Jane Fonda's Original Workout

When I was young with loads of VHS exercise tapes, I had a small collection hosted by Jane Fonda. Looking back over the years, I thought that I didn't have the original tape, but now I think I did. Some of the characters in this video look familiar.  The tapes I do remember having were Complete Workout and New Workout.  Both of them filled with murderous aerobic sections.

The original workout is not too difficult but it isn't so easy you won't break into a sweat.  This program has two exercise plans one for beginner the next is more advanced.  I complete the beginner program since I'm getting back into aerobic dance.  The beginner regimen lasts about 30 to 35 minutes tops. The aerobic part lasts about 12 to 15 minutes and the rest of it is dedicated to toning exercises.

Is the original video dangerous as the rumors indicate?


However it can be if you follow Jane Fonda's lead.  What do I mean?  Well, if you have a lot of exercise tapes, you will know the exercises in this video.  They won't be new to you.  You will know how to do them.  BUT DON'T COPY FONDA!  I believe Jane Fonda was a double joined, hyper flexible Gumby when she filmed this classic.  Her leg extensions are unbelievable.  That stretching exercise where you bend over and touch the floor with your hands (many can't do it)?  Well Jane goes beyond that, she can practically rest her elbows on the floor, THAT is how flexible she is.  It could be that she is just naturally flexible or more likely, she was a fitness maniac before fitness mania even got started. She is FIT!  Terminator kind of Fit.  And it will be hard to complete this tape without envying her.  But do not copy her lead!

ETA:  There are many stretch positions that Fonda shows locked knees with her legs even looking a bit hyper extended.  Do not lock your knees.  Keep them a little bent.  This will not interfere with the stretch exercises.

So lets go through the alterations you must make to complete this video.

1) Although the aerobic section is not extensive it still nicely revs up the body.  If you are just getting started with an exercise program, don't go full out at first.  Pick one step you like and do it with as much of your strength as you can muster.  But not all of it.  As you gain stamina, you will no longer need to hold back.

2) Arms.  Don't flail the arms around like Fonda and her class suck ups in the front.  You will see the people in the back performing the proper form that won't strain your arms or pull muscles.  Remember small, concentrated movement will give you results.

3) Waist exercises - Don't throw your upper body around like Fonda.  Again, keep the movements small and really concentrate on the stretch.

4) The periodic stretch segments between body exercises.  Only stretch to your best ability.  Do not even try to copy Jane Fonda.  This women can literally tuck her foot behind her ear, her stretch ability is almost a sideshow attraction.  You will most likely never have her ability but don't despair.  You will still be able to stretch out the muscles to stop bulk and relieve soreness.

5)  Legs.  The leg exercises in this program are a shorter version of what is in The Buns of Steel video.  Watch the people in the back line of the video.  They will be completing the exercises in a more doable fashion.  Fonda's legs will be flying around.  Ignore her.  Do what you can do, small concentrated, you WILL feel the burn.

6)  The stomach exercises are commonplace crunches.  Everyone can do them and Fonda doesn't contort them in the way she does the rest of her body.

7) That last stretch in the video is an extreme yoga position called The Plough and it is quite advanced.  But even yoga practitioners question its usefulness.  DON'T DO IT.  DON'T EVEN ATTEMPT IT.  I just think of this section as a pick your own stretch section.  If your legs are sore, do some leg stretches.  Or do some back stretches that Fonda showcased earlier in the program.  Just don't attempt the insanity Fonda shows in the video. Whoever advised her that this stretch belonged in a beginner program was brain dead.

So there you go, use common sense and have fun with Fonda's original exercise program.  You should end the program feeling invigorated not fall flat on your face exhausted.  If you feel cheery afterwards, you have done it right.

Telegram, Arthur Holmwood to Seward. - September 1st

“Am summoned to see my father, who is worse. Am writing. Write me fully by to-night’s post to Ring. Wire me if necessary.”


Letter, Arthur Holmwood to Dr. Seward. - August 31st

Ablemarle Hotel
“My dear Jack,—

“I want you to do me a favour. Lucy is ill; that is, she has no special disease, but she looks awful, and is getting worse every day. I have asked her if there is any cause; I do not dare to ask her mother, for to disturb the poor lady’s mind about her daughter in her present state of health would be fatal. Mrs. Westenra has confided to me that her doom is spoken—disease of the heart—though poor Lucy does not know it yet. I am sure that there is something preying on my dear girl’s mind. I am almost distracted when I think of her; to look at her gives me a pang. I told her I should ask you to see her, and though she demurred at first—I know why, old fellow—she finally consented. It will be a painful task for you, I know, old friend, but it is for her sake, and I must not hesitate to ask, or you to act. You are to come to lunch at Hillingham to-morrow, two o’clock, so as not to arouse any suspicion in Mrs. Westenra, and after lunch Lucy will take an opportunity of being alone with you. I shall come in for tea, and we can go away together; I am filled with anxiety, and want to consult with you alone as soon as I can after you have seen her. Do not fail!



Letter, Lucy Westenra to Mina Harker. August 30th

“My dearest Mina,—

“Oceans of love and millions of kisses, and may you soon be in your own home with your husband. I wish you could be coming home soon enough to stay with us here. The strong air would soon restore Jonathan; it has quite restored me. I have an appetite like a cormorant, am full of life, and sleep well. You will be glad to know that I have quite given up walking in my sleep. I think I have not stirred out of my bed for a week, that is when I once got into it at night. Arthur says I am getting fat. By the way, I forgot to tell you that Arthur is here. We have such walks and drives, and rides, and rowing, and tennis, and fishing together; and I love him more than ever. He tells me that he loves me more, but I doubt that, for at first he told me that he couldn’t love me more than he did then. But this is nonsense. There he is, calling to me. So no more just at present from your loving


“P. S.—Mother sends her love. She seems better, poor dear.

“P. P. S.—We are to be married on 28 September.”


Begin again, from Scratch

As a teen and young adult, I loved going to ballet class.  I even branched out into theater dance in Jack Cole style (one of the big influences on Bob Fosse) and Jazz.  It would have been great to be a professional.  But I had to face the fact that my body just wasn't built for it.  I'm short and broad chested with a small neck.  Not only that I'm long waisted which means my epaulement looked lovely but my legs were horribly stubby.  Oh well.  That didn't stop me from just taking classes for joy and health.

After awhile I stopped going to classes regularly.  I started up again in my 30s but then it petered out again.  I kept telling myself I would go back but only after I lost weight, gained strength etc.  Just excuse after excuse hiding my fear that I had forgotten all that I learned.  Or that I just couldn't dance anymore.  But as the years go by,  I suddenly decided that to keep waiting was folly.  Plus my strength was waning not growing and the time to take advantage of the last of my youth and vitality was now.  So I went back to class.

Luckily the teacher was a laid back and chill.  The class was small since most adult students are away on vacation.  No one was snobby and all were intent on learning about their own bodies.  I remembered as a young one the fight to compete with the one dancer you admired most in class.  The despair that the body was not perfect.  The race to the best mirror that didn't make you look squat.  The hope that the teacher would give you a personal correction or accolade.  But even with that hope there was a struggle for places toward the back of the room when floor work began.   Only the most confident stood in front or the poor saps who weren't quick enough to pick their middle or back room spots.  Being older means none of that matters now.  The envy is gone, the despair is almost gone.  Almost.

I was happy that I remembered.  Everything came back just as if I had taken class the week before not years ago.  Plus my body responded instinctively to the training.  However the struggle to keep form was hard.  My brain had a vision of how I used to look.  The thinner, younger me that had loads of energy.  That image is no more.  So it was confusing for me because my head gave instructions to the limbs but sometimes the limbs just wouldn't respond.  As a young person you can adjust your body quicker but as an older person that isn't the case anymore.  I realized that what took me a few minutes to adjust will now take me a few classes to get back.  My turns were never that secure, but now they are totally gone.  Also the petit allegro work of small jetes, glissades and assembles are much, much harder for me.

So it is going to take awhile to get back into shape.  It is also humbling to see that despite all my regular exercise tape work doesn't amount to a hill of beans in ballet.  I might as well have not been exercising at all.  My body ached all over after class.

What my goal now is to understand process.  How the steps are formed and why the body moves in certain patterns.  These were things that never occurred to me as a young person.  But they matter to me now because I'm interested in the human body, how it adapts, works and moves.  Plus I need to keep in mind my weak knees, so understanding the best placement is paramount.

So now I'm beginning again.

P.S. - I'm sending out love and good wishes to ALL my dance teachers.  Their determination, discipline and attention to detail are why I didn't totally fall on my face in class.  I've had some very good training in the past which I never fully appreciated until now.


Back in Russia

Joy Womack has returned to Russia.  Her audition with Paris Opera was an experience but didn't pan out.  It seems she attempted an audition at LA Ballet Company but nothing came of that either.  She returned to Russia to much hazing by other company dancers. stinks.  It is never to be good to be the bulls eye for bullying.  And yet, I'm not surprised.  By and large, ballet companies consist of teenagers and people in their early 20s.  Full maturity is just not possible at that point in life.  The hormones are churning at that age and emotions are high.  Plus Womack is attracting a lot of attention due to her vlog and ballet prodigy past.  She just pulled the short straw in attracting mass ire.

Still, I can understand the viewpoint of her colleagues.  Womack is a foreigner taking opportunity away from local dancers (at least the Russians now know how Western dancers feel).  Her publicity machine (nowhere near as extensive as Misty Copeland) has had a factor in vaulting her into a senior soloist position in the Kremlin Ballet.  I'm not saying Womack isn't talented.  She has the goods to back it up.  But would she have gotten as far, so fast without the Bolshoi School accolades, subsequent Bolshoi ballet scandal, her successful vlog and willingness to do the show pony circuit?  As much as I like her dancing, I still see that she is rough at the edges.  She needs to get an acting coach.  Sometimes her musicality is a bit off.  However her strength and technique is a wonder to behold.  Which is probably why she is one of the first to be cast in war horse roles.  But I can see how her fellow dancers would resent this attention.  That they would question her fitness to be at the level she is now.

We are long past the age where a dancer by grit, willpower, charm and talent can pull himself/herself from the lowly corps to the big time.  It just doesn't seem to happen anymore. Social Media has changed that, now a dancer has to create a following for himself/herself.  They have to generate ticket sales to justify their place in the company.  It's horrible.  It's unfair.  As much as I don't think Copeland deserves to be a Principal, the fact is she puts backsides in seats.  She calls attention to ABT whether it's good or bad publicity.  It's publicity.  The same with Joy Womack.  She is obviously a draw for Russian ballet fans.  She gets the seats warm with an audience.  Why else would she consistently be cast regularly in large roles?  Ballet companies need to survive.  And if that means relying on show ponies, well they are going to do it.  Even if it hurts the art as a whole.

Before her summer break, Womack was being trained for Odette/Odile.  Most likely this was a major cause for some of the recent complaints.   But now she has announced that she will dance the lead of Swan Lake for the Kremlin Ballet.  I wish her all the luck.  But I don't see the sour grapes disappearing any time soon.  Gelsey Kirkland claimed that she was bullied during all of her NYCB tenure.  If she couldn't catch a break, I don't see other dancers in the media eye getting a reprieve.


The Original Buns of Steel

I cannot tell you enough how much I love this exercise video.  Not even Greg Smithy's corny jokes and all the old fashioned leotards on display annoys me.  When I was a teen, I was obsessed with this exercise tape.  And now I remember why, it is guaranteed to work.  You will see improvement within the first 3 sessions.  This improvement will inspire you to go further and become a leg/butt champion like its pole vaulter host.

Now comes the warning, the improvement will not come without sacrifice.  These leg exercises BURN!  If you have ever completed the Ballet Beautiful exercise tape remember the burn it caused than times it by 2.  Yes, it is that discomforting.  Because the exercises Smithy gives you reaches all the rarely worked muscles that are missed in regular workouts.  Best of all, this video works very well with a bar based workout program.  Smithy's exercises don't build bulk, they tone and stretch.  The stretch is built into the workout itself.

The program is basic.  Smithy gives a small, very nice aerobic workout that causes a nice sweat, then cools it down by giving basic arm exercises.  These include push-ups, isometric presses and pulls (using your own arm strength) and tricep push ups.  Then he jumps right into the leg exercises.  They mostly consist of leg lifts in various positions that tone the backside, outer thighs and inner thighs.  There are no squats to be seen in this program and it puts minimal pressure on your knees.  I do have to say, if you have knee trouble (I do), pay strict attention to form.  Always make sure that your legs are even with the other, and aligned.  The knee should face forward and the feet should also be pointing forward.  If you are turned out from the hip or the knees, you will have pain or pulling sensations in the knee.  Also don't use the range of motion shown by Smithy and his students.  Believe me, you will still get a fantastic work out if you use a smaller, precise leg lift.  After the torture, Smithy ends it with some basic stomach crunches then stretches.  Many people skip the aerobics, arm and stomach exercise, but I don't and I don't think they should be skipped.  The program is designed to work as whole.

Despite the old fashioned exercise wear, Smithy's students are of all shapes, sizes and ages.  They are not supermodels and will not intimidate you.  You will notice that all, no matter what their size, have the Buns of Steel long and toned legs.

Now to warn you what this video workout won't do.  It won't give you a Jennifer Lopez shapely backside.  If that shape is not in your genetic cards, you won't have it.  It is sad, but it is true.  Will it lift, tighten and tone your backside to its best look ever?  Of course.  But you won't look like JLo and any workout that promises you such a shape is LYING.  This all comes back to accepting your body shape and working with it.

You can buy this workout on amazon but Smithy sells it from his own website.  It is a bit cheaper if you buy it direct (click HERE).

This video was originally recommended to me by a personal trainer.  So again it works!  So have fun, scream in exercise pain but enjoy your new shapely legs!