Workout DVDs are a godsend for those who don't have the time, money or inclination to go to the gym. You can excercise in the privacy of your own home, not worry about what the heck you're wearing or how grotesquely red and sweaty you get. I may be speaking for myself here. I'm not anti-gym, but I've never been a hundred percent confident in one, whereas with private workouts I'm more likely to get into and stick to them. Here are my top five favourites, all of them a mixture of cardio and strength training that's perfect for losing weight and toning up. I'm currently doing the Cambridge Weight Plan which is a liquid diet with very low calorie intake. Only moderate exercise is recommended on this particular plan, so if you're following CWP or another diet, make sure you are aware of how much exercise you should safely be doing.
Smug ballerina turned gameshow judge Darcy takes you through a fairly easy pilates workout. I say easy, only because it involves a lot of lying down and stretching, and is therefore not a cardio knee-trembler. But you will feel it in your muscles the next day, and if done regularly you'll see results in improved posture and body tone. This was my first foray into pilates, I bought the DVD back in 2006 when it first came out, and I find the classical piano music and emphasis on unwinding and core-strengthing quite relaxing. When I first got this DVD and heard celebrities like Jennifer Aniston saying pilates was their only workout I used to think - as if! This is not that hard. But when I went to a pilates class in the US and then couldn't walk the next day I realised that Darcy had been giving me a mere introduction to pilates; it can be quite hardcore. YouTube has several clips from the DVD, including the mini workout which combines bits from each of the six main sections. Make sure you use her warm-up first if you're doing YouTube rather than DVD.
Kirsty looks she was made in some kind of laboratory; there isn't a single part of her that isn't stunningly beautiful, scuplted and toned (see top photo). Her aspirational body on the DVD cover was as intimidating as much it was her selling point, and I half-expected the exercises to be impossible for anyone except Kirsty. I couldn't have been more wrong. The actual workout is led by a middle-aged man who knows his stuff but has moments of endearing forgetfulness and needs to have breaks as much as Kirsty does. Yes, even pneumatic barbie doll Gallacher gets red-faced, sweats, complains she can't do anymore squats, and has several breaks in which she breathlessly struggles to speak. I found it all refreshingly real and you feel like you're on a journey with Kirsty. This is is defintely cardio-central, involving seemingly endless series of squats. Great for weight loss, resistance training and toning up.
Tracy is a pint-sized lean machine, famous for being the personal trainer to Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow (who waffles in the DVD intro), Shakira, and several other ladies of celebsville. Her 'method' is taught across a series of DVDs in which she emphasises how to workout without getting bulky and ripped. Anderson is all about the dainty-toning. But don't be fooled, her method is hardcore, and I literally did her first DVD once before giving it away. It was way too dancey for me and I couldn't follow a single step. I decided to give her mat workout a go, seeing as l like lying down workouts, and although this is far from Darcy Bussell-style relaxing, it's definitely the easiest of a tough bunch. This workout involves lots of squats, leg lifts, and arm twirling, and is on YouTube for those who don't want to DVD commit.
Micah delivers the genteel British version of Tae Bo, the leg-kicky punching workout craze that swept America. He is so sweet, and I love the way he says "lovely" (pronounced lurvly) when he believes in his heart that you are delivering your kicky-best at home. I think the Tae Bo guy could eat Micah for breakfast, but I like having his encouraging nature guide me through a martial-art workout. This is a mixture of kickboxing and boxing, with some aerobic-style moves thrown in for good measure. It's not hard to follow, and when you're in the punching zone it can be quite therapeutic. The whole workout is on YouTube! Lovely.
Jillian is an old-school grimacing, no-nonsence, bossy trainer, and she can be bloody annoying to watch. But her 30-day shred is an accessible workout, done in levels of increasing difficulty with exercises that are actually quite easy to follow (pretend skipping, planks, lunges), even if they aren't easy to do repetitively. Jillian pushes you to stick with the reps and improve - you'll feel this in your muscles the next day for sure. Shred, shred, shred!
Please workout safely if you're dieting - get advice from your CWP consultant or your GP. Always warm-up and stay hydrated. Don't force any movement if it feels painful. If you're new to CWP then you might want to start with some long walks as your main source of exercise.
Disclaimer: I'm being sponsored by Cambridge Weight Plan. All words and opinions are my own.
Photo of Kirsty courtesy of Get The Gloss