Now available on DVD & Download
Finally, the re-release of Jane Fonda’s popular VHS workout programs. Re-mastered and available on DVD and Digital Download for the first time, the release includes the Original Jane Fonda Workout, which is the best selling home video of all time, Jane Fonda’s New Workout, Jane Fonda’s Easy Going Workout, Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Workout, and Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout. Now available in a special five-disc box set!
JANE FONDA’S ORIGINAL WORKOUT
This is the Program that started it all! The Original Jane Fonda’s Workout, became the top selling VHS tape of all time. Finally remastered here for DVD use….
JANE FONDA’S NEW WORKOUT
This Program is a followup to the Original Jane Fonda’s Workout, the top selling VHS tape of all time, and offers variety and new movements. A great companion to the Original….
JANE FONDA’S LOW IMPACT WORKOUT
Over the years JANE FONDA’S LOW IMPACT WORKOUT has become one of the most requested programs for DVD release.
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If there’s one thing Jane Fonda believes in, it’s not slowing down.
The 82-year-old actress has starred in an impressive list of movies over the years, but currently, everyone knows her as Grace Hanson in the hit Netflix series Grace and Frankie, which was just renewed for its seventh and final season—making it the longest-running original series on the streaming service.
When it comes to health and fitness, Fonda isn’t calling it quits either. Her workout book and collection of fitness DVDs were a sensation in the 1980s, and while her days of high-intensity aerobics, leotards, and leg warmers are now behind her, the fitness guru still maintains her healthy lifestyle.
Fonda’s health journey hasn’t always been easy, though. She’s been open about her struggles with poor body image and bulimia, which was a battle for her from her teens through her 40s. And just this year, she got candid about her cancer battles. “I’ve had a lot of cancer,” she revealed per E! News. “I was a sun-worshipper.”
Like many other celebrities, Fonda’s faced scrutiny for plastic surgery she’s had done on her jawline and under-eyes, procedures she says were “minimal” but bought her “an additional 10 years of professional work” as an actress. But these days, Fonda is pretty content with being an octogenarian and isn’t letting age hold her back from living her best life.
“I have a fake hip, a fake knee, and I’ve had a number of back surgeries, so I’m sort of half-metal and half-bionic now. I have osteoarthritis and getting in and out of a car is a challenge. But I feel lucky that I did a lot of fitness work earlier in my life because it means I’m stronger now,” she told the Daily Mail in 2016.
Jane Fonda at Cannes Film Festival in May 2018. Getty Images
So what exactly is Fonda doing to stay strong and healthy in her 80s? Here’s everything you need to know, in the star’s words herself.
- For starters, she still works out.
- But she’s adjusted her workouts to be age-appropriate.
- She believes in long-term lifestyle changes, not diets.
- She prefers to keep busy rather than retire.
- She favors natural makeup for mature skin.
- She’s not afraid to address her mental health struggles.
- Her most important lesson for aging gracefully?
- Who Is Jane Fonda?
- Her Fitness Legacy
- Jane Fonda Workout Videos
- 1. Jane Didn’t Do Yoga Pants and Tank Tops
- 2. There Was an Inordinate Amount of Bouncing, Bobbing and Stretching
- 3. Jane Always Looked Flawless
- 4. Everything Seemed a Bit, Well…Staged
- 5. Jane Sometimes Turned the Class Over to Another Instructor
- 6. Jane Was No One-Trick Pony
- 7. Jane’s Routines Were Not as Physically Demanding as Those of Today
For starters, she still works out.
Fonda takes a long walk every day, and she’s become a fan of resistance training, yoga, and cross-country skiing. “I’m never going to stop. The most important thing is to keep moving, to stay active. That’s what I do and that’s how to stay strong,” she told the Daily Mail.
Too many people give up on exercise at a certain point, she says. “The mistake that so many people make is that if they can’t do what they once did, then they don’t do anything. Big mistake,” she said. “We can allow our various infirmities to define us or we can say to ourselves, ‘I want to stay independent as long as possible. I want to be able to sit on the floor and play with my grandchildren. I want to carry at least some of my own luggage and not take 15 minutes to get out of a car.’”
But she’s adjusted her workouts to be age-appropriate.
“There are a lot of things that I can’t do that I used to do. So I do things that are safer when you’re older,” she told Healthy Living. “I walk. I lift lighter weights. I move more slowly. But keep moving. Keeping your body active is absolutely critical. If you’re in a wheelchair, move your arms.”
She believes in long-term lifestyle changes, not diets.
“Most diets focus on weight loss on the scale, and they enforce temporary (and often unhealthy) restrictive behavior. Unfortunately, this scenario sets us up to fail,” Fonda explained in a video for BeFit. Instead, Fonda recommends tossing out the scale (she doesn’t own one herself) and shifting your entire lifestyle to be health-conscious, which includes finding health-minded friends, setting a regular workout routine, starting your day with a nutritious breakfast—and allowing yourself to indulge in a piece of chocolate every once in a while.
She prefers to keep busy rather than retire.
Many people retire by their 60s, but at 82, Fonda isn’t ready to call it quits. “I needed a steady job. It’s hard to be an older actor and be in regular work—people forget this is how we earn our living,” she told the Daily Mail. “I support other people besides myself and I need to bring in money. Plus, it’s fun. I never would have thought that at my age I could say I’ve been working too hard to spend time pampering myself, but I’m happy to say that’s the case.”
She doesn’t take her energy for granted, though. “If you had told me when I was 20 or 30 that I would still be acting at 80 on a show like (Grace and Frankie), I would have said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ I didn’t think I’d live this long,” she recently told Ellen DeGeneres. “Every day I get up and I want to pinch myself. I feel very blessed.”
She favors natural makeup for mature skin.
Time on the big screen comes with lots of glam photoshoots, but Fonda doesn’t pack on the powder. Her long-time makeup artist, Shawnelle Prestidge, told New Beauty that she prefers to use light, buildable foundations that look more natural on mature skin.
“Jane favors the HD varieties, so I use both Makeup Forever Ultra HD Foundation and Lorac POREfection Foundation on her,” Prestidge said. “They glide on quickly and effortlessly to achieve flawless coverage with minimal layering and actual product.”
She’s not afraid to address her mental health struggles.
While Grace and Frankie has its fair share of hilariously awkward scenes, Fonda resonated with some of the more complicated emotions that came with portraying Grace.
“I had a nervous breakdown during the first season, and I discovered it’s because the very first episode our husbands tell us that they are going to leave us after 40 years and marry each other and that triggered abandonment,” Fonda recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. (The actress has been married three times, and her longest marriage was with her second husband of sixteen years, Tom Hayden.)
“It took me a season to come to care for my character,” she revealed. “I had to go back into therapy and start Prozac.”
Her most important lesson for aging gracefully?
Don’t try to be perfect: “It’s a losing battle and you’ll just be unhappy,” Fonda told Healthy Living. “Your anxiety will drive you to do things like eat too much or drink too much or whatever.”
Instead, funnel your energy into introspection and seek meaningful relationships with others. “I meditate for 45 minutes to an hour every day. That keeps me calm and grounded,” she said. “Trying to be intentional about how we live, staying interested, staying curious, paying attention to young people, cultivating young friends—these kinds of things are, I think, important to staying youthful.”
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Jenae Sitzes Editorial Assistant Jenae is the editorial assistant for Prevention.com, where she regularly covers nutrition, beauty, celebrity workouts, and health trends.Fonda in her prime. Photo: Harry Langdon/Getty Images
Unfortunately, as a womyn in the 21st century, you have so many opportunities to exercise. You can do yoga in a sweltering room. You can go to some sort of Tracy Anderson baby-food gym. There is even something called Bloglates on YouTube.com.
Walking around your typical Lululemon objectivist workout space, you would never imagine it hadn’t always been there. It seems as eternal as Stonehenge! But 30 years ago, none of this female fitness infrastructure existed. Whom do we have to thank for it? Why, none other than Jane Fonda, actress, activist, and founder of the Jane Fonda workout.
The Jane Fonda workout was a true phenomenon. In 1979, Jane Fonda started a tremendously popular workout studio in L.A. This later spawned a best-selling fitness book, which eventually sold so well that the New York Times Best Sellers list started a new category for self-help (it was embarrassing that an exercise book was selling more copies than Céline spokesperson Joan Didion, or something). The book inspired a workout home video, which eventually became the best-selling home video of all time (altogether, she sold 17 million copies).
I even have a dim memory of my mother doing a Jane Fonda workout. I say “dim” because I literally only have five memories from childhood and they are mostly of class trips. (In fifth grade, we went to the Museum of Science!)
“Oh yeah,” she told me when I asked if she had ever done “the Jane” (which is how people refer to it, apparently). “I watched it all the time when we lived in Cleveland. Your brother used to roll around on the floor every time I did it.”
“Did I do the workout with you?” I asked, thinking that perhaps my incipient interest in health and wellness had been been awakened in such a moment, like Woody Allen watching his first Ingmar Bergman film.
“You hated moving. You didn’t even like going outside. Remember?”
“Ahh,” I said. I had not remembered that!
With the recent re-release of Jane’s old workouts on DVD, I figured it was time for me to actually try the exercises that started it all. Maybe these tapes actually did make me who I am today, a writer of health and wellness in Nieuw Amsterdam, and I just don’t remember. Also, I still hate going outside, and Jane Fonda is all videos, so that is a plus.
A class in progress. Photo: Ron Galella/Getty Images
The Original Workout
I put on the Original workout DVD one frigid Saturday after a shitty brunch in which I ordered eggs with a side salad by accident (it seemed as if there were going to be hashed-browns but then there were not). I am excited to work out in my kitchen, though. I should have just made eggs here and not gone outside.
In the DVD’s brief introduction, present-day Jane wears a beautiful pink leather jacket (I want it!!!) and explains why the workout was such a success back in the ‘80s. According to Jane, at the time, “most gyms were primarily for men.” Jane raises just the slightest hint of an eyebrow as she says this, because that’s all you have to do when you’re a baller.
Then I have to choose between the beginner and the advanced versions of the workout. Modestly, I start with the beginner.
The workout starts with Jane in a beautiful striped leotard chilling in this dance studio. The music in the background is a blaring saxophone, kind of like a very loud Steely Dan song that has no words and no real tempo or anything. Then, a bunch of athletic-looking dance-types stumble into the studio. There really are so many people. A man in athletic shorts and tights. Another man, in thigh warmers! Also some girls, who all wear leotards resembling swimsuits. No one is wearing shoes.
To be honest, the whole routine is pretty easy. There is a ton of stretching and most of the exercises are kind of like what a broken doll would do if it knew Pilates. The aerobics portion only lasts five minutes. However, almost immediately everyone starts sweating a TON. Jane is drenched. No one’s leotard can keep up with the amount of sweat, which makes me think everyone should be wearing a T-shirt.
One thing is that I kind of like this Steely Dan song. It’s so much better than real Steely Dan songs about Bard College, etc. I do the advanced version of the workout a few days later just so I can hear the song again.
Jane Fonda’s New Workout
A couple of days later, I attempt Jane Fonda’s New workout (a workout that came slightly later in the Fonda chronology, in which everyone wears shoes) and am all of a sudden greeted with the Proustian madeleine of my life: a song that floods me with a remembrance of things past!
After a vibrant stretching session in which everyone starts sweating immediately, Jane introduces a woman named Leslie Lilien. Without any context at all, she is going to take over for the aerobics portion! As Leslie emerges from the scrum of other dancers (one of whom is Peggy Lipton, Rashida Jones’s mom), she starts singing a song called “Do It,” which has lyrics like “There’s so much more / to you than meets the eye / there’s so much / more to you you wanna try.” Jane, from the background, instructs everyone to sing along with Leslie at home so we know we aren’t getting too out of breath during this 15-minute aerobic dance. And guess what? I somehow knew this song before Leslie started singing it! I know every single word, even though it has a million verses. I must have learned it while my mother exercised. It’s the best song, too.
This iteration of the workout is slightly less balletic, and slightly more aerobic. It reminds me of a very anatomically unsophisticated Tracy Anderson regime, with way WAY more sensical directions and ease of use (Tracy’s very into being like, “Now we’re doing this!” and then launching into an insane hopping routine with no explanation).
Later, after doing the slightly longer advanced version of the exercise regime (which has a reprise of “Do It”), I go online and try to find Leslie Lilien. Where is she now?? Unfortunately, I only find the Q&A section of Jane’s website, in which someone asks Jane what happened to Leslie and Jane replies, “Susan, alas I have not kept up with Leslie.”
Jane Fonda’s Prime Time Workout
There is this amazing part in Jane Fonda’s autobiography in which she describes a video she shot where “I had thought it would be funny to have a guy seem to crash the class, just sort of come in late and insert himself into the back row and then act very crazy. To this day people refer to ‘that tape with the crazy guy.’”
What?? That is so funny I am LOLing right now! I hope the Prime Time workout contains this man!
Unfortunately, it does not. The good thing is that (not that you can tell from the accumulated sweat) this is the easiest Jane Fonda workout I could have possibly imagined. I think this workout is for old people. I have a lot of evidence to support that: (1) it’s basically an easy ballet class where you don’t do pliés and use a chair as a bar, (2) there are a million old people in the class, (3) it is called Jane Fonda’s Prime Time workout, (4) the only soundtrack is jazz flute, and (5) there’s this super-old man in sweats in the background who is really bad at all the exercises. At one point he says, “I need a drink!” and Jane yells back, “Herb, you don’t drink!”
Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Workout
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. This video starts with a man, in a flat red cap, blue hammer pants, and a Hawaiian shirt, coming into the dance studio, looking extremely confused. When I see him, my heart skips a beat! Is this the famous video??? MAYBE IT IS.
But is this man “acting crazy”? It’s hard to say. He keeps asking people where he is, because he is confused. No one has any idea. When Jane is ready to start the class, the man strides up to her and says, “Is this a rehearsal or something?” and then Jane responds, “Excuse me, what?” and then they both shrug and he stays in the class. The whole time he’s mildly bad at the exercises, but not even insanely bad or anything. It is a very typical low-impact aerobics workout of the ‘80s school. There’s a lot of grapevining, for example.
Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout
I am sad because this is the last Jane Fonda workout I ever have to do. And what do I even have to look forward to now? A random man has already barged into the workout. I have already experienced my personal Rosebud. Can Jane Fonda still surprise after a week?
Yes! For example, at the start of this workout, a claymation version of Jane pops out of a claymation gym bag. This is only the beginning of the modern special effects that are in this video, however. At one point, Jane Fonda is doing a salsa dance and then, flash bang, Jane Fonda is doing the salsa dance in front of a screen of real salsa dancers. Later, Jane Fonda is doing a little jig and POW! She’s doing a tiny Riverdance in front of Riverdancers in Ireland. I actually remember this video as well because my mom had it too. Perhaps this is the place I learned how to dance? The dances are easy, so it makes sense. The salsa is just step lunges.
Well, my week with the Jane Fonda workout is just about over! I think I’ll miss her. I like her easygoing approach to exercise. Fitness these days has become so stratified and so difficult. Classes like SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp can make someone who already isn’t in good shape feel so self-conscious. Random ballet-style workouts are fun, but usually you have to wear some kind of exposed bra contraption and who can do that?? But the Jane, a combination of cardio and ballet/Pilates, is a workout that everyone can do, in the comfort of their own sweatpants. Even seniors! And a random guy from off the street. And a woman who hates being outside.
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Who Is Jane Fonda?
Outside of being a fitness guru, Jane Fonda is a writer, producer, actress, political activist, and former fashion model. Her father was actor Henry Fonda, who helped give Jane her start as a theatre actress.
From her first film appearance, Jane Fonda just kept rising and rising. Throughout the years, she has gained an incredible amount of recognition. On her shelf sits Academy Awards, Tony Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and BAFTA Awards.
Jane Fonda is also a political activist. She protested against the United States’ occupation of North Vietnam, which got her blacklisted in Hollywood. She also describes herself as a feminist and co-founded the Women’s Media Center – an organisation that helps amplify the voices of women through media.
How Old Is Jane Fonda Now?
The actress is currently 81-years-old and still has no plans of slowing down. She’s currently starring in her self-produced Emmy-nominated show, Grace & Frankie, alongside Lily Tomlin.
Her Fitness Legacy
In the 80s, gyms were mostly dominated by men. This prompted Fonda to create a series of workout lessons to encourage stay-at-home ladies to get into shape. She wrote her first workout manual Jane Fonda’s New Workout in 1981. When it was spotted by Stuart Karl in New York, he contacted Fonda with plans to make a home workout video. This began the empire of Jane Fonda workout DVDs which helped people all over the world lead healthier and more active lives.
Jane Fonda Workout Videos
If you feel like you need a bit of feel-good 80s nostalgia in your life, we’ve compiled a list of the top six Jane Fonda workout videos to help you get fitter, faster!
Jane Fonda’s Original Workout
Considered the holy grail of 80s workout videos, Jane Fonda’s Original Workout is the program that started it all. The workout video contains two parts – a 30-minute program for beginners a 60-minute advanced program. It combines different exercise elements like dance, yoga, and the famous Jane Fonda aerobics. This workout video is a great way to improve and maintain cardiovascular health while having fun.
For only $AUD 14.53 you can get a copy of Jane Fonda’s Original Workout here.
Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Workout
One of Jane Fonda’s most requested programs, Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Workout is perfect for those who don’t want to expend too much energy while working out. The DVD contains a 50-minute routine with easy-to-follow movements that will help improve your metabolism and physical health. It’s perfect for seniors who want to do a quick workout while still being gentle on their joints and muscles.
For only $AUD 15.97 get a copy of Jane Fonda’s Easy Going Workout here.
Jane Fonda: Prime Time Fit & Strong
Jane Fonda turned 72 in 2010 and at that age, you’d think that she’d quit making workout videos. Well, she didn’t! According to Jane Fonda, diet-plans and frequent exercise are the reason why she looks so young. That’s why in 2010 she released Jane Fonda: Prime Time Fit & Strong, this routine contains two 25-minute workouts that are focused on strengthening major muscle groups, burning fat, and improving your posture.
For only $AUD 15.91 get a copy of Jane Fonda: Prime Fit & Strong here.
Jane Fonda AM/PM Yoga
Like most Jane Fonda exercise videos, Jane Fonda AM/PM Yoga comes in two parts. The difference is that this video requires you to exercise during different times of the day. The AM yoga workout is designed to make you energised for the day ahead by working your abs and back. And the PM yoga workout is designed for relaxation and mobility. Jane Fonda AM/PM Yoga is the perfect way to bookend any day!
For only $AUD 11.64 get a copy of Jane Fonda AM/PM Yoga here.
Jane Fonda Prime Time: Trim, Tone, & Flex.
Ready your yoga mats and don’t forget a towel. For those looking for a challenge, then Jane Fonda Prime Time: Trim, Tone, & Flex is the best workout routine for you. The first of the two 25-minute portions is focused on the upper body while the second half is for the lower body. Both workout sessions concentrate on burning calories through cardio, while making sure that all the muscles are toned through weight lifting. Doing this in the morning jump starts your metabolism, which is a surefire way to lose more calories throughout the day.
For only $AUD 9.69 get a copy of Jane Fonda Prime Time: Trim, Tone & Flex here.
Jane Fonda’s workout videos are a global phenomenon and there’s a reason why they’re one of the best selling fitness products out there. Most of her videos average of 4.3 stars on Amazon, which speaks volumes about their efficacy!
If you’re interested in trying out a Jane Fonda workout for yourself, a quick search online will pull up full videos on both Youtube and Vimeo. Ultimately, Jane Fonda’s workout tapes have truly managed to stand the test of time. It’s not just a workout routine, it’s a lifestyle!
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While cleaning out my basement recently, I discovered several of my mother’s 1980s Jane Fonda exercise videos. In a flurry of nostalgia, I dug out my ancient VCR and attempted to hook it up to my television. The clunky black box still worked, but once I put the tape in, the picture only rolled up and down like a blurry The Price Is Right wheel. I tried to adjust the tracking, moving the button from left to right, and for a few minutes even attempted to work out along with staticky Jane, but it just wasn’t working.
I finally gave up on the VCR and turned to some modern-day technology: my laptop. YouTube offered several videos, and after doing a bit of research, I discovered that Jane Fonda videos have been making a bit of a comeback and were even re-released on DVD in early 2015. Apparently, I’m not the only Gen-Xer eager to relive the 1980s fitness craze, or maybe it’s just that we took a look at Jane, now 79, and realized that she obviously did something right, because she still looks fabulous.
Determined to reminisce with Jane, I put on my leotard with matching leg warmers and headband and fired up the video. While feeling the burn with my favorite exercise idol, I realized there were several things I missed back when I first exercised alongside my mother to Jane all those years ago:
1. Jane Didn’t Do Yoga Pants and Tank Tops
Jane wore high-cut, thigh-hugging French leotards. Think Solid Gold dancers, but without the gold. And whether striped, bright, long-sleeved or short, the leotards almost always matched her leg warmers, which matched her headband, which often coordinated with her shoes. In one lower body workout, Jane matched her neon green headband to the fabric in her shirt. I wonder if her videos inspired the term “matchy-matchy.”
2. There Was an Inordinate Amount of Bouncing, Bobbing and Stretching
Jane would narrate her moves as she did them. “Stretch, stretch, reach,” was followed by, “Pull, pull, touch,” and her fellow aerobicizing pals followed her every command. I felt sure they would have known what to do, whether Jane led them or not. Together they operated like a finely tuned exercise machine. Not only did Jane command, she counted—usually to eight. Sometimes she skipped a number, allowing us to silently count in our heads. But we liked it better when Jane counted.
3. Jane Always Looked Flawless
Her makeup stayed put through stretching, aerobics, sweating and cool down. Her backup team remained gorgeous as well, their hair feathered or permed into 1980s workout perfection. Unlike today’s workouts, there were no different body types. Everyone was thin, toned and tanned. Body diversity had no place in ’80s fitness.
4. Everything Seemed a Bit, Well…Staged
From the ’80s pop synthesizer music to the “workout studio,” Jane didn’t exercise in an industrial gym like modern-day workout hero Tony Horton does in P90X or a grimy school gymnasium like exercise icon Shaun T of Insanity fame. No, Jane exercised in a room with a soothing backdrop of walls painted in shades of mauves and taupes. These walls featured sconces and faux art prints of what I can only assume were meant to depict the city of Los Angeles. Jane made exercising look pretty.
5. Jane Sometimes Turned the Class Over to Another Instructor
In one video, Jane greets her in-studio class and her viewers only to, moments later say, “Okay, everyone, I leave you in good hands. I’ll be back to check on you later.” Was Jane being lazy? Was she tired? Did she simply realize that her headband didn’t match her leotard? I never found out the answer. But I was sad to see her go, and had I paid to see the video, as I’m sure many women in the 1980s did, I would have felt a little shorted.
6. Jane Was No One-Trick Pony
She did aerobics, but also did other routines, like yoga, meditation and Latin dance—nothing was off limits for the fitness guru. She also incorporated equipment. Two- to three-pound weights and matching bands often accompanied her workouts. But no matter what type of workout or equipment used, in true Jane fashion, it was always perfectly choreographed.
7. Jane’s Routines Were Not as Physically Demanding as Those of Today
I had to question why Jane and her crew always seemed to sweat so much. I wondered if, like the pristine studio and the well-manicured workout crew, that was another clever trick for the audience. Had Jane really worked up a sweat at all?
After finishing one workout and viewing several others, I decided that, while fun to watch, the Jane Fonda workout series is probably best left in the ’80s. I’ll stick to my modern and thoroughly sweat-inducing routines. But…I might still rock the hot pink leotard.
I’ve never, at any point of my life, been into exercise. As a teenager, I was always coming up with a variety of ludicrous excuses for getting out of PE class. In college, when all my friends became overzealous yogis, I was the one who couldn’t do tree pose without falling over. The only workout clothes in my closet are the same Nike shirts and leggings I’ve owned since I was 16 and they remain in pretty great condition. To make matters worse, a few years ago, after being dragged to an indoor Spin class, I ended up being hospitalized for five days—true story.
Still, I do understand there are enormous health benefits to working out, which is why, every now and then, I go on the lookout for that one exercise class that is finally going to change my life. I’ve tried everything: yoga (too cult-y), Pilates (too expensive), barre (too much shaking), Spinning (see above). Even when I tried going to the gym, I had no idea how any of the treadmill machines worked, and always felt silly pressing buttons randomly while others seemed busy sweating it out.
Then, about a month ago, I went to see Book Club—that feel-good movie about four lifelong friends whose love lives change dramatically after reading 50 Shades of Grey—and throughout it, I could not stop checking out Jane Fonda. The 80-year-old actress had impeccable posture, svelte legs, strong arms—how did a woman several decades older than me look this good? “Didn’t she once have some sort of gym empire?” I thought. Vague images of her in leg warmers suddenly popped up in my mind.
And sure enough, a quick Google search brought me back to 1982, when the Oscar-winning actress released a VHS called Jane Fonda’s Workout, which was based on her exercise book that had, by that point, been firmly planted on The New York Times bestseller list for two years. The tape went on to become one of the most popular of all time—selling more than 17 million copies worldwide. “I think we all did it at some point of our lives,” my mother said when I asked her if she was familiar with it. I found it on Amazon Prime Video priced at $9.99, immediately downloaded it on my laptop, threw on my high school workout clothes, and gave it a shot.
Before things get rolling, a contemporary Fonda shows up (in a millennial pink moto jacket) to give the audience a brief intro on her revolutionary video, explaining that many moons ago, “gyms were predominately for men,” and that she mainly started this video for women to be able to have a quality workout on their own terms in the privacy of their own homes.
Then, before I have time to process just how novel this decades-old personalized formula feels in the age of on-demand workout subscriptions—ClassPass! PopIn! FitReserve!—the video rewinds back to the ’80s. Now, Fonda is 45 and sporting a, well, interesting haircut, a striped and belted leotard, violet leggings, and leg warmers while jumping along to some heavy synth music. “Are you ready to do the workout?” she asks excitedly and a small group of very attractive people in the background cheer. She goes straight into stretches, then a brief aerobics bit to get us warmed up. Then it’s time for arm exercises, which include pulsed circles, turns, and at one point, crouching down and pretending like we’re “pulling weeds”—something, I guess, women did often in 1982? The waist exercises move muscles I forgot existed; the series of ab routines that follow are killer. Without stopping for a breath, we go into hip exercises that left me sore for two days, and finally, some work on the buttocks. She ends the class with a cooldown session that includes a shoulder stand and a long inhale.
Who hasn’t done a Jane Fonda workout at least once in her life? You remember something: The thong leotard; the Reebok step; the song that went “There’s so much…more…to you than meets the eye; there’s so much more in you, you’re gonna try.” The woman is 72 years old, looks amazing—and she’s making new workout DVDs, this time for older women who stopped working out or simply never started. They won’t be out till 2011, but our favorite part about this whole thing is the nostalgia it’s brought up. Fonda wrote on her blog, “I have to laugh when I think of when I did the first ever…still the largest selling home video of all time…17 million copies. We had no budget, no hair stylist or makeup artists. We did it all ourselves. I wrote the script on a ski trip in Calgary on the floor of my hotel room.” The beginning of an era.
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