Courtesy of VirtualActive

I don't know about you, but I've spent a fair amount of time recently cooped up thanks to rainy or icy weather. Of course, working out indoors isn't half as fun as being out in the fresh air. It has a lot to do with the scenery—toiling on my Spin bike while staring at the wall doesn't stack up to actually zooming down a curvy, tree-lined road. Now Virtual Active is trying to bring the outdoor experience inside with their new line of scenic workout DVDs.

Just pop in one of their 35-minute DVDs while walking or running on your treadmill, or using your elliptical trainer (they’ll soon have biking options, too). While you stride, you “travel” through such awe-inspiring scenic areas as Sequoia National Park, Niagara Falls, and the White Mountains.

You can choose either the "guided" or "basic" version. In the "guided" one, Virtual Active founder John Ford runs along with you (via an on-screen inset box), giving form tips and words of encouragement. In the "basic" version, the suggested RPE (rate of perceived exertion, a 1-to-10 scale on which 1 is snoozing and 10 is gasping for breath) is the only guide you get.

As promised, the scenery is gorgeous and varied. The terrain ranges from flat wooded trails to steep mountain climbs (you adjust speed and resistance to match), from rich greens to sunbaked reds—it's stunning.

The thing is, I never really felt part of it. Was it the jarringly out-of-place techo music? Or the fact that the camera moved so quickly and smoothly that it seemed like one of Spike Lee's signature "walking on a conveyor belt" scenes? Either way, I found myself longing for the sounds and feel of the trail.

Still, rained-on and iced-in beggars can't be choosers. Flaws aside, this is the closest I've come to getting a taste of exercising outdoors while stuck inside.

  • Product: Virtual Active scenic workout DVDs
  • Category: DVDs
  • Pros: The scenery is beautiful and varied, and you'll get a solid cardio workout by adjusting your intensity to match the terrain.
  • Cons: The club-style music and smooth speed of the camera never let you forget you're watching a DVD.
  • Cost: $19.95 per DVD or $89.95 for 5-pack at
  • Extra tip: For the most outdoorsy experience, opt for the "basic" version, hit the mute button, and put on a nature soundtrack.