Essay: Can You Feel It? Sweating to the Style of 1982

January 21, 2019

Jane Fonda, photographed by Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Kelly Florio Kasouf is an author, essayist and longtime magazine vet—and, now, a contributing editor at VB. Dive right in to her debut here, an investigative piece on…fitness, then and now.

Funny little fact about me: I love infomercials. Ever since Victoria Jackson was hawking cosmetics with Ali MacGraw and Caruso Molecular Hairsetter was steaming curlers at 6 AM on cable access, I have been hooked. Infomercials were my first foray into fitness at home, too. In high school, when Billy Blanks and Tony Little were the reigning kings of Tae Bo and target training, my friends and I would line up our yoga mats and punch the air in high repetitions like bosses. But, of course, Billy and Tony were not the first to master fitness videos. Thanks to Jane Fonda, exercise programs have been a high-grossing industry—her original exercise tapes alone, starting with 1982's Workout, sold more than 17 million copies.

Today, there are countless new forms of staying fit. Because my athletic capabilities are humorous and because I need someone to tell me what to do in order to stay in shape, I'm familiar with them all. Post-college, it was Tracy Anderson and her Metamorphosis program; post-baby, it was SoulCycle and being sweaty in a candlelit room; post-second baby, it was Bikram yoga, and a move to the burbs led me to Peloton. After looking back at my own fitness history, I wondered, what has really changed since Jane Fonda asked us if we could feel it? Has exercise evolved that much since the 1982? I decided to break out my very best leotard and join the high-waisted greats to see if the plethora of fitness options that have inundated the wellness industry all achieve the same healthy lifestyle goals, or if we really could break a sweat with the classics from the Eighties with equivalent results. — Kelly Florio Kasouf

1. The Full Fonda

I start the week with Jane’s workout, which is broken down into several elements: a warm-up, simple movements for joints and flexibility, and, finally, high-rep target training mixed in with aerobic movements to keep the heart rate up. Jane’s disco vibes, repetition and vocal instructions focus on the correct positioning for each movement, and the kitsch of the video alone is intoxicatingly humorous and simultaneously heartwarming. Although the movements are simple and the class is similar in length to other current programs, I still feel sore after day one. 

2. Fonda Vs. Tracy Anderson

Instead of streaming Tracy’s current classes, I decide to break out the old Metamorphosis DVDs I purchased back when Tracy and Madonna were still a thing. The series targets different body types: Abcentric, Glutecentric, Hipcentric, or Omnicentric. Spoiler: I am Omnicentric, meaning I gain weight everywhere so, basically, I like to the share the wealth. Whereas Jane masters the larger muscles, Tracy keeps the reps high and the weights low, so it targets those tiny muscles you forget you have. And because she changes the workouts every 10 days, those accessory muscles are consistently challenged and never plateau. I find similar movements in both workouts—the good ol’ Rover’s Revenge side leg lifts; the basic Pilates "V"—but the post-Nineties routine takes those simple moves and adds a few extra details to keep it more aerobic, with a higher level of difficulty. 

3. Fonda Vs. Peloton 

Peloton is the evolution of at-home spin classes. After refusing to drive 20 minutes for a 40-minute class with women elbowing for bike seniority, I decide to make my workouts about convenience and allow them to be part of my day—not suck all the time out of my day. Enter Peloton. The at-home bike is just the tip of the ever-glorious iceberg; the Peloton app includes off-the-bike classes, such as boot camp, running, yoga, meditation, and strength training. The music is a game-changer for me—a constant stream of EDM, hip hop, classics and pop—and Peloton instructors hit me up with motivational quips that transcend life outside my workout, something I noticed was not present during Tracy’s DVDs as she was in deep focus per move instead of talking. The off-the-bike movements are simple and approachable, much like Jane’s, but the super-setting of exercises is much more present with Peloton. I am dripping in sweat after each workout.

The Conclusion

After my Jane Fonda experience, the act of getting in workout gear and listening to her upbeat instructions was enjoyable and no longer ironic. It’s not cult-like or intimidating to jump into Jane’s program. Working out her way could be an easy daily achievement, if you follow through. 
Jane made me realize that it’s totally fine to not have the most incredibly tough workout every single day; rather, the act of working out and incorporating simple movements into daily life allows for long-term results. I mean, look at her now—she’s a vision at 81 and is a perfect example of what can be accomplished by following a healthy lifestyle. 
Will I continue my jazzercise life? Probably not, but sprinkling in a few workouts with Jane could be in my future. If anything, I’m waiting for a remix of her collections, with some Migos and Cardi B thrown in to keep it interesting.

Curious to revive Jane Fonda's workouts for yourself? Head over to Amazon—where you can stream her complete series—and share your results with us @veronicabeard and @kellykasouf

Bonus: Read Kelly Florio Kasouf's take on fitness fashion inspiration—starring Eighties workout goddesses Jennifer Beals, Olivia Newton-John, Jamie Lee Curtis and Cher. 

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