'80s Exercise Queen Jane Fonda is back with the re-release of her original workouts
Actress and fitness guru Jane Fonda just celebrated her 77th birthday, and she has a lot to be happy about! The queen of fitness, who released her first exercise video in 1982 (which went on to become the top-selling video of the time), has announced the re-release of her five most popular VHS tapes on DVD and digital download. SHAPE chatted with Fonda to find out why her workouts are still so hot, what keeps her looking and feeling young, and what she wishes she knew 40 years ago.
Shape: Why did you decide to re-release your original workout tapes on DVD?
JF: I cannot tell you the number of people over the years that have written to me. Hundreds of people have lost the VHS, it tore, it ripped, someone borrowed it and didn’t return it, people don’t have VCR players anymore…all kinds of reasons. People say ‘Please, please, please, nothing works for me like your original workouts.’
Shape: What is one of your favorite stories from a fan about how your videos affected their life?
JF: This woman wrote me a letter and said she had been doing my original workout for a while and one morning she was brushing her teeth and looking in the mirror and she saw a muscle in her arm for the first time in her life. It made her feel so powerful that she went to work that day and stood up to her boss. That’s one of the stories that made me realize seeing your body become fit and strong is not just a physical thing, it’s also a psychological thing. It’s very empowering. It’s like saying ‘I’m here. Deal with me!’ That’s one of the things that makes me the happiest about having done this. It’s not what I thought. It’s an unintended byproduct that’s so beautiful.
Shape: Do you think your workouts are still relevant today, given that the fitness industry is so different now than when you entered it?
JF: People are still doing them! People have been doing the original workouts consistently for the past 30 years. It’s wonderful that there are such a variety of things out there now. A lot of them contain many of the elements from my original workouts or were inspired by them. The guy who started Zumba said my workouts inspired him! I think there is something about those early workouts that are so much fun. The music is great, but also the costumes that we wore! The hair! It’s so 80s, it’s so kitschy, it’s hysterical! And the legwarmers… There is a lot of stuff that’s unique and personal and just a whole lot of fun! Fun has a lot to do with it—it makes it palatable.
Shape: You hands-down had the best workout outfits, but now fitness-fashion is totally the norm. What’s your take on this trend towards ‘athleisure’. Love it or hate it?
JF: I love it! I wear my yoga pants unless I have a business lunch or something like that. You put on a nice pair of boots and they just look like dark pants. I like lululemon!
Shape: What are your workouts like these days?
JF: My favorite way to workout now is to walk. Yesterday on my birthday I walked for an hour up and down hills. But other than that, if I’m indoors I get on an elliptical for 10 minutes, then a recumbent bike for 30 minutes, then I’ll get back on the elliptical for 10 final minutes. I don’t do classes because I’m 77 and I’ve had a hip replacement and a knee replacement, lower back surgery, and I have osteoarthritis. So I move slowly and very deliberately. I’m still moving! That is the key. And I knew that imperically, but when I was writing my book about aging called Prime Time, the research I did totally confirmed it. It’s way more important as you get older to keep moving. You don’t have to move as fast, you don’t have to move as far or in the same way—I don’t ski anymore, I don’t run—but keep moving. It makes all the difference in the world.
Shape: Besides working out, do you have any other healthy habits that you credit for helping you look so young?
JF: Yes, I’m careful what I eat; I eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and chicken. I had lamb chops for my birthday and tonight I’m gonna have pork chops! But I stay away from desserts. I try to minimize the carbs and stay away from sugars. And most importantly, I meditate. I started when I was approaching 70. It reduces stress and anxiety and it keeps me centered and grounded.
Shape: What advice would you give your 30 year-old self?
JF: I would have wanted to learn to meditate earlier. I think it would have kept me out of some trouble! I should have tried then, but I didn’t know how to discover and believe in my real self and not try to be what other people wanted me to be. I wrote on my birthday blog that in the last four or five months I’ve felt my confidence beginning to go and so I got back into meditating again—I’d been so busy I stopped—and the minute I started meditating again, everything got better. I wish everyone would do it. I can’t pretend that it’s easy to still your mind; it’s not easy. But it’s like riding a bike. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t and then you can. You have to just keep doing it. Don’t give up; it takes time!
Pre-order the DVDs, out January 6, at janefonda.com.