Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks and fitness trainer to the stars, Eric the Trainer, took to Bayside’s stage last Saturday to kick off their five-city “Celebrity Sweat” fitness tour, a free workout using the same exercises they use to train celebrities and professional athletes.
“Count it! Count it! Harder!” Blanks told the crowd as they bent their knees to a near squatting position and folded their arms inward, elbows touching stomachs, while twisting their torsos to the beat of the dance music.
“Let’s go, let’s go! Count it: 7-6-5-4 … I don’t hear ya’ll!” yelled Blanks.
The workout took a page from Blanks’ Insane Abs bootcamp DVD series, but instead of a studio with a handful of well-groomed men and women, more than 100 people, ranging from kids to seniors, novices to pros, filled Bayside to practice Tae Bo with the inventor himself.
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Tae Bo, a combination of the words and workouts from Tae Kwon Do and boxing, combines martial arts, complete with high kicks and air punches, with fast-paced cardio movements. Blanks got the attention of celebrities when he opened a fitness center in L.A. in the ’80s.
By the 90s he did infomercials promoting the workout through his fitness videos. The filmed workouts became a pop culture phenomenon with more than 500 million videos sold.
“It’s always got to be a challenge to the will for you to do anything worth doing; you can not be comfortable in a workout.” says the chiseled 58-year-old Blanks, who zipped around the stage with his lower leg in a brace from a prior injury to his Achilles tendon. “I look and act like my mind and will, my body is just a biproduct of it.”
He recommends that people reserve just 10 to 15 minutes daily to do any workout of their choosing. “How many minutes of the day do you lose?” he asks. “Take the word “try” out of your life — it has no power.”
Blanks and Eric the Trainer, who both have studios in California, hope to use the “Celebrity Sweat” tour, now in its third year, to spread the message that physical fitness is the key to maintaining a healthy mind and body. Blanks also emphasized that Tae Bo is a lifestyle and should not to be misconceived as a weight-loss program.
“If you want to lose weight you just have to eat right,” he says. “Tae Bo helps people change from the inside, out, to work the mind, body and spirit.”
Eric Harper, 29, originally from Burbank, California, drove from Orlando to do Tae Bo with Blanks on Saturday and to reconnect with Eric the Trainer. He credits him with helping him to reduce his body fat in half while he was in California, and says that in just over a year he went from 220 pounds of fat to 185 pounds of muscle.
“Eric’s system is so that you can bulk up and build muscle to get that super-hero look with the huge shoulders and chiseled pecs, where as Blanks is all cardio — a high intensity workout not for the faint of heart.”
Harper lasted only halfway through his first attempt at Tae Bo on Saturday.
“It was a lot more intense than I expected it to be, but to work out with the ambassador himself, was a great experience.”
Eric the Trainer said of the South Floridians: “They’re extremely outgoing! And they’re definitely not afraid to shake their assets.”
He has trained a plethora of celebrities and athletes, from five-time heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield to Kirstie Alley as well as rap stars Nelly and Flo-Rida, who are also ambassadors for “Celebrity Sweat.” No stranger to Miami, he trained the executive chefs of South Beach Wine and Food Fest to get them in shape before the festival. Last month, he went on a week-long trip to Abu Dhabi with Food Network celebrity chef Robert Irvine, where he trained U.S. troops in different workout techniques while Irvine prepared gourmet meals for them.
Eric the Trainer stressed to the troops the importance of maintaining proper exercise, diet and sleep habits as the complete package for a better life. He credits the trip as being “life changing” in his quest to give back to people from all walks of life, not just Hollywood celebs.
“We’re here to share the message,” he told the Miami crowd. “We came here to inspire, but we've been inspired by their spirit.”