you must build upon by using your own initiative, imagination and the confidence that you should, by now, have gained. Learn the basics from these things by all means, and then apply them to more specialised workouts of your own creation. Variety is the spice of life and your body needs constant changes and new routines to stimulate or shock it into the shape you want. The best motivational tool of all has got to be a Rocky training montage, though. I defy anyone not to get an energy boost after watching the Italian Stallion doing some one-arm push-ups!

    “You can really feel this in your bum, can't you?”

    Dax, mate ... give it a rest, will you.

    Anyway, this workout helped Michelle McManus lose more than ten stone so that alone should be an inspiration to many who find the thought of going to the gym a little intimidating. Hey, I've just thought of something. If Daniel Craig releases a DVD of the workout he employed with the aid of ex-Marine Simon Waterson (and a lot of Hollywood dosh) to get into shape for Casino Royale, the thing would be an immediate bestseller, with both sexes eagerly lapping it up. Mind you, this is the realm of has-beens and wannabe-agains, isn't it? The new Mr. Bond has no need of such gimmicks.