I was a junior in college when I decided to try a radical form of exercise: 80’s workout videos. I was sitting on my bed thinking about my resolution to work out that year but was still unwilling to go to the gym. Faced with this conundrum, I racked my brain for a gym alternative. It was not long before memories flooded into my mind of times spent working out to old Richard Simmons DVDs.
I had fuzzy recollections of my sisters, my cousin, and me frantically moving to the instructions of a frizzy-haired man in a leotard who was screaming at us through the TV. I remembered how winded from the video I was as a child, and I figured that it would be the perfect means of getting into shape in college.
I excitedly set my laptop up in my room, but after a quick survey of the space I had to work with, I realized that it would not be possible to emulate the workout moves in such small quarters. My college dorm room was the size of a solitary confinement cell, and it was by no means able to accommodate what I could only assume was going to be a life-changing exercise routine. So being a resourceful person, I dragged my desk chair into the small common lounge and set my computer on it.
As an adult watching a Richard Simmons video, I had a few different observations.
First, Richard’s energy level did not seem natural. I have known some enthusiastic people in my life, but none of them have ever come close to having the pizazz of Richard Simmons. After a few moments spent pondering his behavior, I surmised that he must derive his excessive energy from an active lifestyle and cocaine. But since I had neither an active lifestyle nor cocaine to fall back on, I settled for performing a low-energy version of his famed workout.
Next, I pondered whether or not the people in the routine actually wanted to be there. The camera would pan the group of people exercising and show what looked like a mixture of determination and sheer terror. I soon figured that the people were being coerced into being in the video and surmised that it must be an exercise version of the Saw movie franchise.
Lastly, I noticed how difficult this cheesy workout routine was to follow. Unlike the yoga videos I had tried in the past, which showed moves that seemed simple to my untrained eye, I was intimidated by the exercises that Richard was demanding. This led me to wonder if it had been a wise choice to try the video, but I told myself that I must press on in my endeavors.
But it took only a few minutes of me doing my best to emulate the coked-out moves of Richard before I was sweating profusely. And before long, I was red-faced, drenched in sweat, and utterly sick and tired of the exercises. I looked like a person on My 600 Lb. Life who had just been forced to walk for the first time since their bariatric surgery and was ready to call it quits.
Once the pulsating 80’s music from part one faded, I took the opportunity to turn off the video. I had begun the process with blithe confidence that it would be no sweat to follow the lead of an iconic 80’s workout instructor, but I had quickly learned that it was exceptionally challenging. So with a mixture of defeat and exhaustion, I dragged my desk chair and laptop back into my room and figured that it was the last time I’d ever think about Richard Simmons. Turns out, it was not.
Not long after my failed attempt at “dancercising,” I discovered that a guy in my dorm had filmed the entire thing. He found it funny that there was a red-faced dorm-mate dancing to an old workout video in the shared lounge and decided to capture footage of this experience.
I still cringe when I think of the video that features me genuinely living out the words, “Dance as if no one is watching.” So in case you are ever unlucky enough to stumble across the grainy footage of a beet-red student awkwardly responding to the screeching sounds of an exercise instructor, I am sorry. Please know that I now recognize that no one should ever be subjected to the image of an overweight college student dancing to Richard Simmons.