Last week, while I was stuck in my room practicing social distancing, I began searching YouTube for a daily night-time workout. For the past eight days, I had been doing the same 13-minute HIIT class, listening to the same high-pitched soundtrack that was the musical equivalent of vocal fry. The thought of looking at a solo YouTuber doing the same squat to the same electro music gnawed at my last brain cells. Bored, I searched for other workouts, specifically ones from a more distant time—well before COVID-19. I came across Tae Bo. I remembered the workout from infomercials, watching the buff and sweaty Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks punching an imaginary speed bag at a freakishly superhuman pace. He always had a legion of followers behind him, faithfully recreating his every move. I pressed play on the free YouTube video that was released in 1998. (Back in the day, this workout would have cost “3 easy payments of $19.99.”) Blanks’s energy was enthusiastic. (Stellar clothes, too.) The crowd kicking alongside him channeled the same unbounded energy. I wanted to smile like Blanks and co.! I wanted to punch my own invisible speed bag! And when I did, I was hooked.
On my YouTube work-out searches, I also found a pheromone-soaked tutorial for Buns of Steel, Jane Fonda’s peppy exercises, and even a session led by O.J. Simpson. A few days later, my editor—who knew I had been on the hunt for vintage workouts—sent me an Instagram story from Amanda Cormier, a writer based in Berlin who had just finished a Tae Bo workout party. She had done it virtually with her friends from around the world. “I thought it would be fun to get my friends together to do some workouts that also double as comic relief,” she told me. “It’s a heavy time, so throwing in some retro fashion and movement lightens things up a bit. So far we’ve done Jane Fonda’s original Workout video from 1982, Tae-Bo, and Cher’s ‘Hot Dance’ from 1992. All of them were surprisingly hard. The group started at around 7 and now we have about 20 people from around the world: Berlin, Madrid, Vienna, DC, New York, Austin.” A few days later, I saw that Outdoor Voices creator Tyler Haney had Instagrammed herself in a blue bodysuit and athletic socks, rolling her fists like an uncle at a Bar Mitzvah. “You’ve been asking which workout videos I’ve been doing on quarantine….Jane Fonda Workout of course!” she wrote, adding. “You can find them all on YouTube for Free. Jane was the first to bring everyday for-fun fitness to the masses. I pay homage to her as OG Queen.”