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As you might know from my previous rant, I have decided to get back in shape. This includes daily workouts of at least thirty minutes, plus another twenty minutes or more of strength training. Sadly, I'm one of those people who, once they've formed a resolution, spend so much time preparing for it that when the time comes to actually keep it they're totally exhausted. Which is why I made another resolution to keep the preparations to a minimum this time.

After giving it some thought I decided that the minimum was book with a nice training program. Since a friend of mine already had it, I bought

1. David Kirsch's Ultimate New York Body Plan and because I was already at it,
2. the matching DVD.

I read the book in one sitting, scoffing at the light introductory exercises and patently overlooking the bits where one does push-ups with one's feet on a gym ball. The exercises are really good -- low weights, high repetition -- but one needs extra equipment, which I didn't have. So I went out again and bought

3. two 3lbs dumbbells
4. one gym ball
5. one medicine ball (for leg raises and such).

Feeling accomplished and ready for action, I decided to take a look at the DVD. Like the book it contains a fitness test, which I decided to take on the spot.

To my everlasting shame, I didn't pass. For someone who used to have no trouble doing 200 crunches in one go, this was a low blow. The Kirsch guy however has foreseen that wussy wimps like me might buy his book and has included a lighter exercise program which might allow even us to get through the test -- eventually.

But of course it didn't end here.

In addition to the strength training, the main program also includes 45 mins of cardio training every day. To my oxygen-deprived brain this obviously meant I needed additional equipment (read: workout DVDs), because I definitely couldn't be expected not to cheat if I devised a workout of my own and our living room would not survive ten seconds of rope skipping, much less 45 minutes.

Still on an endorphin high, I gleefully pulled out my credit card and went back to Amazon. Two hours of concentrated browsing resulted in

6. two bellydance DVDs (for improving my isolations)

7. three hip hop DVDs, one of which actually works as a workout

8. a samba/reggae workout DVD

9. and finally, a DVD with stretching and strenghtening excercises specifically for dancers.

The DVDs arrived two days ago. I haven't yet tested all of them out, but the yoga/bellydance one is very good (Contemporary Bellydance and Yoga Conditioning with Ariellah). Her isolations are extremely precise, and she's excellent at explaining which muscle groups are employed at any given moment and describing the feel of the movement. Just the isolation part is 75 minutes and hellishly exhausting. It definitely works as a cardio workout because there are virtually no breaks in the flow: it's 75 minutes of near-constant motion.

Yesterday, I've mixed it up with the one good hip hop DVD I got (Jamie King - Rock Your Body). King is an excellent dancer, so I might actually learn proper hip hop from watching him. He goes through the choreography very quickly though and I've never done hip hop before, so it's an adjustment. Yesterday I was able to stumble through the choreography but I wasn't yet able to dance it, which pissed me off. I expect to be reasonably proficient by the end of the week though. Also, hip hop isolations are just like bellydance isolations, only harder and more accented as a rule, so I'm killing two birds with one stone.

  *ETA: Got in a proper workout today: 1 hour and 15 minutes: around 50 mins of cardio and the rest strength training. Britney Spears music videos are amazingly good for the cardio bit. Same goes for the Black Eyed Peas