DVDs: Brutal Recess & Strength Rituals

Chip Conrad, owner and operator of Bodytribe gym in Sacramento, is superb at each of his passions - he is an inspirational strength and mobility athlete, an erudite leader, polished author, faithful blogger, and as for video director and editor - well, let me state for the record that his stuff WILL be winning awards, and the awards won't do justice to his productions.

Both of Conrad's training DVDs - Strength Rituals and now Brutal Recess - are gifts to anyone who watches them. They transcend the genre of training video, fusing philosophy and visual poetry with cinematic and photographic beauty for a liberal arts manifesto of exercise thought and instruction.

His messages are refreshing as an ice bath in summer: We are designed to move; working out should be ritual, not routine; mobility is important; play is necessary; it is the training journey which matters, not the competitions.

The instruction is solid. His approach is against-the-grain here, too, however; Conrad's philosophy is that the good trainer educates people to design their own training programs. In clips from a workshop in Portland, Oregon and classes he has led in his own gym Bodytribe in Sacramento, he outlines solid concepts and techniques to help you do just this. Although you could describe his training as strength training, it would be a brutish oversimplification, because strength under this lens includes mobility, flexibility, speed, endurance - basically all of it. The unifying thread is intensity.

The scenes are beautiful, visually idyllic, creative montages of trainers and athletes doing mobility drills beside a river at sunrise, tossing kettlebells against striking sites of urban decay, splashing across a creek with plyometric push-ups, slamming tires against walls blazing with full-color graffiti art, charging stone steps in sweatshirts and escalators in skirts. The athletes are at once "real" people in real work out clothes and breathtaking performers whose feats are gripping. Tav's unique burpees, Allyson's effortless Cossacks and Conrad's prowess with a Jori and kettlebell will amaze and delight you, I promise. They'll leave you itching to try what you've just seen.

The music is soundtrack stuff - Conrad marries his visual artistry with powerful music by independent bands (I'm guessing most are local), from thrash to punk to sweet instrumentals. Ever hear Uninspired by Summation? Whoa.

The end credits are a feast of fun. Conrad worked diligently to produce a full package, and the end credits are a production in themselves - funny outtakes, extra footage, and send-ups to those who appear in the video.

The basic tennet of physical fitness is that the rest of the individual improves along with the body - the intellect, the psyche, the spirit. While Conrad provides us with a celebration of the human body and the triumph of strength and movement in his videos, the videos themselves provide us with the marvel of fully realized artistic and physical human potential.

... Oh yeah, and it's got kitties.

Get them - and Conrad's book Lift with your Head - at the Bodytribe website.

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