[29 April 2008]
Nothing could be better than putting on a leotard and some white high tops, turning on your TV and seeing Richard Simmons and his elderly mother doing an opening sketch that encourages his viewers not to make illegal copies of the re-mastered Sweatin’ to the Oldies. This intro to the famed exercise routine of the ‘80s is almost as awe-inspiring as the dance steps themselves. Simmons is wearing a sweater covered in glittery fairies that rivals his usual tank top/short shorts combination, and he sends his aged mother to “jail” while begging his viewers not to partake in illegal activities.
After reeling from the talented acting demonstrated by Simmons and his mother, we are catapulted into a full half-hour of non-stop Sweatin’ to the Oldies, and believe me, you will sweat. His moves may seem a little low energy at first, but you have to keep in mind that this workout was designed for relatively overweight women, the average lady, not physically fit 20-somethings. However, even though I myself am a gym regular, I was sweating profusely by the time Simmons started chanting “WIPE OUT!” and jumping up and down, waving his hands with glee.
Simmons works out to his favorite songs from the oldies, songs that our grandparents love and that we ourselves know by heart despite the fact that we are two generations removed. Part of the workout is trying to sing along to your favorite songs with Simmons while simultaneously “swimming it out” (a step in which you move your arms to the rhythm of the song as if you are enthusiastically trying to save yourself from drowning). Simmons has a few moves that make an appearance in most of the numbers, such as the “head nod” (a constant nodding of your head as if you are in full agreement with how awesome the entire experience is), but most routines are unique and work out different parts of the body. Whether you’re reaching your arms up into the air while stretching your stomach muscles, fake crying to “It’s My Party” (maybe that works out your triceps?), or swinging your hips like crazy to “Peggy Sue”, you can be assured that Simmons has accomplished no easy feat: he has made working out fun for people of all ages, sizes, and for both women and men.
One of the best parts about Sweatin’ to the Oldies is Simmons’ fleet of middle- aged men and women, mostly overweight and always wearing flashy outfits, who follow his steps with such enthusiasm that you are inspired to be just as into it as they are. I dare you to sit still on your couch with this DVD on the TV. Every member of his following is grinning insanely the whole time, nodding their heads assuredly, and most importantly, sweating profusely. My personal favorite is the mysterious man in the purple tank top and mustache: when I’m not watching Simmons, my eyes are on him.
Though Simmons’ could have easily used a soundtrack for this exercise video, he opts to have a live band play behind him and his team. The band is decked out in outfits as decade appropriate as the dancers, and they, too, have their moments to shine. At one point the saxophone player comes down from the stage to dance/play next to Simmons while Simmons dances at him and his saxophone: it’s a kick.
Imagine the best dance party ever, imagine Simmons’ glistening thighs on full display, and imagine yourself as his best friend, dancing and being silly beside him, because that’s how this DVD will make you feel. It seems as though more than anything else, Simmons wants to make Sweatin’ to the Oldies a source of comfort as well as a great workout. He is personable and genuinely seems to care about your health and wellbeing. He wants you to have fun. The entire workout is cardiovascular-oriented, and though you could perhaps get in better shape stepping onto an elliptical machine, would it be nearly as fun as this? No way. Once you dance with Simmons, there’s no going back.