Home, Sweat, Home

Like millions of other Americans, I made a New Year's resolution to get in shape. But, unlike those who plunge haphazardly into any old exercise program, I decided to do some research first, in a place where the couch was a fall-back option: I watched exercised videos. And how convenient that the January Consumer Reports offers up an analysis of the top 28 videos in the industry, against which an amateur like myself could compare her own observations. While keeping in mind CR's esteemed opinions, I sometimes was moved to consider other, more entertaining, aspects of the videos. Here, then, are 10 choices for working your way to better health -- or hilarity -- in the privacy of your own living room.1. Gilad's New Best of Bodies in Motion. I don't know where this guy came from, but he's good. The opening sequence suggests that he's a former tri-athlete turned soccer star who lounges pool side with iron-pumping babes. A cross between Antonio on Wings and Jeff Goldblum, he hasn't quite mastered the English language, but he has mastered the development of muscle mass. Check this out if you're into Hawaiian backdrops and a real workout.2. Richard Hittleman's Yoga Video, Course I. I expected this to be a cheap production by some obscure guy who is neither hip nor hot, and I was not disappointed. But one you get over the redundant electronic music and all-white background -- which makes Richie and his lovely assistant look like they're floating in mid-air -- the "workout" is actually pretty wonderful. I've definitely been less stressed since I learned "the yoga way to fitness, health and peace."3. The Kathy Smith Aerobox Workout. This woman is no stranger to the workout world, and her "Power Step Workout" was only one step below Consumer Reports' best-rated video. In this one, she teams up with the adorable 1990 World Middle Weight Championship contender Michael Olajide, Jr., who leads Smith and friends through an incredibly taxing aerobic/boxing workout. (Of course, I took Smith's advice and just watched my first and only time through). This video definitely provides the most intense workout, the best soundtrack, and the coolest camera effects among the ones I watched. Smith's come-hither looks are a bit much. But Olajide, always a gentleman, keeps his eyes to himself (actually, one is covered with a patch). Long John Silver-meets-Rocky can assuredly rock your workout world.4. Super Advanced Buns of Steel (4) with Tamilee Webb. No doubt about it: That really is Webb's sculpted rear on this video cover. At only 40 minutes, this is the shortest video on my list, but, he, 40 minutes of this intelligent, intense workout is enough to make your gluteus maximus more marvelous (this video earned Consumer Reports' number one rating). However, this workout requires a step, weights and a workout mat, none of which I have. Another one watched while curled on the couch.5. Tanya Tucker's Country Workout. This should be called "Tanya Tucker's Tummy Tightener" -- I never laughed so hard in my life. This country singer has lent her name, her music and her bumbling self to her "personal trainer" for an hour of exercise in which they barely break a sweat. I'm not sure what I found funnier: the fact that Tanya has seemingly never done an aerobic workout in her life, or her sporadic, supplemental air-guitar outbursts in the middle of a routine. A must-see, however, if you want to learn the "boot scoot" for your next evening out.6. Tai Chi, Volume One. This video suffers the same floating effect as Hittleman's (see #2), but unfortunately does not make up for it in other ways. While I'll admit that Tai Chi may fulfill the need to be "one with ourselves," I disagree with the narrator's assertion that it is "never dull." Especially on television.7. MTV's The Grind Hip Hop Aerobics Video. A purely commercial venture (the grinding dancers might as well have tattooed "Adidas" across their derrieres), this video promises that regular viewing will make you look better, feel better -- but more importantly-- dance better. You're encouraged to rewind the tape to check out def moves you missed the first time -- because they're impossibly complex and not at all conducive to better fitness -- or simply step back and "check it out for a while." That is, check out the half-naked hunk/host, Eric Neis, who takes off his flimsy tank mid-workout for fear of overheating. In the words of this workout wonder: Wassup?!8. Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' to the Oldies" (3). Recall Richard Simmons bounding onto daytime television during my youth, I had to see what he was up to these days. Nowadays, the queen of aerobics videos has been dethroned by those with bigger production budgets, but you still have to admire a man who helps real people with real weight problems (and continues to wear such short shorts).9. Claudia Schiffer: Perfectly Fit Legs. More like the perfect marketing plan. Instead of selling one video which tones all body parts, Schiffer and her trainer (the brains and brawn behind the beauty) decided to dedicate four separate videos to perfecting arms, legs, abs and butts. "Legs," however, was rated 18th out of 28 by CR, so you might want to find another supermodel to help shape the rest of your body.10. Cindy Crawford: Shape Your Body Workout. But not with this one: Cindy came in dead last in CR, but remains popular despite reports of risky exercises. I wasn't able to even rent the video, since some overzealous exerciser -- or Crawford fan -- has had it since January 1.If you've resolved to alter a formerly lazy lifestyle, more power to you. As for this aerobically challenged individual, I'll be researching the new releases.

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