If there were ever a time to wish you lived in the past, this is it. These are dark times, friends. With cities across the globe under lockdown due to the threat of Coronavirus, we’re trapped inside with varying levels of panic and cabin fever.
But you already know that, and you’ve come to us in search of light and lolsy content. We won’t disappoint you! So, without further ado, we present this guide to some extremely iconic though also sort of forgotten retro celebrity workout videos that I reviewed with my gal pal Tiyana Grulovic. The two of us are often separated by coasts – she lives in Los Angeles and I’m in Toronto – though understandably were feeling more isolated than usual. So, we banded together to sweat it out through the interwebs, sending each other videos of things that made us laugh while we worked out, thus temporarily alleviating the pain of our current situation.
These videos, which vary in difficulty and glamour factor, are a reminder that in the not so distant past, celebrities influenced through hourlong VHS tutorials that helped at-home viewers attempt their routines. Each is quarantine-approved, meaning that they can be done from home without equipment (sadly Marky Mark’s extremely panty and sexual weightlifting routine did not qualify). They will also make you cry *happy* tears, which was absolutely necessary right now.
Jane Fonda’s New Workout (Advanced), 1986
Tested by: Randi
I have this tendency of choosing the advanced option for every fitness or dance class, which makes little sense since I am not advanced nor am I pro dancer. But alas, I start the retro celebrity workout videos journey with Jane Fonda’s New Workout, Advanced circa 1986, assuming that no one knew how to work out the past. And for the first five minutes, I am kind of right – the video begins with a series of quickly paced movements that are meant to be stretches but look more like a game of extreme bending one might play with a Barbie. Arms flailing, waist swaying – everything is so extremely fast that it’s hard to tell what the moves accomplish. But things are about to change.
This being Jane’s second round of supremely successful workout videos—she released her first, Jane Fonda’s Workout, in 1982, sold over a million copies and even prompted people to invest in VCRs, a relatively new technology at the time—things get sweaty, bouncy and hella exhausting. I pause the video many times to get water, open my window, check my phone, anything to slow the pace of incessant jumping. My ankles hurt! (It’s worth noting that Jane is 49-years-old in this video and bops around with a luscious head of eighties perm curls without so much as a brief pause.)
As Jane cycles through the aerobic portion, she introduces a woman named Leslie Lilien, who, from the second row, very obviously lip-syncs lyrics that go a little something like, “There’s so much more to you than meets the eye,” while we continue the class. Everyone is yelping at various points, which is fun and flirty. Jane keeps telling us to make sure our pelvis is tucked, which means a lot of pointing at her crotch.
Everything in this video invented the phrase “doing the most.” The moves are fast, the outfits are extra… I love it, but I’m also slightly irritated maybe that I can’t keep up? Or maybe I don’t want to?
Ankle warmer rating: 7/10
Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease, 2003
Tested by: Tiyana
Tramp stamps. Pastel leisurewear from VS PINK. Incessant counting to eight. Welcome, friends, to Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease!
“A Striptease is a dance,” an authoritative, windowsill-perched Carmen says at the beginning of this video, before launching into a 20-minute warmup — “a workout in itself!” — that makes stripping look legitimately boring.
The two subsequent routines—meant to “tone your body like a dancer and definitely spice up your personal life” in a five-six-seveeeeeen-eight—are definitely more dynamic in the movement department, mostly due to hips dips, body rolls, and some slow, sexual walking in circles while self-groping. Admittedly, all of the outfits are fire.
The third routine was probably my favourite, and the most challenging. The floor work — kind of like a feeling-urself low boat pose while opening and closing your legs repeatedly — actually winded me. I have also been self-isolating during a pandemic, so fitness has been shamefully low priority until I did this striptease workout alone, in my home, with no one reaping its benefits except for my butt, which got pretty red from all the slapping.
On that note, the choreography that urges you to put a finger in your mouth is not great Coronavirus protocol, guys. Instead, maybe wave it around your face area sexually and you can still heed Carmen’s advice to “not underestimate a finger in your mouth” while maintaining good hygiene in these trying times.
Workout rating: 4/10 (But like, 11/10 for the outfits.)
Cher Fitness: Hot Dance (1992)
Tested by: Randi
If Cher’s general being is any indication, one can assume that her fitness videos are great. But boy, does the goddess of bod come through in “Hot Dance,” a segment from her second workout video, Body Confidence, released in 1992.
Clad in a supremely sexy sheer black bodysuit with many rhinestones á la the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video, Cher joins choreographer Dorian Sanchez and a bevy of fit babes on a set that feels like Twin Peaks meets the Witches Council on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Together, they run through a few rounds of simple choreography, teaching those of us at home how to pony, double pony and thrust into the air like there’s no tomorrow (is there?) to covers of classics like “Dancin’ in the Street.” (A true queen knows it’s tacky to do a workout class to your own music.) They keep adding to the same routine, and while the choreo never becomes difficult, you get an awesome workout with all the dancing. You also get to stare at Cher for 38 minutes, which made me smile the entire time.
I want to say that Cher is at the height of her gorgeousness in this video, but we all know better: there has never been a peak to her beauty… it begins anew each day.
Fierceness rating: 10/10 (I love this video!)
Alyssa Milano’s Teen Steam Workout, 1988
Tested by: Tiyana
“Steam! Teen Steam. Gotta let it out!” This is the original theme song that Alyssa Milano actually sings in the opening, which quickly serves to establish that we are about to watch a teen blowing off steam in workout video and not something wholly inappropriate. Anyway, the production value here is as insane as the concept.
Our “film” opens in a perfect teenage bedroom complete with a rattan vanity from Pier 1 Imports, a messy chair closet, and a Laura Ashley festooned daybed. This is also the set of the ENTIRE WORKOUT.
Highlight #1: Alyssa’s friends literally apparate into her surprisingly large carpeted bedroom for a warmup that includes some awkward lunged pushups. I hope a trainer was consulted for this?
Highlight #2: There is an instructive fitness rap about 12 mins in.
Highlight #3: Alyssa Milano walks through her bedroom mirror and into a black and white street set that is 84% fog machine. This was actually super fun to watch and dance to, just skip to this part! Also, they play the song again and Alyssa is legitimately an ok dancer.
Difficulty rating: Admittedly I got a bit bored and drank some wine 20 minutes in, then resumed dancing. 6/10. Clearly a 12/10 for establishing theme song clarity.
Paula Abdul’s Get Up and Dance, 1995
Tested by: Randi
I polished off a jar of applesauce before starting this workout (desperate times call for desperate snacking), which in retrospect was a less than ideal considering this one is very hard work. Paula Abdul, legend of early nineties pop, Idol, and hat weaponry, puts her dance prowess into Get Up and Dance, the first of her three subsequent workout videos that she released at the time (a.k.a. the golden era of retro celebrity workout videos).
Paula begins this 20-minute segment by saying that even those with “two left feet” will be able to handle the choreo, but tbh, she is lying. The moves are fast. A crew of aspiring Gap models follows along without missing a beat, though.
The moves in this vid are actually pretty slick, but in the spirit of transparency, I will say that instead of finishing this video, I returned to snacking. You win some you lose some.
Workout rating: 8/10 assuming you actually do it.