Fitness and Wellbeing Articles

In praise of the humble workout tape

I got fit with Cindy, Nell and Adriene


I’ve just realised that home-working in my yoga gear, as opposed to my random house outfit or pyjamas, makes me feel like I’m working really fast and totally smashing. It. Yeah! The reason I’m wearing my yoga gear is because I have recently returned to my 20-year-ish habit of workout videos.

My habit began at home as a teenager back in the 1990s, when going to the gym wasn’t really a thing that anyone did and boutique exercise classes a distant Lululemon-flavoured dream. Celebrity fitness videos were getting big though, and I had Cindy Crawford: The Next Challenge Workout (1993) on VHS. Banning everyone from using the front room, and with three tins of baked beans taped together in each hand as weights (don’t ask me why I didn’t just buy some weights, but it seemed perfectly practical at the time), I would let Cindy, dressed in tastefully hued crop top and short combos, and with lovely flowing long hair, put me through my paces.

I liked the exotic, foreign glamour of the locations (in a desert at sunset, in an industrial warehouse, in the middle of some high-rise buildings!); the soundtrack of ambient beats including The Beloved’s “Sweet Harmony” and the barked commands of Cindy’s heavily accented trainer, Radu. “Use your heep! Use your heep! That’s where the power ees!” Me and Cindy worked out all through my teenage years and into my twenties.

A decade later, I was living in London with a fellow workout video fanatic flatmate, who got me into Nell McAndrew, who is now in her new post-lad’s mag career as a fitness guru. I bought Maximum Impact (2003), on DVD this time, thinking it was time to push myself a bit harder than I had with Cindy. Maximum Impact is the clubber’s choice, with a house and techno soundtrack and Nell doing all the routines with a group of other fit people in white and blue, by a swimming pool, led by a man who clearly likes clubbing because at one point he shouts “OOH, GOOD TUNE!” I liked that Nell, in contrast to Cindy’s oh-so-serious model-face, often looked like she was suffering during the really hard squats, because I was too. Nell and I were in it together, even though I was in an ex-council flat in Bethnal Green and she was on location in Miami.

Nowadays, my working schedule is peppered with stretches of doing 12-hour days chained to my desk, meaning I crave spine-stretching, brain-calming exercise I can do for 10 minutes or 40, depending on my deadline *bangs keyboard*. This means it’s all about little bouts of outdoor running interspersed with yoga – and for this I love Yoga with Adriene (on You Tube this time – see how I’ve grown!). Adriene is a chilled-out, almost annoyingly happy-seeming Austin, Texas native who just wants you to “find what feels good” (which she says in every single video, so I believe her). I like Adriene’s perky, non-perfectionist attitude to demonstrating poses and the fact she has routines especially for stress, or insomnia, or backache, and that this time, no baked bean tins are needed.

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