I have the utmost respect for fitness buffs, but I personally lack whatever gene makes 99% of Los Angeles wake up early to head to Equinox. When I recently realized that summer was quickly approaching, and I had been low-key hibernating since fall, I knew it was time to upgrade my casual-strolls-and-yoga routine into something a little more cardio-forward. Scrolling through fitness tutorials on YouTube, I stumbled across an unexpected gold mine: ’80s and ’90s workout videos.
Possibly the only good thing to come out of every planet being in retrograde this spring, Lycra-clad aerobics gurus have motivated me more than even the most buzzed-about new fitness trend ever could. Bonus: They’re free! Maybe it’s my everlasting love for American Apparel (RIP) or the conclusion of the utterly addictive Missing Richard Simmons podcast; maybe, as Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but reverently reflect on my mom’s ability in the ’90s to work full time, raise three children, and look better than I do in white denim. Whatever the reason, I found myself hooked. This isn’t a new sensation for my friends who religiously hit the gym, but for me, exercising had never felt joyful before. Vintage workout videos changed that.
To find out whether my newfound hobby was even actually good for me—after all, the early ’90s was a time when pasta was considered healthy food—I sought advice from fitness expert Holly Clapham, trainer, and director of the ladies-only program at Santa Monica’s Body Inspired Fitness. “I think there are a few workouts of the ’80s and ’90s that can stand the test of time,” says Clapham. “But just like anything, you need to research and try a bunch.”
As for what’s trending now, Clapham noted that unique fitness classes are having a moment: “One trend I notice is creativity: aerial workouts, drumming workouts. I think I just saw something on social media about beer yoga?! I love it. Making workouts more about play is probably bringing people in who normally wouldn’t be interested in a workout class. I don’t know if they stick around, but hell, I would try a beer yoga class.” I certainly relate to the desire to shake things up; if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have found myself in my oldies rabbit hole.
Clapham warns, however, that there’s a difference between discovering something fun and new, and following an ineffective—or even dangerous— trend. “If a workout seems too good to be true—like if it promises crazy-fast results—I might be a little wary of it. Nothing will ever take the place of working hard, eating clean, and staying consistent. I don’t know how long some of these trends will last, but if it seems fun and you’re healthy enough to work out, go try them!” With those words in mind, I delved into the internet’s archives to find my favorite new-old workout.
Keep scrolling for the best workouts from my foray into flashback fitness videos.