The Faddy Faces of Fitness
By Hollie Reina
Over the decades, “fitness” has worn many faces—and too much spandex—in an effort to help people achieve better health. From Jane Fonda workout videos to ThighMaster, and Bowflex to CrossFit, the ways we seek out physical fitness have ranged from the truly ridiculous to the revolutionary.
But one thing that will never change is our unending desire to become the best, healthiest versions of ourselves. John Yohman, exercise expert and CEO of Elevate Fitness in the Kayenta area of Ivins, weighed in on the subject.
“One of my favorites is the fabulously famous ThighMaster, as promoted by the lovely Suzanne Somers. This fitness fad was just so ridiculously funny and entertaining back in the 90s,” Yohman said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite of mine for its functionality, but a favorite for the entertainment value and marketing of the product, as many fitness ‘fads’ are somewhat jokes to fitness professionals.”
I polled several of my friends about what they thought of fitness fads through the decades. Their answers were varied and sometimes ridiculous.
“Ask Richard Simmons,” my aunt, Dee Dewsnup joked.
Joke or not, thousands of people sought weight loss and fitness while “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” with Richard Simmons. The energetic personality of Simmons as an instructor, coupled with catchy music, made exercise seem fun; a concept that several aerobic fitness programs capitalized on, including Jazzercise, Zumba Fitness, and step aerobics.
“Step aerobics is another of my favorites, as this activity (is one) I taught for years in southern California,” Yohman said. “I loved teaching and taking the classes for the fun, motivating music and great cardio workout.”
Our cover features models working out through the decades. Some of these activities have endured through the ages—even if the outfits didn’t. Sports like tennis and basketball, as well as strength training regimens done with weights, have all outlasted the one-hit-wonders of the fad workout world; others have gone the way of the sweatband and high-cut leotard.
Other notable fitness regimens named by my friends were Tae Bo with Billy Blanks and the Shake Weight, a set of dumbbell weights that oscillate and promise you can “shake your way to firm and fabulous arms.”
Yohman attributed the rise of some of the more ridiculous fitness fads to people wanting a quick fix. “Folks always want a quick fix and fall for the false claims on infomercials urging viewers to purchase crazy things that claim to melt your fat away or turn your midsection into a six pack in just eight minutes for ‘just four easy payments of …,’” Yohman lamented. It can be confusing and costly even for people willing to put in the work.
Even among the more widely accepted workout regimens there become subsets and fad-like promises. Take running, for example. Running seems as basic as it gets—just put one foot in front of the other repeatedly—but even running has its fad-like arenas.
Among them are ChiRunning, which bases its principals in the movements of T’ai Chi; and the barefoot running movement, which has several similarities to ChiRunning and promotes returning to a more natural form of movement that doesn’t require the use of spongy, padded running shoes.
The most recent barefoot running movement took off after the wildly popular 2009 book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” written by Christopher McDougall.
In the book, McDougall learns the art of running from a group of Tarahumara Native Americans known for their natural running ability, and the people who ascribe to that same minimalist form of running.
While many of the biomechanics of natural running are scientifically sound, a possibly unforeseen consequence of the book’s popularity was the rise of commercialized “barefoot” shoes that made too many promises to runners who wanted to run naturally, but hadn’t yet mastered the movements with their own body.
Yohman cautioned people wanting to start any exercise regime—whether it be fad or fact—to do sound research first, and to trust their own body. “You can do a lot with your own body,” Yohman encouraged. And isn’t that what it is all about in the end? Doing a lot with and for our bodies?
I don’t know what fitness trends will rise in the coming year, but I do hope that they include moving us all off the couch and in the direction of forever fitness!
Check out our Southern Utah Health & Wellness Directory at www.stghealth.com.