Video Fitness

Sweating in the Spirit

Donna Richardson

I just got this in a trade. The workout is about 45 minutes long. I was actually able to do it the first time! This is so unusual for me with any kind of choreography. I keep trying "dancy" workouts and end up disappointed and depressed (Disco Sweat, Bollywood, etc.).

I'll admit that the moves aren't very complicated. Donna cues well in Spirit. (Much better than in "Donnamite" which I was never able to learn.) The music is great and makes you want to move. Her mom is in the workout, dancing along next to her. That's cool. (I've always liked the Gilad shows where his mom is in the workout).

The workout is mostly low impact. I did modify a few of the steps.

And there is a surprisingly funny part early in the workout. A banner appears on the bottom of the screen which states:

WARNING!!! Donna can NOT sing!!!

Then she starts singing along with the choir, somewhat off-key. What a terrific sport she must be to have put that in the video. I really admire her sense of humor about herself!

(Note: I did have a bit of soreness in my knees for a few days after doing this workout. It was mostly low impact, so I think it's just me. I have to be careful with turns and pivots that torque my knees.)

Instructor comments: Donna is super energetic. With a dazzling smile and a great attitude.



This is a fun, dancy, beginner level workout. The first part is a 30 min hi/lo dance section with several exercisers of all different shapes and sizes working out to contemporary gospel music. A few gospel luminaries drop by to sing "live," and there are four background singers, which gives the whole thing more of a variety show feel than a typical workout video feel. Donna seems to be almost making up the routine as she goes along which is a mixture of hip hop and classic hi/lo. Donna demonstrates the lower impact. I was on carpet and found some things difficult to do, and having no rhythm to speak of I'm sure I looked like a complete idiot. It was fun even though my heart rate was barely elevated.

There are also 2 short sections: toning and stretch which are about 10 min each and have a separate warm up. I only watched the Pilates/strength section, in which Donna leads some ballet-style and modified basic Pilates moves, but with little of the classic Pilates instruction such as pulling navel to spine. This makes some of the movements less than ideal and even a little questionable in my opinion (i.e. doing criss cross with your head down can cause your back to arch off the mat, but Donna doesn't talk about this at all). I did not watch the stretch section.

Overall, this was a fun way to spend a half hour though as an intermediate the cardio was not intense enough to raise my heart rate.

Instructor comments: Donna is really easy-going and motivational in this workout, and is definitely having a great time. Some of the cues are difficult to hear or a little off but it doesn't really matter.


November 11, 2004

A friend of mine, knowing I like videos and Donna Richardson, bought this for me for Hanukkah. Since I do like Donna, I gave it a try. First of all, it has three parts- cardio, pilates and stretch, all of which have warm ups and cool downs and could be done seperately. But they do flow together, especially the cardio and pilates segments, so they can be done as one workout as well. Donna has a group of all shapes, sizes and colors with her, and everyone seems to be having a great time. If you like gospel, the music is good- very upbeat.

Donna has three guest singers join in too. The first, a man, kind of raps some inspirational lines and pretty much does the workout with Donna and her crew. The other two women do more singing and less exercising, and their voices are wonderful, especially the women who sings during the stretch. Even Donna seems in awe of her voice and barely cues during this gentle movement segment. As far as the workout, this is classic Donna- she brings along her party dance moves and attitude. She offers options for complexity and intensity, and the exercisers all show a wide range of styles and approaches.

Some of her cueing leaves a bit to be desired, but overall, most people will catch on quickly or can just move with the music. Donna's usual audience- intermediates who enjoy funky dancey routines- will be satisfied, as will beginners looking for a fun program, especially if they want to work out to gospel music. More advanced exercisers may also enjoy a more low key routine for an off-day, again, particuarly if they want to work out to gospel music. Donna could do more instructing in the pilates segment, but the moves are among the easier ones in pilates and Donna builds the moves gradually. And her form is good so if you watch her, you should be on the right track. The stretch segment is quite nice. After a gentle movement warm up with a beautiful vocal accompaniment, you go through a total body stretch series. Donna seems to be completely enjoying herself here and she is so motivating and encouraging. She wants people to get moving and healthy. For people who want to blend Christian fellowship with exercise, this is a very good workout to try.

Instructor comments: Donna just glows in this workout. She's always looked great, and here she seems happy and really in her element. Her cueing is as good as always, meaning usually, she's on top of things, but there are times when you just have to watch and hope you follow along. She does, however, encourage exercisers to listen to the music and move with it and to be inspired. She's very encouraging in this workout and offers lots of options for intensity, impact and complexity.


Have you ever bought an exercise video just for the music? Well I just did when I purchased Sweating in the Spirit. Normally I don’t buy Donna Richardson’s workouts because her choreography is too dancy for me. Heck I couldn’t even follow the moves to her infamous Donnamite video. But despite all of this and the fact that it is a beginner workout (I'm advanced) I brought it anyway. Below are some of my thoughts and a brief description of the workout.

According to the workout summary, Sweating in the Spirit is an inspirational 3 in 1 workout program that includes gospel aerobics, strength/pilates training, and stretching. There is a chapter for each section on the DVD.

In the aerobics section, Kirk Franklin sings “Hosanna” while Donna and the others are working out. The moves are somewhat dancy but not too hard to follow since this is a beginner workout. Most of the moves are low impact but some higher impact moves are shown from time to time to boost up the intensity. The aerobics section is only about 25 minutes long but I managed to work up a little sweat because the music really made me want to move!

Other songs featured in the aerobics section include “Let’s Dance” (Hezekiah Walker), “Lord of the Harvest” (Fred Hammond), “Shake Yourself Loose” (Vickie Winans), and “The Praises Go Up” (Dietrick Haddon).

Next is what Donna calls the Strength/Pilates Traning Section. I don’t know why this section is called strength or Pilates since it didn’t appear to be either to me. The so called “Pilates” consisted of some leg lifts to the rear, a few lunges (no weights are used in this workout), and the “bicycle” move for your abs. The whole workout was over in about 10 minutes. The only thing that makes this section worthwhile is the warm-up which is done while Shirely Murdock sings “Somebody.” My suggestion is to treat it as a small extension of the aerobics section. After Shirley finishes singing, fast forward to the stretch segment. Trust me you won’t miss anything.

The stretch segment is about 10 minutes long and it basically consists of athletic stretches where Donna instructs you through quad, delt, hamstring, and neck stretches. All stretches are done standing. There is a little warm up at the beginning of the stretch segment where Yolanda Adams sings “Let Us Worship Him” which is very nice and relaxing. The only negative here is Donna’s lack of cuing during the brief warm up. I think this is purposely done so we can hear Yolanda sing. The moves are easy enough so you can follow along but sometimes the camera only shows Donna from the waist up which made it difficult to follow her with some of the lower body movements. Donna ends the stretch segment with a short prayer.

To sum it all up, this is a very basic/beginner workout with ok aerobics, less than adequate pilates, non-existant strength training/toning, and average stretching. What truly makes this workout is the music. No matter what your religion, the music is fantastic and will definitely make you want to move. If not for the tunes, this would be a fairly mediocre workout that I would have immediately posted to the VF exchange. But because of the music, it’s a keeper.

Instructor comments: It is easy to tell that Donna is in her workout element in this video. I think she may have found her niche in the exercise world with gospel aerobics. Despite her needing some work in the cuing department, she is a very motivating instructor.


this is a basic workout, suitable for a beginner. i was a bit disappointed that it was so easy, but the workout does have good music, an energetic cast and donna is so sweet and nice that i was able to appreciate this workout's high fun factor.

i recognized some of the people with donna -- a few of the girls are from some of leslie sansone's walking workouts and one woman was also in the cast of crunch's cardio salsa workout. some of them, including donna, were obviously dancers and i am just not as funky as they are so donna was smart to include some other kinds of people in the class to give the workout a wide range of appeal.

also, i like that donna doesnt even bother trying to cue left/right but instead cues to use 'the leg closest to me', etc... therefore avoiding the mirroring issue that so many video instructors seem to have a problem with.

anyway, the workout starts out with some floor aerobics, followed by some toning moves, then a bit of pilates and ends with a stretch.

none of the segments were long enough or intense enough to do much for me fitness-wise, but the workout certainly was better than sitting on the couch doing nothing. and it really is a fun workout which i think would be good to do on a laid-back sunday morning.

Instructor comments:

Carolyn Visser

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