Worth It: Workout DVDs For The Athletically Challenged

Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our daily recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.

In the inbox last week, we got a Worth It request from a reader who asked for a recommendation for a non-sucky at-home workout DVD. I first thought, "Hey, I know a fuckload about that!" But then I felt a little ashamed of my at-home workouts. I'm one of those people who blushes at the thought of getting all red-faced and sweaty in front of people I know, but am equally humiliated at what mental picture a person might have — this gangly, goofy woman Sweatin' To The Oldies all by herself — upon learning of my at-home workout secret. [Ed: Whitney is not gangly. Goofy, well, we all are.]

But whatever. Working out at home is cost-effective, it's popular, and it's nothing to be afraid of. So moving on to my next embarrassment: I work out to the Biggest Loser workout DVDs. (Did you expect anything less from someone who's so television-obsessed?) I swear, I'm not some idiot who had never worked out before, someone who just ordered some DVDs based on a TV show! As the secret box in my closet filled with fitness DVDs indicates, I've tried them all: from Denise Austin to Women's Health, Dance-Your-Self-Skinny's and Cardio Blasts — you name it, I've tried it. Thanks to my parents hopping on the exercise bandwagon during my childhood, my knowledge of at-home exercise programs extend back to the 80s — the time when step aerobics and Gilad's Bodies In Motion reigned supreme in my house. And the Zumbas, Tae Bo, and Eight Minute Abs? Been down that road, too.

So yeah, I know what I'm talking about. And now that my at-home-exercise expertise has been let out of the closet, let me tell you why I enjoy the Biggest Loser DVDs more than the others.

  • Variety.
    At this point, the show offers a wide variety of different workout DVDs, but for years I have been using the same three: Cardio Max, Power Sculpt, and Weight Loss Yoga. (Often they're sold in a bundle, but separately they're something like $8 each.) Sometimes I'll only do one video, but when I'm feeling extra-into it, I'll mix them all. I like to start off yoga to warm up, move into Power Sculpt (which is mainly weights with light cardio), and then move on to Cardio Max.
  • Levels.
    One of the great features in the Biggest Loser workouts are the chapters in which each DVD is set up. They all include a five-minute warm-up, followed by Level 1 (25 minutes), Level 2 (10 minutes), Level 3 (10 minutes) and a 5-minute cool down. Once I started using the DVDs, I discovered which levels I liked most and found a routine customized to that. No time? Skip the warm-ups. Stressed? Try cool-down in the Yoga DVD. Feeling too burned out for a lot of cardio? Power Sculpt. Need a good stretch? Yoga's warm-up. Being able to mix and match really helped me to get over my excuse of "not having enough time" to exercise. It also stopped me from feeling burdened by working out because, hey: as long as doing some kind of physical activity (even five minutes of stretching) it can't be bad for your health, right?
  • The instructors.
    During my "extensive research," I've found that so, so many of the exercise guides in videos are either annoying or condescending. So it's a breath of fresh air to not violently hate the instructor as I'm working out. While the training tactics of Jillians Michaels are questionable, she's a bit easier to handle in the DVDs. But oh, do I love the trainer Bob Harper. There's something about his earnestness and thrill of changing people's lives (perhaps something I learned from watching the show) that I can't not get excited to be working on my body. In fact, I enjoy his positive but not-too-in-your-face vibe and encouraging statements so much in doing these workouts that I find myself talking along with some of his funnier catch phrases as I work out. And having fun, in my opinion, the best way of staying encouraged to exercise.
  • Results.
    Listen, I'm nowhere near physical perfection, but I can say that these DVDs have whipped my ass into shape during different periods of my adult life. On the wacky roller coaster that is my fluctuating weight, I've always gotten into shape the fastest with these DVDs. At this junction of my life, I live in a tiny New York City apartment that's not very conducive to working out at home, so I tend to just hit the gym. But everything a gym has to offer, all the classes, elliptical machine, weights, spin class — nothing has worked out so many parts of my body, so effectively, as these DVDs. Cardio Max will kick your butt the hardest, but it's well worth the effort.
  • No equipment necessary!
    For me, it's one of the most frustrating thing in the world to pop in a newly-purchased dvd and begin working out until the instructor says "Now grab your resistance band!" A few times I've been guilty not reading the advisement on the actual box, but sometimes there won't be any mention of said "extras" at all, especially when buying online. The Biggest Loser workouts require no extra anything — even weights are optional — which just the way I like it. Simple and fun.

The Biggest Loser Workout: Cardio Max, $7.40 at Amazon
The Biggest Loser Workout: Power Sculpt, $7.40 at Amazon
The Biggest Loser Workout: Weight Loss Yoga, $9.14 at Amazon

Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.