Kathy Smith is sweating—serious, for-real, totally awesome, let's-take-a-meeting, Beverly Hills sweat. Perspiration is running off her gloriously chiseled face, down her elegant neck and onto a skintight leotard that encases, sort of, 130 of the sweetest pounds in Danskinland. Rarely has one woman done so much for saline fluid.
Smith, 32, is working out in the mezzanine of a high-rise office building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, the kingdom of one Bikram Choudhury, who bills himself as—ready for this?—Yogi to the Stars. There are about two dozen men and women stretching and sweating. Choudhury, the founder, president and chief instructor of the Yoga College of India, sits on blue satin cushions at the front of the room and abuses his well-heeled clientele: "You have money! You come to me for pain, you Beverly Heels people! You pay me to hurt you!"
Smith herself is a guru of sorts. She's the creator of two aerobic dance albums, one of which has sold more than 500,000 copies, a fitness book and a video. She has also endorsed a leotard line. That's all we have time for here, other than to say she's one of Chris Evert Lloyd's best friends—and she is fitness in America. Bikram Choudhury, Yogi to the Stars, is fitness in America. So is Bernie Cornfeld, former fugitive financier, late of Investors Overseas, Ltd. and now a chairman of Orthomolecular Nutrition Institute, Inc. He told Forbes magazine that he's on a mission to bring health and fitness to the world. Which invites the question: What's Robert Vesco up to?
Fitness in America is equipment: rowing machines; gravity boots; minitrampolines (called rebounders); indoor Nordic skiing machines; free weights, weights for the hands, ankles, neck, waist, wrist and head; and weights attached to pulleys and cables on dozens of ominous-looking strength-training machines.
December 3, 1984
Fitness in America is high technology: pulse meters; computerized blood-pressure readouts; a stationary bike called a Lifecycle that flashes info on things like maximum oxygen uptake and that retails for $1,995.
Fitness in America is aerobics. Is it ever. Aerobics in the morning, aerobics in the evening. Aerobics before pregnancy, aerobics during pregnancy, aerobics after pregnancy. Aerobics naked and aerobics during sex and even aerobics with clothes on.
Fitness in America is apparel: sexy leotards, leg warmers, head bands and workout shoes. They come in bright colors. Or maybe you like pastels. You got 'em—not to mention stripes, polka dots and circles. There are form-fitting togs to sweat in from Travolta and Baryshnikov, and a whole line of clothes to sweat in for "the fuller-figured woman" from Debbie Reynolds. How on earth did Jack La Lanne ever build all those muscles wearing just basic black?
Fitness in America is videocassettes: Jane Fonda's Workout and her Workout Challenge; Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program; Sandahl Bergman's Body; Thin Thighs in 30 Days; Everyday with Richard Simmons Family Fitness; Yoga Moves with Alan Finger; Marie Osmond: Exercises For Mothers-To-Be; and Shape Up with Arnold [Schwarzenegger] are a few of them. And who can forget Irlene Mandrell weighing in with the song Texercise for fitness freaks of the country-western persuasion.
Fitness in America is home trainers, for example, the relentlessly upbeat Jake Steinfeld, 26, who hauls high-rolling clients like Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Teri Garr and Morgan Fairchild out of bed for personalized workouts. Naturally, Jake bills himself as Trainer to the Stars. Trainer to the No-names is Trish Winner, a 30-year-old Baltimorean who opened a business called Home-Body that sells a 75-minute workout for $35. "I show up at your house, drag you out of bed if I have to, and give you the motivation," says Winner.
Fitness in America is books: bestsellers like Jane Fonda's Workout Book (1.25 million in hardcover and 500,000 in paperback sales for the first nine months of 1984); Victoria Principal's The Body Principal and The Beauty Principal; Linda Evans Beauty & Exercise Book; and Christie Brink-ley's Outdoor Beauty and Fitness Book.
Fitness in America is television and happy-talk TV health ministers like Regis Philbin (Healthstyles), Joanie Greggains (Morning Stretch) and Charlene Prickett (It Figures). And don't forget The Richard Simmons Show and all those sexy girls on Orion's Twenty Minute Workout. Or that late, not-so-great situation comedy, Shapin Up. R.I.P.
Fitness in America is magazines, publications like Shape and New Body that have sprung from nowhere to cover the public's insatiable thirst for fitness information. There are some 23 such publications, according to a recent issue of Marketing & Media Decisions. And have we got a cover billing for you: "Herpes: Exercise May Help." From the National Enquirer? Nope, Fit, July 1983.
In short, fitness in America is a lot of stuff besides fitness. Or, as one market researcher says of the fitness industry, "This is a business with a lot of smoke."
And where a market researcher sees smoke, there's sure to be money. Smart Inc., a market research firm in Wilton, Conn., puts the fitness products industry's sales for 1984 at $900 million-plus, an increase of 33% over '83. That figure doesn't begin to present the whole picture, because it doesn't include sales to institutions such as schools and health clubs; sales of videos and books, which are almost impossible to gauge; and sales of fitness apparel, which according to Jim Spring, president of Smart, is the only area outdistancing product sales. Fitness apparel sales increased by 35% in 1984, to an estimated $500 million.
And the sky, it seems, could be the limit. Just as computer companies sprouted like mushrooms in Silicon Valley in the last decade, dozens of companies specializing in fitness products have suddenly appeared. Most are relatively small, privately owned and extremely secretive about their finances. One exception is Soloflex Inc. in Hillsboro, Ore., a company that sells almost all of its $565 (plus $60 for shipping) iron-pumping machines through TV and magazine ads. Inventor-founder Jerry Wilson and his wife, Marilyn, own 97% of the Soloflex stock, and Wilson is proud to say that his company had $18 million in sales for fiscal '84 and expects that figure to increase to $25 million for '85.
According to Spring, profit margins at the retail level in the various segments of the fitness industry can be as high as 45%. Michael Wolf, a Ph.D in exercise physiology and a kind of self-appointed watchdog of the industry, remembers being amused by an ad for stationary bikes. "It said something like, 'Normally $499, now $449,' " says Wolf. "Well, I know what this model bike costs wholesale and it's about $230 to $260. But for a buyer with the power of a major metropolitan department store it's probably about $200. Still, at a markup of more than 100 percent that store couldn't keep them in stock."
That tells you all you need to know about customer demographics in the fitness industry. You can scan hundreds of product catalogs, mail-order brochures, fitness magazines, books and videos and see nothing but attractive lily-white faces. The industry's promotional and advertising emphasis is heavy on sex and celebs, implying that fitness is nothing less than a lifestyle made up of equal parts workout, trendy equipment and designer clothes. It's all one sweet, sweaty, sexy package that spells fitness chic, great in Beverly Hills or Manhattan's Executive Fitness Center—a sort of high-rise gym for high-powered types—but unknown on 125th Street in Harlem.
Sex and fitness are frequent bedfellows in most of the high-class men's skin magazines, but the fitness industry is hardly ignoring female customers. "The higher-quality, more expensive equipment is being bought by women," says Dave Ellis, national sales manager for Amerec, a Bellevue, Wash. equipment manufacturer. "I am totally surprised by the buying power of the woman in this market," says Irwin Broh, whose Des Plaines, Ill. marketing research firm does surveys for the National Sporting Goods Association. "I always thought women didn't like to sweat. I was wrong."
And there's little sign that the market is peaking. "The industry is coming out with new products to keep people interested," says Bob Carr, editor and co-publisher of Sporting Goods Business magazine. "People are trading up. The fitness people are going into TV advertising." Soloflex spent $1 million to advertise on network television last December and January; recently Nautilus, which is paying $500,000 a week for TV advertising, went on the air with commercials for home machines featuring Terri Jones, wife of Nautilus founder Arthur Jones.
Fitness is moving into corporate life, too. Xerox Corp. in Rochester, N.Y., Tenneco Inc. in Houston and Kimberly-Clark in Neenah, Wis. have all opened multimillion-dollar health and fitness centers for their employees. One branch of the respected Sports Training Institute in New York services only the top 150 executives of Morgan Stanley, a leading investment banking firm. The Campbell Soup Company has acquired a fitness-related firm, poured $1.5 million into an employee fitness center on the grounds of its Camden, N.J. plant and added the "Soup Is Good Food" tag-line to its commercials. It has, in essence, redefined itself in terms of fitness.
Well and good. But fitness in America, like many things in America, is often a triumph of glitter over gain, of schlock over substance and of personality over performance. There's every indication that while the business of fitness has grown by leaps and bounds, the reality of fitness has not. An article by SI's Jerry Kirshenbaum and Robert Sullivan (SI, Feb. 7, '83) concluded that, for all the noise about a fitness boom, young Americans are not as physically fit as they should be, and neither are minority citizens or the poor. The feeble condition of U.S. kids was reconfirmed by a Department of Health and Human Services study released in September.
A recent Louis Harris survey commissioned by Prevention, a health magazine, indicates that increased fitness consciousness even among well-to-do whites is to some degree a sham. Eighty percent of the 1,254 Americans polled said they get regular exercise, but a mere one-third exercise strenuously enough to get the aerobic benefit that's derived only when the heart rate is accelerated into a "training zone" (70% of maximum heart rate) for 20 minutes or more. We need more push-ups, less panache.
As fitness and chicness go skipping down the same path, they become as one, and thus do they become confused for each other. Is it good for me to do it, or do I look good doing it? Who knows? "Cosmetics is 90 percent of what I'm selling," says Soloflex's Jerry Wilson, who has sold about 86,000 machines since 1979. "Why the interest in fitness?" asks Dan Green, president of Simon & Schuster's trade book division, which has published eight fitness books with hardcover sales of more than 100,000 apiece. "Narcissism. It's the focus of the entire explosion. You exercise to be beautiful."
And potentially more serious troubles than narcissism have resulted from unsupervised home fitness regimes or too-little-supervised aerobic exercise and dance programs, ills that are acknowledged even by those who are optimistic about America's fitness.
"There are no statistics on these kinds of fitness-related injuries," says Dr. Allan Ryan, editor of The Physician and Sportsmedicine and an expert in the sports-medicine field for 30 years. "But you hear about them at meetings and such. Everyone in the medical field is talking about them. The big problem is people doing too much too fast. You can see it when you take a group of kids into a weight room. Invariably they'll try right away to lift the heaviest weight possible. Adults aren't much better. These kinds of injuries vary from muscle strain to the collapsing of vertebrae."
Nude Exercise Interlude I: The variety of exercise videos is fascinating. A recent list in Slimmer magazine included: The No-Effort Subliminal Weight Loss Video Tape, Muscle Motion by Chippendale's male erotic dancers, The Joy of Relaxation and Belly Dancing: You Can Do It, The New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program, the...Hmmm, The New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program. A must to look into.
WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?
Fitness products have been available through the mail since the first 98-pound weakling had the first grain of sand kicked into his face, back around 1928. Most of the early products were advertised in comic books and cheap magazines, and most of them were schlock. Today, fitness products are sold in first-class stores and in first-rate magazines through first-rate, expensive, high-gloss ads—and there's still a lot of schlock around, devices known in the industry as "springs-'n'-things."
You can buy, for example, a gizmo that looks for all the world like a plastic teepee and costs about $30. What you can do with this device is stretch your calves, which is something you can do anywhere, even in a plastic teepee. For $29.95 you can also buy "the state-of-the-art jump rope." It's a piece of rope with two padded handles.
One point should be foremost even in a consideration of good products: No one really needs any product to be truly fit. Yes, you're going to need to toss around free weights if you want a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger's, but, no, you don't need them if you aspire to be plain old Arnold Schwartz, a guy who wants only to feel good and fight off the ravages of flab, fatigue and more serious things like heart disease. Push-ups, sit-ups, 'pull-ups, running in place, stretching, all of those activities that generally fall under the heading of "calisthenics," can keep a man, woman or child quite fit if he or she pursues them in a steady, balanced program. The main shortcoming of such a program these days is its lack of chic.
Steinfeld, the Trainer to the Stars, is doing something about that, though. A bare-bones, blood-and-guts program is the very foundation of his Body By Jake empire. Steinfeld's modus operandi is to employ household items in his 30-minute, twice-or thrice-a-week training sessions. Thus, Steinfeld has Spielberg and Ford do military presses with buckets of oranges, arm curls with towels, stretching exercises with broomsticks and push-ups between chairs. Steinfeld even has a hotel-room exercise for the fitness-minded traveler. No, it doesn't involve doing squats with the Gideon Bible or curls with the room service menu, but it does involve push-ups off the bed and resistance exercises using the bathroom sink.
The more honest fitness industry salespeople acknowledge that their highly priced products would be unnecessary if customers followed a solid calisthenics program. "Look, you don't need a rowing machine," says Amerec's Ellis, whose job it is to sell as many rowing machines as possible. "You can do push-ups and get results. But what you do need is motivation. That's what the products provide." Keep that in mind the next time you plunk down a couple of hundred bucks for an exercise contraption of one kind or another. Why not use the motivation of saving all that money to start a basic workout program?
In fact, many fitness contraptions can do more physical harm than good. Most fitness apparatuses are designed for home use with no professional supervision, and carry cursory warnings, if any, about overuse, misuse or use only in conjunction with a doctor's advice. The devices sit there, shimmering and soundless, waiting to be conquered, and often the machine will conquer the buyer before the buyer can conquer the machine.
Nude Exercise Interlude II: We called Slimmer to find out more about The New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program. Not only did the exercise program itself sound quite interesting, but so did the use of the singular noun, "Dancer's." Was it just one dancer? Or did the title refer to a New York dancer in the generic sense? Or was it a misprint? And what about floor burns?
We asked Mary Jane Horton of Slimmer where we could locate the video. "Oh, I must've seen it in a video store in Santa Monica. [That figures.] I'll call you back."
Rowing Machines—According to Spring's figures, rowing machines are the fastest-growing fitness product, having brought in more than $64 million in sales in '83, an incredible 179% increase from '82. The figures are surprising, because rowing is hardly a major American sport; indeed, the U.S. failed to win a gold medal at the '83 World Rowing Championships in Duisburg, West Germany, the last time all the big rowing powers got together.
Actually, rowing is great exercise, excellent for building the upper body and legs and cardiovascularly beneficial if done strenuously enough. Rowing doesn't shock or traumatize the body, either, and when you do it at home you don't have a coxswain hollering at you to stroke harder. One warning: Rowing is not for anyone with a bad back. Another warning: The average purchase price of a rowing machine in '83 was $148.
Stationary Bikes—There's still a little bit of a grandpa stigma attached to stationary bikes, though retail sales are solid. The 1982 figure was $275 million. One problem for the consumer is the vast disparity in the prices of different models. You can pay almost $2,000 to get a bike with a coupled oxygen readout device, and you can pick up a basic model for as little as $89.97. The latter will probably break down on you, but the former is an awful lot of money to pay for staying in one place. You can get a decent one for around $150.
Stationary bike exercise can be good, but it too often requires a high threshold of boredom. "Essentially what you're doing if you sit there, hang onto the handlebars for five minutes and pedal casually, is wasting your time," says Patrick Netter, owner of a Los Angeles fitness store. To benefit from indoor biking, you must maintain your heart rate at a "training zone" pace for at least 20 minutes. One suggestion: Put on a video of the New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program while you pedal. Time will fly.
Weight Equipment—Sales reached about $142 million last year for this group, which includes free weights and products like Heavyhands. According to some market estimates, the seemingly endless line of home strength-training machines produced another $192.5 million. Total Gym, Kong, The Lean Machine, DP-Gympac and Soloflex are but the tip of the iceberg. Talk about your different advertising approaches—Kong used a picture of a gorilla, The Lean Machine grabbed Gayle Sayers as a spokesman, and Soloflex employed a former gymnast named Scott Madsen after he answered its ad for a model. Since then, Madsen has become more famous than Sayers or the gorilla, and he has just completed a book for Simon & Schuster. "I can't imagine what he has to say," says Wilson, who gave Madsen his job.
Consumer watchdogs generally give the nod to Total Gym as the best made of the strength-training machines, but it has been nowhere near as successful as Solo-flex, which, with its $18 million sales figure, is an industry phenomenon. "The common rule is, in direct mail you don't usually get good deals," says Spring. But, counters Wilson, "What I'm doing is cutting out the middleman so I can pass the savings along to my customer."
It's not surprising that there's some difference of opinion about strength-training machines, given the ruckus over the granddaddy of them all, the Nautilus. Whether he acknowledges it or not—and Wilson, for one, freely does—every weight machine inventor owes a debt to Nautilus. The Nautilus company is cloaked in mystery, from the Howard Hughes-like personality of its reclusive founder, Jones, to the hush-hush sales figures, which vary from $40 million to $400 million annually, depending on who's doing the guessing.
Rebounders—A recent issue of Executive Fitness Newsletter, a respected fitness industry publication, stated that rebounders may not add much to aerobic endurance. Reporting the findings of Bryant Stamford, director of the exercise physiology lab at the University of Louisville, the newsletter said that exercising on the trampoline is generally not strenuous enough to raise the heart rate high enough for aerobic benefit. "Misleading," says Harry Sneider, one of many re-bounder advocates in California. "That study made no mention of the addition of weights to the exercising." Sneider and many others insist that the addition of one-, two-and three-pound weights will toughen the exercise enough to achieve aerobic benefit, and he has the testimony of several world-class athletes, high jumper Dwight Stones among them, to back him up.
The trouble is, many cut-rate re-bounders are marketed without any mention of weights or exercise techniques. Without instruction, any man, woman or child could bounce around from now to Judgment Day without achieving one blessed fitness benefit. And any user may sprain his ankle on one of the cut-rate jobs in the process. A good, solid re-bounder should cost about $140, but the average American paid only about $47 in 1983.
A suggestion: Go for the rebounders with a rectangular or square surface, rather than the smaller round surface. "Anything round tends to rotate the foot-bones inward, which will create stress on the skeletal system," says Netter, himself an enthusiastic rebounder advocate.
Gravity Boots and Bars—Long before Flashdance's Jennifer Beals hot-wired the torn sweatshirt industry, Richard Gere propelled the gravity-exercise industry into the American consciousness. Can't you see him now at the beginning of American Gigolo, a lean, sweaty, sexy opossum hanging upside down in his apartment before heading out to meet the next divorcée.
Gravity advocates, particularly the No. 1 guru, Dr. Robert Martin of Gravity Guidance Systems in Pasadena, still extol the benefits of inversion exercise; they say that it can help to strengthen a bad back and aid circulation. Which it can. But many people in the fitness industry are more worried about the risks inherent in using this technique.
Ryan, of The Physician and Sports-medicine: "The problems with these inverted devices are potentially serious ones. The exercises have the tendency to increase the blood pressure very substantially and they could precipitate a stroke. Also, we're finding out that an increase in the intraocular pressure in the internal channels of the eye can precipitate a glaucoma."
A better idea: If you want to snag Debra Winger, as Gere did at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, you don't have to hang upside down. Become governor of Nebraska.
THEY'RE NOT TOO FOND OF FONDA
Whatever squabbles are going on in other aspects of the fitness industry, they're relatively minor compared to the hue and cry in the aerobic dance world. Which is no small world. There were about 22.7 million aerobic dancers in the United States in June 1984, according to a survey by The Sporting Goods Dealer, an industry publication. That's a lot of bending and stretching, and a lot of Caribbean vacations for doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and the makers of Ace bandages.
Check out aerobics action for a few minutes and it's easy to see the essential dilemma—the instructor is generally far better than most of the students. Many average out-of-shape men and women who sign up for aerobics training soon discover that the sizzling pace is simply too difficult to follow. Too many classes take on the aspect of a one-woman Broadway dance revue.
Three things can happen in that situation. One, an aerobics student can respond to the competitive pressure, follow the teacher, derive real aerobic benefit and cop a body like Kathy Smith's. Great. Two, a student can fall behind, get embarrassed and drop out. Not so great. Three, someone can get hurt.
"It's probably the biggest area for fitness-related injuries," says Ryan. "You would not believe how many submissions [to The Physician and Sportsmedicine] we've had about aerobics, reports on injuries to instructors as well as students. One big problem is that a lot of these classes take place in studios with a cement floor with only linoleum tile over it. We've seen a lot of problems with sprained ankles and stress fractures."
An even more severe critic of aerobics is Dr. Hans Kraus (SI, June 15, 1981), who at 79 is still recognized as one of the world's leading practitioners of sports medicine. "The reason most people get hurt is that most of these things, the books and tapes and everything, are done by people who don't know what they are talking about," he says. "There's no warmup, no relaxation, no cool-off. They begin very fast with multirepetition routines. And they have no reverse cycle when a person can limber down. Unless you follow a curve, you're going to expose people to injuries."
The injured have names. One is Roslyn Targ, a New York City literary agent who's in excellent physical shape for her age, which she publicly gives out as "not flaming youth." Targ was a Fonda fanatic, so devoted to the routine that she copied it on her Dictaphone and took it with her on business trips. But over the six months she did the Fonda workout she gradually developed severe pains in her back, the area that many experts say is the most vulnerable.
"I never put two and two together until I heard someone on TV talking about Fonda's video causing back pain," says Targ. "I always thought my pain was maybe job stress or something else. But I only know that when I stopped doing Fonda my back stopped hurting.
"I still work out, but now I modify an exercise to my own capabilities, and if I hurt at all I don't do it. I feel I'm much better off that way. Fonda and others talk about 'go for the burn, go for the burn,' but I now take that with a grain of salt. I really think part of the joy of exercise is lost in all this pressure to feel pain."
This isn't to imply that Fonda's program in particular or aerobic dance and exercise in general are the root of all exercise injuries. Kraus said he first began to notice the aggravated pulls and strains after the publication of the widely used Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plan for Physical Fitness in 1962. Done correctly, aerobics is a great way to get fit. But, like other aspects of the fitness boom, its message is spread by prophets with more marquee value than expertise.
The Body Principal which in 1983 replaced Fonda's book as No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, claims to be a "revolutionary, easy program of isometric exercises." But it proves to be neither revolutionary nor terribly isometric; of the 12 exercises in the book, only three, according to experts, could be considered isometric. The photos of Victoria are great, however.
"Well, no book is perfect," said Simon & Schuster's Green, whose celebrity/fitness deluge continues this year with a book by John Travolta. Green is irritated by the criticism the medical experts aim at the celebrity books. He feels it's based on jealousy and on the fact that doctors' books are, by and large, not selling well. He says books like Principal's "show how to fit exercise into regular life. The message is you can be feminine and beautiful." Gee, wasn't that the recurring theme in the novels of Virginia Woolf?
Medical professionals aren't the only ones who see red when they read the name Jane Fonda. The question of the true origin of Fonda's workout program has engendered a tempest in the aerobics world. The most commonly heard allegation is that Fonda, as well as Richard ("Merv, you look fab-u-lous!") Simmons, lifted most of their routines from Gilda Marx, a well-known dance and exercise advocate in California. Fonda took Marx's classes to get in shape for the movie California Suite—her role required her to wear a bikini—and a year later she opened her own salon, hiring Marx's top instructor, a woman named Leni Cazden. Marx, who's nearly 50 but like most other fitness queens looks at least 10 years younger, hasn't raised a lot of fuss. After all, as vice-president and co-owner—with her husband Robert—of Flexatard, the marketer of the No. 2-selling bodywear line in the world, and the owner of 12 Body Design By Gilda salons, and with her name on a book and, in the spring, a video, she's not exactly struggling.
Fonda declined to be interviewed for this article. A spokesman, Stephen Rivers, said, "There isn't time for her to talk. She's just not doing interviews now, she's too busy." Rivers did allow that she was doing interviews for "specific projects that she's promoting." In her first book, however, Fonda does talk about the source of her exercises and admits, "I did not invent them." She credits a "remarkable woman named Leni Cazden." Nowhere does she mention Marx.
Some of this could be written off as mere Beverly Hills bitchiness, except that Fonda's reputation as an exercise interloper is nationwide. She was once a devoted student of Mike O'Shea, the highly respected founder of the Sports Training Institute in Manhattan, so devoted that two years ago she tape-recorded interviews with many of his STI instructors on their exercise ideas. It's a standing joke around STI to ask O'Shea if he's gotten his royalty check from Fonda yet.
The final word on the Fonda fray belongs to Jacki Sorensen, who is widely considered to be the originator of aerobic dancing. Rather reluctantly, and with a smile, she says, "Well, just when I thought we were making a dent and the public was becoming more aware [of fitness], the big boom came along. The Jane Fonda book. Now, I like to say something positive about everyone, but three to five minutes is just not enough for an aerobic program. And that's all there was in Jane's first tape. Because of that tape, people felt if you jumped up and down for three to five minutes, it was aerobic exercise. If she comes into this field, I feel she has a responsibility. I feel, in many respects, she has let us down." In fairness to Fonda, it should be noted that her "new and improved" workout tape, including a longer aerobic segment, will be on sale next spring.
Nude Exercise Interlude III: Horton called back with the news that it wasn't in Santa Monica, but rather in Home Entertainment Magazine that she saw a mention of the New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program. Home Entertainment sounded like a publication that would carry stories about canasta parties, but, hey, this is the '80s, and nude group exercise is, after all, home entertainment. Judith Morrison, editor at HE, said she had seen a press release on the video but would have to check her files and call us back.
OF EXERCISE AND EVANGELISM
Several years ago the fitness industry was wide open, ready and available for all sorts of pulpiteers to bounce in and seize it by the throat. What was needed was a nimble mind or a nimble body or both, a good idea, a lot of pizzazz and a strong sense of self to help communicate a fitness fervor. Fonda had—and has—all those things. Other kings and queens of pain also are strong in the evangelism category. La Lanne, Simmons, Steinfeld, Smith, Choudhury all speak dithyrambically about what they can do for you. And consider the first sentence in the fitness book written by Irving Dardik and Denis Waitley, the former the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sports Medicine Council: "Prepare yourself. You are about to make a quantum leap to personal excellence." Their book is entitled Breakthrough to Excellence: Quantum Fitness. At times it reads like a guide into another dimension.
The fervor is sometimes just good technique; after all, exercising is not easy and may require a self-described "ass kicker" like Steinfeld or a relentless get-after-it nagger like Fonda. In other cases the evangelism is the result of an "I found it" conversion, similar, perhaps, to Saint Paul's experience along the road to Damascus. Simmons, for one, loves to talk about his days as a 268-pound fat man and his discovery of the magic elixir of exercise; one of his nicknames is The Weight Saint.
So, where to go if you're looking for a cooler approach? What if the exhortations are getting too intense, and the side issues, like clothes and machines, are getting too confusing?
Just remember, first of all, that some people at the very epicenter of the fitness movement know what you're going through. Unconsciously or not, they even define themselves in contrast to the fitness evangelists. "Jacki isn't an evangelist or a guru," her husband, Neil Sorensen, is quick to say. "I'm not a physical fitness preacher," says O'Shea. "I don't want to 'testify' about fitness."
Next you might consider these words by O'Shea: "What's your first priority? Are you happy with the way you feel?" Maybe you feel good or your job keeps you in shape and you have no desire to use a home gym as a way of getting on the sexual scoreboard. Fine.
Out-of-shape and overweight people generally know who they are, and they should do something about it. But not by running out and buying a book, a leotard or some contraption that would have turned Torquemada green with envy. Start with a visit to a medical doctor who can home in on your specific trouble areas and limitations. If your regular physician has no interest in fitness—and many of them don't—you can go to your local sports medicine clinic. There are about 450 of them across the country, and a list of the ones in your area can be obtained from The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 4530 W. 77th St., Minneapolis, Minn. 55435.
If you want to read about fitness before you get started, you don't have to turn to a celebrity. There's only one reason that Fonda's book spent two years on the bestseller list while another Simon & Schuster book published in the same year, The Wilmore Fitness Program by Jack H. Wilmore, a Ph.D., is out of print: name appeal. Name appeal means publishers promote the book, bookstores sell it and we buy it.
If you're already keeping reasonably fit with one specific activity, like jogging or weightlifting, fine. Just keep in mind that you may not be getting fitness balance. Jogging and stationary bicycling can be excellent cardiovascular exercise, but they don't do much for, say, upper-body strength, nor does weightlifting always provide much aerobic benefit. "The body adapts to certain routines," says Smith. "If you do a Fonda-type routine all the time, you're just not getting the benefit unless you increase the workload or use arm weights." Smith suggests varying workouts every month.
In any case, don't do a fitness activity that isn't enjoyable for you. "If you don't like a certain exercise, don't do it," says Jacki Sorensen. "It's like people who jog and can't wait until it's over. Maybe you should only jog two days a week and do something else the rest of the time." And, unless you're young and in outstanding shape or training for the Olympics, be skeptical of the "go for the burn" (Fonda), "no pain, no gain" (Soloflex) and "work to failure" (Nautilus) advice. "If your body's hurting," says L.A. chiropractor Leroy Perry, whose patients include Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, "there's a reason for it."
Don't make a financial investment before you're committed to improving yourself. You can't use your fancy equipment one day and stuff it in the closet the next—and expect to stay fit. Decide what kind of program you want to embark on before you buy all the accoutrements. Or get down on the floor and do some push-ups. Or go outside and do some "power walking" or "power jumping"—moving explosively, often with hand or wrist weights—excellent cardiovascular activities. And you know what? As long as you've got a good pair of shoes, you can wear jeans and a T shirt advertising your favorite brand of beer while you exercise.
Nude Exercise Interlude IV: Morrison called back. It was no use, she couldn't find the press release. "But how about this one?" she said. "Exercise...the Erotic Way to Physical Fitness. I know that's available." Put out by Monterey Home Video, it's billed as "a program for couples with partial nudity in the cool-down period." Ah, to be partially nude and physically fit in America.