CULTURE: Sweatin' With Richard

A few years ago my friend Brittany Powell told me about what an incredible and fun workout she was getting Disco Sweatin' in her basement with Richard Simmons. I told her I was an avid Jazzerciser, and as we exchanged stories, we realized that the concepts of both our exercise routines were very similar - low-to-high-impact dance workouts in kitschy outfits to top 40 tunes, either of the past or present. Also, they are both workout routines that are easy, fun, and not in a gym filled with uber fitness freaks, which are definite musts for both of us.

The main differences were that Brittany's workout was cheaper (Jazzercise costs around $35 per month) and could be done on her own schedule in her home. WITH RICHARD SIMMONS. Brittany is such a fan of his exercise regime, she has dedicated entire artworks to him. (Below is an image of Gone Sweatin', her 2007 Contac paper installation of a living room, complete with a DVD playing a video of her doing Sweatin' To The Oldies. Gallery patrons were invited to don their headbands and hightops and work out in the space.)

I was sold and ready to give Simmons a try. The local Jazzercise schedule wasn't fitting very well into the rest of my life schedule, anyhow, and the new year was fast approaching, as was our new life living The Compact. It seemed a perfect time to give it a shot.

I went a little nuts on Ebay and searching for all the Richard Simmons workout videos I could find and let me tell you, there are ALOT OF THEM. I settled for Disco Sweat on DVD and the quintessential Sweatin' to the Oldies 1, 2 and 3 on VHS (I'm old school that way; yes, we still use our VCR often). Since then, Lucy found me Dance Your Pants Off at the Deseret Industries thrift store downtown Salt Lake City and Groovin' in the House in another second hand shop for $1-2 each. We moved the coffee table out of our family room, making it the perfect spot for my morning workout routine.

Each video is around 50-60 minutes in length. I usually pick one video and do it all week, changing each week so as not to tire of them too quickly (which hasn't happened yet, and I've been doing them since January). Richard Simmons is a legend in the workout world, and I love his quirky, hyper mannerisms, even first thing in the morning. The routines are a bit jazzy and may be complicated at first for the less coordinated, but if you hang in there you'll catch on and will be able to adjust the intensity of your workout. The oldies music is a hoot, as is the 1980s attire of my "fellow classmates" on the videos. It's also a great way to get your kids into exercise; Lucy loves doing the routines with me and lusts after Simmons' sparkly tanks. The only downsides, thus far, are that only Disco Sweat has an abs/floor routine and there are very few weightlifting routines on any of the programs. I've become such a big fan that I've already planned a visit to workout with Richard, IN PERSON, at Slimmons Studio next time I'm in L.A. and have even checked into his Cruise to Lose. If you're looking for a fun, cheap workout, look for a Richard Simmons video next time you're at the Goodwill or the library. Not motivated to exercise alone? Invite some buddies over, dress in your best disco gear, pull out your TV and DVD player to set up a mini Sweatin' Studio in your garage or backyard, and serve Mimosas and doughnut holes afterwards just to keep it real.