FitDeck Exercise Playing Cards

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Variety is the spice of life, it is said, and in study after study of those who stick to exercise one tie that binds is the knowledge of how to mix activities to keep motivation and interest high.

That's where the new deck of cards called FitDeck comes in. Introduced in 2004, it looks and feels like a deck of playing cards…but closer inspection reveals it is that, and much more. The card deck serves as a coach or a personal trainer in a compact 2.5-by-4-inch package for those who want to do strengthening and toning exercises but either don't know what to do, can't remember what to do, or simply need somebody to tell them what to do.

Here's how it works for individuals: The deck with its 50 cards, each with a different exercise from abdominals to arms to legs to full-body movements, is shuffled. Then a user picks however many he or she wants to do for a workout -- perhaps 10 or 20, or even 30. The more ambitious and in shape you are, the more cards you might select for a given workout since each card takes from 30 seconds to two minutes per exercise to complete. Then you turn over the cards one-by-one, follow the instructions and go to it. For teams or groups, the cards can serve as a way to "coach" an entire group through a set of exercises, or can be a competitive game pitting one individual against another.

That's actually how the idea came about: Creator Phil Black, a former Navy Seal and Navy Seal instructor and now a personal trainer and EMT, used to play a homespun game dubbed PUG (Push-Up Game) with his dorm roommates when he was at Yale. Yes, they used a deck of cards, each coded to represent different exercises.

Variety became the spice of their exercise sessions, and Black has now taken the idea to the masses interested in exercise.

Instructions on how to use FitDeck, included in the card deck, are simple, clear and concise. Instructions on each exercise card are also nice and simple, with good clean line drawings illustrating what exercises should look like. An instructional DVD, sold separately or as part of a package, is just fancy enough to hold interest but simple enough with plain backgrounds to learn what to do without distractions.

We like the concept a lot -- variety on-call for those who need it, compact take-along workout, great for teams and groups as well as children. And Black has done an excellent job with clarity of execution.

The only nit-pick is that there are a number of exercises that are pulled straight out of the old school of jocks or grunt athletics of two-plus decades ago. Those include ones that are simply not safe for your everyday unfit or even only moderately fit person, and likely not even doable and definitely not advisable for some who are very overweight or totally sedentary. For example, the Eight-Count Body Builder, also know in some circles as "Suicides," is a hard-core progression of leaps, thrusts and pushups, while the Squat Thrust is what many of us knew as "Burpees" and recall with an "ouch." Although Black has made an effort to advise someone not to do something if it's not comfortable or hurts, people who aren't that fit may not realize something hurts until it's too late and don't know their bodies well enough in many cases to just say "stop." On the instructional DVD, Black has made a similar mistake by simply saying, "Be sure you are keeping good posture,…" or "Maintain good alignment…" when unfortunately most people have no idea what that means or how to follow those instructions correctly. In addition, some of the abdominal exercises are already only for the very fit -- such as full sit-ups or bicycles with an admonishment to keep the heels within 4 inches of the floor. We also don't like the idea of jumping jacks suggested as a warm-up -- they're really only suitable for the already fit, and even then not an ideal first stage of a warm-up. These gripes would be pretty easy to fix with a big red stop sign or some other indication that any card with such movements is only for the advanced or reasonably fit.

That said, we still think the concept is just dandy -- for relatively fit to very fit people or even for a beginner who really can say "no" to some exercises. Take it to the club, to a class, to your dorm, on travel to a hotel, or to your kid's sports team workouts. We hear military and safety personnel such as firefighters are buying into FitDeck well. Great use. We also hear Black is working on audience-specific decks, such as one for kids or senior citizens. We can't wait.

We highly recommend anyone buying this also invest in the DVD.

SNEWS® Applause Meter: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: $25 with the DVD ($19 for the FitDeck alone)

For more information:www.fitdeck.com or 1-800-461-4496

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