As a matter of principle, I’m against lists -- at least any written by the fingers at the end of this blog. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a quick answer to which ingredients make cauliflower palatable and not a sad, albino alternative to broccoli. I’ve appreciated: “ways to prank your kids”, “funny stuff the Queen has said”, and “plants that flower even if you completely ignore them” -- all list articles, yielding useful results. But I also loathe the idea that lists basically rule the writing and reading world. At least the virtual one.
I remember in one of my journalism classes learning that something like only ten percent of readers actually read a complete article. A larger percentage read only the bold print, pulled text, and the captions of pictures. But the vast majority read only captions. Today, the average reader will only read about twenty percent of a blog or online article, choosing to focus solely on headlines or anything bold. It’s no wonder misinformation runs rampant, and it should be no surprise that if given the choice between an editorial or an essay to snuggle up with, or a convenient list to quickly scan, the majority will choose the list every time.
Enter bull-headed Annie. As an avid reader, I eyeroll those who don’t realize lists are research, not reading. As a writer, it pisses me off that this is what the people want.
In the history of this little blog that could, I have written three lists. Two were the product of debilitating writer’s block and a hard deadline. One just sort of happened. I don’t know the stats on how these three lists did compared to my usual essay style form. And I don’t really care. Why? Because not writing lists is my tiny, peaceful protest and my (completely ignored) stand for the literary world. It’s my Oxford comma. While it’s become acceptable to give the masses their lists and fill screens with what might as well be placeholder text, you can have my lengthy form when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. I’m gonna make you read, dammit!
Only, you won’t.
You’ll ultimately scroll down, see the insurmountable length of my 1500 words (six minutes, folks!) the lack of flashy bold text, and get back to that juicy argument you were trolling on Facebook.
Until today. Until I gained seven unexplained pounds. Until I hopped onto the elliptical to get skinny. Until I got bored out of my mind float-running in place with no amount of trash TV, cheesy Lifetime movies, or snazzy playlists to keep me from hopping off due to exercise-centric ADD. Until I moved my weight busting to the great outdoors. Until it got Hell’s-front-porch kind of hot in Louisiana and I had to workout inside again. And finally, until a comment I made in passing on my Instagram page about how I have managed to exercise while staying engaged, sparked a record number of emails and messages in my inbox. Thus, I give you my one list of 2020, my secret to getting fit without quitting, in begrudging list-form, with descriptions beneath the bold text that only ten percent of you will read.
So without further glossed over text…
What has kept my attention? What has me sweating with a smile? Dancing. More specifically, vintage dance workouts that often teeter on creepy, but definitely hit all the cringy notes with precision, giving way to tingly feels that make one unable to turn away from something so bad it’s damn brilliant. These routines (and questionable acid trips at times) are as entertaining as they are result-yielding and they keep me on my toes…quite literally.
Lace up them whites, lazy, list lovers. It’s time to dance!
A five, six, seven, eight....
Cher’s "CherFitness: Hot Dance”
This is worth it just to see what Cher is wearing. She might as well have a whip in her hand and motion toward the basement where things that shouldn’t happen, happen. But she’s also close to fifty-years-old at the time this video was filmed and wears that s’n’m suit better than I, at 41, wear a cotton romper. Her workout is essentially a combination of steps that are built upon one another to create a three-minute dance routine. What’s hilarious, though, is that Cher doesn’t even facilitate the instruction. It’s like her publicist suggested a video to keep her relevant and she quipped, “Okay, whatever.” So in all her Cher fabulousness she’s backup to her choreographer, whose style reminds me of my golden retriever’s kindergarten teacher. It’s almost as if she knows every advice about fitness she’s giving us won’t last past the class itself.
This video will make you sweat if you can handle the monotony of doing the same dance over and over and over. I admit to almost shutting it off after the eighth “One more time!” and wishing I could turn back time and not have started the video. But I stuck with it and still believe in life after love. But, I’ve also never used this video again, so maybe this beat won’t go on after one use. Okay, no more Cher-isms.
Judi Sheppard Missett’s “Let’s Jazzercise”
The next time your kids ask why you’re so weird, point them in the direction of this little gem. The women who raised us are the same women who popped this little sucker in the VCR and spent the hour between Days of Our Lives and The Guiding Light being indoctrinated with this wacktangle of exercise. Dante had his nine circles of hell in Inferno. I give you all the circles of wack in fifty-eight minutes. The outfits, each time Judi trills, every “work your boogie body,” the times when I think she’s maybe trying to seduce me and I want to hide, and the entire Harlem Globetrotters section are all so very bad and so very worth the hour if only for the fact that you cannot possibly go into the hour following without having laughed your ass off at what the folks over at Feeling Fine Productions Inc. put into the world with total seriousness.
Would I do this again? Yes! And I have many times. But I warn you. While you’ll laugh your ass off, you’ll sweat your ass off and maybe even pass out if you’re out of shape. Judi may be funny, but her workout is no joke.
Dancin’ Grannies: Mature Fitness Active Workout
These are the gals who raised the Jazzercise wackadoos, and sweet baby Jesus are they just as special. For starters, the introduction is about five minutes long and includes animation of each dancing granny in housecoat and curlers being pulled from her daily routine into the fifty-two minute video. Granny Ginnie looks just like my fourth grade teacher, and I’m half convinced that head granny, Bev, is the maternal grandmother from Sixteen Candles. This workout won’t kick your ass like Jazzercise, but it feels good. The warm up is fifteen minutes long and not a bad stretch for those days when you don’t need to “move your boogie body.” The first time I saw the grannies do The Pony, I regretted that no one was with me to not be able to unsee that shit. Equally enjoyable, The Piano and The Fiddle will join your daily lexicon of spaztastic gestures brought to you by Bev and the gang.
I’ll admit to only dancing with the grannies when I’m feeling off or lacking energy. A good chunk of it is in a chair and it’s clear this video was not meant for someone my age or anyone young enough to know what Orange Theory is.
Richard Simmons: “Broadway Sweat”
I can’t tell you how excited I was when my YouTube search stumbled upon this smash hit. If you love showtunes, this is how you bridge Broadway with the fabulousness of Richard Simmons. It’s Sweatin’ to the Oldies in lights. It’s everything you want when you see Richard Simmons, and when he bursts into “June is Busting Out All Over”, your heart will swell. The Wiz, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, Okla-mother-lovin’-homa! They are all in this hour-long dance workout along with Mame! and others. Plus, sometimes Richard sings, and anyone who doesn’t want to be sung “76 Trombones” by Richard Simmons is no friend of mine.
I can’t not complete this video at least three times a month. It’s just so...happy. And also, Richard Simmons consistently tells you how proud he is of you. Being a working mom in an e-learning pandemic world is hard. Sometimes this Annie needs encouragement from the Richard Simmonses of the world. As a bonus, this is a make-you-sweat video. You’ll burn calories and get a little love from good ole Rich.
Debbie Reynolds “Do It Debbie’s Way"
“Y’all. Debbie Reynolds has an exercise video and it’s called, ‘Do It Debbie’s Way’!” This was the text I sent to my friend-thread upon finding this early 1980s video in the interwebs. As the title suggests, Debbie doesn’t hold back the wit. Nor does she hold back her personal loathing of fitness. Thus, her laissez faire instructions sometimes sound like she may have a dirty martini tucked behind her somewhere. I can respect that in a lady. I also dig that half of this video is on a mat, perfect for someone who needs to warm up to the sweats.
On the other hand, this is an hour and a half commitment. That’s an entire Lifetime movie without commercials. I also wouldn’t classify it as a dance video, but who am I to argue with Debbie Reynolds? With all that said, Debbie -- her invisible cocktail and subtle dirty humor — are a sometime thing for this wannabe diva of the silver screen, who can’t always give 90 minutes to a workout -- even for Debbie Reynolds. Thus, I sometimes skip ahead to the high impact section for a quickie. (Debbie would love that I said “quickie.”)
Rita Moreno - Now You Can
Yes, Rita Moreno, as in Anita from West Side Story, has a workout video. It was filmed in 1989, but I don’t need to tell you that because one look at the pearlized pinks and purples on the set, and you’ll know this video is a total time capsule, back when leg warmers and belts were a point of fact to every workout ensemble. Like Debbie, Rita hates exercise. Like Debbie, there is a lot of stationary movement and you’ll need weights and also a scarf. (Yes, a scarf!) But unlike Debbie, the percentage of dancing time is longer. You will sweat and you will enjoy the Latin flare of Rita Moreno.
Rita is part of my regular cast of characters each month, bringing out my inner salsa and making me determined to have the energy she has in this video when I reach the age she was when she made this video, which is fifty-eight years old. Fifty-flipping-eight, people! As an amazing bonus, there is a ten-minute pep talk at the end about how Rita didn’t come into her own until she reached her forties. True story! So there’s still hope, friends. But we can’t sit on our asses waiting for it. As Rita says, “It’s never too late to enjoy your life, and if you haven’t started already? Start now!”
Paula Abdul’s “Get Up And Dance!"
I’ll admit that I discovered this blast from the past two years ago and immediately clung to Paula’s promise of a new me. Then I got lazy after my father died and forgot that it was sitting in my Prime Video library. There is nothing to laugh at in this video, except for some random YMCA tribute just before the abs workout in the extended version. But what has me going back to this video multiple times a month if there is no one but myself to make fun of? As an early nineties tween, it is just in my DNA to want to dance like Paula. And this is Paula dancing -- laid out, step-by-step. I have yet to master ninety-percent of it when up to tempo, but I’m also addicted to getting there. The Brain Teaser just might be my last success story before dying.
I know enough to know that a grand total of what is probably twenty-seven people have read this far. To those, I raise my sweaty scrunchie and wish you a fun-filled road to a healthier body. To the rest of you who just read the bold type, I hope you click on the above links and get healthy too. I also hope you find happiness in a good book from time-time, or, if nothing else, 1500 words.
Now go move that boogie body!