I had been browsing through Jillian Michaels' videos for some time before I made up my mind to purchase this boxed set. I am very keen on fitness and, having 3 young children and working full-time, there is no way I can even start to think about hitting the gym. Therefore, I own a very well-stocked fitness collection of about 60 DVDs, some of them going as far back as the 1980s. I also have a treadmill and a stationary bike on which I train regularly so, as you can see, variety is not a problem in my case.
Over the years, one of the problems I've encountered with fitness DVDs is that I outgrew them very quickly. Then I discovered Billie Blanks, and that DID make a huge difference, but I also wanted something involving weight and resistance work, so I turned to The Firm, which also delivered great results. Jillian Michaels had always put me off a bit, as she came across as slightly aggressive in the videos and previews I watched. At the same time, I liked her no-nonsense approach to exercise, her straightforward routines (it always takes me a while to learn The Firm ones) and her emphasis on strength.
Then this boxed set was released. I checked up the four DVDs separately, and it was obvious that the collection had been put together with a high degree of common sense; it is coherent and exhaustive, as each DVD targets a specific type of workout. I'll expand on this later. Also, what I found really attractive was the price. It doesn't get much better than this, so I thought, "go for it! If, in the worst case scenario, you don't like some, or even all of, the workouts, you won't have spent a huge amount of money."
I have now gone through 3 of the DVDs, and have watched the fourth. I can't begin to tell you how glad I am with this purchase. I'm a seasoned exerciser, and it takes quite a bit to get me puffing and gargling my heart out, even though I'm well on my way to 42 years of age. But Jillian manages to do this with each and every one of her workouts. Not to an unbearably painful extent, mind you. When I seem to have reached my limit and I think "this is it, now I'm gonna die", she moves on and gives me a (short) respite. And that's the secret that keeps me going. There are no fancy moves or complicated choreographies. It's the old-fashioned "no pain, no gain" thing throughout. And it works. There are also variations for more and less advanced exercisers, and Jillian makes sure they're clearly explained to you throughout the workouts. The only downside, and it's a small one, to the entire project is that the emphasis throughout is on weight loss more than overall fitness and strength. There will of course be a lot of people out there who exercise because they are determined to shed some weight, but there are also many of us who are slim and regard physical fitness as an essential component of our daily routine, just like eating or brushing our teeth.
On to the DVDs - I won't get into much detail here, because each DVD is thorougly described in the sections where they are sold separately, but I would just like to emphasize on how exhaustive and well-put this collection is: (1) 30-Day shred is made up of 3 overall, x-training workouts, self-contained and only 20 minutes long each. They use the 3-2-1 method (3 minutes strength, 2 minutes cardio, 1 minute abs). You can do them separately and combine with some other short workouts in this collection, or do in one go (and that IS hard, I promise!) (2) Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism is a 40-minute workout which you perform without weights, but beware! There's a lot of resistance involved with lots of burpees, planks and push-ups. One very good thing about this workout is that you can select the number of circuits you want from the main menu. (3) No More Trouble Zones is designed to complement Banish Fat, and it is intended as a toning workout, although you never quite lose sight of the cardiovascular component, which is a good thing, at least for me, to keep things interesting. (4) 6-Week 6-Pack is the one I have not as yet tried, although I've watched it and, yes, it is hard. Once again, this is a toning workout focusing on abs (THAT area most of us women struggle with at some point), and it is made up of 2 x 30-minute workouts, the second one being a progression from the first. Once again, do not be fooled by the fact that this is a toning workout, for the cardiovascular component is there as well to some extent and, once again, it makes time fly.
All in all, we have 4 DVDs, two focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on cardio (30-Day Shred and Banish Fat), and two which target-tone your entire body, but without neglecting cardio, either (No More Trouble Zones and 6-Week). In addition, all of the workouts are either short (20-30 minutes) or can be broken up into shorter, 6-minute segments, which enables you to literally make an endless number of combinations and never get bored. At the same time, for those days when you feel a bit down, or don't have the time to start combining workouts, you can still tackle a 20 or 30 minute one and, being so intense, you've got the feeling that you've actually accomplished something. It doesn't get much better than that.
As for Jillian, I must say my initial impressions about her have changed as I've been doing the workouts. She comes across as demanding, serious about what she does, assertive but not aggressive. She is not in the least patronising and does not appear to be playing a role, but just being herself. All I can say, to sum it all up, is that I would give this collection 10 stars if I could.