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Jill S. Brown Headshot

Infomercial Workouts: Are They For You?

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If you've ever been up late at night channel surfing, you've seen them. A tan, svelte, perfectly toned woman, glistening with droplets of water dripping down her belly and thighs as she emerges from a pool and into the arms of a sexy man with rippling muscles and washboard abs. You're fixated and tempted to buy whatever the pitch person is selling.

Want a hot sexy body in mere weeks? Want washboard abs in minutes a day? Want to melt inches and torch fat instantly? Of course you do! Who wouldn't? Those slogans get your attention. If there's a chance you could buy something to make you look like those two fitness models, you'd pick up the damn phone and reach for your credit card! Now, now, don't feel bad if your interest is a little more than piqued. You're not alone... not by a long shot. After all, you must call now -- this offer is for a limited time only.

The fitness infomercial hits you right where you're softest -- in the belly, butt and thighs. And when you're at your weakest -- late at night or home alone when you're lying lazily on the couch pondering your navel. Often these shows are pitching gadgets for the home or fitness. Many will eventually gather dust in a closet or be sold at a garage sale, unless they store easily under your bed after the novelty wears off.

There's no question infomercials know how to tempt you or this wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar business. But do the products they're selling work? That's the question.

When it comes to fitness products, I can tell you what will work are the workout programs. I prefer actual workout programs to gadgets for my clients as well as myself. It's pretty obvious if you sweat your ass off and work hard, you will see results (remember Tae Bo?). The programs are usually tested out on real people (along with an eating plan) and designed by real fitness professionals.

So should you plunk down around $100 clams or more for a series of DVD workouts? After all, can't you just go to Target or Wal-Mart and find a whole slew of DVD's for anywhere between $9.99 and $19.99? The answer is yes, but the hottest trends are usually sold on TV first. And, the DVD's on the store shelves often don't come with all the bonuses and extras you get with the infomercial products which are specifically added to increase the value of the product and sweeten the deal. These extras typically include multiple workouts and plenty of additional collateral like meal plans, cookbooks, wall charts, log books, bonus DVDs, and sometimes little gadgets.

Which one is right for you? Here's a rundown of some of the most popular workouts you've seen on TV.

No doubt you've heard of the most ubiquitous of all workout programs on TV, "P90X."

If you haven't already bought it, you probably know someone who has. If you follow it, it will work. Each workout in the 12-DVD set is approximately 60-90 minutes long. If you're a beginner, that's a daunting task to undertake, and I wouldn't recommend you start off with this particular workout if you're really out of shape or a newbie. The program was designed by fitness veteran Tony Horton who is over 50, but whose body looks under 30. He's a testimony to how well his routine works. Tony's catchphrase for the program's design is "muscle confusion." That's a fancy way of saying "mixing it up" so your muscles don't know what exercise is coming next. A common mistake many exercisers make is doing the same routine or the same exercises in the same order day in and day out. The body adapts to this, and over time, you stop seeing results. As with most of these infomercial products, "P90X" comes with a 3-phase nutrition plan. A proper eating program is a key component to faster and better results for any workout program.

Another hot program on TV is "Insanity." It's an intense boot camp workout containing 10-DVDs and it makes "Tae Bo" look like "Jazzercize" (ok, I'm exaggerating... a little)! Personally I already teach plenty of boot camps that utilize many of the same moves, so in order to get a fresh perspective on the "Insanity" workout, I lent the DVDs to my student Nancy to try. Here's what she said, "if you wanted to punish yourself for eating a whole pizza, you found the right workout. Insanity gets your body moving fast and hard... you are already breaking a sweat during the warm up. While I thought the DVDs were efficient in giving me a good cardio and muscle building workout, they were also exhausting (especially when you do this five days in a row). This is the type of workout I would do two to three days a week, but not everyday. I found myself creating my own modifications for the exercises to minimize the chance of injury due to fatigue and exhaustion." Well said Nancy! One tip from both of us -- don't do this workout on plush carpet if you can help it. But if your only other choice is a concrete floor, then carpeting will have to suffice. If you've never done plyometrics before, you'll soon understand! And, please be hyper cautious if you have any sort of back or disc issues (of course that advice goes for any high impact or intense workout, not just "Insanity").

I know I mentioned "Tae Bo" already. If you haven't retired your slouchy socks and striped spandex leggings yet, then you may still be longing for workouts like those again. If so, you're in luck with pretty much any workout from Chalene Johnson. She's kinda like Billy Blank in a white-skinned, blonde-haired woman's body. Her latest program is called "TurboFire." It's fast and furious with good music, but not for the slow-moving exerciser. Again, I lent this program to a student to try. Kim, who's around my age (let's just say our 20's were half our lives ago), enjoys trying out new exercise programs. She found "TurboFire" to be fun and high energy, but she did get a little injured trying to keep up. Kim says, for women "our age," she prefers "Slim in 6," another program you've probably seen at some point channel surfing. It's more tame, but still very effective.

If these workouts sound like a heart attack waiting to happen for you, fear not. You can still do one of the hot, trendy infomercial workouts. It's hard not to listen to what Victoria Secrets and supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio swears by. "Brazilian Butt Lift" is a hot looking show. But how hot is the workout? Most of it is just good old fashioned sculpting exercises and one of the 3-DVDs is a cardio dance workout. If Pilates is more your speed, then you'll probably like this workout. It's not a sweat fest, but you will feel your butt burn. Of course, you'll have to get used to how Leondro teaches and talks. His accent is heavy and I feel more like I want to ask him for advice on my hairstyle and wardrobe than my workout, but his moves are effective for tush toning.

And while I'm on the topic of Brazil, one other workout worth checking out is "Zumba." If you're fortunate enough to have a gym nearby that offers these classes, I recommend that first. People say the workout is more fun in an actual class setting. But if you need to do your cardio dancing in your living room, then give it a shot. "Zumba" is a mix of Latin dancing styles fused with other types exotic dance styles from around the world.

The good news is you can try any of these workouts you want, and if you don't like them, return them within 30 days!

What's your favorite home workout? I'd love to know. Please feel free to share!