Exercise TV and Me

From running “Get in Shape Girl” sessions on my front lawn when I was little to working in a gym for years, exercise has always played a large role I my life (for better or for worse, as most of you know.) 

The Warm-Up

In the early years, my basement made the transformation from Barbie wonderland/psych ward to aerobics studio, where at any one time I was doing step aerobics videos with the enthusiasm of a manic ex-cheerleader “turn stepping” for her glory days or getting my Body In Motion with Gilad on the beaches of Hawaii.


Not just a yellow leotard, but a yellow leotard with a belt. Hot!

These daily exercise shows became something I looked forward to, not because I was on a mission to lose weight—far from it—but because I was/am an attention whore and the coordinated routines and music made me feel like I was part of some great off, off, off Broadway performance.

I would sing and Sweat to the Oldies with Richard Simmons or exert my leadership skills by doing the Denise Austin step aerobics tape with the sound off, conducting the class by memory down to the little fake laughs and cheesy sentiments Denise would add in for encouragement.


I’m pretty sure he invented Jazz Hands, no?

Those early days were all about the fun and fitness factor—I loved dancing around and working at something while knowing it was good for me. Plus, I loved being bossy, so it worked out well—pun intended.

Now that I’m older I’ve noticed a couple things about these exercise shows that I hadn’t noticed before:

1. The instructors are a special kind of crazy

Aside from the boundless energy and Day-Glo white teeth, they basically spend the whole show carrying on complete conversations about you—asking questions, reminding you that no one likes saggy arms and shouting out encouragement—all without waiting for or acknowledging your reply.

Plus, they never let the pips in the background get a word in edgewise.

2. The fitness world is a melting pot, and they set out to prove it


I added the captions, of course.

Back in the days of Gilad, it was usually him on the beach with some busty women in thong leotards with a few old people (not in thong leotards) thrown in for good measure. These days, programs are much more politically correct.


If you don’t have three distinctly different looking people doing jumping jacks and push-ups, it obviously means that you hate America and think only white people should be instructed to squeeze and crack a walnut with their ass cheeks.


3. The videos make you feel great no matter what

Because of those one-sided conversations and the instructor’s never-ending faith in your dedication to their instruction, you end up feeling great after the show is done, regardless of whether or not you actually lunge or pretend to jump rope.

You can literally turn the TV show on, sit on the couch with a pizza and still have the instructors tell you you’re looking great, that you’re going to be fit and toned in no time and that you are far superior to those who didn’t just spend 30 minutes jumping around like a Polish pinball.

In other words, if your ass doesn’t get a boost, at least your ego will.

The Cool Down

So even though I’m older now and my fitness interests have evolved a bit, I like knowing that some things never change—namely fitness shows. I can still dance around my living room and act like a manic cheerleader cracked out on spirit all in the name of fitness, much like I did as a precarious spastic youth so many years ago.

The only real difference is that I have a harder time convincing people to participate in my “Get in Shape Girl” sessions on the front lawn these days.

Perhaps I should drop the thong leotard complete with fashionable black belt, but then again, I refuse to compromise my integrity.

This post is in response to this week’s RemembeRED prompt:

“We want you to think about TV show from your past. What feelings does the show evoke? What memories does it trigger?”

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47 responses to “Exercise TV and Me

  1. You earn serious, serious points with me for the Get in Shape Girl reference. I LOVED my Get in Shape Girl stuff :)

  2. My mom and I used to do Body electric together. We were obsessed with it. Now? You couldn’t pay me to do an aerobics class, but my mother is still going strong. Must be a generation thing. “I sing the body electric…”

  3. Richard Simmons? My Lord, girl! Well, in that case you’re forgetting a very, very important one: LITTLE Richard Simmons. http://s125.photobucket.com/albums/p75/thebeaf/?action=view&current=littlerichardsimmons.mp4&

  4. true story: I onced taped (yes this was when vhs’es were still poppin) a Denise Austin workout and no lie some sort of stuffing popped out of her bra. You’d think they would maybe have edited that out but to my glorious enjoyment, they did not. That was half the motivation to even play each each time.

  5. This was a fantastic read! My classmates and I used to have to do Richard Simmons in gym class on occasion.

    Also, I’ve noticed that there has been a distinct move not to have “toned” and “fit” participants in the background of workout videos. The people are shockingly normal! I think it started with the TaeBo thing (Billy Banks, maybe?) but I can’t be sure.

  6. If you’re sitting on your couch watching and eating pizza it doesn’t count BUT if you unroll your yoga mat, sit on it cross legged and eat microwave kettle corn it does. That’s how it works.

    p.s. I always loved Kathy Smith because she was a big girl and her voice was not as annoying as Denise. I still have her step video and remember thinking I could make it on Broadway- my leg extensions were that good.

  7. haha The politically correct one.. OMG, where’s the Asian? “giggles” Where’s the Chubby girl? I have being doing the 30 day shred for 30 days and she is a freak’n brut, I was crying the first day. So I am not intermittently going to do the xiser (sprinting) 10 min x 3 and alternate every other day with Juliann.

  8. I always liked Richard Simmons because he not only included the chubby girl, but the intensely obese man. It made me feel skinny and less likely to die.

  9. I’ve always suspected that I’m missing out by not getting fit. Fitter. Other than health and looking better. When I do go to the gym, I always feel like if I went a bit more there would be something crazy going on that I might get to be a part of. Thanks for blogging about this. You’ve inspired me to try to not have a heart attack.

  10. You are a sick, sick woman. Worse part is now you made me feel guilty for sitting here eating pasta and drinking red wine at 7am instead of exercising. Even though everyone knows wine and pasta is the traditional 4th of July breakfast.

  11. I completely forgot about Body In Motion with Gilad! And Jillian does not make me feel good. I hate her. I still do that stupid DVD but I hate her… “We’re not even halfway finished.” Evil. “If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard enough.” Evil.

    • Ooh, you want evil? I totally forgot my Jackie Warner video review: http://www.kidfreeliving.com/jackie-warner-kicks-my-ass-exercise-tape-review Every other word out of that buff bitch’s mouth is “I feel Awesome. This burn is GOOD. How about you, ya little pudgebucket?? How do YOU feel? Like the little piece of crap that you are??”

      • Nope. The worst thing about Jackie Warner is when she says, “My (insert body part here) are engaged!” WTF? Who talks like that? I actually kind of prefer her to Jillian, but she’s no longer OnDemand so I no longer curse at her, instead opting for yoga and walks where no one yells at me (well, on a good day.)

    • “This will take the place of hours spent lounging at the gym.” How does she know what I do at the gym?
      And “I’m not playing around here, am I?” makes me want to literally throw my weight at her. But yet, I go back…

  12. I have a photo of myself, age 10, wearing flower-patterned leggings, leg-warmers and a bright orange one-piece swimsuit on top of all that with, of course, a scrunchie in my hair. I was totally going for the whole “fitness” look and was very impressed with myself. I only realized years later that I look like a fitness video ho. Thank you for brining up that sweet, sweet memory. I love this post, and think you should totally host a Jazzercise class in your backyard. I bet no other fitness videos have gnomes.

  13. Billy Blanks cracks me up. I remember when his classes got to be big out here. It was nutty.

  14. You are a riot! This was so funny. I especially enjoyed the captions you edited into the photos and the descriptions of the leaders’ encouraging chatter.

  15. Did you ever try the crazy Body Flex system with that botox, frizzy blond instructor? Oh. Em. Eff. Gee. I can’t believe I did that, in a room where my then-husband could actually watch me. Total blackmail material. Too bad he didn’t think to dig out the camcorder.

  16. I still love my “WALK AWAY THE POUNDS” DVDs, mostly because I could just walk, but why not listen to all the HAPPY ENCOURAGEMENT of women who never sweat while I do it. ;)

    love this Abby.

  17. First of all, this is hilarious and clever and so true.
    Secondly, I had almost forgot that in high school I worked out with Gilead all the time. Remember the V step?
    In college my roommates had the TaeBo series. I did them and they kicked my butt and it was so much fun being so ridiculous in our living room.

    • TaeBo makes anyone feel like an idiot, but dammit if I don’t find myself kicking and karate-chopping around my house for the rest of the night.

  18. I can totally relate to this, except I was totally trying to lose weight. I used to do an aerobics show on Lifetime called “It Figures” with Charlene Prickett. I loved her. She seemed so nice, probably because she is Canadian. I think her workouts were just a break even given my summer obsession with fudgesicles (oh my lord, how do you spell that?).

    I still do exercise videos, now DVDs, at home in my basement sometimes.

    Also, Billy Blanks is from my hometown of Erie, PA. We are so, so proud. Or something.

  19. Lol! This is the funniest RemembeRED post I’ve read yet! And you’ve sent me down a memory lane that I never would have thought of to travel! :>

  20. HAHAHA! Love this! I remember sitting on the couch watching Bodies in Motion…could never quite get motivated enough to get my own body in motion, but something about those shows is nearly hypnotic.

    My favorite line in this? “but because I was/am an attention whore and the coordinated routines and music made me feel like I was part of some great off, off, off Broadway performance.” You were living the dream, man! I just think that line and attitude is ALL SORTS of great. Thanks for sharing this, a great and unique response to today’s prompt!

  21. I love your captions!

    I kind of get a charge out of fitness shows too. I remember watching, not doing, the Tae Bo videos. Billy Blanks (is that his name) was just way more entertaining than The Real World. My friends and I would do two minutes of the workout and then sit on the couch and watch the rest (providing commentary of course!).

    I hope you survived to Fourth! No more fireworks for another year ; )

  22. I toned my abs via CherFitness at my friend’s house in high school.

    But I swear that Cindy Crawford’s Shape Your Body tape was the most effective one, ever.

    Though homogenous and ridiculous, at least I didn’t look at old ladies in thongs or listen to Bobby Blanks scream the shizz out of a dance studio in one of his way-too-enthusiastic kicky endeavors.

    • Yes! Cindy Crawford’s tapes were brought up in a private discussion yesterday and I completely forgot about her. It wasn’t really hard core and had more gratuitous leg lift shots and chest close-ups than I would have preferred, but it wasn’t too bad.

  23. Since my experience with yoga studios have bordered on disastrous, I’ve discovered some really great online yoga streaming sites.
    I’ve always wondered how the instructors never lost count of the reps while they’re talking.

  24. Ok if it were really politically correct I want the struggling out of shape girl that looks like me to be on there and make it look easy. Not a bunch of totally thin women or buffed out guys! HA!

  25. I love all the throwback references, thank you so much! I now have the Get in Shape Girl song in my head and visions of Gilad floating through my head. And you know what? I dig it.

    I did Sweating to the Oldies when in middle school and was just wondering what ever happened to Richard Simmons the other day. He always seemed like a genuinely nice person who wanted to help people.

  26. I used to do these, too! Gilad even and his sister’s spinoff show! Also? One of the old people was their mom! True story.

    Loved how you used this as a glimpse into you!

  27. The captions are hilarious!

    There was this hilarious woman named Callan Pickney who invented Callanetics. It was like isometric pulses for every part of the body (and seriously it worked!)- she was about 103 at the time with a body of a 20 yr old. She had a high cut leotard and spoke with a quasi British accent that always confused me. My crazy stepmom turned me on to Callanetics and then a girlfriend half my age in the UK was a huge fan- go figure!

    The leotard with the belt- jeez. I die.

    • Oh good lord. She sounds like a British female version of Jack LaLanne and I kind of want to see it!

      • You get the idea here. For some reason her pseudo- brit accent is mostly awol here- it totally comes and goes. There was almost a little bowm-chickie-bowm-bowm musak in the back too- ah the memories. I think they’ve updated it as I’m sure she’s long gone by now. But what a figure on that old broad eh?

  28. OMG not to hijack your comments section, but listen to the first few minutes of this- I was wrong- she’s not 104, she’s 47 (a year older than me??!?!?!??!?!?! She looks 106?!!!) And her FauxBrit accent comes and goes nicely here. hahahah

  29. BODIES IN MOTION!!! We still have tapes (TAPES) of this at my parents’ house. (And when I say “tapes” I mean “the show taped off of TV,” not something my mother purchased.) I used to do it all the time in 5–10th grade and make my little brother do it with me! I was always jealous of his beach setting. I never realized he was such a popular sensation, judging from the low production value and all…

    Also, the melting pot comment cracked me up. I do a lot of photography for the nonprofit that I work for and I always get so excited when my subjects group themselves into “melting pot” arrangements by themselves so I don’t have to tackily do it for them. There’s nothing worse than having to tell a little girl, “Taylor, we’ll take your picture in a moment! Taveyonna, can you get in this picture with Mariea, Chloe, and Azian? Yes, I know you don’t like them very much, but your…shirts…will look so good together.” Ugh.

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