My Week With ’80s Fitness Legends!

March 29, 2020

I’m thankful to have gym equipment at home, because with the gyms being closed due of the lockdown, I can still have a nice workout. But last week I needed a little motivation, so I gave myself a challenge to workout, all week long, with fitness icons from the ’80s!

The challenge was simple: I had to complete a different and new-to-me workout video every night of the week, Monday through Friday. All the videos had to be from the ’80s and be available, in their entirety, on YouTube.

MONDAY – Richard Simmon’s Dance Your Pants Off: I started my week with my friend Richard. I spent four great years taking Richard’s classes in Beverly Hills, and it was his friendship and support that got me started on my weight loss path.

I’ve done a lot of Richard’s videos, though, so finding a new-to-me one was a bit of a challenge – but then I found Dance Your Pants Off. It’s actually from 1996, but it’s classic Richard, so I’m counting it. It has great songs, a block party feel, and Richard’s style of fun, lively dance aerobics that will keep you moving.

This is the most beginner-friendly video of the bunch, and the most inclusive. There are men and women of various sizes dancing with Richard, including my buddy Helen, a Slimmons friend who taught classes there on the days that Richard didn’t.

There’s some fun, goofy moments, like when the waitress from the diner stops by, and when, during the cool down, it’s revealed that Amanda McBroom, who wrote the Bette Midler song “The Rose,” is there singing along to her hit as everyone stretches.

TUESDAY – Jane Fonda’s Workout: This 1982 classic is the biggest selling VHS tape of all time, and it’s easy to see why: it’s a total body workout, and a great one at that. Vogue called it the “best exercise class out there” in 2018!

Whereas Richard’s videos are aerobics-based, this video is built primarily around toning and stretching all the sections of your body, with a short cardio section at the beginning. You work your arms, waist, abdominals, legs, and butt. You need a mat or towel for the floor work, and that’s it.

Jane is outright mesmerizing to watch, and so ridiculously strong and flexible. And so much ’80s hair! I did the 30-minute routine and just about collapsed afterward. And that’s when I realized I had done the “beginner” workout… and there was an “advanced” workout too! I decided to save that for later in the week.

WEDNESDAY – Jazzercise: By far the most quintessential ’80s video of the bunch. Judi Sheppard Missett, who founded the iconic Jazzercise brand (which is still going strong, by the way, with 3,000 locations worldwide), leads this video, her first, from 1983. There are costume changes for every song, and Lisa is so spirited that she’s practically a Kristen Wiig character on Saturday Night Live: singing along to the music, winking, and encouraging you the whole time.

There’s a lot of aerobics in this one, and plenty of toning in the second half. A lot of the workout requires you to stand in the ballet second position, so there’s lots of plies, which are great for the thighs!

THURSDAY – Denise Austin’s The Complete Workout: Denise is the fitnesses celebrity I knew the least about. But she’s released dozens and dozens of videos over the decades, and had workout shows on cable. I’m not sure if this is her first video, but it’s definitely one of her early ones.

This video, from 1988, made the smallest impression on me, although I must be in the minority because she has a large fan base. It just find it a little generic and unmemorable. Denise is a good teacher, though, and it’s a killer total body workout with lots of toning and strength.

FRIDAY – Jane Fonda’s Workout: I ended the week by circling back to Jane! While the beginner workout I did on Tuesday was 30 minutes, the advanced workout was closer to 50 or 55, and it is definitely difficult.

(Start the video at the 34:20 mark for the advanced workout.)

It’s the entire beginner workout, but in each section they insert a chunk of more advanced moves: tougher leg lifts, sit-ups, and stretches that make Jane look like a contortionist. By this point in the week, I was pretty sore already – I had done three total body workouts back-to-back-to-back, and started the week with Richard’s moves. But I did my best with Jane, modified a couple moves, and got through it.

CHALLENGE COMPLETED! Is there a classic, vintage workout video you think I should try? Let me know in the comments section!

Me and Richard after Monday’s workout.

Keep it up, David!

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