You really have to give Richard Simmons all due props and respect. When every other fitness guru was filming workout videos, their video “classes” were all comprised of people who looked as though they had invented treadmills while jogging to spin class. But not Richard Simmons; no, Simmons filled his videos with people who looked as though they could benefit from them, and encouraged them with his over-the-top, though somehow still genuine personality.
It is impossible to tell how many people benefitted from Simmons’ “Sweatin’ To The Oldies” videos, but he is still the undeniable king of “no judgment” workouts.
Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with already being in shape, or even trying to take your shape or fitness goals to the next level. I have nothing but respect for chiseled abs and “buns of steel,” and the human body is like the cars I used to fix — anyone can benefit from maintenance. But a lot of us can’t — or sometimes just won’t — take advantage of a good exercise regimen. This becomes a habit over time, and much like our health in general, we have a tendency to put it off until it becomes an issue. Getting into a better shape is perhaps the most common (failed) New Year’s Resolution.
Back in the inimitable Mr. Simmons’ heyday, I was working a fairly physical job for at least 10 hours a day. I was already meeting my quota of “sweat” and I was not yet an “oldie,” so I pretty much ignored Richard. Oh, I definitely knew who he was because his commercials were everywhere and at least half a dozen times per day you could be certain to hear his signature “come on, girls,” as he encouraged his video class to move and dance their way toward good health. And, of course, being in fairly good health, my concept of a workout involved heavy weights, brutal climbing machines and perhaps unrealistic overall goals.
But these days I realize that Richard Simmons was more than a genuine, amusing and energetic person who was passionate about fitness. Simmons was, in fact, a genius. He understood the concept of a body in motion tending to stay in motion, and he understood the value of a good, shirt-wringing sweat. And he also realized that people were much more inclined to do, and continue to do, something physically unpleasant if they were having fun. Motivation is the key. But motivated or not, the benefits of a good sweat are undeniable, if not immediately pleasant.
I realize this, perhaps, because my job these days is far less physically demanding. I have spent 10 or more hours at the computer, but I must confess that I have never broke into a sweat while using a keyboard. This typically is more physically comfortable, but much to my dismay I discovered that watching sports or the Olympics doesn’t quite count as exercise — and watching American Ninja Warrior while eating a sandwich hasn’t made me any more graceful. And, on top of all this, adding insult to injury, is that I am becoming (yeah, I know I’m already there) an “oldie.”
So, whether it’s the bad feet, bad back or simply too many of the aforementioned sandwiches, I just don’t sweat as much as I used to. I do try to be as active as possible, but that doesn’t usually result in an all-out sweating session where I am wiping it out of my eyes. But the benefits are still there, and in my case perhaps even more valuable than when I was younger and sweating all the time. I realized this again recently when a friend of mine came over to help me with some home improvement. And even though I didn’t do the heavy lifting, I did do some lifting on two 80-degree days with high humidity. My help might have been questionable, but the sweat was not.
I don’t mind admitting that I did not enjoy it. In fact, quite the opposite; I actively did not like it. Wiping sweat out of my eyes (and dirt into them) was far from pleasant. And I complained about the heat — a lot. So much so that I am surprised my friend didn’t use the business end of a crowbar to shut me up. And this went on for two whole days, which as you can no doubt tell was 47 hours and 58 minutes longer than I wanted it to. But a curious thing happened on my way to complain about it. All that unpleasantness made me feel better, including sleeping better and improving my being able to relax.
So, I guess the takeaway from my experience is that a little bit (or a lot) of sweat is a much better thing than I thought. I wouldn’t want to go out to dinner or see a movie after sweating that much — and I’m sure most people would share the sentiment — but sweating now just might improve my other activities later. Even though I have a whole new appreciation for Richard Simmons, and I will most likely be a “Sweatin’ Oldie” in the future, I’m still not going to try wearing his signature shorts and tank top. I don’t have the personality — or the legs — to pull that off.