Friday, February 27, 2009

Return of the Living :20 Minute Workout

Last summer, I came across an old VHS tape of one of the :20 Minute Workout episodes at a garage sale. Remember those? The 80's softcore masquerading as fitness videos where thin-but-unshapely women in colorful leotards, puffy hair and neon makeup squatted, swayed, squeezed cleavage and bumped 'n grinded to a soundtrack of synthesizers and electronic beats without breaking a sweat or even breathing heavy? Yeah, those.

Recently, Bobzilla converted the tape to digital. As I was eating my bowl of spicy Pho (thanks to Mrs. Jelly Belly for implanting noodles in the brain), I decided to pop in the disc for a little entertainment.

Ho boy.

It's "low impact" alright.

Not only is the :20 Minute Workout a flawless time capsule, I remain humbled by how Bess Motta's makeup and hair can look so synthetic perfect:

OK, now she's just being smug, as if reaffirming my thought that no way in HELL would I ever look like that when I work out:

But I will take that beyotch up on the challenge and attempt her workout next week. I suspect, though, that the reason I may not be able to finish will have less to do with intensity and more to do with the fact that I'm heaving with laughter. Or that I am uncomfortably exploiting myself in the comfort of my own living room.

Here's what I think is THE quintessential :20 Minute Workout video. Enjoy...and let me know if you can get past the 2:35 mark without losing your composure:

So, while we're on the subject of erotic exercise videos, Bobzilla informed me that Traci Lords even made her own workout tape. And she raps while she does it.

Oh God. It's true:

I was too young to exercise to these videos in the early 80's, so I wonder if women really did work out to these tapes or if they were just a safe way for men and boys to get them into the house without the necessity of plain paper wrapping. All I know is that Andrea Dworkin and Gloria Steinem would most certainly not be amused by the degrading messages they were sending to both genders.

You know, it's probably best that I drive a stake through the heart of this best-forgotten genre, or shoot it in the head or do whatever it is that you do to make sure that the dead stay dead. But I gotta admit there's a guilty pleasure in resurrecting these moldy oldies, if anything else for the chuckle value.

In closing, here's a SNL parody of 80's erotic exercise videos called Body Fuzion. It's so funny it hurts inside (wait for it after a short ad):


The above-photos are screen captures of the video I took from the computer's DVD drive. Bobzilla tried to show me how to convert to video, but I've already forgotten and, in any event, I'd rather leave the copyright gray areas up to the other contributors on YouTube (although fair use and commentary seemingly reign in this context).


  1. Whoa-hohoho....let me catch me breath here! Seriously, could you have crammed any more laughs into this post? You're KILLING me! *haha*

    1. I confess I did not make it all the way through the first video...but I made it far enough to wonder how the HECK Miss Motta hadn't smacked her skull against the ground and toppled over unconscious!! If I were flopping and up and down so rapidly I would definitely injure myself. Sheesh.

    2. I simply couldn't believe my eyes... almost two solid minutes if a woman wearing a skimpy bikini briefs THRUSTING?!? That's supposed to be a workout routine? Holy smokes!!

    3. I'm so glad you included this SNL skit...I saw it when it aired on TV but had forgotten about it. I LOVE IT! Particularly the "low impact" version of the steps. *hahahahahaha*

    4. I'm too young for these too...the earliest workout video I can remember is a Jane Fonda one my Mom held on to. It was a less gratuitous but no less corny. I remember one section in particular was a "ho-down" and instructed us to prance around, using our hands to make pretend "turkey feathers" above our butts. *haha* I thought it was great...but then again I was 5 years old. Thank God fitness has come so far since then!

  2. Those 80's videos were insane! I used to do my mom's Jane Fonda one (just the thought of her thrusting her pelvis in her unitard still makes me queasy), and it was hard as hell too.

    I read later that people jacked their necks up doing that old Jane Fonda one, because the moves weren't safe. Ha!

  3. I don't know whether I should laugh or be horrified... but both came out! I blame videos like these for my lack of aerobic enthusiasm in my younger years. Either that or the forced "jazzercize" workout in grade school. What were we thinking???

  4. my roomate masturbates to old jane fonda vhs tapes.

  5. OMG you just made my morning. seriously.

    i think im going to go buy some aqua net today...

    Kelly Turner

  6. That is totally rad. lol. I can't wait to curl my bangs and tight roll my paints.

  7. I could be wrong, but is Traci Lords posting aerobics videos out of her own living room??? Bwaahahahaa...! Good stuff lady-and you're gorgeous, whatever the size...

  8. i LOVE it! i'm glad you posted the link on myspace. i have become a blog junkie over the winter.
    and p.s. - you look awesome! i'm feeling sort of inspired, as i've gone up over 170 this winter (while i sit around reading blogs and eating little debbie snacks). back on that exercise bike for me!!

    and so sad that I had hair like that and HEARTED my leg warmers immensely.

  10. So what do you think would happen if I showed up at the gym in leotards and leg warmers? Not to mention enough makeup to start my own salon.

    Great links! I'm old enough to remember but I was being a lazy little hoodlum in those days. :)

  11. Haha... I'm in my early 40s and I remember this so well... I was in my early teens and I was a fitness fanatic at the time... I actually did the workout... if done properly it is quite a good aerobic workout.... now don't get me wrong, I am not going to lie and say that the girls on the show didn't get my teenaged hormones going... (I wasn't nearly a big a fan of Beth as I was of Leslie... lol), but the work out did have merit. I am not sure where those of you who say you watched the videos get the idea that the girls did not sweat... I recall clearly they were quite sweaty by the end of the workout.

    From a programming standpoint it was absolute genius... A local Toronto station (City TV) needed cheap programming, so they came up with this along with some other hits, such as MuchMusic. What could be easier... three sexy girls in leotards on a revolving platform exercising for twenty minutes. The show became heavily syndicated around the world and made money hand over fists. It was also censored in many places in the Excited States of America, much to the chagrin of many north of the border. It also spawned a revolution in copy cats around the globe. As they say, imitation is the best flattery.

    I think it is important to put the show in period context. What seems funny and irrelevant now was a cultural phenomenon back then. Just wait twenty years to see how your kids think the things that shaped your life are totally irrelevant... I remember not understanding the 60s beyond thinking it made for cute retro montages....

    In any case, I certainly get a good laugh out of it now as well.... the wonderful thing about our cultural world is that it evolves and changes all the time....

    Cheers and thanks for the memories...