It’s the dawn of a new year, which for many people signals a time to restructure their routines, reorganize their lives, and lose the weight they vowed to get rid of last year. With New Year’s resolutions on the brain, we’ve been spotting some unusual workout regimens taking advantage of this moment, like the 50 Shades of Grey-inspired routine we told you about yesterday. We felt compelled to dig up weird workout videos from the past — surreal, awkward, and disturbing moments in fitness history. Delight in VHS glitches, questionable wardrobes, and complete confusion after the jump. If you have a favorite video, drop it in the comments section.
In 2004, Panasonic sponsored Ten Short Movies — Capture the Motion for the Summer Olympics. Japanese artist Nagi Noda created the surreal film Mariko Takahashi’s Fitness Video for Being Appraised as an “Ex-fat Girl starring Funky Forest actress Takahashi as a poodle-ized woman leading a workout routine à la early Susan Powter. The video isn’t true vintage, but the style is a definite throwback. In the background, bizarre poodle people follow along with her. Noda believed that the round shapes of a poodle’s traditional haircut looked like exaggerated muscles. Film fans can confirm that the appearance of Takashi should signal immediate weirdness. Here’s a clip from Funky Forest that is beyond description.
Infomercial queen Greer Childers has promoted her fitness brand BodyFlex for over 20 years. The nipped and tucked-looking spokeswoman leads this hilariously strange video that promises to work your facial muscles and keep that double chin at bay. This basically involves her making horrendous faces and dramatically deep breathing. BodyFlex was charged with false advertising by the Federal Trade Commission at one point. Shocking, we know.
Swedish athlete Bertil Uggla started competing in the Summer Olympics in 1912 and throughout the 1920s in the pole vault, fencing, and modern pentathlon divisions. At one point during his career, he made a video to show people his morning workout routine. Uggla performs a set of violent and spazzy exercises in his pajamas, jerking and twisting with great abandon. The record player introduction and random shot peering out his open window are surprisingly poetic.
Experimental Japanese television series Zuiikin’ English combined language lessons and exercise. Each show introduced a dramatic skit that highlighted phrases, which would then be repeated over synth-pop tunes by a trio of smiling, leotard-clad women. This clip features a mugging scene and phrases like “Take anything you want” and “Spare me my life!” Creators definitely had some humorous intentions, but the series still played as way, way out there.
Beloved scream queen Linnea Quigley of Return of the Living Dead and Night of the Demons fame created a scantily-clad, horror-themed workout that featured clips from her B-terror filmography, thoughts about her career, camptastic humor, and the biggest hair ever. This is the only workout in existence that sports a studded bra and fishnets. Watch the full version (with nudity) over here.
A freaky stop-motion-animated Barbie doll works up a sweat in Dance! Workout with Barbie. A real-life instructor leads the routine, with the animated idol making frequent appearances, encouraging the girls to get into the groove. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for a young Jennifer Love Hewitt, who also performed the songs for the video.
Famed Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor charms us and makes us feel totally awkward while watching her 1993 workout video, It’s Simple Darling. Zsa Zsa was 76 years old when she made the video, which is amazing — especially when you watch her flip her legs above her head. The video also features lots of uncomfortable flirting with a muscled workout partner and some random guy the camera flashes to occasionally, which winds up feeling creepily voyeuristic.
Remember when super serious actor Mark Wahlberg was known as Marky Mark and flirted with all the fly honies in his 1993 workout video, Form… Focus… Fitness, the Marky Mark Workout? And by flirting we mean shamelessly staring at their breasts and narrating the view out loud.
When award-winning actress Shirley MacLaine went through her New Age transformation during the 1980s, the star appeared on every talk show imaginable talking about reincarnation and UFOs. She also created this yogic workout video, Inner Workout, that espoused the importance of energy flow and vibrations, and the chakras. Nothing too unusual, right? At least until her deadpan stare hypnotizes you, and an armless mannequin with a glowing, red crotch comes into view. Then the Inner Workout becomes a lost David Lynch film.
After former underage porn actress Traci Lords left the adult entertainment industry, she tried her luck with mainstream movies (like John Waters’ Cry-Baby and Serial Mom) and made a few workout videos — Warm Up with Traci Lords and Traci Lords: Advanced Jazzthetics — in the early 1990s. Clips from the videos clearly show that the creators were taking full advantage of her triple X reputation by featuring Lords thrusting her pelvis and gyrating wildly in skimpy outfits. Our favorite part of the above video, however, is Lords rapping (badly) over the workout.