The undisputed queen of retro workouts. Jane Fonda, for all her sweetness and warm words of encouragement, is an absolute machine. And I, one who so self-assuredly scoffed at the concept of breaking a sweat during this week of retro workouts, was well and truly getting my just-desserts shoved down my throat.
But I loved it. Jane had me hitting areas of my (mostly mid to lower) body I’d never been able to isolate before — and I’ve played soccer for well over a decade. About 40 minutes into the 90 minute video, the workout ends. Apparently all that was the beginner workout, with the remaining 50 minutes the advanced workout. No thanks Jane, my glutes are cramping, and I need a beer. (Unfortunately, this was the only one I couldn’t find on YouTube, but you can rent it on Vimeo here.)
Tuesday: Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies, 1988
Day two and I was already considering dropping the challenge. I can’t work out today, I can’t even sit on the toilet today. My hamstrings, glutes, and all of my side body were a write-off — Jane Fonda had hit areas of my butt I didn’t even know I had. But I pushed on, and my reward was a pretty easy day with Richard Simmons.
What this workout lacked in intensity, it made up for in extravagance. Richard danced around with a smiling entourage of backup dancers of all shapes and sizes — all cheering along with infectious enthusiasm as a live band played absolute classics like Frank Sinatra’s Somewhere Beyond The Sea and Lesley Gore’s It’s My Party. By the end I hadn’t really broken a sweat, but Simmons’ joy stayed with me for the rest of the day. Everything just felt nice.
Wednesday: Aerobics Oz Style, 1982 – 2005
If you were a ‘90s baby growing up in Australia, like I was, Aerobics Oz Style on your television only meant one thing — you woke up too early for Cheez TV. For this reason, as soon as I started this workout, a rush of childhood memories came flooding back. It was wild.
The workout itself though? Nothing to write home about. Once again, I didn’t really work up a sweat, which was perfect actually, as I was still a bit sore from Jane Fonda.
Thursday: Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo, 1998
This is the one I was really looking forward to. Developed by Billy Blanks, a taekwondo practitioner, Tae Bo incorporates martial arts techniques into its total body fitness program. This time I worked up a proper sweat as I flailed about with high kicks and low sweeps, all while trying to keep to Billy’s high tempo and catchy rhythm.
As the video went on, the sequences of moves grew more elaborate, and by the end I had given up trying to emulate what was happening on the screen. My dog seemed to enjoy all my uncoordinated flailing about though.
Friday: Elle Macpherson’s The Body Workout, 1994
US fitness expert Karen Voight developed this circuit training workout for Elle Macpherson after she finished making the film Sirens. “I had put on 20 pounds for the role, and I wanted to lose the weight but still stay strong… without being stuck at the gym the whole time,” explains a young Macpherson at the beginning of the video. Safe to say, Voight nailed the brief — my glutes never stood a chance.
Saturday: Cindy Crawford’s Shape Your Body, 1992
I could barely bend down to pick up my workout mat thanks to Elle, and just when I thought the worst was behind me, in steps Cindy with another leg destroyer. The things I do for journalism.
Sunday: Judi Sheppard Missett’s Jazzercise, 1986
Ending the week on a Jazzercise high was just what my hammies, glutes, and hip area needed. Judi Sheppard Missett didn’t really provide much in terms of a workout — but with her fervent dancing and massive grin, together with the oh-so ‘80s feel of it all, Jazzercise was the loveliest way to end the week.
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