My Favorite Workout DVDs

18 02 2011

You know those days when it’s cold and rainy outside and leaving your house to head to the gym sounds miserable? Or when you’re in a time crunch and only have less than an hour to squeeze a workout in? Or when you’re traveling and don’t have somewhere you can exercise? Well, instead of just calling my workout off under these circumstances, I turn to at-home exercise DVDs.

There’s A LOT of crap out there. There are thousands of DVDs to sort through when ordering online, and frankly, most of them suck. Here are some of my favorites (aside from P90X)– the ones I think are the best workout.

Jillian Michaels: Banish Fat Boost Metabolism — This is about a 40 minute cardio & strength DVD that doesn’t require any extra equipment. You really sweat and get a whole body workout. Jillian is one of my favorite trainers, and I think this is her best DVD.

Jackie Warner: One-On-One Training With Jackie — This video uses free weights & body training to work your upper body, lower body and core in segments. She’s tough and also one of my faves!

Rodney Yee: Power Yoga Total Body — Yoga classes are really pricey, so it’s nice to have a good yoga DVD you can use at home. This 65 minute workout is tough, but still calming. You only need a yoga mat.

Keli Roberts: Fat Burning Kickboxing Workout for Dummies — I burn about 700 calories with this video–which is a ton. I love kickboxing and how it just sheds fat off your entire body. It’s about 40 minutes.

These are some of my favorites. I think it’s really important to have DVDs on hand. For instance, next week I am going to California and will bring some exercise videos with me so I can alternate between running, hiking and using DVDs to get a good workout in. Also, just a note, if you have Comcast with On Demand, there are about a hundred free workout videos under the “Sports & Fitness” section. I use them all the time!


The Trials & Tribulations of a Non-Swimmer

18 02 2011

When it comes to exercising, not much sounds worse to me than taking my workout to a cold, chlorinated pool. And that is precisely why I force myself to hit the lap pool about once a week.

You see, I have a motto: the things you like to do the least are usually precisely the things you should incorporate into your exercise regimen. We don’t like things because they’re hard. Maybe they’re foreign to us. So we stick with what we know – maybe the elliptical? Hitting the pavement outside? But I cannot stress enough the importance of variety. Our muscles get used to our workouts, and that’s when we stop seeing the benefits of exercise.

Only variety, variety, variety can combat this dilemma.

And this is why you’ll find me – never a swimmer, never even close to a swimmer – in the lap pool at the YMCA once a week.

Swimming is great for your body. In fact, I started swimming laps when I had injuries from exercise. I needed a break from high impact workouts, and so I took my cardio sessions to the pool.

I’ll admit, when I first started swimming, I had no idea what to do. How many laps should I swim? What stroke should I use? How often should I breathe?

I’m still definitely not an expert. Sometimes I even dread my swimming days. But once I go and get in the pool, I never regret my decision. Actually, I feel amazing afterward. Here is what I do, and I think it’s a good swimming workout for beginners. So just take the leap (or should I say the dive..har har) and go burn some calories in the pool!

My Typical Swimming Workout:

I’m an obsessive lap counter. I can’t help it, I just like to keep track. So, to break things up and make the workout fly by, I count in increments of 10 [lengths, not laps]. I swim 6 lengths of the forward crawl, then I do 2 lengths of sprinting the forward crawl. –Refer to my previous post on intervals, this alternating between regular and fast paced exercise even works in the pool. Then, I swim 2 lengths of breaststroke to calm my breathing down from the sprints.

I repeat this 10 length cycle usually about 7 times. In my pool at the YMCA this is a mile. It takes me around 35 minutes or so.

*Just a note: I belong to the YMCA, but the UofM IM building has a pool–check the hours of operation here.

P90X Plyometrics: The Best Calorie Burner Out There

10 02 2011

The P90X workout program is intense. At best. It’s a 90 day exercise program containing a variety of DVDs–13–that you do six days a week. The videos range from yoga to chest and back to cardio, and so on. Each and every muscle gets used and abused in this program–until your 90 days is up and your stronger and fitter than ever.

I finished the program about a month ago, and I have to admit, I was so sick of it by the end. The videos get repetitive and I was craving the gym. I wonder how many times in my life I’ll say that? But it did help me break out of an exercise rut of doing the same old, same old. The guy who started the program, Tony Horton, is pretty humorous and keeps you cracking up through the videos. Until you have them all memorized and you want to beat the crap out of your TV if you hear him tell you not to eat Krispy Kremes one more time.

P90X Poster

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The video I want to tell you guys about today is one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever endured. And I had to endure it again..and again..and again until my 90 days were up. As much as I love to hate it, though, I still try and do the Plyometrics video at least once a week because it is amazing for your body.

Plyometrics is jump training. You know, like you did during high school sporting practices? Those jumping lunges, 180 jumps, and knee hops? Yeah, this video has everything. It is an hour long, and you’re basically jumping the entire time. Tony says at the beginning of the video that this kind of training is out of fashion. And it’s true. This high impact kind of exercise has largely been deserted for more low impact training, such as the elliptical machine. And while I don’t recommend Plyometrics for people with injuries, doing the video once a week is great for your overall fitness.

Basically, there is NOT a workout where you will sweat more. You’ll be more out of breath, more beet red, and more exhausted than ever. But once the video ends, you feel incredible. It is a great metabolism booster, and you’ll keep burning calories all day long.

I have the entire program–which is pricey. It’s about $150, and you need a few sets of free weights. There are ways, however, to download just a single video..albeit illegally? Not that I’m a proponent of this method, but I know some of my roommates have been able to download some of the videos on their computer. Whatever your method, if you are serious about exercise and want to get one of the best workouts of your life–I suggest you try P90X Plyometrics.

A2 Yoga: Yoga for Exercise-aholics

10 02 2011

I didn’t believe in yoga for a long time. Yogis are crazy. It all just seemed weird to me. It didn’t seem like a real workout. You don’t sweat. You don’t work your muscles. I am much better off running on the treadmill for an hour than holding some stupid pose. Right?

WRONG. so-so-so-so-so wrong.

I’m still not a die-hard yogi. I won’t pretend to be. But it has greatly improved my fitness, it has helped me recover from injuries, and it has given me something to look forward to during my hectic weeks.

I have to admit, though, I am super picky when it comes to a yoga class. If I am going to go to yoga, I want a workout. A real workout. And let me tell you, the A2 Yoga power vinyasa classes give you just that.

The power classes at A2 yoga are amazing. They are 75 minutes long and very challenging. They also heat the room to around 80 degrees or so. Class skill ranges from the ridiculously advanced (those crazy people who can simultaneously hold both legs in the air at a 45 degree angle while doing a military push-up) to somewhat beginners. Although, I do recommend some athleticism and stretching ability. They tell you this isn’t a class for beginners–and I’d agree with that since beginners won’t be aware of common yoga poses. If you are a beginner, try a vinyasa 1 class first before moving on to the more advanced classes.

A2 Yoga

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You will sweat, your muscles with shake, and you’ll get a great workout. What I really enjoy is watching my skill evolve from week to week. I started out being unable to do many things, and now I can generally keep right along with the instructor. From tripod stands to one-legged splits, you will do it all in this class. Plus, you have the added benefit of clearing your mind and feeling amazingly calm afterward. Check out this WebMD article on the benefits of yoga — including increased strength, flexibility, posture, decreased stress, and the possible treatment of arthritis, asthma, and back pain.

The studio is located on Commerce Road — right off Stadium. It’s a quick 5 minute drive from my house, and by far my favorite yoga studio in Ann Arbor. (I’ve tried Center for Yoga, Sun and Moon Yoga, YMCA yoga, CCRB yoga.) Plus, drum-roll please, your first class is free! And there is a student discount. Drop-ins are $13. Pricey, but so is all yoga.

Jab, Hook and Kick Yourself Slim

26 01 2011

I don’t know about you, but I like to hit things. Hit things without repercussions. Hit things that won’t hit back. Hit things to release all the pent up aggression or stress or whatever else it is that builds up during a busy school week. I’m cool with kicking, too.

That’s why the Ann Arbor College of Martial Arts ‘Cardio Kickboxing’ class has become the new hangout spot for me and some of my girlfriends.

I like to describe this joint as “raw.” Conveniently (for me), it’s located at 1952 S. Industrial–right by Kroger, CVS, and Benny’s Family Dining. In a big open room surrounded by mirrors, you’ll beat the crap out of bags and sweat like crazy for 45-55 minutes.

Photo from the Ann Arbor College of Martial Arts Facebook Page

During the class, you do some warm ups and then jump right into intervals of cardio, abdominal work, and bag work. For instance, you may do 45 seconds of mountain climbers, then 45 seconds of sit-ups, then 45 seconds of jab/hook combinations on the punching bags. Basically, you repeat that type of sequence for the majority of the time.

When I say raw, though, the best part about this place is you never know what to expect. There’s no strict format the instructors stick to. One instructor may have you pushing the 50 pound punching bags across the room in a race, while another may have you lunging and doing wall-sits. One guarantee, though, you WILL sweat. Plus, you get to wear cool hand wraps to protect your knuckles.

This class is a fantastic, quick, full-body workout that will leave your face beet red and dripping in sweat. And if you have any injuries or just aren’t feeling your best, you can modify each exercise to suit your workout needs. For this reason, you’ll see all kinds of people at this class. From college-aged girls to ahem..slightly overweight older people, to big beefy guys, to a group of jean wearing, motorcycle riding hippies (I swear, it happened once). But the point is, don’t worry about fitting in here.

The best part about this whole post? YOUR FIRST CLASS IS FREE! Yup, just show up wearing workout clothes and bearing a water bottle, you’ll fill out a quick form, they’ll provide you with hand wraps, and you’re all ready to kick some ass. If you love the workout, you can buy 20 classes for $100. I did this, it’s a pretty good deal–especially if you plan to be a regular.

Check the website for the schedule. There are early evening classes M-F. Good for us college students!

Hope to see you there,