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Step Three: Choose the right videos

Once you've chosen some activities, here are a few tips for picking your first videos:

Choose at least 2 or 3 videos to start, ideally by different instructors. Variety will increase the likelihood that you'll stick to your exercise program. It may also decrease your risk of overuse injuries because you will use your muscles in slightly different ways for each video.

If you are significantly overweight, older and/or have not exercised regularly in a very long time, try to stick to videos specifically labeled or rated as beginner videos at first. Low impact videos are good choices.

Have two left feet? Look for videos with choreography described as "basic" or "athletic" (e.g. Leslie Sansone, some Jane Fonda). Avoid anything with complex or "dancy" choreography. On the other hand, some people catch on quickly to routines and are generally quite coordinated--these folks may be easily bored with basic choreography. They may be better off to try a beginner/intermediate video (Kathy Smith's or Donna Richardson's might be good choices).

Pick at least one strength training video or a video with a strength segment. Strength training with free weights (dumbells) or bands will increase strength and will improve your body's fat to muscle ratio more rapidly.

Be wary of celebrity videos unless you know that a celebrity video has received excellent reviews. There are few good celebrity videos, though in recent years more celebrities have teamed up with a top-notch instructor to produce a high quality video (e.g. Elle MacPherson's Your Personal Best, which stars Karen Voight). In any case, you are probably better off sticking with professional instructors to start.

Read the video cover carefully, but don't always believe what you see there! Video covers may give you clues about the length of the workout, target fitness level, required equipment, and workout structure, but they aren't always accurate or specific enough. For example, many videos say "for all fitness levels" on the box, yet most do have a specific target audience. Consult this Web site or the Collage catalog for more details. You should be suspicious of any outrageous claims made on the box..."Lose 20 pounds in 5 minutes a day!" or "Melts Fat from Your Abs!" should be clues for you to put that video back on the store shelf. Check to see if the instructor is certified by either ACE or AFAA, the main certifying organizations for group fitness instructors.

Don't get too ambitious: No matter how good the reviews of a video may be, beginners should *never* start with videos like Reebok's "Intense Moves," or Cathe Friedrich's "PowerMax". Give yourself plenty of time to build your cardiovascular endurance before tackling an advanced level video. In addition to risking injury, a video that is way beyond your current level will likely frustrate you and make it harder to stick with your exercise program. On the other hand, don't buy a dozen beginner videos that you may grow out of in a couple of months. A few well-chosen beginner videos can get you to the next level.

Read on for VF reader-approved beginner favorites