80’s Fitness Icons Will Make Your Workouts Better...

80’s Fitness Icons Will Make Your Workouts Better

The 1980’s were filled with intense, amazing fitness icons and workout inventions that were knock-your-leg-warmers off tubular! Gurus like Susan Powters with her “Stop The Insanity!” and Richard Simmons’ “Sweat Into The Oldies,” were leading voices in America’s shift from the 1970’s focus on doughnuts, coffee and working 9-5 with a 15 minute break to drink a TAB, to a dynamite fitness crazed culture. Aerobics studios and premium gyms popped up all over the country. Professional athletes like NBA’s Patrick Ewing became first powerhouse figures endorsing athletic shoes (NIKE), and household names like Suzanne Somers, took athletic clothing companies to the brink of a whole new era in workout styles. They were our 80’s fitness icons and they made workouts fun!

For years the Thigh Master rocked the infomercial scene in almost every house in America, fast food went out the window, healthy food supplements grew overnight at drugstores, and there wasn’t a Hollywood movie without a gym, muscle man or workout scene! Looking back, it was officially the most fitness focused our society had ever been and it was exciting!

Despite 3 decades of awareness, America is back to record obesity statistics. Women are busier than ever and as Susan Powers recently stated in an ABC network interview, we are “disconnected from ourselves and our bodies.” With First Lady Obama’s “Move Your Body” campaign, TV shows like The Biggest Loser and fitness dominators like Shaun T of INSANITY and Gillian Michaels readily accessible, it would seem nearly impossible for the 80’s hype on exercise (including leotards, pumas and shiny neon spandex leggings) to dwindle.

Although our current workout trends include improved cushy Yoga mats, body sculpting Cross Fit, serious outdoor running opps, improved equipment and amazing athletic styles, we often approach our trip to the gym as a dreaded necessary evil. We complain about the pain, we make up excuses why we don’t have time to fit in a 30 minute walk/jog and often we’d rather wear our amazing designer athletic clothes due to comfort, than to actually exercise in them. For all of the beautiful gyms, gear and online/TV/apps accessibility that we have as motivation to get our bodies in shape, we seem to have lost that excitement for exercise that our early 80’s fitness icons introduced us to all those years ago.

So how do we get our 80’s workout enthusiasm back? We “stop the insanity” and do a serious Scooby Doo reflection sequence back in time to when fitness wasn’t just “working out,” it was a magical experience where you got your happy back! Here’s how our beloved 1980’s fitness icons can help turn your workout experience from a minor role in Desperately Seeking Susan, to a feature spotlight role on the Flashdance stage.

Ways 80’s Fitness Icons Will Make Your Workouts Happier

1. Throw Embarrassment to the Wind

So often we’re concerned about what other people think of us at the gym. After squeezing into our flashy, skintight, mid-calf spandex and matching sports bra/tank, sometimes the last thing we want to do is actually work hard for the option to eat our calories back while being watched by other gym goers. When that feeling hits, take a page from the ever zealous Richard Simmons, who lost over 200 lbs, literally dancing his way into weight loss wearing ridiculously short shorts. Simmons didn’t worry about what people thought of him at the gym, he was only focused about how the workout made him feel afterwards.

If Mr. Simmons could do the twist 200+ lbs to work his abs while wearing a tank top showing off every part of the fat he was trying to lose, then you can put your spandex on and show the world that you are willing to do what it takes to feel good about yourself! Don’t over think the gym, just sweat it out!

2. Take Your Time

Our 80’s fitness gods and goddesses approached fitness as a process. We live in a fast paced culture. Everything we do is done quickly. We often approach our fitness experience and our expected results with the same fast paced mindset. If we don’t see results quickly, we can get frustrated, discouraged and all together turned off. An 80’s approach to fitness is taking one step at a time, layering workout routines in DIY intervals at a pace that works for you. The routines weren’t too physically demanding and were, in part, designed to help be a stress reliever while getting your body more in shape.

Approaching your fitness routine as a way to help your body relieve pent up stress from your day, job or life, transforms your outlook to a more therapeutic session for healing your brain and your body. So, take a cue from the amazing 80’s queen, Jane Fonda, and don’t go all Mad Max on the workout arena-try balance. Start out slow and build up to a strength/look you like, so that you feel great both inside and out! Obviously it works-have you seen Jane Fonda lately? She looks stunning!

3. Approach Your Workout with a Smile

Every major workout icon of the 80’s has a trait in common-a huge smile to accessorize their bright green and pink eyeshadow, tank tops, short shorts, wrist bands, headbands, tennis shoes, and/or mini elastic belts. We are so used to high stress levels in our life that often, we don’t realize the grim expression that our faces wear as we manage the day. If there is one thing we can all take-away from our fab 80’s fitness mentors, it’s that exercise doesn’t have to be just one more thing to check off of our to-do list. Working out is actually FUN! We are so lucky to have a plethora of new exciting opportunities that make it fun to get fit both in the gym or at home; Animal Flow, Pole Dancing, Ballet Bar and Functional Fitness are great options for mixing up your cardio, strength training and muscle toning.

If you are more into athletic sports, then activities like racquetball, swimming, softball, city league soccer or even ultimate Frisbee, are amazing ways to stay in shape while having fun. With all of the unique options we have today, smiling should be a natural reaction to getting in shape. Also, adding legwarmers to the mix will give you that nostalgic retro feel you’ve been missing, which will automatically make a smile appear on your face that both Olivia Newton John and Denise Austin would be proud of!


Implementing the above tips can make your cardio nightmare of thing of the past, as you start feeling the empowerment of a 1980’s approach to physical activity. No body shame, a DIY workout pace and fitness with a smile are sure to help you get in shape, feel great and get back that happy exercise mojo that created a nation of fitness maniacs. Who knows, you might even order a Thigh Master!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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