Last week in this space I had a choice to make: share with you useful, time-sensitive information about the free availability of a new method of “conditioning-infused” yoga that’s just come to Palm Beach County … or weigh in on the viral Internet sensation created by a video depicting Coral Springs resident Joanna Rohrback’s preferred form of outdoor movement: “Prancercise.”
I chose the former — but you didn’t think I’d let another week pass without chiming in on Rohrback’s sudden and bizarre entry into the global consciousness, did you?
For those who may still be blissfully unaware of Rohrback’s story/video, a brief primer:
A lifelong exerciser, Rohrback, 61 and a former social worker, created prancercise (prancercise.com) — which she describes as “a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and is ideally induced by elation” — back in 1989.
She wrote a companion book — Prancercise®: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence — a few years later, and self-published it in 2012.
And there the prancercise revolution remained dormant — until last week, when the quirky five-minute video she posted to YouTube in December exploded. As of this writing, it’s garnered nearly 6 million views — and worldwide attention for the slender South Floridian.
While prancercise’s physical conditioning benefits are, at best, negligible (one calorie-expenditure expert estimated it to be the equivalent of “walking while holding something”), what I’ve found fascinating is how differently men and women react to the undeniably eccentric Rohrback.
My delightfully snarky crew of female friends and colleagues relished laughing at her goofy rhyming encouragement (“Better to be punching into space than in your face,” she says while “shadow boxing”) to her too-tight white pants to her wig (?) of hair.
So, when I visited the video’s YouTube page and eventually searched the “comments” section, I expected the Internet’s pitiless vultures to be in a full-on feeding frenzy.
Instead, just the opposite. The sincere, heartfelt praise for Rohrback was nearly universal. There were hundreds upon hundreds of positive comments from people (mostly women) who found Rohrback to be, among other things, “adorable” and “inspiring.” So, a vast and vocal segment of the populace was unironically embracing Rohrback’s message.
Which brings me to the experience had by every male with whom I’ve communicated who has sensibilities similar to my own: immediate boredom.
Sure, I (we) thought, Rohrback’s kooky, unselfconscious demeanor is momentarily mildly amusing. But within a few seconds, I impatiently wondered: Why am I watching this — and will it ever end? (For the record, I fulfilled my professional responsibility to endure the video’s five-minute, seven-second eterni — uh, entirety.)
I’ll admit, though, that I could neither get past, nor abide by, one unforgivably anachronistic element: the ankle weights.
Folks, we boomers came of age when wrist and ankle weights were de rigueur accessories for serious fitness aficionados. As a budding junior varsity basketball player, I followed the trend, walking around with them strapped on because that was one of the era’s prescribed techniques for improving one’s vertical jump (newsflash: didn’t work!).
By the mid-1980s, however, overwhelming consensus in the physical-conditioning community was that the extreme injury risks of placing undue weighted stress on wrist and ankle joints far outweighed any potential — and wholly unproven — benefits they might provide. (These days, if a competitive athlete wants to make his training more challenging, he’ll wear a weighted vest — which disperses the increased load over the entire body.)
So, unless Rohrback’s intention with the ankle weights is/was to make her own legs as vulnerable to injury as those of the majestic creatures whose movements she aims to mimic, there’s no excuse for reintroducing them to an unsuspecting digital public.