SI Vault
Jack McCallum
December 03, 1984
Getting into the fitness business, that is. It's a robust industry with sales that are far from flabby
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December 03, 1984

Everybody's Doin' It

Getting into the fitness business, that is. It's a robust industry with sales that are far from flabby

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Steinfeld, the Trainer to the Stars, is doing something about that, though. A bare-bones, blood-and-guts program is the very foundation of his Body By Jake empire. Steinfeld's modus operandi is to employ household items in his 30-minute, twice-or thrice-a-week training sessions. Thus, Steinfeld has Spielberg and Ford do military presses with buckets of oranges, arm curls with towels, stretching exercises with broomsticks and push-ups between chairs. Steinfeld even has a hotel-room exercise for the fitness-minded traveler. No, it doesn't involve doing squats with the Gideon Bible or curls with the room service menu, but it does involve push-ups off the bed and resistance exercises using the bathroom sink.

The more honest fitness industry salespeople acknowledge that their highly priced products would be unnecessary if customers followed a solid calisthenics program. "Look, you don't need a rowing machine," says Amerec's Ellis, whose job it is to sell as many rowing machines as possible. "You can do push-ups and get results. But what you do need is motivation. That's what the products provide." Keep that in mind the next time you plunk down a couple of hundred bucks for an exercise contraption of one kind or another. Why not use the motivation of saving all that money to start a basic workout program?

In fact, many fitness contraptions can do more physical harm than good. Most fitness apparatuses are designed for home use with no professional supervision, and carry cursory warnings, if any, about overuse, misuse or use only in conjunction with a doctor's advice. The devices sit there, shimmering and soundless, waiting to be conquered, and often the machine will conquer the buyer before the buyer can conquer the machine.

Nude Exercise Interlude II: We called Slimmer to find out more about The New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program. Not only did the exercise program itself sound quite interesting, but so did the use of the singular noun, "Dancer's." Was it just one dancer? Or did the title refer to a New York dancer in the generic sense? Or was it a misprint? And what about floor burns?

We asked Mary Jane Horton of Slimmer where we could locate the video. "Oh, I must've seen it in a video store in Santa Monica. [That figures.] I'll call you back."

Some devices:

Rowing Machines—According to Spring's figures, rowing machines are the fastest-growing fitness product, having brought in more than $64 million in sales in '83, an incredible 179% increase from '82. The figures are surprising, because rowing is hardly a major American sport; indeed, the U.S. failed to win a gold medal at the '83 World Rowing Championships in Duisburg, West Germany, the last time all the big rowing powers got together.

Actually, rowing is great exercise, excellent for building the upper body and legs and cardiovascularly beneficial if done strenuously enough. Rowing doesn't shock or traumatize the body, either, and when you do it at home you don't have a coxswain hollering at you to stroke harder. One warning: Rowing is not for anyone with a bad back. Another warning: The average purchase price of a rowing machine in '83 was $148.

Stationary Bikes—There's still a little bit of a grandpa stigma attached to stationary bikes, though retail sales are solid. The 1982 figure was $275 million. One problem for the consumer is the vast disparity in the prices of different models. You can pay almost $2,000 to get a bike with a coupled oxygen readout device, and you can pick up a basic model for as little as $89.97. The latter will probably break down on you, but the former is an awful lot of money to pay for staying in one place. You can get a decent one for around $150.

Stationary bike exercise can be good, but it too often requires a high threshold of boredom. "Essentially what you're doing if you sit there, hang onto the handlebars for five minutes and pedal casually, is wasting your time," says Patrick Netter, owner of a Los Angeles fitness store. To benefit from indoor biking, you must maintain your heart rate at a "training zone" pace for at least 20 minutes. One suggestion: Put on a video of the New York Dancer's Group Nude Exercise Program while you pedal. Time will fly.

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