I’ve been drearily diligent about Operation Get Back Into My Jeans Goddammit over the last couple weeks and at this point I can wear the jeans, but I have to throw a loose shirt on top to disguise the remaining, ah, overlap.

Still, at least I can snap the fuckers shut now without resorting to a cast iron C-clamp and eventually passing out from asphyxiation, so … you know. Progress.

My preferred workout routine is to hit the gym for either a circuit training* or kickboxing class, but on the days when I can’t get there, I’ve been cycling through a few DVDs for a vastly inferior (I find it nearly impossible to push myself as hard as I would in a class) but convenient (I can wear ratty shorts and stop to blow my nose!) living room sweatfest.

*Have you ever tried this type of class? For some reason I totally thought it was going to be a circuit of stationary machines, with each person in the class spending X amount of time on each machine, but that’s not it at all. At my gym, anyway, it’s a room with an open space for doing various evil bodyweight/dumbbell/resistance band exercises, and a selection of cardio machines along the perimeter. A typical hourlong class involves 15 minutes of interval cardio (on a treadmill, say), then a bunch of high-repetition toning stuff on the floor, then back to the cardio machines for another 15 minutes or so, and back to the floor for a final round. It’s fairly evil but the hour seems to fly by, which is awesome.

For those who might be interested, I’m currently “enjoying” the following:

George St-Pierre Rushfit, $12.

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GSP is a bigtime MMA star from Canada (I guess he’s the current welterweight champion of the UFC?). I don’t know much about him personally, but I bought this DVD after reading some decent reviews online.

On the upside, there’s a timer at the bottom so you always have a countdown for each round and overall workout, which is really nice. The exercises vary a lot, so nothing feels too boring. It’s about 45 minutes long with 30 minutes being fairly intense—it does get exhausting about halfway through, but it mellows back out towards the end (in other words, you only truly want to die for a shortish period of time).

You need a set of dumbbells for this. They’re using 15lb bells in the video, but whatevski on that. I use my trusty old 5lb weights.

On the downside, the commentary between the trainer (who mainly leads the video) and St-Pierre is really awkward. George blurts random things (“Zees feels ‘orrible! But zere are no shortcuts to success!”) in his heavy French accent while his trainer grumpily interrupts, and they constantly try to tie back every exercise to fighting in a way that sort of screams I AM HAMHANDEDLY USING THIS MMA STAR TO MARKET THIS WORKOUT.

Overall, it’s a great workout, you just have to suffer through some annoying chatter while it’s going on.

Jillian Michaels: Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism, $7.50

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If you’re sick of the 30DS, this is a great next step. It’s about 45 minutes of circuit training with an additional 10 minutes of warmup/cooldown (I pretty much never do the cooldowns. I know: bad. But man, when I’m done I’m done).

Jillian’s commentary also gets irritating after a while, but she knows how to set up a workout routine that has a lot of variety. This one has 7 six minute circuits (you go through each circuit twice), which has the nice effect of making you feel like you’re not stuck in any one awful exercise for too long. No weights or equipment necessary, and while it definitely makes you work, it seems like there are only a few routines that are really hateful. Best of all: NO LUNGES. God damn, I hate lunges.

The Pit Workout, DVD boxset $39.95

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I saved the hardest for last. You can buy these DVDs separately from used sellers, but the whole package is a pretty good deal. On the Workout DVD, you get two discs, one with an upper body and lower body workout, the second with an overall workout.

I will not lie, these are hardcore. The upper body routine involves, like, FORTY THOUSAND PUSHUPS. While the lower body one involves a similar number of squats. I mean, I’ve never done anything like it—they just go on and on and on and on. The idea is to completely fatigue your limbs, then have you launch into punches or kicks (this basically simulates the exhausting effect of a ring fight).

The overall workout on Disc 2 has more variety, which I like. You start with jumping jacks (a LOT of them. No easy stretching warmup routine here), then move into kicks, shadow boxing, push ups with squat thrusts (these are ‘ORRIBLE), bicycle crunches, simulated rowing, simulated rowing, jump roping, and more.

No equipment needed. Just a lot of water, stamina, and a bottle or two of ibuprofen for the next day.

The downside to these is that they’re long, grueling, and very repetitive. It’s sort of a trifecta of suck that makes it very tempting to hit the off switch, but if you want an absolutely annihilating workout—even if you want to just focus on legs for, say, 20 minutes—they’re awesome.

The CrossPit DVD is also included in this set, which is slightly less intimidating. There are two workouts on this one, each about 30 minutes. The first uses the Tabata structure of 20 seconds of balls-out intensity followed by 10 seconds rest. It’s wicked, especially by round 5 or so, but the exercises seem to go by faster.

The second workout uses the CrossFit Chelsea pattern, where you have a specific amount of time (30 or 60 seconds) to finish a certain amount of work, so the pace is up to you.

I can’t remember which exercises happen in each of the CrossPit workouts, but almost all are body weight related: pushups, squats, squat thrusts, shadow boxing, and sit-ups. At some point he has you do exercise band pulls, but if you don’t have a band you could skip that section.

These are insanely effective no-frill no-chirpy-words-of-encouragement workouts. You won’t necessarily have fun during them, but you’ll feel like a sweat-soaked badass afterwards.

Old stuff gathering dust on my shelf: Turbo Jam Punch Kick & Jam (I sometimes do this for nostalgic reasons, but the whole thing feels pretty cheesy now), Tracy Anderson’s Mat Routine (god knows this will give you nice arm muscles if you’re diligent with it, but arrrgh it is so boring after a while. Plus, I’ve really come to hate her shtick about not BULKING, oh my god don’t BULK you BIG FAT BULKY HEIFER don’t you want to be like GWYNETH. Shut up, Tracy. PS: You totally look like a porn star.), Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred (still a great little workout, but I’ve reached capacity on hearing her tell me not to phone it in).

OKAY I’M DONE NOW. I’m sure this was all very fascinating to exactly none of you, but if you have any exercise DVDs to recommend, I’d love to hear about them.

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