I love going to the gym. I really do. I love the elliptical, and saunas, and steam rooms are pure bliss on Earth. I can spend HOURS there. But there are two problems with the gym.
One is that, it’s all about convenience. When I’m on a cruise, I don’t gain weight from the food. I lose weight, because there is a gym within walking distance. When I worked in the city, I went to Synergy every single lunch hour, because it was right next door. If I have to drive to get to a gym, my motivation is way less, but decent when I’m working a non-conventional job like waitressing. The gym is just LOVELY at 2:45 on a Monday afternoon.
But when working a desk job, it doesn’t happen. Getting up early, being physically stagnant all day, then driving to a gym, fighting for parking, getting in, changing out of “business casual” clothes, not getting the machines I want because they’re all booked, waiting on lines for machines…I don’t even like waiting on lines at stores. Yes, I could suck it up and be hardcore. But it isn’t conducive to my nature, you know? The sustainability just isn’t there. Plus, right now, I don’t even have a car!
For many years, I’ve gotten into workouts, and I’m realizing that the common factor was that I could do them conveniently. Whether it be close gyms, cheerleading practice, or that one summer I ran on my family’s new treadmill like it was my job, my physical success stories have one thing in common: they were conveniently located. And nothing — nothing — has ever been as conveniently located (and fun!) than:
The Exercise Videos Of My Life!
The Sports Illustrated Super Shape-Up Program
You guys, if you think about it, might remember the commercial for these videos. Elle Macpherson is all, “Hi I’m Australian and know how to make you as lovely as me. We’re just going to chill out and stretch.” Then Rachel Hunter comes out: “Now you’re ready for my video: Bawdy Scawlpting.” That was the most intense moment, for me. I thought Rachel Hunter was the coolest, hottest woman out there. How exciting that I not only could I get lovely and Australian like Elle Macpherson, but also sexy and New Zealandy like Rachel?
Then after you finished those two videos, you’d be ready for Cheryl Tiegs and her aerobics. That interested me less. She had no accent and I had no desire to use a jumprope on my carpeted living room floor. Still, who knew what could happen after you graduated from both Elle AND Rachel’s workouts? I needed to know, and ordered them. When I tell you that I woke up at 5 am every day in tenth grade just to stretch and strengthen with Elle MacPherson — in the winter, mind you — I am not exaggerating. It was cool, but as I knew I would, I ended up getting the most use out of the Rachel Hunter tape.
Back before yoga was big, or many had ever heard of Pilates, there was Callanetics. And it sounded great. To me it meant, all you had to do was hold a position and not really even move and you’d become a sculpted goddess without ever breaking a sweat. But when I tried it, I was just bored to tears. Not for me. But I still used it a few times, expecting the magic to kick in any day. Not so much. I’m sure, in retrospect, that it’s a great workout, but way too still for me, especially at 15 or 16.
Cindy Crawford’s Shape Your Body
This was my first real “Grrr go get ‘em!” workout, since I was still too young to join a gym. It was pretty badass! I mean, yes, it was starring a supermodel and shot like a video, but it was all very cool, the sum of it. Cindy Crawford had never done much for me, but this video made me really like her. She seemed down to Earth and cool. Even if it was an act, it was well-done, and that is good enough for me in these cases. Plus, because of the time, you mostly saw Cindy Crawford in tons of makeup. Here she was so natural looking, and it helped give me an appreciation for the decade ahead that was not ‘80s-glitz. Although I look back on it wistfully, body-wise. Crawford referred to a size 6 as her ideal that she didn’t stress over anymore.
And she said flat-out that she doesn’t look good skinny. The time I was exercising to her tape, I think I looked the best. Not because I was younger, or even working out the hardest of my life. But because every single time I did this workout, I got some much-needed perspective on body image, and the real sexiness of strength. Yes, she was a supermodel, but in this video anyway, Crawford’s hotness had everything to do with how strong and healthy she was. That is a good kind of inspiring. It’s sad how much fitness focuses just on losing “fill in the body part,” instead of appreciating what you have and making it better and healthier. Unfortunately, during the video’s peak, all of these horrified reviews came out of it: It’s dangerous! It’s not safe! So they released a new, updated, “safe” video. It was all right, but I like the first one. I found it perfectly safe. And way more effective and enjoyable than the newer one. Conspiracy theories abound!
Jennie Garth’s Body in Progress
Haha, I know, but guys, this was actually a really good workout tape on a couple of levels. It had aerobics, a natural progression, not too hard but it made you work, and a REALLY good stomach section. Years after I stopped doing this video, when I was running a LOT, up to 10 miles at a time, I still did the stomach section of this workout, because at that time, it was the best I knew.
But the coolest thing to me about “Body in Progress” was the end. After the workout itself, Jennie Garth talks to the camera about how much she’s struggled with her weight and body image. And to be fair, yes she was Hollywood, but Hollywood women in the early ‘90s were still allowed to have real bodies, and she seemed very sincere. I really believe she made the video not just for a buck, but also to help younger girls “throw away the bathroom scale” and eat healthy and work out to feel GOOD. It helped me so much at the time, and I think that was really cool.
I didn’t have that much interest in workout videos once I was able to join a gym, but then I saw an infomercial for Winsor Pilates while living alone, late at night. And it just seemed different. Plus, I was happy to see Elizabeth Berkeley up and about and looking non-humiliated after “Showgirls.” So I ordered the videos. And they were GREAT. Best thing I’d ever done for my stomach, hands-down at the time, and SO helpful for the lower back. And the intro tape, you barely feel like you are doing anything at all, yet you see and feel results almost immediately! This series is still going strong, and I recommend it highly.
Billy Blanks Tae-Bo
Y’all know about my deep trauma and psychological torture after the ex left and I moved back home. My whole life felt hazy and nightmarish. But randomly, I found this VHS of Billy Blanks’s Tae-Bo, and so I figured, why not. And DUDE! It was really hard! I could do like, 5-10 minutes. Well I could have done more, but I had very little energy at the time. But just those few minutes a day felt GOOD. They cleared out my head, and were so good for the ass, I can’t even explain it to you. Like nothing I’d done before, or have done since. You’d think I would have re-bought the tape once it went mysteriously missing. But no. Pushing myself to the limit with the video itself? No problem! Motivating myself to re-purchase it? Way too much effort!
*2012 update: Since the writing of this blog, I purchased Billy Blanks’s Boot Camp! Very fun, Billy rocks.
Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease
So I ‘d resisted buying the DVDs, and then talking about the DVDs, ‘cause it’s sort of awkward on the surface. But really, the workouts? Not that sexy. I mean, sexy enough, but not what you might imagine. They’re just choreographed dance workouts. And some of the DVDs are striptease dance moves, yes, but to be honest, they’re not that different than cheerleading. And there is also one that is pure calisthenics and low-impact aerobics that is stellar. My second favorite. And my favorite is also not a striptease workout; it’s the Hip-Hop DVD, and the main reason I’m writing this blog.
Guys, these workouts are amazing. SO, so good. And the striptease dance ones aren’t even hard, but they give really fast results, and just make your body feel so much healthier and flexible, and WAY less sore. But the hip-hop is the best one, IMO. It’s only 20 minutes, and most of that is instruction. But by the end, I’m breathing hard and it just FEELS like I had a great workout; my body can tell. And the hip-hop DVD? Perfect for former cheerleaders, or I’d imagine, anyone who’s done physical performance stuff for fun. It feels a lot more like an extracurricular activity than “Ugh, exercise.” Plus, Carmen Electra just seems like she has the most fun doing this one. Sometimes the other DVDs can get awkward because of the “banter” and “acting.” The hip-hop DVD, she just does her thing and has fun.
*2012 update: After a billion times of doing the three workouts from the basic blue Aerobic Striptease DVD, I realized I didn’t need Carmen’s instruction, or by extension, the DVD music, anymore! My staple routine became I think 9. It is the opening stretch/ballet-esque routine, then routines 2 and 3, each done three times, all in a row. It’s about 25 minutes total, and I do it whilst listening to the dulcet tones of Rob Zombie, and it is awesome. I got into the habit of doing it almost every night in 2011, and the difference it made was remarkable, especially when paired up with the surprisingly easy-to-learn lap dance workout. It even, to bring me full circle, motivated me to renew my Bally membership! Ahhhhhh, steam rooms, how I’ve missed you ❤
So I’ve been in major gym mode, and gotten reacquainted with my old girlfriend, the elliptical machine. Love, love, love. But I know sooner or later, I’ll be back in a workout DVD phase — any recommendations?
How do you like to work out? The gym? If so, what gym and what machines/classes/workouts? If you love home workouts, what kind?
Awesome update! And I note many use of the “guys” phrase here before it got over-abused by other blogs so an ever elusive kudo to you on that one.
My favorite work outs are the ones I did already, but when forced, nothing beats constant movement + music like in biking or rollerblading. Weight lifting also gives great results in little time if done right but is not fun for me by any means, only when over.
I definitely want to try a martial art class and/or get reacquainted with yoga (lest the apocalypse hit) sometime soon. Yoga especially is like this focused boredom/restlessness fitness that makes me want to make better use of my time, not holding a pose all damn morning, and thus more focused later in the day.
Perhaps some tai chi!
A simple and initllegent point, well made. Thanks!
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Hi, I just wanted to let you know, that it seems we are workout twins except for sport illustrated and carmen electra. You made me laugh! 🙂
Thank you so much for reading it!!!
the jennie garth video was amazing. embarrassing to own but it did the job. I lost mine but if you have a copy would love to stream it from you.
It really did! And I only have it on VHS, unfortunately 😥
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