30TH ANNIVERSARY OF MY FIRST WORKOUT VIDEO

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of first Jane Fonda Workout Video. It feels like yesterday and 100 years ago. I’m sure you’ve had that same feeling. Still fresh yet so much water under the bridge. I am so different. The world of Fitness is so different.

Let me begin: It was 1980 or ‘81, I think. Stuart Karl came to me to ask me to make a video of the exercise routine that appeared in my first Jane Fonda Workout book. His smart wife, Debbie Karl, had read the book and suggested the idea to him. Stuart was the only person back then who made home videos. They were home improvement videos, I believe, that sold a few hundred. No one I knew even owned a VCR player. It was way too expensive and there had never been a product that anyone wanted to use over and over that would justify spending that kind of money on the expensive hardware.

At first I said to Stuart, “No way, I’m an actor and it would be bad for my career.” We’ll, I’m not sure I actually said that but that’s what I thought. I had real misgivings. But Stuart was persistent. At the time, my wildly successful Workout studio on Robertson Blvd in Beverly Hills had been open about 2 years and the business was owned, not by me, but by the political organization that my then husband, Tom Hayden, and I had founded…The California Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED). That’s where all the profits went. I finally decided, “what the heck, it won’t take long, not too many people will see it and a video will bring in a little extra funding to CED.

No one had ever done a fitness video before. I remember writing the script on the floor of a hotel room during a Christmas skiing vacation in Calgary. It was spit and prayer, flying by the seat of our tights and leg warmers. (I always wore leg warmers because my real love was ballet and ballet dancers wore leg warmers.) Sidney Galanty, who had done the campaign ads for Tom’s U.S. Senate campaign, was the director. I used some of my Workout Teachers and clients in the video with me. We rehearsed a few days, made some mistakes, did our own hair and makeup, had one camera and figured it was no big deal.

Was I wrong! I don’t remember exactly when I realized that, in spite of myself, this little Workout video had given birth to a new industry. Women began to hear about it. Friends were telling each other, “Hey, check this out! This really works!” VCR players became cheaper as the demand grew and, before I knew it, 17 million of that original video had been sold (all profits going to CED) and I was inducted into the Video Hall of Fame—the first non-engineer to receive that honor.

BTW, the first Jane Fonda Workout book was #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list for two years! That’s when the decision was made to make separate categories for How-To books. It was shameful: a fitness book ahead of Philip Roth or Joan Dideon, I mean come on.

I made 23 more videos and now 6 more DVDs under my new Prime Time Label cause I saw that no one was addressing the needs of seniors and boomers.

The fitness industry has changed mightily. Fast bouncing and a lot of what we did back in the early 80s has gone out of favor. Core training is where it’s at and exercise physiology has made important strides in understanding what different bodies need for different purposes. As leg warmers come in and out of fashion, Women know it’s okay to have muscles, and Fitness Industry is a thriving international business.

Yes…it was just yesterday…and a lifetime ago

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24 Comments
  1. Hey Jane Fonda – absolutely things have changed a lot but kudos to you because you DID start it off with a bang.

    I was a teen of the 80s – legwarmers de rigeur – I did ballet for 9 yrs and transferred those legwarmers across because you had worn them – all that bouncing – I remember the shin splints and “feel the burn.”

    I taught aerobics for a year or 2 at about age 20. Wow that was 23 years ago.

    Thanks for reminding me of those days.

    Kylie in Australia 🙂

  2. i hear ya about the 30 / 100 years. i was home raising my 3 daughters then. we worked out with you on a daily basis. it’s some of our “fondest” memories 😉 we had a lot of fun! you were my inspiration to quit smoking too. Thank-You!!!
    sincerely
    carol, a big fan 🙂

  3. I knew this day was coming! Quite a milestone. Congrats! I need a fresh copy (of everything)! Where shall we hold the Blogfest? Celebrate the fact that there are many of us who worked out with you then and are back at it now (and some of us are only half way through Act II). So grateful that you’re still riding along with us! Blessings…

  4. Last week was 50th Anniversary of my Texas HS drill team (they celebrated the 20th when I was 16 – YOU do the math!) Our director came, as did my fellow officers from early ’80s. We offered to do an alumnae dance, but the current director declined (expected a bunch of tubby old women with all the wrong parts moving around, I guess). They had some “barely alum” college girls come back to do hip hop. Girls had gained weight, hadn’t rehearsed, it was a mess. We’re all MUCH older, but most of us still dance, do yoga and other endurance training. Time to show the young ‘uns who’s boss! Next time…

  5. Wow. 30 years. I am 57 now. I was only 27 yrs old! Whew! I can’t believe it! A friend of mine and I had both bought the Workout Book. I remember propping the book up on the floor and doing each movement…everyday…religiously. I believe there was an audio cassette tape that came out after the book. I swear I remember that. But the thrill of all thrills was when I got my first VCR. One of the first VHS tapes I bought was “Jane”. You see, that is what my friend and I called it whenever we referred to our workouts. “Did you do Jane today?” “I have to get off the phone, I have to do my Jane.” “I feel bad because I didn’t do Jane today.” And the Workout Video finally made it possible to actually see Jane do the workout we had taught ourselves from pictures in the book and the audio tape. It was great…and I very quickly had a drawer full of leotards and tights and leg warmers and little stretchy belts. It was a wonderful thing.
    Then I got pregnant and what a thrill that I could do Jane’s special pregnancy workout. I was never in better shape in my life than during those years…thanks to Jane!
    And to this day, thanks to Jane Fonda’s Workout, I am still as fitness conscious as ever. She set a trend for me for my whole life.
    Thank you, Jane! You are one of my idols!

  6. Hi Jane – What wonderful memories! You were my Guru back then. I grew up in Norway and as a 12 year old i was obsessed with your workouts. It lead me to teach aerobics all through school and gave me my start in NYC (18 yrs ago :-). I got into yoga and now i fuse fitness with yoga 🙂 I am now the age you were on your first video! I’d love to meet you, take you through one of my fusion workouts and star in your new videos series as the instructor for the 40 something woman. You can read more about me on http://www.anitagoa.com and check out my YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/anitagoatv
    It would be wonderful to bring back the 80’s fitness workout with the inspiration of yoga 🙂
    Thank you for reading and i truly hope to hear from you and meet you when you are in NYC.
    Namaste,
    Anita Goa 🙂

  7. Congratulations! It’s indeed true that the world wouldn’t be the same without your workout videos. 🙂 Further proof you’re a living legend. 🙂

  8. I have to tell you this. I’m with my parents who are from the UK and we’re at the Grand Canyon, Arches, Bryce Canyon etc. doing a ‘bucket list king of trip.
    I met my parents at Heathrow and I told my 71-yr-old mother that as LHR is so big there would be long walks to the plane (she has a little arthritis and although she has moved a lot in her working days, she’s always hated exercise and is not as flexible). So she turns to me and says (as we’re running to the gate!) “Oh no, I’m fine. I’ve been doing Jane Fonda exercises from the paper (sic)” Turns out a British newspaper did an article on your latest dvds and showed some of your exercises.
    She does a few exercises and she can even touch her toes with straight legs now!! She told me every time she has people visiting she shows them what she can do…! Isn’t that great??? Every morning on our trip we hear her saying “oh I haven’t done my Jane Fonda exercises yet” and she starts doing them wherever she is in the room.
    Thank you for making the person I love the most in my life fitter and healthier and hopefully with us a little longer. It means everything.
    Thank you.
    Best regards
    Jason

    • What a beautiful story, Jason. Thanks for sharing

  9. Dear Jane–
    I remember being in grade school and being so excited about buying your workout album (remember albums????)! To think that was 30 years ago!!! You look amazing and I saw THE NEWSROOM preview and am so excited about it. I have been an admirer forever and when my dad died back in 2005–a few days later I came to a book signing of yours at Lincoln Center and you were so thoughtful and helpful. I will never forget that as long as I breathe.

    I wanted to invite you to my play VATICAN FALLS. It’s a one-night only staged reading benefit where ALL proceeds go to SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) on May 15th in NYC. It’s such an important group and we are trying to raise awareness. If you cannot attend, perhaps you could tweet about it? I’m fjaklute on Twitter. The NY Times info is on this page:
    http://theater.nytimes.com/show/46649/Vatican-Falls/overview
    all info at VaticanFalls.com

    Appreciate the consideration and keep up the great work.
    Seriously adore you!
    Frank J. Avella

  10. Everyone I know wants the original workout in DVD. Will it ever be available

    • Yikes, Sharon. But those rapid bouncy moves are passe now. What to do?

      • Dear jane fonda

        bora in 1983, when I was 25 years, my wife told me about your fitness program, commonly called aerobics in French. I started laughing like what aerobics is for women. But she still managed to persuade me to come with her to her friend’s place to test a WorkOut session. I can say that I took a slap, I was amazed to sweat at this point there … since I changed my view of fitness. I am now 54 years and I still practice the workout … and I’m at level 3 (Challenge) … in the last three decades I have always practiced the workout 1.2 , 3 and now I train with 52 minutes of challenge, then for the ground portion, I finished with WorkOut 2 for floor exercises, abs to glutes, or 22 minutes and I ended the session with a half hour of power yoga. I also brought paddlers and surfers with the workout sessions for endurance as well as for flexibility. I always have my ipod in the three levels of workout videos and sound format MP4. If one day you have time or if you come to Bora Bora, I have some suggestions on some aspects of fitness in general, and in all modesty that could improve so revolutionary practice of physical exercise ..I experience it, right now, on myself … Some people put some the fitness in yoga and call it Power Yoga or other. For my part I did the reverse I put yoga, including breath control, in which besides the workout is a dynamic form of yoga. This radically changes the approach of the physical effort … Anyway as I said above … if you have time or an address where I could write you I will detail all the novelty of this approach …
        Ps: excuse me for the sins of forms, I made the French-English translation on Google

  11. What fun memories of these workouts. When I was in college a group of us would meet at about 8:30 and do the workout from a cassette tape. We would exercise for about an hour and then dash off to Dairy Queen before it closed at 10pm for Blizzards! Ah, those were the days when I could do eat like that and not gain any weight! Boy, how times have changed! =) Congratulations!

  12. Eu amo demais a JANE E ESTOU LENDO SEU LIVRO E IMAGINANDO O QUANTO ELA É FANTASTICA E FICO SURPRESA POR SEUS RELATOS MAIS INTIMOS E , ISSO ME FAZ CRESCER INTERIORMENTE E VER QUE TODDOS SOMOS IGUAIS APESAR DAS DIFERNÇAS CULTURAIS E DE DINHEIRO MESMO. eI, EU AMO E ISSO É UMA DAS COISAS QUE TODOS DE QUALQUER NACIONALIDADE SENTE. aMO A ARTE E VIVA VOCE , GRNDE ARTISTA E GENTE, jane fonda.

  13. oK, WILL TRY TO TELL IN eNGLISH WUAHT i FEEL AND THINK ABOUTH YOU, GRAT DAMA OF MY GRAT LOVER , THE SEVEN ART. mOVIOES IS MY PASSION. i LOVE YOU , SINCE WAS A CHILD AND , IS COMIC, MY NEIGHBOUHOOD, CHILD WITH 6 , 10 AND 12 LIKE YOU ALSO IN THAT MOVIE – a sogra. fOR ME IS YOU ARE GREAT AND HOPE SEE YOU IN NEW MOVIES, COMIC PLEASE. . I like to read your book. i S VERY GOOD. gREETING FOR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN. t

  14. Dear Jane:

    As quickly as I can say this (and this will probably be a long reply anyways), here is my exercise history.

    Before 1981, it was a disaster. I was the 90 lbs. weakling, always the last picked for the team, and therefore no interest in sports – and no thoughts of exercising. In 1981, my co-worker and I decided we would walk to the corner at breaktime just to do it. When we came back, you’d think we ran an obsticle course – we were out of breath, sweating, etc. Within a few days we saw and felt a tremendous difference. We felt more awake, we slept better, and our complexions brought us a healthy glow we never had before. But that is where it all started – with just walking. Then it was calisthenics, and then…..the original Jane Fonda Workout. Within a year or two after that came Jane Fonda’s NEW Workout – and that is the workout I did for many years afterwards. Oh, forgot to mention – I had joined a gym in 1986, so I was doing a good deal of my exercising there. But I ALWAYS came back to the New Workork – whether I was housesitting, or just didn’t feel like going to the gym. I mastered that Beginners like you wouldn’t believe. hehehe. In 2001, I decided to try Martial Arts – and stuck with it for 4-1/2 years nonstop, working my way to a 2nd Degree Blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do at age 45!!! And even sandwiched in the New Workout once in a while during that period.

    But in 2010, my life would change dramatically. By that time, my mom had left us, I had a new house to take care of, and needed new things to focus on – which was just perfect timing for the Jane Fonda Primetime Walkout. I smart-alecky figured “Oh heck, I’m a martial artist – I can do a workout designed by a 72 year old person for an older age group with NO PROBLEM!! Besides, I’m curious what it would be like.” So I plucked out the money, bought the DVD, and tried it for the first time. Well, when it first started out, I felt I was right. I COULD do this with no problem. Then something weird happened: My breathing had increased and I was sweating. No, that couldn’t be. I’m only 49, this couldn’t be right – but I was. By the time Level 1 had ended, I had worked up a real sweat. I was stunned and excited. In no time I was blowing the trumpet and even talked a few of my friends into buying the Primetime Walkout. And being I can’t go to the gym due to simple time constraints, I’m making up for it by – now get this – starting my workout with the Ultra Bookcamp Workout – I’m up to 12 minutes now, and slowly building up. But after 12 minutes? I put in the PrimeTime Walkout Level 2. So right now, that’s nearly 40 minutes of workout 4 times a week – and I’ll be 52 in June.

    So why tell you all this? Because your videos matter. They did 30 years ago, and they do now. So even when you get to 90 years old, I STILL expect you to release a Workout Blu-Ray (I’m saying Blu-Ray in case the DVD gets totally overtaken hehehehe). I may not have started working out with your videos, but I made my way there and it has stayed ever since. Thanks for all you’ve done in the exercise industry……Don’t know what more to add to that.

    Sincerely,
    Chuck Moran

    • Oh Chuck, I just adore this story. you are the cat’s meow for sure. Thanks for taking the time. I’m going to share this with Lionsgate and my co-workers. Too wonderful…Boot camp and then Prime Time!!!

  15. Hi jane, I’m a fan of Spain. I love your training videos. I have 36 years and I have good health. I would like to lose weight and prevent osteoporosis. I have all your videos. Can you tell me which of your videos are best suited for my age? I like aerobics and weights. Thank you.

    • Mary Anne, I have a new brand of workout DVDs called Prime Time. They may be too easy for you because they are made for people older than you or people who are not used to working out. For osteoporosis, working with weights is very good. It strengthens the bones.

  16. I have your DVDs published in 1995 “Jane Fonda’s Personal Trainer Series: Total Body Sculpting” and “Jane Fonda’s Personal Trainer Series: Low Impact Aerobics & Stretch,” which are two programs of weights and low impact aerobics and I really like. I think they are better suited for me. My question is, these exercises in the nineties, are still appropriate today? . Thanks again, you are much loved. I admire you as an actress and person and I’d be like you at your age. (sorry for my bad English)

    • Yes, Mary Anne, those programs you mention are still valid/appropriate today. Stay strong. xx

  17. Dear Jane: An update. Well, I was never able to get past the 15 minute mark on the Bootcamp workout, so now at age 57, well, I changed my routine a little. There is my “2” routine and my “1” routine. My “2” routine goes as follows: I pop in the Primetime Walkout and do Level 1. When you say “it’s time to stretch”, well, uh, no. That is when I pop the DVD out and put in the 2nd DVD of “Fit and Strong”, and then do ALL of level 2. The comes to about 50 minutes of working out. And it’s been great. My “1” workout consists of just the “Firm and Burn” – all three classes AT ONCE. Honest. I basically reserve that one for my weekend workout. So it’s comes down to 3 “2” workouts and only one “1” workout in a given week. And I’m in tip-top shape. And I continue to keep on keeping on for quite a while more. So when you have time, I hope you do another exercise DVD when you turn 80. Cause I sure as heck, if anything, will try it out. Sincerely,
    Chuck Moran

    • Wow, Chuck, you have motivated me to try doing exactly what you are doing…try it out…starting now!! Thanks. xxx

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