Twenty years ago, I was 10 pounds overweight, completely out of shape, and I hated working out. An actress, I had just been cast in a play. It was a musical…about strippers. Mind you, this was a theatrical production about strippers. I wasn’t going to actually strip, but I did have a solo number where I would essentially do a fan dance in my underwear. Then, at its finale, I was supposed to go from a standing position right into the splits, and throw off my fan to reveal a pair of Elvis pasties. Fear is an excellent motivator.
Up to this point, my strategy for losing weight had been a strict regimen of coffee, cigarettes, and Slimfast. Sadly, this routine would not work in this situation because I wanted to look more toned than ashy. I had no idea how I was going to get in shape, and I sure as hell couldn’t do the splits from a standing, sitting, or any other position. I was too embarrassed to join a gym because I felt painfully self-conscious. I didn’t know how to use the weight equipment, and I had no money to spend on a personal trainer. Plus, my past experience with self-imposed exercise consisted of jogging outside and riding a stationery bike indoors, which both proved to be unbelievably boring and ultimately had no effect on my figure. The only thing I had going for me was that I had two months to pull myself together.
Then I remembered the woman who changed the world by bringing exercise into the privacy of our homes: Jane Fonda. She had to know what she was doing—she looked fabulous! At this point in my life, privacy plus Jane’s expert routine was what I decided I needed to make me fan dance ready. Stubbing out my cigarette, I hedged my bets, bought her video along with a step and an exercise mat, and brought it all home.
In my g-string leotard and sweatband, I clooooosed my curtains. I put in the videotape. And there was Jane! Hi Jane! Jane said, “Hi. I’ll see you after the cardio vascular workout, and we’ll do leg lifts.” And she left! What? I thought I was going to work out with Jane Fonda! How was I going to look like her if I wasn’t exercising with her? Sunk, I found that she’d left me alone in my living room with three people, who I did not know, and I didn’t know what they’re going to do with me or my figure.
Marching in place, the Strangers introduced themselves. “Hi, I’m Mark,” and I was hating it. “Hi, I’m Janet,” and I just wished they would stop talking and start the work out. “Hi I’m Elaine…Kick it out!” The next thing I knew I was jumping all around my step, following along as best as I could. At the end of 45 minutes, I was so exhausted, and my leotard was drenched in sweat. The Strangers said, “Good Job!” I literally shouted back, “Shut up!” and I hit the button on the television to Off.
But I did it every day because I was going to be in front of hundreds of people in underwear and Elvis pasties.
Cut to two months later. I clooosed the curtains. I put in the video and waited for Jane to leave. Marching in place, I said, “Hi Mark! Hi Janet! Hi Elaine! Kick it out!” And I was so happy! Not only had I reached my physical goal, but I was getting an excellent work out, and my endorphins were going crazy in my head. I felt so good! At the end of the workout, the now Not-Strangers said, “Good Job!,” and I literally gushed back, “Thank you!” and then went to stretch myself out on my well-used mat.
At the play, I felt comfortable spinning around in my underwear. I only wish that I was as proud of my acting performance as I was about dancing into the splits and tossing aside my fan. Since that time, the happy endorphin thing has kept me working out. I quit smoking, and I go the gym most days. I still do the splits as a part of my stretching. I am confident that this would not be my life today if I hadn’t gotten over that painfully embarrassing hump with the Not- Strangers in my living room who worked me out in private: Mark, Elaine, Janet…and of course, the woman who is still changing so many lives, Jane Fonda.