I thought maybe I should give some more information on the Websites I've listed to the side. I'm not known for giving brief answers or recommendations to anything. If someone asks, "How are you?" I'm apt to tell them. If they complement me on my skirt, I can't just stop it with just a "thank you." I have to tell them what I like about it to or where I found it (with the story behind it). So it makes sense that I wouldn't want to just say "Here are some good websites" without telling you just why I like them so much and how you can get use out of them.
Alissa Cohen's Raw Food Forum: rawfoodtalk.com Alissa Cohen is an expert on Raw Food. She has a huge and wonderful book called "Living on Live Food" and a dvd set where she demonstrates many of her recipes for a few friends (while talking about her history with raw food too). She is a proponent of 100% raw eating and has seen tremendous benefits in herself and her friends and clients from going all raw. She has a Forum for discussion and learning about eating raw. It's full of recipes, motivation and support. The only downside to it is they aren't that open to eating any cooked foods, so if you're struggling with either the idea or ability to eat all raw, they won't really want to hear about that approach. But it's still a great website. I've used it quite a bit. I learned how to sprout from Alissa and have gained most of my raw basics from her.
Cathe Friedrich: cathe.com Cathe has been dubbed the queen of step, but in the past several years, she has spent more of her energy in creating great strength training workout systems. She's currently working on a project (STS or Shock Training System) that is a 12 week program with 3 mesocycles for shocking the muscles for maximum results. She never stops with producting outstanding workouts. Her website includes video clips of her workouts so you can see just what you're getting. She also has a forum for discussions, monthly rotation suggestions, and an area for Cathe to answer your questions. There's also a link for her blog that gives the latest info on her productions.
Collage Video: collagevideo.com Collage is a video fitness company that I discovered about 11 years ago in a Fitness Magazine ad. It was a catalog company then that sold hundreds of exercise videos. Many of their videos are not available in stores and they had a information about each that you couldn't get on the back cover if you even could find one of them in the store. They tell you the intensity, complexity, exact time spent on each area (cardio, upper body, stretch, etc.) Their customer service has always been outstanding too. The delivery time is quick and if you weren't satisfied with a workout after trying it, they'll exchange it for another one. They also have Success Stories on the cover and inside that are fun to read about. I've actually been in there twice. Once in the Yoga section after my 4th baby was born. And again after my 5th (I figured it was worth trying to submit again since it was a whole new batch of weight to lose :)). The second time, I made the cover and got double the credit for purchasing ($200) which was really fun. Now they have a really great website with the same info plus video clips and reviews. Check it out.
Deep Discount: deepdiscount.com This is my favorite website for buying dvds. It was first called Deep Discount DVD and only sold DVDs. Now they've added on CDs, books, audiotapes, video games and a few other things I've never bought (movie posters come to mind). There prices are almost always lower than Costco, Target, or Amazon, and they have free shipping on everything. The delivery is fast. I've ordered from them for several years and have never had a problem. Twice a year (November and maybe May?) they have a 20% off sale on all their dvds. They have several coupon codes and you can order more than once during the sale if you use a different code. I usually find mine on the VF Forum in the section about bargains.
Eat to Live: drfuhrman.com Dr. Joel Fuhrman is the author of Eat to Live (probably my favorite book on nutrition and eating) and Disease Proof Your Children. You need to read the ETL book to understand my respect for him. It is the most logical, well researched book on nutrition I've seen. He's coming out with a 2 book set in April called Eat Right America that is an approach to help people change their eating habits more gradually than many are able to do with ETL. He also has a newsletter called Healthy Times Newsletter that has well-researched articles on nutrition by him and other doctors. In fact, I think that's how I discovered Dr. Fuhrman. When I was still breastfeeding my youngest son, a friend of mine sent me a huge stack of those newsletters passed along to her from her mom. I read them whenever I could and learned more about nutrition in those minutes set aside than I ever had before. Dr. Fuhrman's forum is not free. He has a Member Center that gives you access to his newsletter and archives on-line as well as an e-book of ETL. It also includes access to his forum, where you can talk to other members and ask him any question you want in the Ask the Doctor section. He answered one of mine within days, so I know it's pretty active.
FIRM Ya-Yas -- firmbelivers.yuku.com This website was started by a bunch of women who used to be on the FIRM (as in The FIRM workout videos) website forum years ago. The FIRM was started by two sisters (Anna and Cynthia Benson) in North Carolina many years ago. They produced videos for women using weights with cardio (which was revolutionary at that time) and were quite successful with their first 6 volumes. I guess I could do a whole post about the FIRM, so I'll save the rest for later. But after making probably 30+ videos, they ran into financial trouble and sold their company to Goodtimes. GT changed the format of their video productions (no more mansion sets, not quite the formality in instructors, not nearly as good of music) and changed how the marketing too. They started charging for their forum, which had a good following. Many, if not most, of the forum members decided to just start their own forum on ezboard.
There were 2 things that the FIRM forum had to offer that Video Fitness didn't. On VF, it's against the rules to ever talk diet. On the FIRM forum, you could. While VF has a great trade exchange, you can't sell or offer to buy any videos from there. On the FIRM Swap, you could. (The only drawback I've found on the Ya-Ya board is that women seem to argue more there. It's not moderated as strictly as VF, which somehow contributes to more fighting, especially in Open Chatter. -- I mainly use the Swap and the Check-ins).
So all the women (maybe a few men) went to ezboard and resumed. They asked for ideas on the name and someone (I think it was my friend Fitdoc) suggested FIRM Ya-Yas since that Ya-Ya Sisterhood movie had just come out. That was the one chosen. The link was always hard for people to remember because the person who started it called it firmbelivers (typo of no "e") instead of firmbelievers (a commonly used word for FIRM video users). Last year, they transfered from ezboard to Yuku and it's a bit different look, but basically the same. And ever since it broke away from the FIRM, it became not as FIRM-ish -- the "firm" name was used more to describe Fit women instead of mainly FIRM video users. Whew! That was a long explanation! :)
Swap-a-DVD: swapadvd.com I don't know if you've ever heard of bookswap or swapacd.com, but they were started before this website to help people exchange paperback books or cds. I heard about this dvd swap on VF and just love it. It's easier to use than the VF exchange because you don't have to write and offer a trade to anyone or write up the address or anything. You just list the dvds you have to trade into the computer by bar code. If someone has requested it, you get an e-mail, say you'll mail it within 2 days and are given a print out for the recipient as well as a mailing label. It's that simple. Then you get credits for each dvd received and can choose from what's available on the website (or put in a request on the Wish List and they'll send you an e-mail when it's available). Pretty fun.
Video Fitness: videofitness.com is the most comprehensive site I know of dedicated to fitness videos. The features I use most are the Video Reviews and Reader Forum. The reviews can be accessed from the home page either by instructor or by category. You can also access the New Reviews page from the top of the category page. It has the reviews that have recently been submitted, but have not yet been put into the system. The best way to find those is to use Control-F to find a review you're seeking.
The Reader Forum (or VF Forum) is the place for Video Fitness Members to come and discuss anything fitness related. There are a few restrictions for discussion. You're not allowed to discuss dieting or anything not fitness related (politics/religion/entertainment). You're also not supposed to talk about fitness instructor's bodies, criticizing them, evaluating, etc. This keeps the topics more elevated and less gossipy, demeaning, or argumentative (as many forums can be).
I really love the VF forum. I've been an active VFer (or vidiot as many like to call themselves) for several years. I mostly like to participate in the General Discussion topics, be a part of the Challenges and Check-ins, find or announce a good bargain on Bargain Watch, or find the Index to DVD Chaptering in the section that is too long for me to ever remember -- it starts with Combinations. :) I also love to frequent the Video Exchange. In the olden days, this used to only be available through an e-mail digest, which I'd read through to see what everyone had to offer every day. Now it's set up just like the forum and I can see from the titles if someone is offering or looking for something I want or have. I've had numerous successful trades on VF. I've also received or given away free items with just a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope). People are really generous and it's fun to find something that you've wanted for free at times.
I've met many friends through VF. I've arranged and attended gatherings in Salt Lake City, Utah and in San Francisco with women I've met on VF. The first time we met for lunch in Salt Lake, there were over a dozen of us and we talked so much that the waiters and waitresses just stood there, yes, waiting for us to stop. We finally realized what was happening and took a break to order. Great fun to find friends who share the same passion for home fitness.