Over the past few years I've gotten into workout DVDs—specifically short-workout DVDs. This way I can do them at 5:30am and still be out the door by 7:00am. (When my kids were younger and their sleep was more erratic, I used to work out at the very end of the day, right before bed. I found this made me dread my entire day.) Here are five of my favorites, from most challenging to most doable. One of them is 10 minutes long, which means that even a mom who has just about every minute of her day accounted for can squeeze in a workout. Good luck!
Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred. For me, this is the granddaddy (well, grandmommy) of all quick workouts. In 22 minutes, your ass will be kicked. After a 1-minute warmup, you'll do a circuit of Jillian's famous 3-2-1 Interval System: 3 minutes of cardio, 2 minutes of strength training, and 1 minute of ab exercises. Repeat for a total of three circuits, and cool down for 2 minutes. By the time you've mastered all three levels, you'll never question what you could possibly accomplish in a workout that's "just" 20 minutes.
IGNITE by SPRI 900-Calorie Burn. Featuring celeb trainer Ashley Borden, this DVD offers four high-intensity, interval-training (HIIT) workouts, each roughly 25 minutes long: Upper Body HIIT, Lower Body HIIT, Hard Core HIIT, and Head-to-Toe HIIT. All four workouts are heavy on ultra-toning moves--lots of variations on planks, for instance. I'm pretty sure the 900-calorie claim is if you were to do all four workouts back-to-back, which I've never done (...and never will do), but it's very challenging nonetheless. What I like about Ashley are her clear directions and helpful hints to hit each move for maximum effect.
Precision Toning by Tracy Anderson. I admit I was intimidated to get on the Tracy Anderson train, figuring she might be a little too tough for me. But this DVD is a great introduction, with its four 15-minute workouts focusing on arms, abs, glutes, and legs. Tracy's signature approach is to work small muscle groups—expect to see results in your arms pretty quickly—and I like that she's somehow found a bunch of fresh moves, which keeps things interesting. If you've done any other of her workout DVDs, you know Tracy usually doesn't count her reps, or in the case of her mini-trampoline workout, doesn't even narrate. That's not the case here, and I welcome the instruction.
Jillian Michaels Beginner Shred. If you want Jillian-style results but aren't quite ready for an intense workout, start here. I'm actually doing this one now because it's been a while since I've done her tougher DVDs and I'm not quite ready for her hardest stuff. But this is still great—I'm feeling the effects in muscles I haven't worked out for a few months, and I like Jillian's cheerier mood. While she doesn't break it down into her 3-2-1 style (see above), she does take you through three circuits that consist mostly of strength training and ab moves, and offers it in three levels. Note for the especially time-crunched: Each workout is advertised as 20 minutes, but between warmup and cool down, they're actually closer to 25.
Leslie Sansone Just Walk Mix+Match Walk Blasters. I admit that the first time I popped in a Leslie Sansone DVD, I thought, "Oh my God she might be too annoying for me." And by the end of the workout I thought, "Oh my God I love her." Turns out her joyful personality and corny commentary is just the thing I need when I'm working out before the sun comes up. This DVD offers 10 10-minute walks, some focusing on abs, upper body, and lower body; others incorporating beginner boxing moves and dance steps. As the name suggests, you combine them any way you want to create a workout that's 20 minutes or longer. When it started feeling too easy for me, I began using 3-lb. weights. You probably won't work up much of a sweat if you stick to 20-minute sessions, but they're a great cardio workout nonetheless, led by one really happy instructor.
Kara Corridan is the health director at Parents. She has two young daughters, both of whom like to watch her work out to these DVDs and provide "helpful" commentary along the way.
Image: Young woman doing pushup in front of television via Shutterstock.