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Too lazy to make the cut in Vancouver? Keep the torch burning with today’s top video games instead.

PITY THE VIDEO GAMER: While the real Winter Olympics blow through only once every four years, every day’s a potential test of human endurance for armchair athletes. For that you can thank game designers and their long-standing fascination with heroic sporting events, which dates back at least two decades to when software publishers such as Epyx and Accolade first wowed crowds with seminal Olympic outings like Summer Games and The Games: Winter Challenge.

But with motion-sensitive “active” titles all the rage today and so few International Olympic Committee–endorsed games that take advantage of the technology, we suddenly woke up and realized: Isn’t it time someone built a better, high-tech pentathlon? After years of in-depth research and development (okay, one too many afternoons on the couch), we’ve devised a way for players to work up a world-class sweat without risking a thumb to frostbite this season.

FIGURE SCRUNCHING
Begin warming up with a few simple stretches courtesy of EA Sports Active: More Workouts (Nintendo Wii, $40), followed by a gut-churning round of lunges, leaps, and curls. Chase that with grueling abdominal exercises designed to tighten your postholiday gut. Disheartened? Fret not: The virtual trainer’s resistance band and strap-on leg pouch provide essential preparation for the trials ahead, if only by steeling your will to the fact that you’ll soon look like a third-rate Richard Simmons.

NERDIC COMBINED
Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2010(Nintendo DS/Wii, $30/$40), featuring the celebrity fitness coach, gives you plenty of incentive to stay on task in stage two. (You’re marooned on an island with her virtual double, who shrieks like a banshee until you cave.) Your challenge here: to build stamina by alternating jumping jacks, thigh-searing kicks, and pelvic thrusts. Afterward, boost your strength by performing side planks until you remember why you left that Wii Balance Board collecting dust for months.

FREESTYLE SHRIEKING
The next mission is to improve your breathing technique via a marathon karaoke session. Fire up Guitar Hero: Van Halen (PlayStation 2/PlayStation 3/Wii/Xbox 360, $40 to $60) and see if you can wail for 10 back-to-back arena-rock anthems. As a cooldown, switch to guitar or bass and hold the game’s instrument controllers no lower than your love handles for 15 bicep-burning minutes. Feel free to showboat here — spectators love it. One exercise we don’t recommend, however: attempting splits along with Diamond Dave.

SPEED SKATING
So your throat’s raw and your triceps feel like they’ve been dunked in hydrochloric acid. Time to work on those legs with Tony Hawk: Ride (PS3/Wii/Xbox 360, $120). The more you twist, turn, and crouch atop the full-size skateboard controller (working your quads and hamstrings all the while), the crazier the on-screen rail grinds get and the higher you’ll fl y off errant half-pipes. No need to get fancy — just see if your uncoordinated frame can stay upright, let alone execute half the tricks, for more than a matter of seconds.

DE LUGE
Finally, behold the trickiest stage of all — surviving the onslaught of stimuli that the retro-futuristic Western Red Steel 2 (Wii, $50) hurls your way. To earn your medal, choose “Ninja mode” and watch the assailants fl y. Gesture-tracking controls demand that you incessantly jab buttons and mimic sword swipes to succeed. Victory will be hard-won and will likely come with a case of carpal tunnel, but your effort will be worth it when you mount the Indoor Games’ winner’s podium (read: your mangy old ottoman) in triumph.


Cool Runnings

Chill like an Olympian with these interactive, official IOC-endorsed offerings.

OFFERING LONG-OVERDUE ATONEMENT for rival 2K Sports’ abysmal Torino 2006, Sega’s Vancouver 2010 (PS3/360, $50) — which boasts a dozen-plus events, from alpine skiing to snowboarding and 500M skating runs — lets you hit the slopes firsthand. Sweet snow effects, online rankings, and reflex-intensive setup aside, the action does grow repetitious quickly.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games (DS/Wii, $35/$50) stands ready to deliver all-ages, lighthearted fun. Try a training run before you tackle any of the wide selection of real-life events as well as a few “dream events.”