Our 7 Favorite Workout Videos: The Weird, the Wonderful, and the Way Intense

Motivating to work out is one thing. Actually being at the gym is another. There's the sweaty equipment, the cell phone chatters, the wait lists for the good classes, the messy locker rooms, and the members who chat with each other about how much they love Zumba. (Yes, they still exist.) You can, of course, avoid all this with two little words: Workout DVDs. In the privacy of your own home, you can be as silly, slow, or boisterous as you want – no over-achieving chicks distracting you in the front row of glass and no shame in pausing midway to catch your breath. Here’s a roundup of best new DVDs on the market, the absolute classics, the true calorie-burners, and the completely silly ones to get you off the couch, get you in shape, and, in some cases, leave you surprisingly entertained, without ever leaving home.  

Cindy Crawford Shape Your Body Workout, $11.61
Let the record show that there is no greater motivation to keep working out than watching Cindy Crawford in all her ‘90s glory stretching, bending, punching, and kicking in spandex and high-top Reebok sneakers. She was hot. The supermodel went on to make three more workout videos, gentler than this original one. And while some people complained that Radu, who coaches Cindy through every sequence of the video, was too intense, in my opinion, it’s by far the best of her series. There are several routines for abs, arms legs, and stretching so you can mix it up from day to day. Plus since it was produced back in 1992 for the MTV generation, it's all art-directed and cool with lots of jump cuts, color sequences intercut with black and white ones, and of course, Cindy, Cindy Cindy.

Ballet Beautiful, $18.99 per DVD
Pretty much the entire squad of Victoria’s Secret Angels, including Lily Aldridge, Doutzen Krouse, Miranda Kerr, Erin Hetherton, and Lindsay Ellingson, say they owe their bodies to Mary Helen Bowers, a former ballerina and the creator and instructor of this lengthening, toning classic-ballet inspired workout routine. (I love her for her super-cool red-satin ribbon ballet slippers she sells at her store, but that's another story.) Individual sequences are about 10- to15-minutes long, and target areas based on famous ballet dance sequences (Swan Arms was inspired by the graceful wing-like choreography from Swan Lake, the Sugar Plum workout echoes the Sugar Plum Fairy’s scene-stealing solo in the nutcracker! Skyline workout is a riff on the Rockettes high kicks.) So plié away!

The Zombie Apocalypse Workout, $29.95
Obtain the rock-hard muscles you need to stay alive and fight the zombies! “Most experts REFUSE to admit the zombies are coming and only those with elite-level strength, speed and stamina will survive! “ the website for the Zombie Apocalypse Workout screams. “Are YOU ready?” Well, come on, are you? This 12-week, three-phase program (conditioning, relative strength, absolute strength) by trainers Rog Law and John Romanello aims to turn you from flabby pathetic human into zombie-fighting, rippling wall of warrior strength! I haven’t actually had the chance to do this workout yet (and, honestly, I doubt I’d last 5 minutes), but it’s just too awesome not to include. Whether or not you decide to tackle the program, at least check out the website, the fervent copy is hilarious and kind of sounds like Woody Harrelson is screaming from a megaphone.

Prancersise (Free)
Joanna Rohrback became a media sensation last year thanks to her giddy, unselfconscious (and free!) “fitness revolution” Pransersise videos she posted on her website, which landed her a starring role in John Mayer’s “Paper Doll” music video. Basically Prancersise is just about moving with energy, and making an ordinary walk super-fun and jazzy. Rohrback, a seriously slender woman dressed in black and lime-green spandex bounces groovily down an endless stretch of pavement to some decent instrumental music so gracefully, it’s hard not to become hypnotized and start to echo her movements yourself. She punctuates her prancing with short high-pitched rhymes  “I’m uninhibited/as I’ve already exhibited!” “Now of course/ you can reveal your inner horse!” I dare you to stop watching!

Dirty Dancing Official Dance Workout, $6.99
This is not the greatest workout DVD, nor does it have the clearest choreography, but who cares! It’s a heart-pounding dance fest of move from the 1989 classic flick "Dirty Dancing." Short and sweet, it teaches you to triple-step Charleston like wayward Penny, soulfully bounce around like Baby, and best of all, swivel your hips seductively like Johnny did as the song “Love Man” played and Baby stood there. Carrying a watermelon. Awestruck.

Cheerobics, $29.99
The fact that this two-disc set comes with its own pair of pom-poms is enough to make many want to order it, but it’s actually a really good exercise video too. (Oh, and I've tried the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader workout series and it's not nearly as interesting. No pom-poms! No peppy routines!) This mix of aerobics and cheerleading is everything you ever thought cheer practice would feel like. Hard work, sure, but also freaking adorable. The steps get broken down individually, then put together via some choreographed "Bring It On"-worthy cheer sequences — there’s even a pro dancer routine you can tackle when you're ready. (But, take it from me, you might want to practice the easier ones before you start busting out spins and high kicks.)

Animal Workouts, the DVD Course, $29.95
No folks, No this is not a DVD to get your pet in shape, this is a DVD for you to workout as if you are literally a wild animal, you know, like a mighty bear, for example, or even a gorilla, all by doing plyometric body movements akin to those of the animal kingdom. It's less a full-fledged workout, and more a series of individual exercises, some are cool (stride like a cougar, crawl like a leopard) some are silly (sprawl like a bronco, squat like a flamingo) and some are flat-out intriguing (walk like a cricket, what?) But it seems effective and just weird enough to be fun, or at least more interesting than Zumba.