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Madonna’s Addicted to Sweat workout: The sweat is real, the rest is i-Madge-ination

Madonna in concert during her MDNA Tour at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Wednesday September 12, 2012 .

teresa barbieri The Globe and Mail

Madonna is the master of the double entendre. The "Free Pussy" message she wore on her back during the Toronto leg of her MDNA tour, ostensibly in support of jailed Russian punk band Pussy Riot, is only the most recent example. With that in mind, I don't think it's unreasonable to approach the subtitles of her new Addicted to Sweat workout series – all of which include the word "wet" – with a major eye roll. The four-DVD set is available at (motto: harder is better) for $59.99 U.S.

Each DVD includes a warm-up, tutorial, workout and cool-down, all purportedly created by Madonna and led by her personal trainer, Nicole Winhoffer, a no-nonsense type with an enviable collection of sexy exercise wear. There's a dance workout (Get Wet), a towel workout (Slippery When Wet), a second, more advanced dance workout (Wet, Wet, Wild) and a chair workout (Dripping Wet).

I am midway through attempting to master the Electric Slide from disc 1 – whose chain of jumps, hop steps and dive kicks is far too complex to recount here – when my husband walks by and asks the million-dollar question: Where's Madonna? Aside from her image on the DVD cases and menus, she is nowhere to be seen. Or heard: The entire soundtrack is by Tracy Young, an "electric music dynamo" who is Madonna's "go-to DJ."

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Throughout the rest of the workouts I eagerly await the arrival of Her Madgesty.

She does not turn up in the special "bonus performance" on disc 1, where Winhoffer performs all three of that workout's dance routines "just like Madonna." (I don't even attempt to follow along; I just stop and admire Winhoffer's impressive footwork.)

Madge is MIA from disc 2, in which gym towels are used to create resistance in a series of arm exercises, and then as sliders to push legs in and out when we hit the floor in a plank position. These leg moves are perhaps best described as impossible, though Winhoffer unenthusiastically encourages me to "never give up."

Disc 3 is also Madgeless. The second dance workout is even more difficult to keep up with than the first. Flailing about like a complete idiot in my living room, however, is not entirely without merit – I've never laughed so much while working out before.

Thankfully, the final chair workout – a series of dips, kick-backs, step-ups and other strength-training moves that use a chair for support – is easier to follow. True to subtitle, I am indeed very sweaty upon completion, yet there's still no sign of the world's best-selling female recording artist. Is this merely a cash grab from the original Material Girl?

Concerned that there's been some sort of mistake, I e-mail my PR contact to inquire as to Madonna's whereabouts. However, my contact appears to have gone missing as well.

So I decide that it's best to leave Madge out of the equation. I can't help but feel duped by her absence, although that doesn't discount the fact that disc 4 – and to a lesser extent, disc 2 – gave me solid, full-body workouts in the comfort of my living room, with minimal equipment. However, discs 1 and 3 were more entertaining than effective, thanks to the fact that they were much, much too hard for me (insert double entendre here).

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