I will never be a gym rat.

Like most of the population, my workouts are an ugly, sweaty business. When I exercise in the comfort of my living room, no one can hear me heave in gulps of air, watch me stomp around like a spirited buffalo, or raise concerned eyebrows at my deeply-reddened face. Naturally energetic and introverted, I find solace in solo DVD workouts.

My number one tool for at-home workouts is a 3′ x 4′ mirror. I use it to help me maintain/improve my form and check out my deltoids during shoulder-raises. Number two tool(s) are dumb bells – I incorporate various weights whenever I can, which are listed at the end of this post.

Below is my actively-used collection. The accompanying descriptions are mine alone – if you want to learn more, click on the titles (I’m not getting paid to list them, so shop around for the best deals).


The FIRM – Total Body Time Crunch

This is one tough workout. I feel completely exhausted in the best way when I’m done. Plyometrics, weight-lifting, boxing, and aerobics mix well together in this 45-minute body-blaster. Rebecca (the coach) is encouraging and consistent, and she provides wonderful, much-needed breaks by strategically alternating between segments of intense cardio and slow-paced muscle sculpting. This workout kicks my butt and noticeably gives me guns. It is one of my favorites.


(The videos below come as a 4-disc set)

The FIRM – Hard-Core Fusion

Very, very intense workout. Allie guides me through an hour’s worth of legit cardio and muscle sculpting. The video is true to its title. Allie keeps me moving in a variety of ways and alternates the intensity so I can catch my breath. She incorporates both light and medium weights (single or doubled-up weights), and uses them for everything from bicep curls to lunges. I am dead as a door nail after this one. I fear this one…I fear it for its thoroughness.

The FIRM – Cardio Overdrive

This workout lasts about an hour, and it is cardio-ballistic. Alison hosts and she is one tireless, limber woman. She incorporates weights into this video, but more for resistance than for bulk. I use my 10 lb. dumbbells during Alison’s slower segments, but I always go light when she starts hopping around again (safety first!). She forces me to continually pause the DVD so I can catch my breath, which earns her my stamp of approval for effectiveness. The woman is unstoppable. I jump, leap, soar, squat, kick, slide, and punch my way to a seriously sweaty body with this video. So effective I tend to avoid it…

The FIRM – Cardio Party

This is the mildest workout of the four in this set, which means I only want to pass out a few times. No weights are involved, but I still get a thorough, full-body workout in 40 minutes (and try to use weights when I can). Each woman takes a turn running the show with her own focus-area or style. This allows for a teeny-tiny break in between segments and makes the time fly so quickly I can’t believe it’s already Annie’s turn. My favorite for days I’m not up for the harder ones but still really want to push myself.

The FIRM – Hi-def Sculpt

I love Annie. She is so stinking sweet and incredibly ripped. This is a slower-paced video that has only a few cardio segments and mostly strength training and muscle sculpting. I always fool myself into putting this into the DVD player when I want an “easy day,” and then I have to roll myself out of bed the following morning. What I appreciate about this video is that Annie does a brief stretch after every segment to loosen your newly-bulging muscles. Slyly effective workout – my favorite kind!


Kathy Smith’s Latin Rhythms Workout

For years, I watched this workout video in VHS format. It was the only reason I had a gigantic VHS player beside my TV. Then, the VHS broke. I went a few months without it, trying to absorb the loss. I finally decided I couldn’t take it anymore and bought the video (DVD format) online through Amazon. I’ll never forget the day I received that package in the mail. This workout is that good. It’s fun, easy, and 100% focused on dance moves, which means I have complete freedom to make it more challenging whenever I want to. I manipulate the intensity of Kathy’s moves by adding weights almost the entire time and by replacing some easier moves with steps I learned from P90X. This workout is divided into two 20-minute segments that are back-to-back with a few seconds’ pause in between. Kathy finishes the video with very effective stretches, too. I love this one and do it most often.


Zumba Exhilirate Body Shaping System DVD Set – comes with Toning Sticks (1.5lbs each, I think? Never used them.), a program guide, and 7 DVDs.

Zumba – Rush (20 mins)

This is a short but intense dance/cardio workout – perfect for mornings with only half an hour to spare. Sometimes I couple this workout with a 20-minute version of a FIRM video (above) to get a full workout. Unless I am in tip-top shape, I have to pause this one to catch my breath in between songs. A favorite because it’s quick and effective!

Zumba – Exhilarate (60 mins)

This hour-long DVD teaches me some full-body dance moves and gives me one heck of a workout. I throw my arms, legs, hips, and head all over the place for this one, which is what makes it so difficult and thus amazing. The routines are all short, which speeds the workout along, and the awesome stretches/cool down at the end really makes me feel like I just conquered the world.

Zumba – Ripped (60 mins)

This DVD is split into two separate workouts (Zumba Toning and Zumba Sentao, total DVD 60 mins). The dancers use the Toning Sticks in the Toning workout, which I substitute with my three sets of dumb bells (always going lighter on full-body moves to avoid injury). Though the toning moves do not seem as intense as others in my FIRM videos, I am ALWAYS sore in muscle groups that are impossible to work otherwise (looking at you, latissimus dorsi). The second workout, Sentao, incorporates a chair for some fun cardio mixed with lunges/leg-lifts that make it difficult to sit the next day. This one is a killer!

Zumba – Fitness-Concert (60 mins)

This is the Zumba Exhilarate routine performed live at a fitness concert. It seems hokey, but it really is more lively and fun than Exhilarate (and a little easier, with more “breaks” and entertainment). This one is perfect for anyone who hates working out; the on-stage dancers and audience/participants are such a great distraction that I often forget I’m exercising!

Zumba – Mix (55 mins)

I’ve only done this one twice in my life because it’s not as good a workout as any other DVD I have (meaning I’m not tomato-faced or soaking my carpet with sweat). I do learn some fun dance moves, which is a bonus, but the learning process is the focal point, rather than sweating it out. This is a good one for Zumba newbies who want to master some of the moves seen throughout most of the Zumba DVDs.

(I’ve never used the “Activate” or “Step By Step” DVDs in this set.)


Dancing With the Stars Cardio Dance

I love this DVD. The warm-up is slow, which I appreciate, and the cool down incorporates stretches that feel incredible. Maksim (Maks), Kym, and Ashly guide you through their individually-coached sessions of Paso Doble, Cha-Cha, and Samba, respectively. All of the coaches are lively, fun, and full of personality, which makes their combined segment – the Jive – a riot. The Jive is the most difficult part of the workout, for sure, but Maks, Kym, and Ashly are so encouraging and enthusiastic that I push myself because they tell me I can. I also incorporate weights into this video when it’s safe.


Core Rhythms – Merengue Mania

All Core Rhythms DVDs are incredibly effective on strengthening my midsection. This one in particular is more fast-paced and cardio-focused than others. I always use ankle weights and lighter hand weights when it’s safe. I tend to pass over this one because the workout is that good. The hostesses take turns energetically guiding you through the 45-minute routine, leaving you breathless at multiple points. Difficult and wonderful video.

Core Rhythms – Secret to Sexy Abs

The title doesn’t lie – if you want a narrower waist, buy this right now! Jaana knows exactly what to do to tighten my obliques as efficiently as possible in this 40-minute DVD. It feels like I’m not working hard enough, but I am definitely sweaty at the end. And, when I can’t lean over without squealing in agony for the next few days, I know it’s delivering its promise. Just one workout will tighten my middle right back to where I want it, even if it’s been a while. Best of all – I’m never lying down!

Core Rhythms – Latin Cardio Jam

Julia is a machine. She’s practically made of rubber and totally indefatigable. I curse her for her endurance when I am slumped over my couch arm, heaving for air. She is an incredible dancer, and she provides great tips to perfect my form with her fast-paced moves. I love her accent (Jaana’s, too – I think they’re Russian) and her enthusiasm throughout this 30-minute workout. Julia tells it best during the cool down when she says, “that was a short workout, but it was very, very intense!”

Core Rhythms – Lower Body Sculpt

When you realize this video is only 24-minutes long, hesitate before scoffing. There are at least four points throughout this video that I find myself begging for the 24 minutes to end. Jaana has fine-tuned one tenacious leg workout, making sure every muscle from my butt to my calves is burning hot. She squeezes in some midsection action, too. Like all core-rhythm workouts, this one is deceptively short with powerful results, leaving me so sore the next day I can’t help but cry about it to whomever will listen.

Addicted to Sweat (Madonna)

This is one of many workout videos gifted to me by my wonderful mother. Expert dancer Nicole teaches me some of the choreography Madonna uses in her dance routines. A retro yet distinct workout video that guides me rapidly through some pretty complicated step work that’s broken down and repeated so I can practice. I am always rewinding, though, because she flies through the moves so quickly. This unique workout changes it up and deceives me into dancing more and more and more until I finally nail that footwork and feel like the next Madonna.

Other objects I use:

2 lb. dumbbells

2.5 lb. dumbbells

10 lb. dumbbells

1 lb. strap-on ankle weights

A large, tall mirror I lean against the wall beside the TV



What kind of equipment do you use? Do you have favorite workout videos? Share your go-to DVDs below, please! And – if you have a video in mind that you think I should try, list it below. I’ll give it a go and review for others!



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