Jane Fonda is an icon. Besides winning an Oscar and a couple Golden Globes, this mega star is credited with starting the aerobics fitness craze in the 80s with her cleverly titled Jane Fonda’s Workout Book and following workout VHS tape Jane Fonda’s Workout. Her workout VHS is said, according to our official sources (aka Wikipedia), to have sold more than 17 million copies, making it the most popular home video EVER. Dang. Her tapes were so hot at the time that she’s even credited with actually getting people to buy VCRs, which at the time were new fangled-contraptions, just to do her workouts.
Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never spent any time with Jane outside of the movie Working Nine to Five with Dolly Parton. I knew she was a bit of a political firecracker, one heck of an actress and someone who made the leotard mainstream, but that was about it.
That all has changed now. After doing The Complete Workout & Stress Reduction Program from the Jane Fonda Collection, I feel like Jane has become a part of my life in both a mystical and terrifying way. As a group exercise instructor, I cue like her, correct form like her and even say “feel the burn” like her. Because she defined what an aerobics instructor was and what an aerobics class was, she is a part of me and anyone else teaching group exercise today. Again, both mystical and terrifying.
The Complete Workout & Stress Reduction Program is a re-release of her 1988 and 1989 hits, respectively. The Complete Workout lasts about an hour and includes weights and dance-y aerobics. The second workout, The Stress Reduction Program, lasts about 40 minutes and includes simple aerobics, stretching and a 20-minute guided progressive muscle relaxation. The two workouts are divided up on the DVD menu and provide a nice mix of the holy trinity of fitness: cardio, strength and flexibility.
The workouts don’t start like most DVDs though. After a super old-school Warner Home Video graphic flies at ya, you’re hit with some clay animation that is eerily similar to The Pee-wee Herman Show. In it, a miniature-sized Jane walks around an aerobics studio. She waves and smiles amidst huge towels, shoes, gym bags, a Walkman and dumbbells, which all feature the tape’s cast and crew. It’s the kind of thing—along with parachute pants and acid-washed jeans—that you remember from the 80s but wish that you could forget.
Once you get into the workouts, it’s like 1988 on speed. Jane and every participant except for two dudes in the back are in leotards. Neon green, neon pink, zebra stripes, it’s all there in dated splendor. In the back of the set for The Complete Workout, there’s a woman with huge mall bangs. Her skin is roughly the color of an overly ripened orange, and there’s no doubt that she’d get a “severe” ranking on Go Fug Yourself’s Tanorexia Watch list, along with this fellow retro star. There’s also a woman who doesn’t look a day over 30, yet has short, poofy gray hair that undeniably looks like a wig. It’s almost as if the producer decided that the tape needed an older woman, so they threw a salt-and-peppery wig on a young girl and called it a day.
The Complete Workout
The Complete Workout begins with an easy warm-up and is followed by some great strength training. All you need for the workout is free weights (5 lb, 8 lb ad 10 lb were good for me), a mat and a towel. The moves are pretty basic (bicep curls, lateral raises, push-ups, lunges) but effective, and you work every major muscle group. And although some of the lower-body moves are a bit suggestive (pelvic thrusts and standing butt squeezes), you can’t deny that they are effective. Jane is great at cuing and is extra attentive to form. She also reassures viewers that most women can’t bulk up by lifting heavier weights. Jane may have inspired a fitness movement, but unfortunately that message didn’t get through to 2008 as I still know too many women who are afraid of lifting. Sigh.
Stress Reduction Program
This second workout starts out with 20 minutes of aerobics. The moves are pretty basic and the intensity is low to moderate with a fairly slow pace. When it comes to DVDs, I can get bored easily, and this one wasn’t flashy enough to keep my attention as I kept looking at my DVD player to see how much longer I had to go. Next was a relaxing 20-minute total-body stretch that felt great and included a lot of yoga moves. This section had nice piano music in the background, and Jane cues well, but she also breathes really loudly, which was distracting at first, but after five minutes I got used to it.
This workout ends with a 10-minute progressive muscle relaxation. Getting away from the aerobics studio, Jane is now at a beach house, complete with waves crashing in the background, and is seated next to a man who is laying down. She has him, and you, tense up different muscles in your body and then relax them. The idea is that with practice, you can instantly relax any part of your body. Sounds pretty cool, but I seriously couldn’t focus as my eyes were fixated on this random dude making funny faces and doing weird things. It didn’t help that his clothes were kind of skimpy, and his chest hair was waving at me out of his tank top.
Overall, both workouts provide a fantastic mix of cardio, strength training, flexibility and relaxation, however, it’s definitely a step back in time and the cheese factor was a bit much, even for me. Not to mention that I’m pretty sure that the DVD has a feel-the-burn track, similar to a laugh track on sitcoms. Every time you’d get to the end of a set of curls or lunges, you’d start hearing moans and groans and “oh yeas,” although no one on the set seemed to be talking. It was weird and kind of embarrassing when my neighbor came over and I was watching it.
FBG Rating (Out of 5):
Long-Term Likeability: ★★
Fun Factor: ★★★
Meets Expectations: ★★★★
Fit Bottom line: A total 80s flashback, this one lays the cheese on thick and has some pretty weird quirks to it, but the workout and instruction are solid. —Jenn
Check it out at Amazon! You can buy it new for $8.99 or used starting at $5.20.
Want more 80s reviews? Check out Abs & Buns of Steel and Richard Simmons’ 80s Blast Off. For more on how our ratings are determined (it’s not a science, but we do have some method to our madness), read our review criteria.
Photo grabbed from http://media.photobucket.com/image/jane%20fonda/pink_hippo_lover_2/other/celebs/jane.jpg?o=51.